How to Wear Braided Styles Without Damaging Edges

By Karen Spaeder

From cornrows to microbraided extensions, braided hairstyles are not only fun and stylish, but also a great way to protect your hair from the elements. At the same time, these types of styles put stress on the hair due to the constant pulling and tugging, particularly at the edges. The soft hairs near your forehead are the most susceptible to damage. Unless you take preventive measures, these hairs can easily break off your otherwise magnificent mane.

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How to Wear Braided Styles Without Damaging Edges

Choose Your Hair Type

You can choose from synthetic hair or human hair for your braided style, and each has its pros and cons. Synthetic hair tends to be less expensive, but human hair is likely to last longer. Research your options to choose the type of hair that suits your budget but will last a couple of months before you need to remove them. With either synthetic or human hair, it's important to moisturize your hair and scalp regularly to prevent damage and keep your hair looking its healthiest.

Keep it Loose

Whether you're braiding your hair yourself or having it professionally styled, avoid having your hair pulled too tight around the edges. A tight style is not just damaging for your hair, it also prevents your scalp from getting adequate oxygen, a requirement for a healthy head of hair. Before getting braids, gel down the edges of your hair so these tiny, fragile strands do not get braided. As a litmus test for tightness, move your eyebrows up and down once the braid is in your hair. You should be able to move your forehead comfortably without any pulling of the skin on your forehead, so if it hurts to raise your brows, then you know your braid needs to be loosened.

Maintain Your Braids

It's a misconception to think you don't have to maintain your hair while you have braids. The opposite is true. Spray on a leave-in conditioner daily to keep it hydrated, and shampoo and condition every two weeks, taking care to rinse out the products thoroughly to avoid product buildup. Use a stocking cap to shampoo your hair without disturbing the braids, then massage shea butter or castor oil into your hair and scalp to add moisture. Remove your braids every two to three months to give your scalp much-needed oxygen and to give your hair a break from the stress of a braided style.

Style With Care

In terms of styling, avoid wearing ponytails, which can put added stress on your hair, and always pull your hair loosely into any style so you're not adding extra tension at the edges. You can also tie a silk scarf on your head and use a silk pillowcase at night to keep any rough textures away from your hair and scalp. These preventive steps will keep your hair from getting dry and brittle and help you avoid stressing your hair, especially when it's time to take out your braids.