Protective Styling: 9 Do’s and Don’t’s for Braids

By Kiri Rupiah (@KiriNtando)

Everyone loves a good low-maintenance protective style like box braids or twists; but just because you can’t see your hair doesn’t mean you should forget about it for the duration of time that you have them installed. Here are a few dos and dont’s for healthy protective styling using braid extensions.



This post was originally published on the RupiahZA blog here.


1. Do make sure you hair is in great shape before installing braids or twists.

Deep condition your hair the day before and on the day you get them installed. As pretty as it looks; remember that the extra weight of extensions can cause tension on the hair shaft. Get a trim if you have noticeable split ends or uneven ends. Try a protein treatment followed by a deep condition the week before your installation to prevent dry, brittle hair. After the installation remember to moisturize with a braid spray or (water and aloe vera gel) and seal with a light oil to ensure you don’t get too much buildup or your takedown will be hell.

2. Don’t get the hair on the nape or temples braided too tightly.

Visible white bulbs on your edges, tiny red bumps or headaches after your installation mean the follicles are being pulled so tightly they’re being uprooted. Traction alopecia is very real. If after the installation you can hardly blink – apply a warm, wet towel to your hairline to ease the tension. When you’re getting your hair braided make sure you tell the stylist to either leave out the tiny hairs there or hold the base of the braid (where it connects with your own hair) as they plait the rest of the braid.

3. Don’t use braiding hair straight from the pack.

This is very important if you’re prone to allergies. I know this sounds weird but synthetic hair is made in bulk and sits around in factories before it gets shipped to stores or directly to you. To make sure it doesn’t attract insects or mold – the hair contains an alkaline base over the fibres that can cause excessive dryness, mild irritation in many people. You can easily remove it by soaking your extensions in water with a cup of regular white vinegar for 15 minutes. Make sure you dry the hair thoroughly before using it.

4. Do keep your hair and scalp clean while wearing braids.

To ensure the style last longer for the first 2 weeks whenever my scalp gets itchy I use a cotton disk soaked in witch-hazel or diluted vinegar to dap onto my scalp. After that when the braids are a little looser I spritz on a sulfate-free conditioner and tea-tree oil mixed with water directly onto my scalp and where my natural hair ends. Once my hair is thoroughly soaked I clip or tie the braids up to avoid breakage from the added weight of wet braids. I leave that in for 20 – 30mins then rinse with lukewarm water. To avoid frizziness I lightly coat each individual braid with jojoba (or any other light oil) then tie the braids in a bun. After air drying I wear a silk scarf overnight.

5. Don’t forget to deep condition your hair even when it’s braided.

Use a relaxer brush or your fingers to “paint”deep conditioner onto the roots of your hair. Then warm up an oil of your choice and apply that to the length of the braid (or at least to where your think your natural hair ends). After that wear a plastic bag (a shower cap won’t cover everything and a plastic grocery bag can stretch. Just remember to tie it at so no oils stain your clothing). Leave that on for 30 mins to an hour. Rinse out thoroughly then seal the moisture into your hair using the oils below.

You can use these oils for a hot-oil treatment:Olive oilJojoba oilSweet almond oilArgan Oil

Add these essential oils to your treatment:Peppermint (Scalp stimulator)Tea Tree (Dry scalp and dandruff)Rosemary (Thinning hair)Ylang Ylang (Promote healthy hair growth)


6. Do wear a satin or silk bonnet or scarf.

Just as you do when your hair is loose – cover your hair or sleep on a satin or silk pillowcase. Cotton pillowcases and scarves can draw moisture from your hair and cause tangles. If you do decide to use silk/satin pillowcases make sure you bun your braids or tuck the ends.

7. Do get familiar with scalp massages.

I know it seems silly but scalp massages soothe my scalp and relax me. The increased blood flow to your scalp also promotes hair growth. All you do is coat your clean fingers in your fave oil (jojoba for me because it closely matches the natural occurring sebum your own body produces). Then sit at the edge of your seat with your head hanging forward or bed at the waist and slowly massage your scalp. I get a bit carried away but 10 mins is fine.

8. Don’t keep your extensions in for too long.

Yeah it may still look fresh if you get your edges redone every few weeks but please don’t keep your extensions in for more than 2 months. On the other hand don’t switch hairstyles too quickly either. Long term protectively styling gives your hair a break and time to grow. Leave it alone and it will grow,  BUT don’t leave it in for so long that your hair gets severely tangled with the extensions and begins to break or loc. The accumulation of shedded hair and new growth needs to be touched-up every 4 to 8 weeks if you decide you’re doing to keep your braids longer than 2 months.

9. Do read the ingredients in your store bought hair butter or spray.

Most shampoos, hair and skincare products on the market contain synthetic materials that create many of our hair, scalp and skin challenges. Stay away from these.

Propylene Glycol – may cause dry skin and skin irritation.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate or Laureth Sulfate – surfactant that may corrode hair follicles
Oleyl betaine – may cause dry hair and scalp.
Mineral oils – petroleum products clog pores. The molecule is too big to be absorbed by the skin.

Let me know how you take care of your braids or send me an email if I’ve left anything out.




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