It has been quite some time since I have last written in this blog. I have two other blogs….that I also forget to contribute to. I am just one of those people who take on way too many projects all at once. My downfall.
Anyhoo, as of May of 2011, I started braiding my hair again (extensions). I decided that this is the best way for me to maintain my natural hair without me losing my mind. As all of us natural haired black women know, having natural hair can be a task and a half depending on your hair type. Now, I hate it when people say “I have bad hair.” I don’t like to say that my hair is bad, but I certainly cannot get myself to enjoy it for what it is. I simply have a hard time embracing the texture of my hair, which is 4C. My hair is super dry and the stands are wiry and brittle. No matter how many oil treatments, shampoos, conditioners (all all-natural and sulfur free), etc, it just kept breaking off in certain places and my lifestyle developed into me not being able to maintain it. Therefore, I decided to have it braided for convenience sake. Now, there certainly are negative aspects to keeping your hair braid, such as hair breakage, dandruff issues, and simply the fact that they do not maintain long enough. However, these are all easily avoidable.
With every problem is a resolution!!
The main reason why I stopped braiding my hair many years ago was due to hair breakage and pulling. With the braids in, the braids would become very very thin along my hair line and even end up being easily pulled out from the root from me simply pulling them back into a ponytail or running my hands through my braids. After I would take out the braids, I noticed that my hair was terribly short in certain areas and broken off. That is when I got my hair dreaded and kept them that way for nearly 10 years before making the mistake of cutting them out and getting my hair relaxed (which ended up with me shaving my hair off). When I got my hair braided last year for the first time in over a decade, I realized that there are many ways to avoid such disasters.
1) Make sure your braids are not braided too tightly! I can’t stress this enough. If you feel that your hair is being pulled from the scalp too harshly, they are too tight. To avoid this, have the person braiding your hair do a few sample braids on the more delicate part of your hair line, which is around your temple or just above your ear. If the braid seems too thin and/or too tight, instruct the person braiding your hair to not braid so tightly and to make the braids along your hair line a bit thicker. Also, keep from pulling your hair back into tight ponytails often. This should also be practiced even without braids, as ponytails put too much stress on your hair line.
2) Do not think that you must have your hair relaxed to get it braided. As we know, chemical relaxers strip the proteins in your hair and make the bonds very weak and fragile. Your hair will certainly break off. Additionally, having your hair braided in it’s natural nappy state makes for nicer braids, as the braider can grip the hair much better and you will have less “fly away” straggling strands poking out all over the place. Even if you are using real hair to braid your hair with, your braids will still look much nicer. Believe me.
3) Do not leave your braids in for too long. It is important not to exceed more than 8 weeks with your hair braided for a couple of reasons. One, your hair will start to matte into the braid. What a frustration that would be taking them out. You’ll end up pulling more hair than you desired out and breaking the hair that you keep. Two, dandruff! Even if you wash your hair often, your scalp is still not receiving proper washing and conditioning. Obviously, we want to keep our braids looking as pristine as possible for as long as possible. For this reason, people do not wash their hair enough, vying to wash their hair every couple of weeks or even waiting until it is absolutely unbearable to avoid washing (ewww!). A double edged sword! Your hair should be washed once a week minimum, but scrub your scalp gently with your finger tips. If you do not wash enough, you will develop a large amount of dandruff. Dandruff is the shedding of dead skin cells from the scalp. Everyone has a certain amount of dandruff, but with proper cleaning, it could be managed without becoming an embarrassment. Therefore, if you are not washing your hair, you are not relieving your scalp of its shedding skin, blocking the pores in your scalp, which makes it hard for your scalp to breath, and thus you will experience hair loss. Additionally, depending on the type of hair that you have, some people need added moisture. I wrote on a previous blog post on not using hair grease or certain oils in your hair. I still use jojoba oil for everything, including moisturizing my skin when I get out of the shower. Jojoba oil is perfect because it does not leave an oily residue and it does not contain triglycerides, which Dr. Oz simply says is the fat that runs through your blood stream (that nasty fat that causes weight gain and blocked arteries). So pretty much, several types of oils will sit on your skin rather than penetrate and condition your skin thoroughly. Jojoba oil can even be used to removed blocked pores. How often have you heard of an oil that unblocks pores? Only jojoba oil. I store my jojoba oil in blue dripper bottles and drip it lightly through my scalp between my braids. A small 4 oz bottle of jojoba oil for my hair lasts me at least 6 months, if not more, and I don’t fret about embarrassing dandruff. PLUS, jojoba oil is a natural fungicide, which kills fungus and fungus spores. It is believed that dandruff can be increasingly caused by a fungus called Malassezia. Malassezia is naturally found on the skin surfaces of animals and humans and can increasingly grow from fat from the scalp, face, and upper part of the body. When the fungus grows too rapidly, the natural renewal of cells is disturbed and dandruff appears with itching. Anti-dandruff shampoos contain salicylic acid and sulfur to remove dandruff flakes. These ingredients in a shampoo should be avoided because it will dry out the scalp and hair excessively, hence the existence of salicylic and sulfur free shampoos. Therefore, using a bit of jojoba oil regularly will do the trick. Oh! A good leave-in conditioner that you can spray onto your scalp after you wash your hair is necessary. I use Mix Chicks leave-in conditioner. I water it down a bit and put it in a spray bottle, then spray it 6 inches away from my scalp. Do not over saturate the scalp with the conditioner. A few sprays will do the job. Massage it into your scalp with your finger tips gently. Let your hair air dry. THEN, add the jojoba oil. It’s a good idea to add the jojoba oil to the length of your braid simply to keep the shine. A teaspoon amount gets the job done.
4) Wrap your head with a silk scarf when going to bed! Silk! Cotton will trap your hair strands in between the threads and pull your hair when you take it off in the morning. Same goes with your cotton pillow cases. Silk, silk, silk! 100%! Additionally, silk will not absorb the oils in your hair as much as cotton, locking most of the moisture in. I double wrap my entire head, pulling my braids up into the wrap. To make your head wrap look nicer, use a pretty silk scarf and wrap it attractively. This practice should actually go for all hair types, braids or no braids. Easy enough to do.
5) Avoid ponytails at all cost! I know they can look attractive and simply be practical when you need to pull the hair off of your face, but if you choose to wear loose braids, use headbands to keep your hair back. Clip your hair up loosely if you do not want to wear it down. If you absolutely insist on pulling your hair back into a tight ponytail, do not keep it back for long periods of time and often.
6) Keep your hands out of your hair for several reasons. One, you are transferring germs and what-nots from your hands onto your scalp. If you wouldn’t put your unclean hands into your mouth, don’t put them onto your scalp. Two, you’re loosening your braids. The more you pull on them, the more you are pulling the beginning knot of your braid further down your hair. Also, you are frizzing up the actual braid.
Braids are beautiful. They are beautiful because of their long history and they are beautiful because of the craft that it takes to make them. Treat them well and wear them proudly.