Once again, I just want to say I love my natural hair and this journey of taking care of it in its natural state. You hear of people talking about that ‘good’ hair. What is ‘good’ natural hair? Soft, thick, bouncy, loosely curled? Well, I have type 4 hair, very soft when moisturised, very fine strands that are so vulnerable if you look at them wrong they might fly away and medium to low density hair. I pray for thicker hair and stronger stands, and thankfully as it gets longer it looks thicker. I have had issues, though, naturally, excuse the pun. I’ve had to learn through brittle strands, tangling and excessive shedding what I was doing wrong.
WHAT WORKS FOR ANOTHER NATURAL HAIRED GIRL, EVEN ONE WITH SIMILAR HAIR TO YOURS, IS NOT NECESSARILY GOING TO WORK ON YOUR HAIR!
That is the main lesson I’ve learnt.
Here are a few other things I’ve learnt:
- My hair does NOT like aloe vera (unless I’m going to wash it out very soon afterwards), amla and coconut oil. All of these products make my hair brittle and unhappy
- My hair loves glycerin, but only when there is some humidity in the air (Harare is not a humid place unless it’s about to rain or just after it has rained)
- My scalp doesn’t like to have much on it
- Extensions (for box braids) that are not silky are a big NO NO
- My hair needs to be trimmed or dusted often – it’s those fine strands being their vulnerable selves
- My hair thrives in half wigs although wearing wigs irritates me
- Make sure to check expiry dates on products (more on this in my henna story soon…)
We live, we learn. That’s the way the journey goes…
I haven’t seen many Zimbabwean women with yarn braids/twists etc but I have with women of other African nationalities, especially West and Central African ladies. I absolutely love them, although it’s only my second time getting them. So I decided to list the pros and cons of using yarn as a protective style:
- Look like dreadlocks after a few weeks, so are more natural looking
- There’s room to be very creative and fun with the range of different colours acrylic yarn comes in
- Is gentler on hair than extensions and is lighter causing less stress to hair strands
- Able to keep moisture in longer than hair extension
- Hair can be washed, deep conditioned and treated in yarn twists/braids. In fact, washing makes the twists softer
- Inexpensive and yarn is easily accessible. One roll of wool in Bon Marche in Harare costs $1 of which I used three
- Is a protective style that can last weeks and even months if taken care of properly, but beware of hair actually locking
- Can smell of mildew if not washed
- They easily collect lint, but this can be prevented by washing them, using a satin scarf or pillowcase at night and not using heavy cream or butter products in the hair. It’s better to use liquid based moisturisers
- They are heavy when wet
I haven’t had many problems with my yarn twists. Issues I had with box braids such as dry scalp, itchy scalp and scalp pain are non existent. I will review when I undo my yarn twists, but so far so good.
Undoing extension box braids can be incredibly arduous and tiring, if you’re undoing your own hair. When it comes to box braids, I usually undo my own hair without anyone else helping. This needs a relaxed state of mind on my part and a free day, so my patience is not tested and I end up with damaged hair.
The takedown stage of box braids is a crucial stage of trying to make sure that the hair growth attained is retained and that no damage is done to the hair that was being protected.
This is what I do when I’m undoing my extension box braids:
- Get a free day, a few good movies, some pillows and cushions to be as relaxed as possible
- Spray my braids and my own hair with a detangling mix spritz until my hair is damp – I use about a fifth aloe vera juice, a few drops of extra virgin olive oil/coconut oil, about a quarter light conditioner and the rest water
- Then depending on the length of the braids, I cut of the ends about 3 inches below where my hair is, then undo the braids using my hands to unravel and pull off the braid when it’s loose enough.
- With each extension braid off, I make sure I detangle the ‘box’ part of my hair, remove whatever buildup is in the hair. DON’T just pull out a knot, make sure the section is undid, using more oil and the spritz if necessary. (THIS STAGE IS KEY! )
- Undo all the box braids, putting all the undone parts in larger twisted sections
- Just go steady at a leisurely relaxed pace until it is all undone
- Do note that you will likely have a lot of shed hair, it’s the perks that come with having hair in a protected style for a while.
There isn’t much to it, just PATIENCE and MAKING SURE TO DETANGLE PROPERLY.
After undoing my hair, I usually detangle again in the bigger sections, then wash my hair, condition my hair with a protein conditioner and a moisturising treatment. Then figure out how I’ll style my hair.
Honestly, I prefer undoing my hair to getting my hair done though. The excitement of seeing my hair after a few weeks and new hair growth does the trick.
Super long braids are beautiful and stylish to look at on other people’s head, but honestly I don’t think my strands or scalp could handle the weight. I might reconsider when I have longer hair, for now I’ll just admire:
Solange Knowles has worn this hairstyle a few times already:
And more inspiration elsewhere:
Truthfully, seeing these pics of Beyonce with her long box braids gets me excited to get box braids again. Last time my braids were quite long at waist length as seen below:
My high bun
My box braids a few months back
I am tempted though… Long braids are so pretty.
Just a thought…
Again, just a thought…
Or I could get twists…
Source of pics: the author; Daily Mail UK; Tumblr
Box braids seem like such a carefree, no pain, no hassle way to keep hair protected for a few weeks. Honestly, when I got them, I didn’t anticipate any negatives. All I had to do was keep my hair moisturised but it wasn’t to be….
For work the one day, I decided to put my braids in a mid-high bun. By the end of the day, I couldn’t understand where the pain in my scalp was coming from. I’m a little tender headed, but I don’t ever remember having any pain on my scalp, that when I touch it, it hurts. So a little worried, I tried loosening up my braids, with little relief. Even when I got home and undid the braid bun, my scalp was still sore. Another issue I had to deal with, was an itchy scalp, which I had foreseen happening.
So this is how I dealt with my box braid issues: Sore scalp
- Realised that the braid bun was
a horrible idea not so great for my head. The hairstyle and it’s weight stresses my scalp even when its not tight.
- Made a spritz of 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar to 2 cups water mixed with a few drops of tea tree oil, sprayed it onto my scalp and massaged my head with the pads of my fingers. Apple cider vinegar, has many uses due to it’s healing and clarifying properties. The pain had disappeared within a few hours of using this spritz.
- Moisturised my hair after this, with a mixture of water, a little glycerine and leave in conditioner.
- I again used my apple cider vinegar spritz to clarify and remove whatever buildup I had. (Note that apple cider vinegar can make hair feel dry due to its clarifying and cleansing properties, so make sure to moisturise afterwards.)
- Mixed a few drops of tea tree oil with some castor oil, and applied it to my scalp. I massaged my scalp and the itchiness was gone!
Other issues of which, thankfully, I didn’t have:
Overly tight braids
- You will realise your braids are too tight, when there is a lot of pain or/and there are little bumps around your hairline.
- Try loosening them by running warm water through your braids concentrating on the scalp, then with an oil, such as coconut oil, try manually loosening them.
- Remove them. Seems drastic, but to prevent damage to your hair follicles, hair loss and traction alopecia, this might have to be done. Oh, then never go back to whoever did your hair that tightly.
- Remember your hairline is way more important than a style.
- It’s easy to think that taking care of hair in box braids just entails oiling or greasing the scalp, but this often can make the scalp’s pores blocked causing more dryness.
- Our hair LOVES water. It is the best moisturiser. That is why the best moisturising products contain AQUA as the first ingredient. Make sure you are moisturising your hair with water in a spritz or use a moisturising product, including on to the braid where your hair is.
With that said, a lot of issues that come with box braids are to do with upkeep. Not taking care of your hair, not cleaning and moisturising it properly while it’s braided. Oiling or greasing the scalp directly with products which contain petrolatum, lanolin, etc that promote buildup and don’t moisturise the hair.