My hair has always been pretty thick. In fact, getting it into a ponytail was always an adventure. Last year, however I took my braids out and prepared myself for the adventure of pulling my hair into a ponytail and guess what? I did it so easily, I was confused.
So I began to examine my hair and comparing it to old pictures and I realized that my hair had thinned. Imagine! I thought my hair was so resilient that things like hair loss did not apply to me. Of course, then I paid attention to how much hair I’d shed after taking the braids out. One year of frequent braiding had caused my hair to become thinner rather than protecting it as I thought.
At this point some of you may be thinking like I was–that it’s better to avoid braiding. WRONG. Braiding is a great protective style. You just have to do it the right way. Here are some tips to help you avoid hair loss.
1. Deep Condition: Deep condition your hair before you braid. I know I’ve said this before, but the best way to keep your hair healthy and strong is to make sure it’s moisturized. Also, kanekalon is very drying so you want to reduce its drying effect.
2. Stretch it Out: Unless the person braiding knows how to handle natural hair gently, then after you wash and deep condition your hair, braid it, thread it, blow dry etc to stretch it out. Stretched hair is easier to manage, so the hair braider is less likely to damage your hair because he/she cannot does not understand it. Now you ladies in Africa know what I mean. You know there have been several times you get irritated because the person braiding wants to run a small comb through your hair like it is permed and when your hair does not cooperate the war between hair braider and hair begins.
3. Resist the Tendency to Use Less Hair than Synthetic Hair: If you are braiding with synthetic hair/kanekalon, make sure that the amount of your hair taken to make each braid is about the same size/thickness as the synthetic hair being used to braid. This prevents the synthetic hair from weighing down on your hair and causing your hair to pull out of the roots.
4. Keep it Lose: Use hair braiders who are not heavy handed i.e. don’t make the braids tight. Tight braids will strain your hair and cause it to fall out. You may have to be very vigilant and keep reminding your hair braider to ease up. Braids CAN be done beautifully and neatly without making it tight. In my opinion, you should be able to put your braids into a style (updo, ponytail, etc.) without wincing in pain, right after braiding.
5. Care for Your Hair While in Braids: Wipe your scalp as frequently as you would normally wash your hair if it was not in braids and moisturize your hair. I wipe my scalp by dipping cotton wool in an apple cider vinegar, water and peppermint rinse. Then put some oil on my scalp, spray my leave in conditioner or hair moisturizer on the braids and seal each braid with a butter–yes each braid.
6. Protect Your Hair When Going to Sleep: We tend to think our hair is ensconced in braids so using a scarf or a satin pillowcase is not necessary. However, our hair does stick out of the braids so continue to sleep with a scarf or satin pillowcase. This will also help your braids look neater for longer.
7. Don’t Keep Your Braids for Too Long: Remove the braids once your hair grows, enough that the braids start twisting and pulling at your hairline. This reduces the amount of tension and weight being put on your hair and reduces the chance of hair loss. I have vowed not to keep my braids in for longer than 4 weeks as this is how long it takes my hair to grow out to a point where it starts to twist.
With these helpful tips AND some castor oil, the thickness of my hair is being restored.