With hair braiding, you’ve kissed goodbye to mediocre hairstyles – and you have the added benefit of a comfortable, long-lasting hairstyle, especially if you’ve invested in cornrows or other types of African braiding. However, as good as your plaits may look, and as easy to maintain as your cornrows may seem, they do require attention – some basic, natural hair care that you should keep in mind before, during and after hair braiding.
Before hair braiding
- Shop around for a good hair braiding stylist – and then follow his or her advice. It’s worth hunting down a quality stylist who will be with you every step of the way, evaluating the quality of your hair before braiding, assessing you as to the best types of braids for you, and then explaining the finer points regarding braid care.
- Pamper your tresses. Ideally, apply vegetable protein-based conditioners – such as those derived from rice, corn and wheat, which offer immediate penetration – for at least a few weeks before hair braiding. Well-conditioned hair will be more elastic; you can check this by tugging on some strands of hair behind your ears or near your neck. If they break instead of springing back, postpone hair braiding and continue your conditioning treatment.
During hair braiding
- Reduce the tension and stress applied to your hair. If your locks are wrenched too forcefully during the hair braiding process, your hair traction will actually be changed, increasing the risk of cutting short your hair’s lifespan. When hair dies, it falls out, so keep this in mind, especially if you frequently resort to hair braiding.
After hair braiding
- Continue to protect your hair’s elasticity. Because some braided styles should not really be washed (such as corkscrew braids), get the green light from your hair braiding stylist before proceeding. For most braided styles, a moisturizing, clarifying shampoo once a week is sufficient. You can treat your scalp to an invigorating fingertip massage and sponge the braids themselves. Do any necessary follow-up brushing with a wide-tooth comb. Hair protection continues around the clock: You’ll find that a silk or satin scarf wrapped around your head at night keeps your braids neat; avoid using cotton as it tends to draw out your braids’ natural oils.
- Know when to end a good thing. You may be tempted to keep those glamorous braids in forever, but remember that it’s unhealthy to keep your braided hairstyle for more than two months.