Many naturals and relaxed women love extensions. From braids to twists, there are many options available if you decide to go the extensions route. Extensions add variety to hair styles and when worn properly, can give your hair a break from daily manipulation.
There have been a plethora of articles in recent months highlighting the negatives of wearing extensions and the damage they can cause to the scalp and or hair follicles if improperly installed or cared for. I know many of us love braided styles and though extensions can cause damage, we’ll examine the beneficial side of extension styling along with 3 steps to effectively wear braid extensions including proper technique, adequate care and gentle removal to keep your hair in tip top shape while braided, twisted or otherwise installed up.
There are considerable benefits of wearing braids and twists. Some that come to mind are: Ease of style; you can literally just get up and go more often than not while your hair is in braids or twists, saving time and energy on the daily. Length of style; braided styles tend to last two to eight weeks depending on the installation, care and if they are singles or cornrows. Who doesn?t like the idea of not having to style their hair for weeks on end? Daily manipulation protection, while in braids or twists our hair does get a much welcomed rest from daily manipulation caused by styling and general handling, leaving it stronger with proper care.
After nearly two decades of self styling, here are some of key things I’ve learned about wearing extensions to optimize hair health, that I hope will be of help to you should you ever opt to don extensions.
1. BRAIDING TECHNIQUE
Let’s face it there are some stylists out there that will style you bald. There are two things that jump out at me where it concerns technique:
1.1 TENSION AND EDGE CARE
Some stylists use entirely too much tension on the hair, pulling it away from the scalp when braiding and twisting as if to punish you for some unknown bad deed. This is murder on the hair follicles and can lead to traction alopecia and even permanent hair loss. This unfortunately happens so often that many women wonder how to braid hair without damaging edges by default, but damage does not have to occur.
Signs that your braids are too tight and may need to be removed immediately:
- You experience a headache after installation. This simply shouldn?t happen ever.
- You have little bumps which are inflamed or irritated hair follicles and or redness around your hair line or general scalp areas causing discomfort, tingling or itching.
- You have a noticeable amount of white bulbs which are infected hair follicles around your hair line or general scalp area.
- Your face and hairline are pulled back tightly. This should never happen.
1.2 INSTALLED HAIR TO SECTION RATIO
There is extreme danger in wearing extra large braids as it adds weight to the hair which stresses the hair and follicles by pulling as the style ages and loosens away from the scalp. Be sure that the braid size is appropriate for your thickness of hair. Everyone cannot rock a large box braid and keep the integrity of our strands strong.
Caring for our hair while in braids and protective styles is still required. I can?t tell you how many women I meet who think otherwise. Granted not as much manipulation as it relates to styling is involved but we must still care for our hair and scalp. Anything less is encroaching neglect and we don?t want to neglect our hair because that could lead to hair loss. Be sure to keep a healthy balance of moisture, cleanliness and upkeep by following the tips below.
2.1 ADEQUATE MOISTURE
This can be accomplished in two ways. By washing and or spritzing the hair and scalp with a water based product. I do both. I know some of us don?t like to wash our braids for fear of them loosening or frizzing but there are ways to curtail that.
When washing, section your hair by platting in large loose sections so that you can get to the scalp. It’s important to remember shampoo is for the scalp and conditioner is for the hair. Rinse gently and don?t tug or pull on the braids while wet. After washing, spray on a water-based leave-in conditioner, oil the length of the braid to help seal in moisture as well as your scalp if needed and allow your braids to air dry. We like olive, coconut and jojoba oils for this task.
2.2 MANAGING FRIZZ
To combat frizz after washing or regular spritzing (until frizz is unbearable), section hair and apply a soft holding gel to each braid then loosely plat each section to set the hair, release when dry and viola clean frizzles braids with a nice soft braid out crinkle texture to boot.
2.3 SCALP NURTURING AND PROTECTION
When in braided styles more of the scalp is exposed making it more prone to dryness. Keep it protected by applying a light oil or butter, preferably natural ones such as extra virgin olive oil, extra virgin coconut oil or a shea butter mix as these have nutrients that feed the follicles while protecting the skin.
Using grease creates a great smelling weather barrier and by all means if grease is your go to use it, just be aware that in many cases it can clog hair follicles and will also require more frequent washing of your scalp. If you want to use a grease type product, we like Carol’s Daughter Mimosa Hair Honey which looks and feels like a grease but is a great mixture of oils that nourish the scalp and hair without clogging pores.
2.4 TOUCH UPS AND GENERAL UP KEEP
I advise my clients to have a touch up at least every four to six weeks if they are looking to extend their style beyond the recommended two month (eight weeks) mark. This allows for scalp cleansing, releasing of dirt and shed hair and tightening of braid to scalp for a more secure installation that will not stress the hair by having added hair hanging on to hair that has grown away from the scalp.
3. BRAID REMOVAL
As stated, I don?t recommend wearing a braided style for more than two months (eight weeks) without extra special care including washing and retouching, and recommend they be removed at this point to preserve hair integrity and reinforce it with washing and conditioning and re-braiding, if desired. Anything longer and you run the risk of severe hair dehydration, matting and in some cases locking at the roots. Eeeek!
When removing your extensions be sure to cut the installed hair at least a half inch or more below your own hair and take down with the use of a rat tail comb, if needed, from end to roots. Be sure to be gentle! Ripping the out or handling your hair rough can lead to unnecessary hair loss. Once your installed hair has been separated from your real hair you may notice a clump or small mat of product, dirt, and or lent all mixed together at the base of the hair or along the hair shaft. Do not fret. This is normal. Be sure to gently finger detangle first as much as possible, using and oil and or conditioner to loosen the hair mat starting at your roots to your ends to remove the lint, product build-up and the shed hair that will also be in each loosened section.
After repeating this process throughout your entire head, on a fully detangled head of hair, wash, condition and comb through hair with conditioner and a seamless wide-tooth comb in to remove excess shed hair, then lavish your hair with some deep conditioning loving immediately.
Denying the hair water while in braids is a recipe for dehydration disaster encouraging breakage, the very thing we are protective styling to guard against, as is improper technique when installing or removing. It’s important to use nurturing hair product while in braid extensions (some of our favorites listed below). We ladies are willing to pay a hefty price for our chosen style to show off our unique beauty. Let us make sure that price does not include sacrificing our hair health on any level.