Braided styles can put a lot of stress on your hair, whether you’re wearing cornrows, plaits or micro-braided extensions. Since your edges are the softest and weakest part of your hair, excessive wear and tear in this area can damage your hair enough to break it off. Take down braided styles gently, carefully separating tangles with care. Never leave a braided style in for longer than two months, and give your hair at least two weeks to heal before braiding it again.

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Don’t allow your hair to be pulled excessively tight around the edges. If you’re doing your hair yourself, loosen your grip on your hair at the edges if braiding begins to hurt. If someone else is doing your hair, don’t be afraid to request that they stop braiding your hair so tight. Use this test to decide whether your hair is too tight: Once the braid is in, move your eyebrows up and down. If it hurts to move your forehead, your braids are too tight.

Don’t get your baby hair (the soft wisps of hair closest to your face) braided. People who braid very small extensions (called micro-braids) often braid the tiniest strands of hair, right up to your hair line. Women often take out their micro-braids eight to 10 weeks later, dismayed to find their baby hair comes out as well. Hair at the very edge is typically too short and soft to hold the weight of a braid for an extended amount of time. Rather than having your baby hair braided, hold it down with styling gel.

Pull back your hair loosely for up-styles. Pulling your braids back too tight will help break off your hair at the edges. If it hurts to move your eyebrows up and down, your hair is pulled back too tight.

Condition and moisturize your hair regularly to keep it from getting dry and brittle. Spray moisturizer on your scalp daily; wash and condition your hair every two weeks. When washing your hair, massage your scalp lightly to keep braids from getting frizzy or loose; rinse shampoo and conditioner out thoroughly to minimize product build up.

Get your edges touched up every two to three weeks. Most braided styles are meant to last at least six weeks, and your hair accumulates a lot of product build up at the root. Your edges accumulate the most build up since they typically receive the most moisturizer, both from your hair and face products. Build up locks and tangles your hair together, pulling it from your scalp. Re-touching your edges often will remove build up and protect your hair.

Tie your hair down with a silk scarf at night to protect your edges from rubbing up against cotton sheets and pillows.