At the time that we are writing this blog we are approximately 6 weeks from a hot *insert whatever “girl” you want to be* summer. For many tight curly + naturals that means having braid appointments lined up so that you can cross your hair off your summer to do list. Because what you will not be having is your hair taking up one moment of your “we outside this summer” time.
While we understand your need for convenience or the need to change it up (because…change is good and everything). We want you to take a moment to check in with your hair to see if your hair is in the condition to go into those braids.
You’re probably giving us a major side eye right now. However we have spent a great deal of time working behind the chair and we can’t plead with tight curlies + naturals enough to make sure your strands are in the condition needed before pursuing your next braid appointment.
So, what does it mean to have braid ready hair? Being braid ready essentially comes down to these 5 points:
#1. Cleanse Your Natural Hair with Shampoo
Every single hairstyle known to any licensed hair stylist should start with shampoo. Shampoo cleanses our hair from dirt, oil, build up, scalp excretions and environmental debris. Going into a style with a clean canvas allows your hair to properly absorb water so we can keep it hydrated and healthy.
#2. Condition Your Curls
We know, you knew this already however this is a very crucial step in what we call the Wash Hour Process. Conditioner reduces the swelling, shuts the cuticle down and leaves a layer of protection on the hair. Shampoo should always be followed up by a rinse out or deep conditioner.
#3. Stick to a Solid and Consistent Cleansing and Conditioning Routine, Even In Braids
While wearing braids or any other alternative style, cleansing and conditioning your hair at least bi-weekly is a must. Dirt and oil that builds up on the scalp can smell, clog follicles, impede growth, and lead to dry, brittle hair. Plus it’s just plain old good hygiene.
We usually recommend going through your full cleansing and conditioning routine at least every 5-10 days. This is often easier to outsource to a stylist who can properly see/feel their way to your scalp with product and their hands. Then it’s imperative that the additional hair and your hair be dried fully under hooded dryer. Failure to complete this step can cause mildew and molding at the scalp and within the crevices of the style as well as breed bacteria and fungi. The additional hair often needs restyling with heat or tools to look good again.
Carlisa, Cut It Kinky Alumni Stylist + Protective Style Expert provides a ton of helpful hair tips regarding protective styling and also highly recommends that you follow your weekly cleansing routine.
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#4. Make Sure Your Natural Hair Is In Great Condition Prior to Getting Braids
It is important to note that alternative style applications such as braids are best suited for hair that is already in a healthy hydrated state with an intact cuticle. Those with weak, thirsty, brittle, or damaged hair should avoid these styling options at all costs because friction and chronic dehydration are the enemies of compromised hair.
When going into any braids, weaves, twist, wigs etc. for an extended amount of time with dry, damaged hair, you will come out of those styles with even drier, more damaged hair. This is due to the friction applied by hair add on’s and dehydration from infrequent wash hour processes.
Prior to any alternative styling involving the use of extension hair, your hair should be clean and deep conditioned with a quality moisturizing conditioner. If you think your hair needs a protein treatment prior to installation, your hair is not in the condition to receive alternative styling.
#5. Do Not Leave Braids In For Months At a Time
It is generally recommended that alternative styles such as braids be worn no more than 4-8 weeks. Going beyond 4-8 weeks can lead to scalp buildup, inflammatory conditions of the scalp skin, increased shedding, and even thinning. We understand that sometimes a break from our hair is just what the doctor ordered, but let’s undertake these styles responsibly.
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