So I finally got the hair did! It’s been just over two years since I last did braids and I have to say it feels so gooood to finally have a break from my hair. With my study schedule back on track, I knew deep down that I just wouldn’t be able to deal with my hair…at least not in a careful manner. I was already getting frustrated with the fact that I felt I had limited time to fit everything I needed to do on a daily basis, add school on top of that and I knew it would be too real. Something had to go. I knew I wasn’t quite ready to jump into another big chop again so protective styling just made sense to me. Plus, who doesn’t like the carefree get-up-and-go life that comes with protective styling?
Okay, maybe not so carefree…I mean, there is still some maintenance that comes with it and we can’t neglect the fro that needs to flourish underneath. So with that in mind, I wanted to share how I prepped the synthetic hair I purchased and my fro before installing my box braids.
Synthetic Hair Prep
The reason I stopped doing box braids in the first place was mainly because I had a reaction to the synthetic hair I used back in December 2015. It was the second time I’d had a reaction to synthetic hair. I couldn’t for the life of me understand why this was happening and at the time I didn’t know that it was a result of the alkaline coating used in synthetic hair. More importantly, I had no idea that this could be remedied. By the time I’d found out, I was already months into my no-synthetic hair challenge and I really wanted to see how long I could go without relying on hair extensions to protect my hair.
This time around I took every necessary measure to ensure that my synthetic hair was dealt with before I installed so I don’t experience the same thing again. For those who also struggle with the itch from synthetic hair, here’s what you’ll need and what I did to get rid of it:
¼ cup of apple cider vinegar or regular white vinegar
A basin or bathroom sink
Two days before installing my box braids, I filled a basin with water and apple cider vinegar and without removing the elastic bands from the synthetic hair I was going to use for my box braids, I proceeded to soak the synthetic hair in the basin for one hour (you really only need to soak it for 15-20 minutes, but I was occupied with other things). You’ll notice white foam accumulating on top of the water – those are the chemicals you want to get rid of. After the 15-20 minute time frame (or one hour, like I did), simply remove the hair and rinse it with clean water before hanging it on a hanger to air dry. You can scrunch the hair to remove excess water if you feel a need to. You can also dry the hair with a blow dryer if you are in a rush. Using this process does not change the quality of the hair at all, once dried the synthetic hair will look as it did before soaking it.
The day before installation I detangled, washed and deep conditioned my hair, then I followed with my LOC method. Afterwards I decided to set my hair in chunky two-strand twists to stretch my hair. I did not care to be pedantic about making my lines perfectly straight as I usually do because I’d literally be unravelling the twists later that evening. As I unravelled each twist, I made sure to first finger detangle each twist thoroughly before going through each section with a wide tooth comb to get rid of any further tangles and achieve a no-heat blow dry to make it easier to install the box braids.
I am lucky in the sense that I don’t have to entrust my hair to the hands of someone I hardly know due to the fact that my sister has the most gentle gifted hands and other than myself, there’s no one I trust more with my hair than her. One thing a lot of natties complain about is the fact that we can’t get much enjoyment from box braids for a long period of time because of the fact that it doesn’t take long before the hair starts creeping out of the braid, causing the braids to look ratchet. A trick my sister and I learnt years ago is to two-strand twist the section of hair you are about to braid on before installing the braid. This ensures that your hair won’t creep out of the braid and will look much neater for a longer period of time so you can insist that your hairstylist does this as well.
I personally have not had any issues with my hair locking as a result of this, at least not previously, and I do feel as long as you take down your box braids within that 6-8 week period, it shouldn’t lock. However, I do realise that different textures react differently and what works perfectly for me may not do the same for you. You know your hair best, so only you can decide whether it’s a method worth trying out. There are a myriad of ways to go about preparing your hair for a protective style…it’s important to figure out what works best for you before heading to any salon because let’s be honest, there’s nothing worse than having to endure hours of pain just to get your hair looking good. We can’t go on being had, robbed, bamboozled into believing that beauty comes with pain…simply put, it ain’t true.