Braids are a fantastic protective style, but the only downside is the potential for too much tension. Your hairstylist may want to braid tightly so that the style lasts as long as possible, but in order to preserve the health of your hair and scalp, braids should have medium tension. This means having them done more regularly, which isn’t ideal, but in the long-run, the sacrifice is worth it.
Tension is not only painful, but it’s also very damaging to your scalp and hair follicles. Too much tension can cause hair loss and breakage, thinning of the hairline, and can even lead to permanent damage to the scalp. When braids are too tight, they can cause follicular pustules – inflamed, raised bumps on the scalp, or even traction alopecia (hair loss caused by repeated pulling or tension hairstyles). If action is taken early, it’s possible that the hair will grow back over time, but if the hair is pulled by tension repeatedly, it may lead to permanent hair loss.
How do you know if your braids are too tight? Well for one, they’ll hurt! While many women have come to associate some level of pain with braids, any pain at all is an indicator that something is wrong. Secondly, you may notice little bumps around your hair line that weren’t there prior to your install. If you are a seasoned braid wearer and you experience hair breakage, hair thinning or hair loss, you may have been wearing your braids too tight and not preparing your hair with the necessary treatments.
Avoid too-tight braids, or remedy the situation, with these tips:
Talk to your stylist
Ask your stylist to braid with medium tension before she starts, and if you think she’s using too much tension as she’s working, don’t be afraid to speak up.
Use warm water
Warm (not hot!) water can be a remedy for too-tight braids. If your braids are feeling a little tight, allow warm water to run over them in the shower, and – very gently – massage your scalp to loosen the braids a little.
Wear your braids down
By wearing your braids in a ponytail or bun, you may increase tension by further pulling at the roots. Wear your braids down to help loosen any tension and allow your scalp to adjust.
Use a leave-in conditioner
Your scalp may feel drier than usual when your hair is braided. Apply a leave-in conditioner to soothe the area, hydrate your scalp and loosen up your braids. Be careful not to use too much though as it may cause unwanted build-up. We recommend a spray leave-in conditioner like Crème of Nature’s Argan Oil Perfect 7-in-1 Leave In treatment (R135.00). It can easily be spritzed between braids and cover all areas of the scalp while providing breakage defence, moisturization and plenty of other nourishing benefits. To give your scalp a moisture boost, try Jamaican Mango & Lime’s Sproil Spray Oil (R85.99) – simply spray onto your head to lubricate your scalp and offer protection from dryness. Leaves your hair strengthened, protected and shiny.
Use a scalp-care product
Winter is an extremely trying time for hair, and this is no different when it comes to braids. The scalp is particularly vulnerable during winter, and you are much more likely to develop dandruff or a dry and flaky scalp during this time. Using an oil or scalp care product regularly will ensure your scalp is hydrated and healthy pre-braids, as well as while your braids are in. Try Cantu Shea Butter Tea Tree & Jojoba Hair & Scalp Oil (R169.99). It conditions the scalp to support healthy hair growth and uses the power of some of nature’s most moisturising oils to help protect dry and damaged hair from breakage. The Perfect Hair Grow on the Go Treatment Hair Growth Oil (R149.99) contains rich Abyssinia and jojoba oils that provide intense treatment for a dry scalp while a basil root extract stimulates hair growth. You can use this oil treatment anywhere, anytime, on-the-go to keep your scalp moisturised and healthy.
Massage your scalp
Massage increases blood flow, which is essential for a healthy scalp and healthy hair growth. Using a tonic or hair oil will make your massage smoother and also offer your hair and scalp some added hydration. We recommend a nourishing oil like Jamaican Mango & Lime’s Black Castor Oil (R155.00). It soothes while moisturising and combatting dryness.
Know when it’s time to remove them
If your braids are very painful and show no signs of improvement, or you notice bumps on your hairline and scalp, it’s time to cut your losses and have them taken out. This is not what you want to hear after spending hours in the hairstylist’s chair, but it’s the only way to prevent hair loss and damage. Once you’ve had them removed, give your hair and scalp some extra TLC. A hot oil treatment as well as a protein masque Cantu Grow strong treatment (R139.95) might be just what your hair needs, or alternatively, try using a calming oil or scalp care product with anti-inflammatory properties. Braids should never be kept longer than 4-6 weeks.
And don’t forget about conditioner – a calming deep conditioner will help restore your hair and scalp. The Perfect Hair’s Mango & Marula Detangling Deep Conditioner (R89.99), enriched with mango butter and marula, coconut and castor oil, conditions and soften the hair with an intense moisture boost. Cantu Shea Butter Natural Hair Intensive Repair Masque (R59.99) is another great option: penetrates deep into the hair shaft for an intense treatment to repair, restore and strengthen hair.