We’ve written a couple of articles over the past few weeks about some trending protective styles for naturals, including bob box braids, colored box braids, faux locs, and ghana braids. It’s one thing to rock a cute protective style, but an entirely different thing to properly care for the style, so here’s some advice on how best to care for your natural hair while wearing protective styles with extensions from install to takedown.
Adequately prepare for your install
There are some critical things you can do to take care of your hair before even arriving at the hair salon to get your hair braided up. First, decide which hairstyle to get based on your hair’s current health. For example, if your edges are in the process of growing back, ghana braids are probably not the best protective style option for you at the moment. Secondly, find a hair braider that comes personally recommended in terms of dealing with natural hair — don’t just go to a salon because they have the cheapest $100 Poetic Justice braid special on weekdays. Third, make sure you use extensions that your scalp will not be sensitive to. Whether you need to shell out a bit of extra money for more quality hair, or rinse your basic kanekalon hair with an ACV mixture to reduce the chemicals, don’t sacrifice your hair’s health in the name of being fly. Lastly, detangle your hair by yourself before arriving to the salon, and put your hair in twists/sections so that your braider already knows not to try for your precious baby hairs. I used this technique when I got my hair braided in Nigeria, and it did wonders to prevent any tight pulling around my edges.
Remember that your hair & scalp still exist!
The whole point of a protective style is to be more carefree with your hair maintenance, but I always shake my head at fellow ladies who say they 1. don’t do anything to their hair while it’s in braids and 2. leave their braids in for more than 2 months.
To address the first, while you don’t need to continuously detangle your hair, it still needs moisture, particularly when intertwined with rough, dry synthetic hair! About once a week, spray your braids with a liquid leave in fortified with oils to help rehydrate your hair. If you’re concerned about your natural hair curling up out of your protective style when moisturized, you can use a bit of gel to smooth over the outside of your braids and tie them down with a scarf. It’s also important to keep your scalp super greased, because for whatever reason, protective styles — at least for me — try to play my life by creating pesky flakes if I don’t keep my scalp well oiled. Using a light oil such as jojoba or coconut on your scalp and massage every other day keeps your scalp moisturized, clean, and even promotes hair growth! Massaging your scalp with oils is also a great way to help alleviate the pain/discomfort the first few days of your braids. For more tips on how to have headache-free braids, check out my post over on KlassyKinks.com!
Care continues through the takedown process
The most dangerous time for your hair’s health in a protective style is actually when you’re taking it down. After wearing a style for 6–8 weeks, it is time to give your hair, head and scalp some rest and air, so PLEASE take your style down in a timely fashion. Make sure you don’t have anywhere to go, because taking down braids and locs almost always takes at least twice as much time as you anticipate. TAKE YOUR TIME, and detangle each section immediately after removing the extensions by using a mix of conditioner, water, and oil to work through any tangles, especially to de-gunk the roots. Use two rounds of a clarifying shampoo and a prolonged session with a deep conditioner to bring your natural hair back to life. To figure out the best post-protective style deep conditioning treatment based on how your hair feels after the takedown, read my guidelines and suggestions here.
How do you care for your hair underneath protective styles? Do you think hair care is important only after the install, or before and after as well?