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The act of protecting our natural hair in the form of box braids has been a mainstay in the Black hair community. Waist-length ‘Poetic Justice’ braids or a Maxine Shaw-inspired braided bob are a go-to for many of us when trying to protect our hair during harsh winters or beachside vacays.
Not having to manipulate hair daily or worry about styling is a much-needed sigh of relief. It’s one of the reasons we love braids. But it recently came to our attention that we’ve neglected a key step in the protection process. While we go to extreme measures to ensure our own hair is properly cleansed and nourished Gina Conwell, creator and owner of Desired Extensions, told us that we should be giving the exact same care for the extensions.
“It’s very important to wash your hair extensions before installation, to refresh the pattern and check for any tangling or shedding before install,” she says. “We always suggest using sulfate-free professional product lines such as Mizani or a drugstore product like Shea moisture,” Conwell suggests.
Despite our years of experience with braided styles, washing hair extensions before using them is a new step for many of us. Conwell’s suggestions gave us an aha moment. Why wouldn’t we cleanse a manmade product that we intertwine with our own crown?
“Unfortunately most people are allergic to the synthetic hair that is added to their natural hair to create the braid. The synthetic fibers will then irritate the scalp causing it to itch excessively,” Conwell says. This idea completely dispells the myth that incessant itching is just a normal byproduct of braids. It’s actually a sign of an allergic reaction.
According to Conwell, the best way to prep your hair and scalp before braids is to cleanse with a detoxifying shampoo, like this one from Davines. Once the braids are in — Conwell suggests keeping them for no longer than eight weeks — it’s also important to keep your scalp and hair moisturized. Drinking lots of water is also important because it ensures hair stays healthy and moisturized from the inside out.
Conwell’s tips are simple yet essential because they can make all the difference for maintaining hair health. Have you ever washed your extensions before braids? Comment below and let us know!