When I decided to go natural, I quickly realized that single/box braids would be the easiest and most convenient way for me to grow my hair out as quickly as possible. Protective Styles such as box braids, crochets, sew-ins, etc are all great ways of growing the hair because the ends are protected, there’s very little maintenance or manipulation to the hair, there’s access to the scalp, and you can keep the styles for several weeks or months at a time. But, if braids are not applied and your hair isn’t taken care of properly in the protective style, you will definitely do more damage than good.
Braid extensions are coated with a chemical that may cause excessive dryness. Applying extensions to freshly relaxed hair constitutes double processing which may cause the hair to become weaker, especially since the hair is already at its weakest point immediately following a relaxer. Therefore, you should wait a minimum of two weeks after relaxing to get braid extensions and prep your hair with protein-rich deep conditioner each week followed up by a good moisturizer. Another way to combat the excessive dryness is to soak the entire braid in apple cider vinegar for 15-30 minutes and then rinse with cool water before braiding. This will strip the chemical from the extension, thereby making it safer for the hair. And, don’t worry about the smell, it will go away.
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It is essential to find a braider that understands the importance of being gentle and not braiding too tight. Too many times I allowed a braider to squeeze and pull my hair so tight that I felt like my scalp was on fire. I didn’t say anything because I assumed that braids had to hurt to look neat and to stay in longer; this is a nasty myth. I remember spending $150 on braid extensions and taking them out in 3 days because my head hurt so badly.
Although you should stick to your regular regimen of washing, conditioning and moisturizing your hair, when you have any braided style you must execute the regimen differently. Sweet Nature by Eddie has a Protective Style Kit specifically formulated to
easily and efficiently cleanse, condition and moisturize the hair while nourishing the scalp during long-term protective styles such as braids. This kit will also minimize excessive shedding and breakage as well.
The take down process is just as important as the application process, in some cases, it may be more important. If you haven’t washed your hair while it was braided, there’s a good chance there’s some serious matting at the base of each braid; even if you have washed your hair, there’s still some chances of matting. So, before you even start taking your braids out, wash your hair thoroughly! Make sure that your braids, especially the base are saturated with shampoo. Massage around the base of the braids, and let the shampoo sit for a several minutes to cut through the build-up.
Don’t wait until taking all the braids out to try and detangle and remove build up and lint, do it after taking down each braid by gently separating matted hair using your two fingers and combing out any build up. This process may take longer but it will cut down on frustration and breakage of trying to do it after all the braids are down. Once all the braids are out, you want to immediately put it back on the road to strength and hydration (You should have been replenishing protein and hydrating it all along, but now you’re going to take it up a notch).
Wash and deep condition the hair with a protein-rich deep conditioner and use a processing cap and a hair dryer to give your hair the ultimate treatment. If you have a steamer, this would be the time to steam the hair as well. Using a super hydrating moisturizer is essential to further fight any potential breakage or damage. Try not to use heat or chemicals for a couple of weeks if possible.