So you have made the decision to get braids! Hoorah. What an excellent choice. I love having braids and literally miss them with my entire heart in the time in between styles. Honestly, getting braids installed will not only make you feel fly AF but also frees up a lot of time in the morning, allowing for more sweet, sweet time in your bed. The best thing is that they require very little maintenance for 6-8 weeks (great for lazies like myself), but there are a few things to consider and remember before you have them installed (especially if it’s your first time) to ensure they stay looking on point.
1. Know what you want and what you can have
You want braids – ok cool cool, but what braids? Box braids, Marley twists, Senegalese twists, micro braids, tree braids… there are dozens of options and it’s important you nail down the style you want so you can buy the right texture synthetic hair and find the right braider for the style. Gemma Moodie, Natural Hair Specialist at Hype Coiffure Battersea, advises to talk to your braider about what would suit your hair before you start, ‘consult with your stylist about whether braids with synthetic extensions are suitable for your hair. Discussing prior chemical services about the condition of your hair is a great start. Then think about what size and length of braids are best for you. If the braids are too big and long, they may create damage and breakage along your hairline, due to the tension and weight of them.’
2. Set aside a day
Like any work of art, braiding takes time, so don’t be surprised if you have to set aside a large chunk of your day for your new style. On average, a speedy braider can complete medium-sized braids in around six hours but micro braids can take double that time so plan accordingly.
3. Prep is key
Your hair is going to be tucked away for a couple of months so you want to make sure it’s in the best condition going into the style. Wash it, condition it and deep condition the day before to make sure your hair is clean and nourished before styling, Shea Moisture Coconut & Hibuscus Shampoo is great for thoroughly cleansing without stripping the hair.Argan Oil From Morocco Intense Deep Conditioning Hair Treatment is great for injecting moisture. Also if you tend to co-wash your hair normally, this is a time you might want to switch back to a more clarifying shampoo to get rid of any build up on the lengths of your hair. The
The Shea Moisture Coconut & Hibuscus Shampoo is great for thoroughly cleansing without stripping the hair, R44.00.
Argan Oil From Morocco Intense Deep Conditioning Hair Treatment is great for injecting moisture, R181.00.
4. Stretch it
As well as detangling your hair thoroughly, you’ll also need to stretch your curls to ensure that your braids are super smooth and frizz-free on installation. If you don’t mind using heat on your hair then you should blow-dry in sections with a paddle brush, like the Tangle Teezer Styling Half Paddle Hair Brush, to stretch it out (make sure you’re using the best heat protector too). If you prefer to not use heat, that’s fine, you can stretch the hair by moisturising and then doing a simple braid out or dividing the hair into buns post-wash and allowing to air-dry fully.
Tangle Teezer Styling Half Paddle Hair Brush, R339.00.
5. Hair is protected but shouldn’t be neglected
Braids are a great protective hairdo as you don’t have to style your hair everyday, but it won’t be healthy unless you nourish it. ‘Once your braids are installed, it’s important to keep your natural hair moisturised and lubricated. Synthetic hair often dehydrates natural hair. I’d recommend using a water-based hydrating spray from root-to-ends, then use a light oil on your scalp as needed,’ advises Gemma. Products like Dark and Lovely Braid Spray and Afri True Soothing Braid Spray are great for instant hydration.
Dark and Lovely Braid Spray, R42.99.
Afri TrueSoothing Braid Spray, R29.99.
6. Give it a few weeks
When you first have your braids installed, your head will feel alien to you for at least a week due to the weight of the braids and the fact that your scalp can now feel the direction of the wind – it’s just a fact. You will feel like you have to move your entire body to speak to someone, not just your neck. This feeling will past and as the braids begin to loosen up slightly you’ll be able to style them, flip them and whip them back and forth as much as you want. But your braids shouldn’t EVER hurt when they are being put in, sure it can feel tender, but if they feel too tight tell your braider, this is important as it can damage your hair and scalp health.
7. Make it last
‘To make them last, make sure you sleep with a silk headscarf so everything is kept in place,’ says Rita Balogun, owner of Radiant Salon. Fold your scarf into a triangle shape and wrap around your braids. You can bunch your braids into a loose low pony or let them hang free in the scarf. Or if you’re not about the headscarf life a satin pillowcase is a decent alternative.
8. Wash with care
It’s a myth that you don’t need to or shouldn’t wash your hair when it’s braided. You definitely should as product build up, dead skin cells and general dirt from life can mount up in the plait. Grim. You just can’t wash it as you normally would as a) Vigorous washing can cause frizz and b) You won’t be able to get all the product out of your braids which can cause breakage. To wash use a diluted shampoo or apple cider vinegar mix, focus it on your scalp, wash gently and then rinse thoroughly. You can’t use heat on synthetic hair so just be patient and allow it to air-dry. Finish up your routine with a soothing scalp oil such as the Cantu Shea Butter Tea Tree & Jojoba Hair & Scalp Oil.
Cantu Shea Butter Tea Tree & Jojoba Hair & Scalp Oil, R159.95.
9. Give your hair a break
As much wearing braids is a great protective style, it’s really important to have a break between braided styles. ‘Don’t do braids back to back, always give it rest to make sure your hair stays healthy,’ advises Rita. Personally, I normally do 6 weeks on and a month off to ensure I’m giving my hair time to breathe.
This article originally appeared on COSMOPOLITAN UK
read more beauty