How are you all?? Happy (belated) New Year!! I hope it’s an amazing one for you all!
We all know that braids/wigs/weaves can be amazing protective styles – they look cute, they keep your hair protected, there are a million and one styles you can create and they can last you for a few weeks. More importantly, they are pretty easy to look after. We hear so much about what to do while you’ve got the style installed – moisturise every couple of days with water and a leave in, lightly apply an oil to your scalp, sleep with a satin pillowcase or bonnet. But what I’ve found is that there isn’t much info when it comes to how to prep your hair for the protective style.
Prepping your hair correctly can spell the difference between taking your hair style out to find new growth and loads of length retention, and taking them out to find breakage and split ends. Many of us keep our braids/wigs/weaves in for weeks at a time (I usually don’t go any longer than 4 weeks but I know some women who go as long as 12 weeks), so we have to make sure our hair is adequately strengthened AND moisturised prior to installing the style. Here’s how I prep my hair:
This is always my first step. For those that don’t know, this is when you apply an oil (or oils) to your hair and scalp prior to shampooing the hair. This helps prevent the hair from being stripped of moisture right from the very beginning. It also softens the hair immensely and helps with detangling. I like to use coconut oil or olive oil (mixed with a little bit of JBCO) to pre-poo but you can use whichever oils you prefer.
I always shampoo prior to installing braids or wearing a wig – and I mean ACTUAL (sulfate free) shampoo, not a cleansing conditioner. Since I know my hair will be wound up for a few weeks and I won’t have total access to my hair, I like to go into a new style with CLEAN hair. Plus clean hair absorbs moisture much better.
This is when I like to detangle my hair. I saturate my hair in a conditioner with lots of slip and detangle properly and carefully. This is actually the only time I use a comb (a WIDE TOOTH one) to detangle my hair. Detangling your hair PROPERLY saves you a wholeeeee lot of agony and possibly tears when you start braiding or putting in your cornrows for your wig/weave.
Protein or henna treatment
It’s important to do some sort of strengthening treatment before installing a long term protective style. This is especially important if you’re adding extensions to your style – the extra weight could cause breakage if your hair is not properly strengthened. Your hair will also be undergoing a whole lot of manipulation while it’s being braided/cornrowed so you want to minimise breakage. When I have time, I do the whole henna process but, otherwise, I use my trusty (and super cheap) Palmers Coconut Oil Deep Conditioning Protein Pack.
Moisturising deep conditioner
By now, we should all know to follow a protein or henna treatment up with a moisturising one – you have to counter all that strength with moisture!! Also, you won’t have full access to your hair for a while and you may not even deep condition for quite a while so it’s important to make sure you do it now! Find your most moisturising one and go to town. You can even steam your hair, wear a heat cap or added some extra ingredients (e.g. oils, honey, Ayurvedic powders) for some added goodness.
Moisturise and seal
After you’ve done all that, you need to make sure your hair stays moisturised. I usually do the LCO method when prepping for braids or a wig – that’s liquid, cream, oil and it works best for me when I’m doing a long term style. You can do the LOC method or LO, CO, LOCO – whatever floats your boat! And I tend to use a thicker oil or a butter (e.g. shea) to seal my hair.
Dry and stretch
Here’s where you have options! But my advice is: if you’re doing braids, stretch your hair and make sure it’s dry! There is nothing more uncomfortable than braiding unstretched and/or damp/wet hair. I try to steer clear of too much heat so I tend to put my hair in one or two braids to stretch it out (usually overnight). By the time I take it out, my hair is usually about 70-80% dry and I use my hair dryer to stretch the hair out – because the hair is already dry/almost dry, I don’t have to use too much heat. If you’re doing cornrows for your wig or weave, you can do the cornrows on damp hair to avoid having to use heat BUT you MUST make sure your hair is dry before putting on your wig – if you put your wig on damp/wet hair, it’s a hotbed for bacteria and that’s a big no.
And that’s it folks! I know it seems kinda long but I would rather spend my day doing this than end up with damaged hair! Wouldn’t you??