Picture this: It's the hottest day of summer, and you're four hours deep into an all-day hair appointment that seeps well into the evening, too. Your hairstylist and her assistant are double-timing on a set of waist-length, medium-width box braids, tightly securing small sections of your natural hair with extensions and plaiting downwards faster than the speed of light. Box braids aren't just a protective style — they're an investment that takes time, money, and talent. So in return, you should take care of them... along with the real hair that's underneath, too.
"Washing your hair is really important while you're braided," Tamara Laureus, owner of Hairenomics Mane Bar in Brooklyn, NY, says. "It helps get rid of buildup and dandruff that produces while your hair is being protected."
To take care of that, Laureus recommends washing your hair anywhere between once every two weeks to once a month, depending on your preference. If you sweat a lot or hit the gym frequently, then you'll likely need to lather up a bit more. Either way, the pro-approved method is this: Wash your braids in circular motion so you can avoid frizz, Laureus says. And let your hair dry at least 75 percent before going under a hooded dryer, or just air dry completely. This way, you'll prevent frizz, allowing you to wear your braids for a blissful six to nine weeks.
Ahead, see some of the best liquid, gel, and spray cleansers to keep your braids popping all summer long.
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"I prefer liquids or sprays, which directly add moisture and shine to braids," Laureus says of this alcohol-free classic.
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Dealing with an itchy scalp? This treatment, which can be used for scratchy spots and your actual braids, is made with soothing aloe vera.
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If you've got to clarify your scalp, Laureus suggests following with a moisturizing product — like coconut oil — to replenish and add shine. When washing braids with an actual shampoo, Laureus likes going from root to tip, just as she would with regular hair. Just use a gentle hand so you don't yank your plait out.
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A steam treatment also feels amazing on an irritated scalp, and helps get rid of flakes. With this one, wet a towel and heat it for two minutes, wrapping your entire head after applying the gel to your scalp and hair.