The Key to Keeping Your Braids Looking Fresh
Box braids have had some very memorable moments: from Alicia Keys dominating the 2000s with her power plaits to Zoe Kravitz more recently lighting up Instagram. Beautiful, bohemian, and sometimes even edgy, this protective style cuts down your hair routine to almost nothing and protects your strands in the process. Plus, its versatility is seemingly endless— braided twists, knots, and space buns are everywhere, and are an easy way to keep cool in the summer. But, even the most low maintenance hairstyles have their trying moments. Here’s what you need to keep your strands (and scalp) healthy and happy while you’re rocking those braids.
Swap cotton for silk
Since the key to keeping your braids fresh is moisture, moisture, and more moisture, the last thing you want to do is strip it away. Yet that’s exactly the effect that cotton has on your hair—it absorbs and rubs out moisture whether it’s a bandana, wrap or band you’re wearing on your head or the pillowcase you’re sleeping on all night. That’s a long time to be drying out your hair every day. The solution? Silk or satin. Covering your head with a silky scarf and sleeping on the same type of pillowcases prevents roots from drying out.
Beat regrowth frizz with a smoothing, sealing product
As strands grow out and braids start to loosen a bit, it’s normal to see the fuzziness associated with regrowth at the root. But that doesn’t mean that you have to live with it. Applying a sealing product to the regrowth will keep your plaits looking perfect longer. Shea butter is the industry standard, thanks to its five principal fatty acids: palmitic, stearic, oleic, linoleic, and arachidic acids. These provide many essential nutrients that improve both scalp and hair health, which leads to stronger hair follicles and a reduction in breakage. They smooth, soften and shine while providing some SPF benefits as well.
Pro Tip: To keep your scalp happy, be sure not to wear your braids too tight and to let your hair breathe from time to time to relieve scalp tension.
Oil up your roots and scalp
Of course, you want oil on your braids for shine, but oils on your scalp will lock in moisture and give new growth some elasticity when the braids start to tug at the roots. Due to their shape, strands that are curly or coiled naturally have a hard time getting oil from the scalp to the hair, which is why whether they’re braided or not, they need more moisturizing products. When you add in the synthetic hair that’s sometimes used to create plaits, dryness can become more of an issue because the synthetic strands absorb the existing oils from your natural hair. It’s so easy to damage the scalp because your hair is in microsections and the physical weight of the braid is pulling on the hair follicles. Plus, you’re not shampooing the same way. You can’t get your fingers in there and move around the scalp to keep it fresh and moist.
To combat, apply only naturally derived oils to the scalp and roots, while avoiding synthetic oils and mineral oil. Coconut oil is a favorite since it boasts a high moisture-retaining capacity, meaning it doesn’t evaporate or break down easily. Once it’s on the skin, scalp, and hair shaft, it doesn’t let moisture escape easily. Locking it in keeps strands and skin moisturized for longer periods of time, and makes it less prone to breakage.
Another oil that’s a must? Castor. It’s a multi-purpose super ingredient. Long used in Jamaica to help grow stronger, more beautiful hair, it’s rich in ricinoleic acid, which helps increase circulation to the scalp and improves hair growth. It nourishes the hair roots so that it grows stronger, and balances scalp pH, which keeps the scalp functioning at its ideal oil levels and can even undo some of the damage of harsh chemical treatments. It prevents infections such as folliculitis, a condition that causes inflammation of the hair follicles (and hair fallout). Castor oil can also fill in the damaged gaps of keratin in the hair shaft, increasing its elasticity and strength so that it’s less prone to splitting and breakage. Strands are moisturized, smoother, and less frizzy with fewer split ends. The protective layer deposited by the fatty acids not only protect from sun damage and color fading, but they make your strands more light-reflective, so they look glossy and shiny.
In conjunction with these healthy braid habits, using a custom hair care regimen will help you maintain a healthy scalp, and smooth, shiny braids. To create your customized collection, start here.