Has your natural hair ever been in braids? But of course, you have! Natural hair and braids go together like peanut butter and jelly. They are a winning combination.
You may not like it for your hair, but odds are, you’ve tried it at least once. Braids may be done with or without extensions.
In most cases when extensions are added, they are added for length, however, extensions may also be added for fullness and volume. Braids take a bit more skill and time to install than twists, however, they also tend to last longer, frizz-less, and lead to less tangles, particularly in the base of each braid.
Transitioning to natural hair with braids
The period which one changes to natural hair is a valuable time that can present many challenges. Most women have no recollection of ever having cared for their own natural hair, so the experience is a bit like stepping into the unknown.
Added to this, is the fact that many of the traditional hair care practices for caring for straight or relaxed hair do not carry over well for natural hair, and you can find yourself outside your depth. It’s important to give yourself time to learn and adjust; one such way is to give yourself little breaks from handling your transitioning hair.
Transitioning to natural hair with braids will help reduce the risk of hair breakage due to manipulation and prevent you from becoming overwhelmed or frustrated as you learn to love and care for your natural hair.
Natural hair preparation for braids
Preparing your natural hair for braids is much like preparing it for any other long term protective style. Some key things must be done for your hair to thrive while braided.
Let’s take a look at some best practices in preparation for braids.
- Start with hair and scalp that is freshly cleansed. This will prevent itching, and you should keep your hair as clean as possible for the duration of the style.
- Give yourself a protein treatment. Protein treatments strengthen the hair and thereby will ensure that hair is able to withstand the manipulation necessary for braiding.
- Do a moisture (deep conditioning) treatment. Always follow your protein treatments with moisture treatments. Protein strengthens the hair but can also leave it dry and inflexible. Moisture treatments restore elasticity and pliability to the hair, and also reduces the risk of breakage from being brittle.
- Thoroughly moisturize and seal hair before braiding. Avoid using any form of dry heat (blow dryer, flat iron, etc.) as this will only remove the moisture you’ve worked at putting into the hair in preparation for your braids. Focus your moisturizing efforts on the ends of your hair, which are the oldest parts and require the most care and attention.
- Get a trim. If you have ends that are split or otherwise unhealthy, it’s a good idea to get them trimmed before braiding.
Caring for natural hair with braids
Caring for natural hair with braids is quite simple. The important thing to note is that keeping your scalp free of product is the best way to keep it clean.
Apply your products from mid shaft to the ends of your hair and not directly to your scalp. This way rinsing your hair every week or few days depending on your activity level and environment, should take care of the basic cleansing required for your scalp.
A gentle scalp massage while allowing the water to run down from the scalp to the length of your hair will also work wonders for keeping the itches at bay and keeping the hair fresh. You also want to manipulate the hair as little as possible during the cleansing phase to avoid creating frizz.
How to moisturize natural hair with braids
If you braided your own hair without extensions, then moisturizing your braided hair is straightforward and much like moisturizing your hair while not in braids. Focus your moisturizer from the ends to the root and avoid applying product directly to the scalp.
Using lightweight moisturizers that are easily absorbed into the hair will not result in product buildup. Over time this will be important as you wear your braids for weeks at a time.
Ideally, a moisturizer that you can spray is best, as it reduces the amount of rubbing and manipulation required for adding moisture to the hair. Less manipulation will result in less frizz, which means you can wear your braids for longer periods of time and still have them look fresh.
If you incorporated extensions into your braid, then the best way to moisturize your hair is with a lightweight product that can be sprayed on. Mist hair lightly as needed every few days and you are should be fine, provided you moisturized your hair thoroughly prior to braiding.
How to wash natural hair with braids
Rinsing your braids with water is usually enough to keep your hair and scalp in good condition when wearing braids. However, if you absolutely feel that you must wash your braids, use a mild cleanser and focus on massaging it into your scalp.
Once you’ve given your scalp a good scrub, let the water take the lather down the hair shaft in order to cleanse the remainder of your hair. Use products that are natural and easily removed with water when taking care of your braids.
Your braids are supposed to be protective and not drying out your hair while it’s in a protective style otherwise it’s not a healthy or protective practice at all.
How to condition natural hair with braids
Conditioning your natural hair with braids is much the same as conditioning it when it’s loose. Again, you want to focus your deep conditioner or conditioning treatment on the length of the hair and not the scalp.
Cover hair with a plastic cap and add a bit of heat either by sitting under a hooded dryer or steamer, using a conditioning cap or placing a warm towel on top of your head. The aim is to generate steam in order to help the cuticles of the hair open up and let in the goodness from your treatment.
This is particularly important since the hair is braided and the strands aren’t as exposed to the treatment as they would be if your hair was loose.
How to grow natural hair with braids
Growing your natural hair with braids requires patience. It will also require that you follow a few simple rules.
Here are things you should do in order to get the most growth from your hair while wearing braids. Be mindful, however that your overall health and diet, including water intake are also crucial for growing and maintaining healthy hair.
- Always start your braids on hair that is clean and well moisturized. If you notice that your hair is breaking, give yourself a protein treatment to help strengthen your hair.
- Braid hair without pulling too harshly on the strands. Harsh manipulation and too tight braids will lead to breakage and can result in loss of your hairline or other instances of traction alopecia.
- Keep hair moisturized while braided. Do not braid your hair and then ignore it.
- Protect your hair by sleeping on a satin pillowcase or wearing a satin scarf or bonnet.
- Do not braid your hair in the same direction as this can lead to hair loss. Vary the manner, position, and style and types of braids that you use. There are many braiding styles to choose from so be creative. Try box braids, cornrow braids, braids with extensions, braids without extensions or the combination of braids and twists, braids and loose hair or just use braids as a decorative addition to a ponytail or bun. Just have fun with it. This will be particularly important as wearing protective styles can become boring and mundane for people who like to change their look frequently.
How to protect natural hair while in braids
It’s best not to have tension on the hair line either when installing or styling your braids. You want to preserve your edges and prevent hair loss due to tension and stress on the hair follicle.
How to stretch natural hair with braids
Braiding your natural hair will lead to stretched hair regardless. If you want your hair to be stretch from your braids, then pull your braids into a low ponytail with a satin hair tie.
Alternately, you can take braids from one side of your head to the other side of your head and secure everything with a bobby pin. Just make sure your braids are flat on your head.
Banding your braids as illustrated below is also an option.
How to blend natural hair with braids
The first step is to ensure that you choose extensions or braiding hair that closely matches your own texture. Alternately, it is possible to manipulate your own texture to match those of the extensions, such as doing a braid out or twist out if you want to obtain a texture that would blend well with curly extensions in creating curly hairstyles with braids.
If the extensions are straight, it is also possible to stretch and straighten your natural hair using heat free methods.
How to curl natural hair with braids
Flexi rods or cold wave rods are affordable tools that may be used to curl your braids. Curling your braids can also transform medium length braids into shorter braids creating short hairstyles without the need for cutting.
Heating tools such as curling irons should be avoided as the heat may lead to heat damage, excessive dryness, brittleness and breakage. If your braids were created with extensions, then it is likely you’ll need hot water to help achieve and set your curls.
Natural hair braiding products
There are so many great products for braiding natural hair. For installation, the following products are great options to seal the hair and provide hold and control frizz.
These products are best used after hair has been moisturised. These products are also great for providing hold and definition for twist outs and braid outs.
Natural hair care products for braids
Refresh your braids and keep your hair hydrated with lightweight products such as the ones below. The key is for these products to be water based, lightweight and easily sprayed onto the hair so that frizz is not generated during the moisturizing process of your braid care routine.
Avoid using a hair spray for hold as it will likely build up on your braids over time will leave the hair dry and brittle and in turn break. If you have used a particular hair spray and are familiar with its effect on your natural hair, then you may continue to use it on your braids, as long as buildup, itching and flaking are unlikely to result from its use.
Hair sprays that contain alcohol are a big no-no as they dry the hair out, which must be avoided at all costs.
Braided hairstyles are varied and some, such as crochet braids, may not look like braids at all. Crochet braids have become a popular natural hair protective style due to the versatility and variety of looks that can be achieved.
There are so many different looks that can be achieved with crochet braids. You could literally rock a different style every week for a month and still not exhaust all the options.
You can create styles that are super kinky, curly, wavy or straight or every texture variation in between with crochet braids. You can also create long hairstyles or short ones with crochet braids.
Natural hair braid removal
The braid removal process, sometimes called the take down requires patience and careful attention. It can be a time-consuming process depending on the size of your braids so you should take that into consideration when deciding on what braid style to install.
For example, micro braids can take many hours over several days to install and undo, whereas marley braids are pretty quick to install and take down. Micro-braids are very delicate and the weight of the extensions (if used) can be too much for the small number of strands usually used in each braided section.
Extreme care needs to be taken when creating up-dos on braided hair and wearers need to be mindful of putting tension on the hairline. Initially, marley braids or marley twists were braids done with marley hair, a kinky textured braiding hair.
For whatever reason, marley braids are also associated with medium to large twists such as the ones below. Therefore, the term marley braid may refer to braids done with marley braiding hair or braids that are medium to large in size, usually done with afro textured braiding hair.
Braids in general, are a great protective style, especially if the ends are further tucked away after braiding such as they would be in a braided bun. Braids are not only protective; however, they can also be fun and decorative.
You can use braids to jazz up any hairstyle by adding braids on one or both sides of the head. You can also add braids in the front of your hairstyle for more of a visual interest.
Braids can be created to be decorative in and of themselves, but even plain braids can be jazzed up with accessories such as beads. Wearing braids with beads very popular among kids but adults are able to rock the look as well.
Placing your natural hair in braids, is a great way to protect the hair and style it in a visually interesting manner. As long as braids are installed in a manner that does not apply tension to the hairline or any other part of the hair and scalp, then braids are a great way of promoting hair growth.
Always prepare the hair for braiding by deep conditioning to replace moisture and moisturize frequently while wearing the style to ensure that hair continues to thrive. Happy hair braiding.