When fall finally arrives, many women with natural hair are switching to a protective style like box braids. The extensions add length and easy styling while protecting your hair from the stress of colder temperatures, dry air and more. While the style has always been popular, studies have found that box braids have actually symbolized a woman’s wealth alongside the other cultural elements. Fast forward to today and box braids are still one of the most sought-after protective styles for their versatility, beauty, and simplicity. However, that doesn’t mean they lack maintenance. When you have box braids, you still need consistent hair care, especially during the colder months, to keep your curls and coils healthy and your style looking its best.
“Many things can go wrong with box braids in particular, from small issues like build-up and flakes, applying too much product, or not adequately moisturizing and cleansing the scalp, to larger issues like hair breakage or tension alopecia,” says Dr. Elizabeth Davis. Founder of Shedavi Hair Care. “If it’s not properly rinsed and dried, it can lead to scale and mold. There is nothing worse than having a mold problem in your hair.”
That’s why we’ve tapped into knowledgeable hair experts and dermatologists to share the ultimate box braid haircare tips, and curated the must-have products to ensure your protective style experience runs smoothly. From moisturizing your scalp to buying scalp sunscreen, read on for the ultimate guide to caring for and caring for your hair so you and your braids can enjoy the upcoming season with ease.
This article originally appeared on thezoereport.com
#1: Treat and moisturize your scalp
“Before braiding your hair, make sure you pre-shampoo or condition your hair,” says cosmetologist and hair expert Ghanima Abdullah. “Pre-shampooing or deep conditioning helps strengthen your hair for the braiding process and after braiding as your hair grows.”
Pre-shampooing, also known as pre-pooing, is an ideal pre-box braid treatment as it helps restore dry, matted and damaged hair while adding moisture for overall softer and more vibrant hair. Prepooing also helps the detangling process feel less painful and introduces slippage, which is crucial for getting clean sections for your box braids.
In the fall and winter, when humidity levels are lower, the scalp tends to become dehydrated (and exposed to colder air and intense indoor heat). Because your natural hair stays hidden for six to eight weeks, moisture is key to avoiding scalp irritation or dandruff, as well as preventing hair breakage or dullness.
#2: Wash your roots
A common myth about box braids is that you have to wait to take them out to wash your hair. In fact, the style of washing makes it easier for the water and products to target the roots, where the focus should be. Cleansing your roots every 2-3 weeks is essential for growth as too much buildup of sebum, sweat, dead skin cells and products can smother your hair and scalp. Beauty author Jamila Kyari recommends using your fingers for a thorough but gentle cleanse that won’t damage your texture, as box braids are a popular style for women who switch hairstyles and is the line of demarcation that separates two different textures in hair particularly fragile.
“Pour some shampoo into the palm of your hand, then use your fingertips to gently apply to the entire scalp until fully coated or saturated,” explains Kyari. “Next, massage vigorously for a few minutes to remove dirt.”
#3: Prioritize gentle drying
The care of the laundry is just as important. “Once done [with cleansing]do the washing up [your hair] under running water and towel dry,” adds Kyari. “Then spritz on a generous amount of leave-in conditioner and finish with a little scalp oil.”
Make sure your hair dries completely as wet hair can cause fungal growth, irreversible hair stretching and hair breakage. While reaching for the blow dryer seems like the quickest and easiest way to dry your braids, Dr. Davis instead to towel dry.
“Give yourself that extra 10-15 minutes and towel dry your scalp and braids after each wash,” she explains. “Fully drying hair also has the added benefit of relieving extra tension and weight that the water adds, protecting your hair and fringes from breakage.”
Anyone who has ever had box braids knows that sleeping the first night is almost impossible. As your scalp adjusts to the extra weight of the extra hair, it can cause tension and headaches, and is an overall uncomfortable experience. For many, the experience of getting box braids can be complicated – some will have gorgeous waist-length box braids and feel no pain, while others will opt for knotless box braids and experience a lot of irritation. The strong grip of the installation is designed to ensure the style lasts for weeks, but you still want to take some preventive measures to ensure comfort and hair health.
“Avoid manipulating the braids or wearing tight updos or ponytails, which can add extra tension,” says Dr. Davis. “Plan to wear your hair down or in a loose bottom ponytail for at least 2-3 days after you finish. It’s a good idea to also remove all hair accessories before bed so your hair is tension-free and can rest.” If you experience tension, try running warm or cold water over your braids, then gently massage your scalp .
“The best way to avoid scalp tension and the resulting traction alopecia is to make sure your braids are in place right from the start,” says Dr. Tiffany St. Bernard, Founder and CEO of HairDays. “Make sure you choose your stylist carefully and understand the techniques they will be using to braid your hair. A knotless technique is great for avoiding traction alopecia—although it may take longer, it’s worth it in the long run. Braiding the hair into larger sections so the braid doesn’t pull too tight on the hair, and using less hair for the extensions also help reduce tension on the hair and scalp.”
All in all, box braids are a beautiful style and can be worth the extra care and maintenance. Treat yourself (and your hair) to a luxurious wash day with a few proven products.
#5: Aveda Sun Care Protective Hair Veil
Keep your braids protected and moisturized with this mist. Lightweight and water-resistant, it features UV protection that forms an invisible protective screen to protect hair from the sun’s rays, minimizing damage and dryness.
#6: Mielle Rosemary Mint Scalp and Hair Strengthening Oil
Strengthen your scalp with this formula packed with over 30 essential oils and nutrients like castor oil for growth and coconut oil for moisture. This little bottle has it all.
#7: Shedavi crowned Cowash
Co-washing can help reduce wash days, and the Crowned Cowash is perfect for box braids. Enriched with Vitamin B and Hibiscus to promote hair thickness and health, using this product will have you running, not walking, to your wash on your wash day.
#8th: Girl+Hair Clear+ apple cider vinegar clarifying conditioner with apple cider vinegar and rice water
This ACV lingerie is perfect for someone on the go with braids. This conditioner removes buildup and soothes the scalp while reducing hair fall and breakage. Rice water works to increase shine and volume so you and your braids are ready for your next adventure.
#9: TGIN Miracle RepaiRx Protective Leave-In Conditioner
This leave-in conditioner really works wonders for box braids. Black honey and coconut oil reduce split ends and breakage, leaving minimal build-up, and biotin helps boost hair growth.
#10: The Doux Mousse Def Texture Foam
Get the benefits of flexible box braids with this textured foam. This lightweight and moisturizing mousse adds shine and helps soften braids without leaving flakes or build-up.