- Is it a bad idea to wear a wig in the hope that the hair grows while under the wig?
- I have box braids and I have no idea how to maintain them. You say don’t scalp and I don’t want to use braid spray. Within days of getting my braids my hair was very dry and I noticed flaking. What ‘natural’ products can I use and how?
I’ve decided to tackles these two questions in one go because they are essentially addressing the same concern; taking care of your hair while wearing extensions.
Extensions can be a great way of protecting the hair against the elements and constant manipulation. It is important to keep your hair protected if your goal is maximum length retention. Let’s face it, sometimes we need a break from having to style our hair and extensions can provide that respite. In order for them to be an effective protective style, you must ensure that they are not damaging and that you are able to take care of your hair beneath the extension.
Effective protective styling with extensions begins even before you start plaiting.
Choosing the right style
Wigs are great because they provide easy access to your hair. When choosing a wig make sure it doesn’t have attachments such as combs that will snag at the hairline, you may also want to consider getting a wig cap to ensure that your hair does not dry out under the wig. Be sure to cleanse and condition your hair regularly. Spritz your hair in between washes and seal in the moisture with an oil or cream. Your hair is constantly growing, but you will retain more length because you have not neglected it under the wig.
The detrimental effect of badly installed weaves has been discussed before on this blog, however if care is taken when plaiting then they can also be a good protective style. It may be a little difficult to get to your hair for cleansing and conditioning. Luyando, a YouTuber who has been featured on our ‘Natural Hair Spotlight’ has successfully retained length using a protective style regimen that includes weaves.
Braids are a popular protective style because you have access to your scalp for cleansing and it is fairly easy to wash your hair. The type of braids you choose will have a bearing on how much hair you lose during installation and take down. Go for bigger braids such as box braids or Senegalese twists. Theses are far gentler on the scalp than the popular micro and downright evil Masai twists. I make no apologies for calling Masai twists evil; they have wreaked absolute havoc on numerous ladies’ hairlines and should not be touched with barge pole.
Cornrows are quite easy to install and are gaining a lot of popularity. Unfortunately there seems to be an unspoken agreement between hairdressers that the tighter they, are the neater they look. If you opt for cornrows steer clear of Ghana cornrows (I don’t know why but here they are known as Fishtail) or find a hairdresser you trust to be gentle with your hair. It is a little harder to cleanse and condition your hair while in cornrows than braids.
Installation of extensions
Once you have chosen your style you will need to prepare your hair for the level of manipulation involved when plaiting. A good protein conditioner to strengthen the hair before installation is a great idea. Hairdressers use blow dryers with a lot of zeal, your task will be to either stretch the hair yourself before braiding or give very strict instructions. I don’t know many hairdressers who will agree to plait your natural hair without it being significantly stretched. Heat can be permanently damaging to natural hair. African threading or cotton will stretch your hair sufficiently enough, although you may have a hard time convincing your hairdresser not to reach for the blow dryer.
Taking care of your hair
It is important that you cleanse, condition and moisturise your hair regularly while it is in extensions.
If you have a weave on it may be a little difficult to cleanse your scalp and hair. There are a couple of methods you could use, it best to use sulphate free clarifiers that will be less drying. You can place your shampoo or other clarifying product in an applicator bottle for easier access to the scalp. You can also dab some Apple Cider Vinegar or Witch Hazel directly on your scalp with cotton wool. It will be more difficult to rinse out thicker clarifying substances so you may want to dilute them with water before use. Masuka’s anti dandruff treatment is actually great for protective styles too.
Conditioning is a little more of a challenge than clarifying because it concentrates on the hair itself rather than the scalp. It’s much easier for you to choose a method of clarifying that is also conditioning. Some people opt to co-wash. I like to use a shampoo made from African Black Soap because it is leaves my hair very clean and conditioned and is very easy to wash off.
Moisturising (NOT scalping)
We are so accustomed to ‘scalping’ that it is difficult to convince people that it may actually be a counterproductive endeavour. Scalping, particularly with greasy, mineral oil laden products, can aggravate the scalp and lead to build up as well as flaking. Scalping is not like adding fertilizer to hair, it does NOT promote growth; in fact it may inhibit it. It is far much better to concentrate on the ends which are the oldest, driest part of the hair and most prone to breakage.
Braid sprays are fine if you find one with good ingredients but you can also make your own spritz. Your spritz should contain water, a humectant, such as honey, glycerine or Aloe Vera Juice, to draw moisture into the hair and oil. You can use a variety of oils including Sweeet Almond, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Grape Seed Oil or Avocado Oil, because my hair and scalp tend to be dryer when braided I like to add an essential oil such as Tea Tree or Peppermint to my spritz. You could also mix in a little of your leave in conditioner.
The Take down
Try not to keep your hair in extensions for any longer than 6 weeks at a time. If you have been washing and conditioning your hair regularly you will be pleasantly surprised at just how easy it is to undo. There will be far less tangles than you are anticipating and much less breakage as a result.
*Have you got a question about natural hair care? Send your Dear ZedHair letter to firstname.lastname@example.org