My Journal and response:
I had a person inquire about what they could be doing wrong when wearing braids to retain length, because their hair always broke when wearing braids. She noticed that my hair seem to flourish in braids and wanted to know what the difference was. Many women don’t realize that the condition of your hair prior to going into braids is a huge factor. If your hair is already weak, thinning or breaking, going into a set of braids is the last thing you should do! Work on getting your hair healthy first so you will have a great foundation to start with, prior to braiding up. Their are 3 stages of braiding for health: Before, During, and After and they all work together to maximize your hair health, and length retention. In addition to your hair being in good condition prior to braids, you must nourish while in them, and how you remove your braids also matters. Major damage can occur at every stage if neglected. Wearing braids are low maintenance, but it is not a time for you to take a full blown vacation from healthy hair care.
Hello *****gir1! Thanks for stopping by today. I'd love to give any advice that I can with your hair, and as it pertains to wearing braids. To fully help you out, I will need to know what you do to your hair prior to getting braids, and what you do to it while it's in braids, and then once they are out. This way we can probably figure out what's causing the breakage. No, I do not do my own braids as of now, but I’m working on that! I have a really good braider that cares about the health of my hair. For example: if I ask her not to braid my hair tight, or not to braid my edges, she listens. So that is important, you have to speak up because it's your head, and your money.
Here's what I did to grow healthy hair and retain length with braids extensions.. (Disclaimer: This is MY Regimen, so it's not the ONLY way to grow healthy hair while wearing braids, also this is a lot of info but very helpful.)Make sure your hair is in the strongest possible condition prior to getting your hair braided up. (Please do at least one protein conditioning treatment on your hair prior to getting braids, I also make sure that I've gotten in two moisturizing deep conditioning sessions on my hair for a at least 45mins with a heat cap) So it’s best to start doing these treatments 3 to 4 weeks before going into braids this makes your hair stronger, and is resistant to breakage.
- I apply a Henna and Amla treatment or Cassia within this 3 week prep time. This will coat the strands, and strengthen your roots, This ensures that your strands are strong and is resistant to being pulled out. (Not to say that some braiders still won’t be able to yank your hair out, if they are a rough or braid tight...but it’s our job to speak up if our hair is being pulled too tight.)
(On Braid day) makes sure your hair is blown out, or stretched and detangeled. (I had a lady once snap and pull my hair while she was making the parts, to put in my braids. I'm sure some of my hair broke off, because my hair was not detangled well, and she of course didn’t care about the health of my hair) most braiders just want to jump in and start braiding, so make sure you assume the responsibility of detangling your own hair. Leave no kinks behind, and blow outs are perfect for this. (Use low heat and a protectant)
- Please try to stay away from Micro Braids, although I’m sure it's possible to get through a set of micros without breakage, I would not chance it, it’s a BIG risk. A heavier strand of artificial hair is being braided onto minute strands of hair. Once the added hair is on, your natural strands are compromised because it is already at a disadvantage. With healthy braiding, especially if they are individuals, its best if the amount of hair added is equal in weight and density. With Micros, there's not enough support in such a small amount of strands with your own hair, remember there is strength in numbers! Micros require such small pieces of your own hair that it's no wonder people lose their fragile edges when the try to style their hair while wearing them.
- Choose medium sized braids, or braids the size of a pencil are a perfect size. Also, DO NOT let your braider braid your “baby hairs” or fine edges. It is not necessary to braid up every single sprig of hair around your edges. That is how you lose them. Prior to the braider starting, pull as many of those hairs out as you can, that hair is too fine and should not be pulled into tight braids. (apply a little gel afterwards if need be to keep them looking neat and groomed.)
- Use a good synthetic hair fiber to braid up with rather than human hair, I've found that human braiding hair competes with the moisture in your real hair, which causes your real hair to dry out, and break. Human hair braids can also get tangled in with your real hair because the fibers are similar. Synthetic braids actually protects the hair better...and when it’s time to remove they slide right out! (Tip, before applying synthetic hair, make sure the hair has been presoaked to remove the alkaline base off of the hair)
- While your hair is in braids, please DO NOT IGNORE your hair. You still have to take care of your hair while it's in braids. I clarify with ACV, Co wash, & deep condition my hair while in braids, every week. I have an album dedicated to that particular wash regimen(on fotki.com..screen name *Chan*). Afterwards, I always use a leave in conditioner, moisturize, and seal it with oil, just like I do with my own hair when it's out. (Try not to put thick heavy conditioners in your hair, I always dilute mine with water to lessen the amount of buildup I get. Too much build up makes braids tougher to get out) Also when applying product you want to focus on the length of the braid and not the actual scalp so you will lessen build up around the base of the braid. (I do use a light oil to do my scalp massages as I remember to do them.) Also, try not to let your hair dry out. I spray my hair with water every single day so it will retain the moisture which prevents breakage.
- Styling, give your hair at least 2 weeks before you start trying to pull your hair up into styles and ponytails etc. your braids are still taunt at the base and you could suffer breakage by rushing to pull your hair back too soon.
- DO NOT LEAVE YOUR BRAIDS IN PAST 2 months! This is most important. Anything beyond two months and you are moving into dangerous waters. Also when your braids start to slide down around the edges, many women get theirs touched up to prevent breakage (TIP: Please wear a silk bonnet at night to keep the hair covered, even while you are in braids. it preserves the synthetic hair, and keep your natural hair moisturize.)
- Once it's time to take them down, be patient. Give your self necessary time to remove your braids. If you rush this process you could break your hair while trying to remove the braids. Also there's usually some product build up and maybe even dirt..trapped..around the edges and nape.. apply a lot of oil to help slide that out. Once the braids are out... make sure you detangle your hair really well after you remove them. That is.. BEFORE you wash or wet the hair, get ALL of the shed hair out first, because if you don't your hair will become severely matted and tangled.
- Then, give yourself a mild protein treatment after you take them out to help rebuild strength, and then follow up with a moisturizing conditioner, you can also give yourself another Cassia or Henna treatment!
*So, This is how I take care of my hair when in braid extensions. This is My experience and exposure to the world of Healthy Hair Braiding, and it works for me. If your braiding regimen is different and it's been working for you, by all means, continue with what you're doing. But if you are seeking answers and need help with your Braiding for Health Regimen..This is a great place to start, and just in time for our fall and winter season! Until Next time!