Braided hairstyles continue to be an essential go-to protective style that can help grow your tresses; box braids, in all its various forms, are the most popular summer and winter style when you don’t have time to fiddle with your hair. No matter the protective style of choice, you’ve got to take care of your hair and make sure you aren’t doing more damage than protecting.
Avoiding dry scalp, keeping up with wash routines, choosing a great moisturizer for those braids, and even picking the correct braiding hair are all important parts in the process of getting box braids – no step shall be skipped, or overlooked. I’ve created a short list of products you should try and keep in mind so you can avoid a dry and itchy scalp, cleanse your hair of product build up, and picking out quality hair.
Problem: The first step in getting box braids, and possibly the most important part, is the choice of hair. It can be tempting to go for cheaper priced hair, whether it be synthetic or human, but the chemicals used in braiding hair can leave your scalp itchy, causing an allergic reaction from the alkaline base coating.
After some research and a few discussions, I learned that not washing the synthetic braiding hair I had, and even the type of hair I purchased, caused my scalp to itch and become drier quicker.
Solution: Keep in mind to read the ingredients on the hair packages. It is safe to pre-wash any hair before putting it in your own head, or look for hair that states it has been previously washed. You can wash synthetic hair as a pre-treatment with diluted vinegar or ACV, and a cup of hot water to remove the alkaline base.
Product Recommendation: X-pression Hair, a company that produces quality hair in Africa. The California based company Black ‘n Gold Hair, which provides quality human and synthetic hair textures that are extremely smooth.
Problem: The second part to keeping your braids on fleek is the treatment before and during installation. After two weeks, your scalp will be begging for much needed tender love and care, and that starts with the products you use and how you apply them. Between the pulling tension, and a lack of wash or co-wash days, you will want to keep products on hand that will keep your scalp happy.
I’m always apprehensive about washing my hair with braids, which leads me to take them out after only a month of wearing them. I found some products that will help me prolong my protective style, as well as prep my hair responsibly.
Solution: It’s important to deep condition your hair a day or two before installing box braids. You want your hair to get the necessary nutrients prior to styling, including the proper moisture during installation. This includes blow drying serums to protect your hair from breakage, a great gel or pomade, and leave-in conditioner spray for quick moisturizing over the weeks to come.
Product Recommendation for keeping hair moisturized and scalp clean: Let’s Jam Conditioning Gel by SoftSheen-Carson is great for slicking down edges and keeping the hair put.
Carol’s Daughter offer products specifically for protective styles. Their Mimosa Hair Honey line is a top recommendation, since it offers a clarifying scalp treatment with an easy application top nozzle, and Calming Tension Spray that will moisturize the scalp and hair to help alleviate itching from tension.
Problem: The up-keep on box braids if very low maintenance, but laziness can set in, and we may forget to keep our tresses moisturized, or even tie our hair up at night. I tend to have an issue with keeping my box braids neat and sleek after two weeks, causing the braids to look dull and a frizzy mess, in addition to my own natural hair reverting to its curly state.
Solution: Keep your silk scarf or bonnet on deck. If you find yourself without it, the quickest way to correct frizz and keep that shine and sleekness is mousse or setting lotion, braiding spray, and a light pomade. You never want to apply greasy products that will cause heavy build up.
Apply a styling mousse to your braids, then a braiding spray before tying it down tightly with a head scarf. Keep the scarf on for a minimum of 30 minutes to allow drying and the product to settle.
Product Recommendation: Shea Moisture’s Coconut & Hibiscus Frizz-free Mousse will offer sleekness, shine and minimum crunch or flaky residue. African Royale Braid and Extensions Sheen Spray has been a staple for box braids for over a decade, and is my personal favorite due to being infused with natural tea tree oil.