Caring For Your Box Braids In The Fall Is *Actually* Pretty Easy

Expert tips ahead.

by Náosha Gregg and Jessica Fields
Originally Published: 
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box braids care
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When fall finally rolls around, many women with natural hair transition to a protective style such as box braids. The extensions add length and ease of styling, while also protecting your hair from the stress of colder temperatures, dry air, and more. While the style has always been popular, studies have revealed that box braids have actually symbolized a woman’s wealth in addition to the other cultural elements. Fast forward to today and box braids are still one of the most in-demand protective styles for their versatility, beauty, and simplicity. However, that does not mean that they lack maintenance. As the seasons change, your box braid care routine will need to do the same, especially in the colder months, in order to keep your curls and coils healthy and your style looking its best.

“Many things can go wrong with box braids specifically, from minor issues like buildup and flakes, applying too many products or not properly moisturizing and cleansing the scalp, to major issues like breakage or tension alopecia,” says Elizabeth Davis, founder of Shedavi hair care. “Failure to properly rinse and dry can cause buildup and mildew. There’s nothing worse than having a mildew problem in your hair.”

That’s why TZR tapped knowledgable hair experts and dermatologists to provide the ultimate tips for box braid hair care, and rounded up the must-have products to ensure your experience with the protective style runs smoothly. From moisturizing your scalp to purchasing scalp sunscreen, keep reading for the ultimate guide to maintaining and caring for your hair so you and your braids can enjoy the upcoming season with ease.‌

Pretreat & Moisturize Your Scalp

“Before you go in to have your hair braided, make sure to pre-shampoo or deep condition your hair,” says cosmetologist and hair expert Ghanima Abdullah. “Pre-shampooing or deep conditioning will help strengthen your hair for the braiding process and after the braids are in, as your hair grows.”

Pre-shampooing, also known as pre-pooing, is an ideal treatment prior to the installation of box braids as it helps restore dry, tangled, and damaged hair while adding moisture for overall softer and more vibrant hair. Pre-pooing also helps the detangling process feel less painful and provides slip, which is crucial to achieve clean parts for your box braids.

In the fall and winter when there is less humidity, the scalp is prone to dehydration (and exposed to colder air and intense indoor heat). As your natural hair is tucked away for six to eight weeks, moisture is key to preventing scalp irritation or flaking as well as avoiding hair breakage or dullness.

Wash Your Roots

A common myth surrounding box braids is that you have to wait to take them out to wash your hair. In fact, when washing, the style makes it easier for water and products to target the roots, which is where the focus should be. Cleansing your roots every two to three weeks is essential for growth, as too much build-up from sebum, sweat, dead skin cells, and products can suffocate your hair and scalp.

It also plays a vital role in how long your style will last. “Braids can often stay intact for six weeks or more with the right cleansing routine,” says Felicia Leatherwood, celebrity stylist and CEO of Brush With The Best. As she explains, using a moisture-rich scalp rinse and conditioning products during your wash day regimen will help tame frizz and smooth new growth at your roots.

Similarly, beauty writer Jamila Kyari recommends using your fingers for a thorough yet gentle cleanse that won’t damage your texture since box braids are a popular style for women who are transitioning hairstyles, and the line of demarcation, which separates two different textures in hair, is particularly fragile. “Pour some shampoo into the palm of your hands and then use your fingertips to gently apply all over the scalp until fully coated or saturated,” Kyari explains. “Next, massage vigorously for a few minutes to dislodge any dirt.”

Prioritize Gentle Drying

Aftercare of a wash is just as equally as important. “Once done [with cleansing], rinse [your hair] under running water and towel dry,” Kyari adds. “Then apply a generous amount of spray leave-in conditioner and put on some scalp oil to finish it off.”

Making sure your hair dries completely is crucial as wet hair can cause fungal growth, irreversible hair stretching, and breakage. While reaching for the blowdryer may seem like the quickest and easiest way to dry your braids, Davis advises to towel dry instead.

“Take those extra 10 to 15 minutes and towel dry your scalp and braids after every wash,” she explains. “Fully drying hair also has the added benefit of relieving any extra tension and weight the water adds, protecting your hair and edges from breakage.”

Loosen Up

Anyone who has ever had box braids knows that sleeping the first night is nearly impossible. As your scalp adjusts to the added weight of the extra hair, it can cause tension, headaches, and is overall an uncomfortable experience. For many, the experience of getting box braids can be complicated – some will have gorgeous goddess box braids down to their waist and feel no pain, while others may opt for knotless box braids and feel a lot of irritation. The strong grip of the installation is to ensure the style lasts for weeks on end, but you still want to take some preventative steps to ensure comfort and hair health.

“Avoid manipulating the braids or wearing tight up-dos or ponytails which can add extra tension,” says Dr. Davis. “Plan to wear your hair down or in a loose lower ponytail for at least 2-3 days after getting it done. It’s a good idea to also remove all hair accessories before bed so your hair is free of tension and allowed to rest.” If you’re experiencing tension, try running warm or cool water over your braids and then gently massage the scalp.

“The best way to avoid tension on the scalp, and resulting traction alopecia, is to make sure your braids are correctly installed from the beginning,” says Dr. Tiffany St. Bernard, founder and CEO of HairDays. “Make sure that you choose your stylist carefully and understand the techniques that they’ll use to braid your hair. A knotless technique is great to avoid traction alopecia — though it may take longer it is worth it in the long run. Also braiding the hair into larger sections, so that the braid does not pull too tightly on the hair and using less hair for the extensions help to decrease the amount of tension on the hair and scalp.”

Last but certainly not least, your braids need to be moisturized, protected, and covered while you sleep. “A deeply hydrating leave-in conditioner, many of which come in spray or lightweight formulas, will make a great moisturizer for daily styling,” says Leatherwood. The stylist also assures that utilizing a silk scarf to cover the crown of the hair will be beneficial for bedtime. “Make sure you tie down your hair as this will keep your roots hydrated and help maintain the longevity of your style.”

All in all, box braids are a beautiful style and can be well worth the extra maintenance and care. Treat yourself (and your hair) to a luxury wash day with a few vetted products.

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