Hair braiding is one of the most deep-rooted styles in the African tradition. While the tradition remains strong, styles are constantly evolving. Whether it’s Cornrows, Box Braids, Plaits, Kinky Twists, Senegalese Twists, Micro Braids, etc., the aesthetic of braids continues to appeal to African American women. Many women would agree that maintaining the braid style is important but also maintaining the health of one’s hair. The biggest problem associated with braiding is hair loss or damage. This is usually a result of braids being too tight, too small, or leaving braids in too long. When braiding hair, it is important to avoid having braids being too tight or too small-especially around the edges. Ask your hair braider or beautician to add in more of your own hair into the braid.
“How long should I leave in my braids?” This is a common question because we all want our hairstyles to last as long as possible-braiding is expensive! The longest braids should be left in is six to eight weeks depending on the style. Be sure to shampoo and condition your hair every two weeks, then use some type of oil to prevent your hair from locking. The oil will also give your hair a little shine to maintain the braid style appearance. Another helpful tip to maintaining the braid style appearance is to wrap your hair up every night. Wrapping at night helps prevent frizz and locks in the moisture from the conditioner and oil.
“What should I do when I take out my braids?” Braids are really low maintenance when it comes to day to day styling but when you take them out you need to invest some time to keep your hair in the best possible shape. After you take down your braids, use a wide toothed comb to detangle and comb your hair. It helps to use a leave in conditioner or hair detangler. Cantu Shea Butter has really nice options for all textures of African American hair. Then do three cycles of washing your hair with a gentle shampoo and conditioner to make sure your hair is completely clean. Lastly, and most importantly, wait three weeks before putting any chemicals in your hair (e.g. relaxer, texturizer, etc.). But remember, recent research shows that braiding is healthiest when done on natural hair so try to avoid relaxers if you like to braid your hair regularly. If possible, wait one week before braiding your hair again. If you apply these helpful tips, you will be sure to maintain the integrity of your hair and look great while doing so.