There is generally a misconception; or rather, just a lack of care we tend to give to our hair once braided. I am guilty just as many others of going 4 – 5 wks with braids and not once washing them! *shame face* Very rarely I will wash them once during that time. Never more often than that. I always figured that the braids will look stale faster so I just refused.
However, now that I am oh so much wiser [lol] I went internet hunting on the proper way to maintain braids while still giving my hair the attention it needs. And you know what I found out? THE VERY SAME WAY YOU TAKE CARE OF YOUR HAIR MINUS BRAIDS, IS THE SAME WAY YOU OUGHT TO TREAT YOUR HAIR WHEN BRAIDED, except less frequently.
Our hair still needs to be shampooed, conditioned, deep conditioned and moisturized! The only difference being the frequency. It is recommended that 2# weeks after putting in your braids, you shampoo them and every 2 weeks thereafter (if you happen to keep your braids in that long!). Here is a copy and paste from 2 different sites about caring for your hair while braided:-
HAIR CARE WHILE BRAIDED (EXTENSIONS)
Wash your braids once every two weeks, using a mild, diluted shampoo. Mix one part water with one part shampoo. Thinning the shampoo makes it easier to rinse from your braids to prevent residue and build-up. If you have a scalp condition, you may need to wash your hair more often. Keep in mind that the more you wash your hair, the shorter the life of your braids. If you have a scalp condition, it’s better to take proper care of the condition and change your braids more frequently. Remember, natural hair thrives on water, so the wash is neccesary to maintain the hair you have, and what’s growing in.
Condition your braids when you wash them and use a mild, diluted conditioner. Like the shampoo, dilute the conditioner with one part water and one part shampoo. Apply the conditioner to the portion of the braid that contains your natural hair. If your braids are human hair, condition to the ends. Rinse thoroughly to prevent any residue from collecting on the scalp or hair. Conditioning strengthens the hair and maintains a smooth beautiful look. I also recommend a leave in conditioner for daily use. You will definitely notice the difference when you take out the braids.
Deep condition your braids, at least once a month after your shampoo, using a commercial conditioner. Apply the conditioner to the potion of the braids that contains your natural hair. Cover your hair with a plastic cap and wrap it in a towel. Let the conditioner sit for 30 minutes then rinse. If you are using a store-bought conditioner, follow the package instructions.
Dry you hair with a towel to soak up the bulk of the water, then wrap your hair in a T-shirt to soak up the rest of the water. Twist or wring the hair in the T-shirt to absorb as much water as possible. If you let your braids air dry, allow your hair to hang loose so that it will dry completely. Hair that doesn’t dry completely may develop mildew. You can also use a blow dryer, but be careful when using heat to dry synthetic hair.
Moisturize your hair at least twice a week. Massage your scalp, to express any natural oils, before applying your moisturizer. After massaging the natural oils in your scalp, apply your moisturizer. Stay away from greases and vaseline type products, they are heavy and all they do is sit on the scalp, clogging the pores and creating lint within the braids. Keep it light and simple. Use a natural oil like coconut, extra virgin olive oil or shea butter. You can use a commercial moisturizer, or sheen spray, from your local drugstore. Avoid mineral oil, as it can clog the pores. I must recommend using tea tree oil or peppermint oil if you have a itchy scalp.
When sleeping, contain your braids with a hairnet, then wrap your head with a satin scarf. This protects your braids from rubbing against your pillow or getting pulled.
Know when to take them out! Leaving your braids in too long will cause the hair to lock! When you see a significant amount of new growth and slight lint that does not come out after washing, is time to take them out soon.The longer you wait the more it locks.