If you want something that will give you a bit more moisture, Oludele suggests adding two drops of oil in the boiling water and submerging the midshafts of your braids (where your natural hair ends) in the mixture, then using the hot towel to dry the hair and the ends. Be sure to remove your braids from the hot water with care. When you are done, spray them with a leave-in like the African Pride Coconut Milk & Honey Leave-In Conditioner Spray to seal it all in.
Always sleep with silk or satin
ICU nurse Tupo Kay knows what it’s like to have to take care of your braids. In her case, she does so while fighting on the front lines of the COVID-19 epidemic. When she is not working 12-hour shifts in the hospital, she moonlights as a hair braider, which she’s been doing since 2003. The Maryland-based stylist has clients that travel all the way from New York City just to have their hair done by her talented hands.
One of the basics of having natural hair is sleeping in silk or satin scarf or bonnet, and that’s a habit you should maintain even when you’re wearing a protective style. “Satin is much better so your edges don’t get matted,” Kay says. Try the Kitsch Satin Sleep Scarf or the Glow by Daye Satin Bonnets are also a good choice, coming in a number of cute colors and patterns.
If you are one of those people who often forgets to put on your scarf or bonnet before falling asleep, invest in a silk or satin pillowcase. As cosmetic chemist Erica Douglas previously explained to Allure, many pillowcases are made with absorbent cotton, which, “when you’re sleeping, silently [robs] you of the moisture that is in your hair.” Silk, however, can help maintain that moisture. The Slip Silk Pillowcase is a good choice, but if you’re looking for more options, we’ve got a whole roundup right here.
Sure, your hair is all woven into braids, but you still need to make sure it’s moisturized. Mack shares that you can add moisture and nutrients by “applying an oil spray as it’s lighter and able to cover and penetrate more areas of the braids.” Mack uses SheaMoisture 100% Virgin Coconut Oil Daily Hydration Finishing Oil Serum “because it’s lightweight, it penetrates the hair well and adds a nice shine.” To further lock in moisture, Mack recommends “spraying the hair with oil before you tie your hair down during the drying phase.”
Twist or rebraid your new growth
Sometimes the front of your hair simply needs to be redone. If you don’t know how to braid, Oludele says you can use an edge control to touch up your new growth. “Twist your new growth no more than three times to freshen up your edges — if you twist more than three to four times, it will lock your hair. If it tightens on the second time, then you are good.” Use water to prep the hair first. If you prefer using a moisturizer, make sure you work the formula into your new growth and don’t overuse the product. You don’t want to get buildup at the point between your new growth and the braid.
But then, of course, there’s always actually re-braiding the front of your hair. It might seem daunting, but Tupo insists that it’s not as hard as it looks. Ready to take the plunge? “Part your hair and start braiding,” she instructs. “You will want to section your hair in four or six parts to make it more manageable and then divide those parts into smaller sections, your desired size for each individual braid.”
An easy method for first-timers (and a way to ensure your braids are tight and last longer) is it to make a tiny ponytail with a black rubber band. Your natural hair will serve as the middle piece of the braid. Take the synthetic hair and create a loop around the rubber band, covering it. Now you will have three segments and you can begin to braid the synthetic hair with your natural hair. It might not be done as perfectly as a braider, but, as Tupo explains, “it will be close and you can rock it for some time.” YouTube videos will be your BFF in this case.
Now go forth, and keep those box braids looking cute.
Here are some more at-home hair tips:
Now, watch one person get their head shaved for the first time: