Oh braids. We love to get them, either during the winter for some extra body warmth, during the summer to make pool and beach trips easier, or anytime we simply get tired of doing our own hair. And when we’ve carried them for 6-8 weeks and we’re ready to take them down, we know the things we should do when taking down protective styles. But what should you do with your hair AFTER taking down braids?
1. Finger Detangle
The first step to making sure your hair remains strong after a set of braids is to gently finger detangle your hair. I know your gut instinct is to take a comb and work through all the knots, tangles, and shed hair, but chances are you’ll end up ripping out perfectly good and healthy hair in an effort to get out all the kinks. Finger detangling is better for your hair (I explain why here), and it’s not that hard! After removing each braid, gently separate the roots to loosen buildup, and then use my finger detangling method as you wash.
2. Clarify Your Scalp
People often forget to clarify and detox their scalp after a protective style, perhaps because it was the part of their hair they paid the most attention to during the previous 6+ weeks. However, our scalps have been working overtime trying to keep the rest of our natural hair moisturized, and are likely full of oils, both natural and added, that we used in effort to relieve dryness, itchiness, and flakiness. To clarify your scalp, choose an intense shampoo (avoid things like moisturizing shampoo, curl cleansers, etc as those aren’t strong enough), or you can even use an ACV or other scalp rinse.
Check out these sulfate free clarifying shampoos:
3. Deep Condition
Your hair hasn’t gotten any love for 6-8 weeks, and you think a quick co-wash will leave it moisturized? Girl, please. Whether you want to slather it in coconut oil or use the most luxurious deep conditioner you own, sit under a steamer or just a shower cap, deep conditioning is absolutely essential after taking down braids.
Here are some of my favorite deep conditioners:
If you didn’t do so before your protective style, your hair is most likely going to be ready for a trim immediately after keeping it hidden for several weeks. Trimming is an essential part of healthy natural hair, so don’t hesitate to trim as needed. If you’re not confident in your scissor skills, head to a professional, or you can try to trim your hair using one of my three methods.
5. Let Your Hair Chill
This means not to go ahead and reinstall braids in 2 days, or worse, the same day! When our hair is braided, though it is not being manipulated frequently, it is still being stressed by the weight, friction, and synthetic nature of the extensions. Even though hair is dead, it needs access to water and air, and needs to regroup after being tucked under braids. Wear your hair proudly in it’s natural state for at least two weeks – whether a wash and go, twistout, or a pretty updo – before reinstalling a protective style.
Speaking of letting your hair relax, I recently came across this hilarious video by an African comedian named Kansiime Anne about how to relax your hair. Trust me, you’ll laugh!