In the last month of my pregnancy, I made the careful decision to get some braids installed so that I would be cute, comfortable, and low maintenance going into the hospital.
I consulted with my girl Glenna, plotted out all the details, and set up my appointment – precisely 2 weeks before my Little Magician was due. However, LM had her own plans and decided to show up earlier than expected, precisely one day BEFORE my scheduled hair appointment. Glenna and I rescheduled, spent a lovely day chatting and doing hair, and I was left with one of the best braid experiences of my life.
You see, prior to this set I’m rocking now, I hadn’t braided my hair in probably close to 10 years. Braiding – especially with extensions – was never a pleasurable experience. I had just come to expect the pain of installation – edges literally snatched, hairline pulled into a pseudo-facelift, contorting myself in order to attempt to fall asleep at night, and stiff braids that took seemingly forever to loosen up. After the same experience over and over, I figured that was just the price to pay for beauty and ease – eventually I’d be able to coax my braids into a bun, and life would be good.
However, the last braid experience I had was TERRIBLE. 14 hours of braiding when I was told no more than 6. Needing more bags of extensions when I bought what was originally quoted to me. Tears in eyes as the finest hairs were pulled and twisted around thick fingers – “It needs to be tight to keep for a long time!” I was told. As my head got more tender and my butt got more numb, I just kept reminding myself of how good it would look when it was done. That dream was short-lived.
Once we were through, I had SO. MUCH. HAIR. My head felt so heavy, and I was told that I just had to get used to the weight. What I couldn’t get used to was the way braids would slip right out of my head from the root and land in my lap at the most inopportune times – well, scratch that. When IS it an opportune time to have your hair fall out? Never.
My hairline started weakening under the weight of all the kanekalon, and each fallen braided soldier sent me a clear message: either these braids go, or WE go. Your choice.
I painstakingly took down the braids and vowed never to do them again.
Twists became my go-to protective style, and while I adore them (and even learned how to do them myself), they never have the lifespan that a good set of braids do. When the time arrived to decide on my preggo/new mom low-maintenance ‘do, I knew I’d get more bang for my buck if I went for the braids. I was hesitant, but through her particular magic, Glenna hooked me up with beautiful, light, pain-free braids as promised.
Here are the simple steps I follow with my braids:
1. Use an ACV (apple cider vinegar) rinse to cleanse your scalp.
I mix about 1/4 cup of ACV with 1 cup of water in a spray bottle, spritz liberally over my scalp, massage it in, then rinse in the shower. This clarifying ACV rinse really helps to remove buildup from my scalp without disturbing the braids. I ACV rinse once a week and shampoo every 3rd, and my scalp seems happy so far!
2. Moisturize with castor oil.
I moisturize my scalp with castor oil all the time, but when my hair is sectioned into braids, I’m really able to get in there and ensure every spot is covered. Castor oil has always helped me with hair growth and thickness – I’m not sure if I’ll succumb to postpartum hair loss, but I’m getting that castor oil in to see if it helps.
3. Mix it up!
When I braided my hair in the past, I didn’t do many styles other than all down, or all up. This time, I tried to have a bit more fun with my braids:
Thank goodness for the extra headband I found in my dresser – that thing has faithfully kept my braids up in a trusty bun on a nearly daily basis. Added bun bonus: Little Magician finds my bun hilarious for some reason….so it’s a good distraction when she’s about to start wailing.
4. And most importantly – find a braider who knows what they’re doing!
For me, word of mouth is key – if you see someone with a beautiful style, ask who did it and what the experience was like! I ask all kinds of questions: How long did it take? How much did you pay? How was sleeping on it? When could you manipulate them without too much pain? I gets it in. Granted, we’re all different and have varying pain/comfort thresholds – but asking questions is key. Do your best due diligence to find someone who will care for your hair as they’re styling it – and don’t be afraid to speak up during your styling session if things aren’t feeling right to you.
Though I miss my hair, the ease of waking up and not having to do much at all with my hair is a blessing. I’ve got my eye on another protective style, so stay tuned!