Braid extensions are often seen as one of the best way to grow out a bad haircut, transition from relaxed hair to natural hair or to just let your hair rest from the daily styling, and manipulating. Braid extensions allow direct access to the scalp, which makes it easier to cleanse the scalp, apply hair growth oil or hair growth pomade, and strengthen the hair without having to handle the hair.
Many people have extensions put in and after six to eight weeks take them down and notice a ton of new growth, but also notice a ton of shedding. This article will provide you with extension secrets that will allow you to see MORE growth and LESS shedding!
First I will start with the basics. Whether the hair is in a weave, extensions, natural or relaxed, the three most important components to growing healthy hair is keeping it clean (water), deep conditioning (occasional protein, especially if the hair is relaxed), and moisture (elasticity). If you neglect any of these three components you are not giving your hair an optimal environment for healthy hair growth. One of the most important tips for braid extensions is to make sure your braids are not put in too tightly. Getting your hair braided should not cause pain; minor discomfort maybe, but not pain. Tight braids can lead to traction alopecia or thinning edges. If your braider is braiding too tightly, do not be afraid to let them know and if they can't accommodate your instructions; you should not allow them do your hair. It is also suggested that the first 1.5 inches from your front hairline is cornrowed down to the scalp so that the weight of braid extensions or manipulating the braids into updos does not damage the delicate hairline. Protect your edges at all costs!
Synthetic braid extensions come coated in a chemical. This chemical strips the hair of its natural moisture, which can lead to an itchy scalp, dryness and eventually to brittle hair and breakage if it is not combated with a good moisturizing routine. In order to strip the extension of this coating, you should take the entire braid out of the package and submerge it in a bowl of apple cider vinegar. Let it sit for a few minutes and then rinse it under cool water. The smell will be gone before the extensions are applied.
Braid extensions are generally expensive to have installed, therefore many women do not wash them in order to preserve them, but this is not preserving the health of their own hair. Remember, the health of your own hair and reaching your length goals is more important.
There are several ways to effectively wash extensions without causing too much damage to them.
One option is to:
Pour a couple of teaspoons of shampoo and apple cider vinegar (ACV) in a cup or small bowl.
Fill the cup with water.
While in the shower, run your head under the water (luke warm or cool; not hot)
Pour the shampoo/ACV concoction directly onto the scalp,
Lightly massage the scalp only.
Continue this until you have covered the entire head.
Fill a 4 oz bottle halfway with water
Add a teaspoon or two of shampoo into the bottle
Fill the rest with apple cider vinegar (Shake up the mixture)
Run your hair through the water (remember luke warm or cool; not hot)
Spray the scalp directly with the concoction. You can also spray the length of the braids with this, but be sure to massage the scalp only and rinse the hair really well.
Next, it's time for deep conditioning. Try using the spray bottle method mentioned above, but focus more on the length of the braids instead of the scalp (conditioner leaves a film on the scalp that should be avoided). Be sure to use a conditioner that is actually a deep conditioner, and not just a cheapie rinse out conditioner. Now, you need for the conditioner to penetrate your hair shafts, so you need to fit all of those extensions into a plastic cap. For this purpose, it's best to use a plastic grocery bag to be able to fit all of the extensions. Keep your hair under the bag for 30-60 minutes, and work up some body heat by taking a hot shower, exercising, wrapping a heated towel or sit under a hooded dryer. Afterwards, rinse the hair with cool water. It's not as important to rinse completely. It's actually pretty good to leave a little conditioner behind for added moisture within the strands.
Now, onto moisturizing the braids. There are several braid sprays that are readily available on the market. Or, try making your own moisturizing spritz by combining equal parts of water and aloe vera juice. Or, allow the partially rinsed deep conditioner serve as a leave in. It is important to make sure the entire length of your hair is well moisturized, especially if you don't know how far your natural hair runs down the extension. The hair should be moisturized daily, as needed, and may last until your next was if you properly seal in the moisture.
To seal in the moisture, I use NJoy's Long & Healthy Pre-poo & Seal. You can choose whichever oil you'd like to use instead but, NJoy's oil blend was formulated to penetrate the shaft, contains ceramides to strengthen the hair without making it hard, and lays the cuticles down and seals in the moisture. So there's added strength, nourishment and protection. And it can be applied by adding it to your spritz mix for an all-in-one spritz or, after spritzing or leaving in a little conditioner, rub oil between your hands and lighly coat by running your hands down the length of each braid.
If you use this process weekly while using your hair growth oil, when you take your extensions out, your hair will be easier to comb and manage as well as much softer and healthier. IMPORTANT TIP: Do NOT wash your hair without detangling and removing shed hair after removing braids. You will find that spritzing your hair with an ACV rinse will loosen up any gummy build up that will allow you to detangle and remove shed hairs. I cannot stress that this MUST be done BEFORE washing your hair. Otherwise, you may end up with a tangled mess.
Protective styling expert Reniece, of Reniece & Co (Maryland) has noted that regular use of NJoy's Hair Growth Oil makes takedowns a breeze! Don't grow length to lose it to carelessness. Weaves and braids are great ways to protect your hair from heat and styling overmanipulation and can be a convenient tool in your hair growth regimen.
Are you using extension braids as a protective style? What works best for you? Try the methods listed above and be sure to document what you're doing, using and how it's working in your online hair journal. Oh, and don't forget to share what you've learned.