Whether you're considering braids or rock them regularly, there are some basic dos and don'ts for maintaining cornrows and extensions. Unlike other styles, braids are slightly more challenging to keep neat, take a lot of time to redo, and can easily look messy if not cared for properly. In fact, long wear and upkeep can get pretty pricey unless you know how to keep your style neat from the minute it is done. Hairstylist Jamika Wilson shared some money-saving tips for keeping braids tight without breaking the bank.STEP 1: PREP
Braids are a great way to transition from chemically-treated hair to a natural look. Or, if you are just in the mood to change up your look, extensions or cornrows offer a nice range of styling options. Before braiding up, prep your mane for the extended wear of one style by doing a deep moisture treatment. Wilson suggests doing regular protein treatments before braiding as a way of packing much-needed hydration into your hair cuticles. Try Redken Extreme Anti-Snap Treatment ($16.49, soap.com) - it's a leave-in conditioner that smooths the hair cuticle and helps fortify hair that breaks easily. This type of conditioner will not only keep your hair healthy, but the smoothing agent in it will keep your style looking neat and lasting longer.
STEP 2: MOISTURIZE
Once done, "the best way to care for your braids is to make sure they are well moisturized," says Wilson. Because there is so much tug and pull on your mane when wearing braids, giving your scalp a little extra TLC is essential to help prevent your hair from breaking off. Greasing your scalp regularly will not only help maintain the elasticity of your hair cuticles, but it will also keep your scalp from getting dry and flaky. It's harder to hide a dry scalp when you have a style like cornrows, so make sure that all parts in between braids are well greased. Look for a leave-in treatment like DermOrganic Leave-In Treatment with Organic Argan Oil ($25, drugstore.com). It is a non-greasy hair moisturizer that will keep your roots from drying out.
STEP 3: FIGHT FRIZZ
Braids can get frizzy on the exterior, and once that happens, it's hard to revive them without redoing them. Adding a braid spray will keep your style sleek and frizz-free. Try African Royale BRX Braid & Extensions Sheen Spray ($4.50, Walgreens.com); it conditions extensions and cornrows and also adds a light sheen throughout. Also, be sure to protect the style while you sleep. "At night, tie a satin scarf around your braids to prevent frizzing," Wilson suggests. With the right preparation, moisture and protection, your braids can last a lot longer and ultimately save you money.
STEP 4: REMOVAL
Removing braids can add a lot of unnecessary tension to your hair, so when you're ready to take them out, be careful not to tug too much. Remember: just by wearing braids, your hair is already under stress, so adding a little bit of water helps make the removal process easier on your strands. "The best way to take out your braids is to wet them first and then begin taking them out," says Wilson. Once the cornrows or extension are removed, "always make sure you comb hair out before shampooing to prevent hair from matting."
STEP 5: DEEP CONDITION
Before re-braiding or styling, revive any locks that may have become brittle from the braids by re-moisturizing. Try a deep conditioning hair mask like Fekkai Protein Rx Reparative Treatment Mask ($29, sephora.com); the anti-breakage formula helps restore strands that may have already been damaged from processing or from wearing braids that weren't cared for properly, and it helps prevent future breakage.
Braided ladies: what are your special techniques for maintaining your 'dos?