It’s happened to every black girl at some point: you see a photo or video of someone gorgeous with immaculate braided hair, typically long, sometimes with cool colors, and you immediately know that you want that. At any cost. And so you begin your search for the nearest hair braider who can give you beauty, style and hair protection for the next 3-6 weeks. Getting braids are a really popular way for Africans/Afro-Americans to grow their hair, protect their hair length and simply not have to worry about hair styling for several weeks. For the last 6 years, I had completely stopped getting my hair braided with extensions, and so had forgotten all the reasons I’d stopped in the first place. But as awesome as braids look, they come with their own set of pains.
Here are my top reasons why:
- It hurts & is a very unpleasant process. No matter how gentle or slow your hair braider is, if you have a tender scalp or simply haven’t done it in a while, it will hurt! This is because for the braids to be neat, especially if you have a 4d hair pattern like I do, hair braiders need to pull/stretch the hair into the braid. And that hurts, a lot!
- It takes forever, even for the simplest styles. There are very few braids styles that go by quickly. And the irony is that the better and faster the braider, the more likely you’re going to want the more complex styles because you know others will have more difficulty with it. So the end result ends up being that you’ll always be in that chair for minimum 3 hours. Some braided hairstyles can take 4-6 hours and the most complex can even go 8-12 hours. It’s no joke. And the thicker your hair is, the longer it all takes. This is precious time that you could be using to do literally anything else.
- Your hair roots will be fragile for at least the first week. Related to #1, your roots will feel and maybe even look like they’re super tightly wound. This typically causes pain, of course, but also dry scalp, itchiness and general discomfort. This is why you’ll notice people with braids sometimes scratching or patting their head. This also happens with weaves; but that tends to be more a result of oil build up, heat accumulation and overall discomfort.
- The process you use to ease the discomfort described above ends up making the braids look “bad” more quickly. Some of the suggested methods are below, and they all have the effect of producing an oily scalp or making your super curly hair more susceptible to shrinking back into its tight curl pattern. This has the effect of making your braids look “frizzy”.
- Apply heat
- Run your scalp under warm water to open the pores
- Apply soothing, anti itch oils like tea tree or coconut
- Apply braid sprays with moisturizes to keep the scalp from being dry
- After 2 weeks, regardless of how much care you take with the braids, they will not look fresh anymore, and people will notice/comment. Grown-out braids are seen as messy and aren’t really “a look”. This is different from twists or locs that can actually take on their own identity & appearance after a couple of weeks of getting them done and still look quite good.
- It’s hard to keep it free of build up and unsightly oils. Some people don’t wash their braided hair; again because of concerns about frizziness. But I do! And that’s because the oil build up really bothers me. I like for my scalp to look & feel clean. However, when there’s buildup between coils of hair that’s been braided, sometimes you’ll find that it’s actually difficult to impossible to completely remove it all. The build up sometimes takes stand out colors like white or grey which contrasts against dark hair and makes your hair look “dirty”. This is one of my biggest pet peeves with braids.
- Depending on the style, it can be quite difficult to dry them. And if you’re using hair extensions, you also have to be careful about hair dryers/flat irons so that you don’t damage the hair. You almost then have to treat it as carefully as your own natural hair, which for me defeats the whole purpose considering that I typically do braids so that I don’t have to be careful with my hair.
That said, I wouldn’t discourage braiding your hair; just be aware of the potential after effects and know that everyone experiences it. You’re not alone! And that eventually the unwanted effects do subside so that you can simply enjoy your cute, new do.
Related Product Recommendations
- Jamaican Mango & Lime Maximum Relief No More Itch Spray Mentholated; the perfect solution for soothing an itchy scalp while also providing much needed oils to maintain a healthy scalp
- Sulfur 8 Braid Spray; great for more severe cases where you might be suffering from dandruff or other medical issues. It’s medicated and is a great combo with anti-dandruff shampoos & conditioners for keeping the flaking at bay.
- Mane ‘n Tail Braid Sheen Spray; a general purpose moisturizing spay that will provide a moist environment from the get go so that hopefully you can avoid any itchiness or dandruff altogether. It’s also great for refreshing /quickly conditioning other natural hair styles after it’s been a few days.