WHAT IS A BRAID?
The benefits of learning to braid hair are simple: it’s fun, relaxing and can boost your confidence in front of others. If you haven’t ever learned how to braid your hair, you’re missing out on an opportunity to add something special and unique to your appearance.
It’s a lot of fun to learn a new skill, whether it’s for personal enjoyment or to improve your social interactions with others.
A braid (or plait) describes a flat, three-stranded structure that forms a pattern by interlacing one or more strands of material such as hair, wire or textile fibers. The braid is normally long and narrow, with each strand functionally equivalent in zigzagging through the overlapping mass of the other strands.
Braiding has been around for thousands of years and may be used in a variety of ways. African tribes braided hair as a sign of cultural significance, fashion, tribal identity and cultural beliefs. A variety of braiding patterns in hairstyles indicated a person’s community, age, wealth, marital status, social position, religion and power.
The Zulu and Massai are among the primary tribes that used braiding as a form of expression. Cornrows (or cane rows) were often favored due to their easy maintenance. Cornrows are created when the hair is braided very close to the scalp, using an underhand, upward motion to establish a continuous, raised row.
They are most commonly produced in straight lines beginning at the hairline moving toward the nape area. However, they can also be formed in very distinct curvilinear or geometric designs. Depictions of women with cornrows have been found in paintings that have been dated back as far as 3000 B.C.
This tradition of styling currently remains popular throughout Africa. Cornrowing (and hair braiding) made a stylish comeback over the years and has been the foundation of many popular hair extension techniques. Braiding is a skill that has multiple uses and will never use its value.
Today, wearing hair extensions is more popular than ever and braiding and cornrowing hair will create the basic foundation for a variety of hair styles.
• Braids create the foundation for attaching wefts, wigs and hair additions, and latch hook/crochet hair.
• Braids are great for preventive styles where a person seeks to retain hair moisture and prevent shedding while growing out the natural hair.
• Braids are also an excellent form of expression.
THE BENEFITS OF BRAIDING
Keeping your hair braided can provide many benefits. Not only is it a convenient hairstyle, but it serves as a protective style that will help your natural hair grow faster. Braids will help lock the moisture into your hair and prevent excessive split ends my shielding your hair from heat damage, dryness and over styling.
Many people find that braiding the hair at night is the best hairstyle to wear while sleeping because it reduces the damage-causing friction that is produced by rubbing against the bed sheets and pillow fibers. Of course, you must properly maintain your braids in order to reap the full benefits of wearing braids.
Always remember to do the following:
• Detangle your hair beginning from roots to scalp. Always use a wide-tooth comb.
• Deep condition and moisturize your hair before braiding.
• Avoid braids that are too tight, especially around the temples. Braids that are pulled tightly will lead to traction alopecia.
• Keep your hair moisturized with leave-in conditioner or Braid Sheen. Do not allow your braids to get dry and brittle.
• Wear a silk cap while sleeping. This will help your braids last longer and keep them moisturized.
• Wash and condition your braids every other week. Keep them clean and free from oil buildup and perspiration.
• Experiment by wearing your hair in different styles. Do not consistently wear your hair up in the same style. This can also cause much traction and even breakage.
• Do not wear braids excessive periods of time. It is not recommended to wear braids longer than 1-2 months at a time.
WHERE CAN YOU LEARN HOW TO BRAID?
In most families, it is a custom to teach the child to braid when they are a very young age. It is passed down from generation to generation as a custom. Braiding is traditionally a social art.
Because of the time it takes to braid hair, people take time to socialize while braiding and having their hair done. Children watch and learn from the adults, start practicing on younger children or doll heads and eventually learn the traditional skill.
There are many ways to learn how to braid. The quickest and most cost-effective way is to ask one of your friends or family members to teach you. You will be amazed to learn that many of them know this skill. If you are unable to learn from family and friends, there are a wide variety of instructional videos on the internet that will give you access to this skill at no cost.
Additionally, you may choose to purchase an instructional DVD or even take a class to learn how to braid.
Keeping Braid Hairstyles As Beautiful As Possible
You or your stylist might have spent lots of time creating those beautiful braided hairstyles. However, you might wonder: How can I keep my hair healthy and looking good despite of a busy life? Believe it or not, it can be done!
Some problems that can also cause problems with your hair are sweat and salt build-up. These too can cause hair breakage or make your very dry and brittle. This usually happens to persons who to all of us but is mostly found with persons who exercise on a regular basis.
The good news is that you don’t have to choose between keeping your hair healthy and your body healthy. All you need to do is take a few simple steps to keep your hair clean and properly conditioned.
One of the good benefits of braids is not having to shampoo your hair so often. In fact, if you do, you may end up making your braids frizzy or if you are using extensions, you may loosen them by accident. However, you should be able to keep your hair and scalp clean by shampooing your braids once a week or once every two weeks.
Apply diluted shampoo directly to your scalp or use a shampoo specifically designed for braids. You can add this directly onto your scalp. Use your fingertips to massage the solution into your scalp to help break up any dirt or oils. Afterward, rinse the shampoo out thoroughly.
To avoid the risk of hair tangles, be sure to dry your hair completely before you go to bed.
Another time you need to be careful of your braids is after exercise. To control moisture and minimize salt buildup, swab them with an antiseptic and then apply a leave-in conditioner.
To keep your hair well moisturized, use a braid moisturizing spray. Other ways that you can replenish oils is to use a homemade spray consisting of water, natural oils such as almond or jojoba oil, and essential oils like lavender oil or tea tree oil. These oils will give your hair a beautiful sheen and the scent from the essential oils will be a nice treat after a stressful day.
If you want a more intensive conditioning treatment, then you want to use a natural conditioner such as those made with Shea butter or coconut oil.
As a final guideline to protect braid hairstyles, always cover your hair at night with a silk-like or satin scarf. You can also use a hair net with large holes for protection. That way, you can be sure that the hairstyle you’ve worked to create stays in place no matter how hectic your life gets.