Sorry, The ‘6- Month Weave’ Won’t Grow Your Natural Hair — Here’s What You Should Do Instead

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In the pursuit of long hair, many will try anything. The pressures placed on Black women and our hair are unreal, and that’s reflected in the social media beauty trends people swear will change our curl patterns and give us hair past our thighs. Rice water rinses, perhaps too-frequent trims or no trims at all, rubbing watermelon on our scalp.  But amidst all the social media tips and tricks, there’s been one consistent recommended method: installing a weave to give your natural hair a break, hoping that the lack of manipulation will lead to growth. But now, weaves too are being subject to the social media branding rush. 
A stylist on social media may be taking the ‘weaves lead to hair growth’ trend a bit too far. Trichologist, hair loss practitioner and hair stylist, Abra McField, claims she can guarantee that her Abra Kadabra Sew-In™ method of installing weaves, which involves leaving the tracks in for six months, will keep your hair healthy and grow it by up to six-10 inches within a year. One of the brand’s central claims is that six months of sebum (natural oil) being produced on the scalp is what leads to the growth. According to the site, the technique “effectively remove[s] the shed hair that leads to matting and breaking, thereby extending the life of the sew-in and preserving the health of your own hair. There is no matting, no breakage, no build-up, and no follicle damage.”
For any Black woman familiar with the concept of weave, this claim sounds pretty  dubious and even startling. It’s typically recommended people keep their weaves in for 4-8 weeks, a far cry from a whopping 24 weeks — keep in mind that Abra Kadabra says you’re supposed to keep getting six-month weaves until you reach your length goals. 
A chunk of the Missouri-based brand’s business seems to come from selling training (they claim to have the “Secret to Dominat[ing] Your Hair Business & Tripl[ing] Your Income in 90 Days”) to other stylists in the method so they can do it in their own salons, which means potentially, this is something we might start seeing more regularly. But should we? Unbothered decided to go deep on this topic and ask some burning questions: How long should you keep your weave in? And can a six-month weave ever grow your hair? According to the hairstylists, dermatologists, and cosmetic surgeons we spoke to, the answer is a pretty hard no. (Unbothered reached out to McField numerous times for comment and did not get a response.) 

Don't be fooled by pictures of people showing how long their hair grew in six months. They are not showing the perimeter or that bald spot on the top.

Ghanima Abdullah, cosmetologist
Dr. Cheri Frey, an assistant professor of dermatology at Howard University, puts it plainly. “There’s no way a weave kept in place for six months can be healthy for the scalp. The scalp is skin just like your face, arms, and backside. Bacteria and fungus live and breed on our skin normally. They thrive in dark, moist places such as a scalp under a weave for an extended period of time. It’s imperative that we cleanse the scalp regularly to avoid buildup, infections, as well as matting/tangling of the hair,” Frey says. 
“Don't be fooled by pictures of people showing how long their hair grew in six months. They are not showing the perimeter or that bald spot on the top,” says Ghanima Abdullah, cosmetologist at The Right Hairstyles
But keeping a weave in for much longer than it should be is unfortunately common, due to a variety of reasons ranging from lack of proper instruction from the stylist, the business of life, and insecurity about one’s natural hair texture. Keeping weaves in for too long, unfortunately, can lead to bald spots and thinning. Frey says early warning signs are “pain, redness, and small bumps at the base of the hair follicles.” If you notice any of this happening, you can reverse course. Frey advises stopping weaves immediately and giving the hair a break when this happens, as well as considering trying over the counter treatment options such as topical minoxidil that can help regrow your hair. But before you do anything, Frey says you should see a board-certified dermatologist for an accurate diagnosis. “It’s important that you make sure you are not suffering from a more severe or progressive form of hair loss,” she stresses. Dr. Daisy Ayim, a cosmetic surgeon, acknowledges that stopping weaves altogether can be terrifying for some women, but she maintains it is a necessity if you’re noticing hair loss. “Your hair needs a break and screaming for help. The severity of hair loss and duration of hair trauma will determine if the course is reversible.” 
There’s definitely a disconnect to be found in the six-month weave method. While it’s true that not manipulating your hair with scrunchies and pillows and combing can result in growth, your hair is also in tight braids which can pull at the scalp and cause irritation, bald spots, or traction alopecia. Your scalp also needs to be clean and free of buildup, because clogged hair follicles lead to growth blockage and irritation that can lead to damaged hair and hair loss. “Leaving a weave in for six months will certainly grow your hair,”  Abdullah tells Unbothered.  “But there's a problem with that. You'll probably have a few bald spots, too. If you want to leave it in for six months, go ahead, but you will see hair loss along with the gain.” 
Sandra Simmons, owner of London salon Beyond Glam, says none of her clients have ever experienced hair growth after keeping a weave in for six months.  In the past, she has had clients who would keep their weaves in for six months at a time — mostly for financial reasons — with disastrous results. “I had to tell one particular client that we could not do her hair anymore if she kept her weaves in for six months,” Simmons says.  “The smell and the flaky scalps were so bad, we had to wear gloves, an apron and a mask just to take her hair out. Also, despite washing her hair four or five times after taking out the weave, there was still a smell when blow drying her hair out.” 

“I had to tell one particular client that we could not do her hair anymore if she kept her weaves in for six months... The smell and the flaky scalps were so bad, we had to wear gloves, an apron and a mask just to take her hair out.

Sandra Simmons, owner of London salon Beyond Glam
Instead of focusing on keeping the weave in as long as possible for hair growth, saving money, or avoiding your natural hair texture, try striving for an overhaul healthy hair routine — one that calls for taking extensions out in a timely manner. It’s important to note that a crucial part of keeping your weaves healthy is to have a positive and loving attitude towards your own hair. Feeling shame around your length or texture makes you more likely to install weaves too often or leave them in too long, and less likely to dedicate the attention your natural hair deserves. 
Not only should you be wary of falling into the Internet’s latest trend, but this is also a good time to review how you’ve been installing weave and caring for your hair underneath to see if there are any changes you should make.
Before your next install, Joyce Koomson, Brand and Content Manager and Resident Stylist at Chicago hair boutique Indique recommends, “Before trying the hottest new technique, know how the installation is done, how long it lasts, and what has to be done to maintain it. If there is a disconnect between any of those factors, that's what can lead to damage.”
There’s also things you can do at every step of the process to ensure healthy hair and scalp.

Make sure your scalp is clean before your next install

Prior to installation, make sure your hair is clean, your scalp is free of buildup, and your strands are deep-conditioned with something like Black-owned Bridgeo’s Don’t Despair, Repair! Deep Conditioning Mask ($39.) It’s incredibly hydrating but light, which is important to reduce buildup.  If your stylist is blowing out your hair, make sure she uses a light heat protectant like Black-owned Mielle Organics Mongongo Oil Thermal & Heat Protectant Spray ($9); nothing too heavy, since you don’t want buildup. 

Take a break from heavy bundles and 20-inch weaves

Although it’s tempting to get bundles that are 20 inches or more for the glamorous look, Abdullah recommends going shorter, as long weaves are heavy and tend to pull on braids more. “The key is to have less weight on your hair follicles and less inflammation in your scalp because of the tension,” she tells Unbothered. She also recommends trying a full closure instead of leave-out. “Full closure is better because all your hair is underneath the weave. When you have leave-out, you're going to be processing that area every day to match the texture of the weave. This could cause breakage in that area,” she says. 

Vocalize to stylists when braids are too tight

During installation, be vocal with your stylist about when the braids are too tight. Also, make sure they use a net before attaching the tracks to your braids, it will lessen the tension on your natural hair and lead to less breakage. When your hair is installed, if it starts to hurt, don’t be afraid to take it out. Ignoring your pain receptors and your instincts can be disastrous. While it sucks to potentially waste an expensive hairstyle, you can ask your stylist if she’ll do it a different way this time — and not charge you for the first mistake — that won’t hurt or increase damage. And even if she says no, it’s more expensive to reverse damage than it is to just throw in the towel. 

Don’t skip washdays when your hair is in a weave

You should be washing your weave regularly just as you would wash your natural hair. You can either do this professionally or at home. Make sure to use a co-wash like Black-owned Shedavi’s Crowned Co-Wash ($21), you don’t want to use anything that will strip the weave hair. The most crucial step is drying the braids underneath completely to prevent mildew and scalp irritation.  If you don’t have a hooded dryer at home, check out the Soft Ionic Bonnet Dryer from Gold ‘N Hot ($55) or this budget pick from Amazon ($15) that you’ll need to attach it to your handheld dryer. While your weave is in, take care of your leave out with a light oil or serum massaged 2-3 times a week. The Black-owned High Maintenance CBD Elixir from Imani Beauty ($42) has a stimulating herb blend that relieves itching, and the CBD helps with relaxation and calm — which also helps grow hair! Ranavat’s Fortifying Hair Serum ($70) is pricey but effective as well.  Abdullah says black seed oil, castor oil, peppermint oil, and rosemary oil are great for hair “Just make sure not to use products with petrochemicals like mineral oil and silicone, as these could clog your hair follicles and prevent the hair growth ingredients from entering the follicles,” she warns.
If you’re running over your leave-out with a flat-iron or blow-dryer, be sure to use heat protectant. The Olaplex No. 7 Bonding Oil ($30) is perfect for repairing and preventing split ends and adding shine to your hairstyle, and the Design Essentials Agave and Lavender Serum ($9) works really well too. 

Resist the urge to take your weave out by yourself

When you take down your weave, try not to do it yourself. A stylist will be able to cut threads and undo the braids in a way that minimizes detangling. If you wash your hair right after at home, still prioritize detangling. Comb through your hair multiple times with a good leave-in conditioner (not too pricey, since you’ll be using a lot of it) like Garnier Whole Blends Honey Treasures Miracle Nectar Repairing Leave-in Treatment ($7). Section your hair and for each section wash with a clarifying shampoo like Bridgeo’s Scalp Revival Charcoal + Coconut Oil Micro-exfoliating Scalp Scrub ($42). The scrub is excellent for removing dead skin and buildup from the scalp — bonus points if you combine with the Jupiter Scalp Brush ($15) that just sweeps away all that gunk and leaves your hair follicles free and clear. Frey also suggests that people who “suffer from dandruff, also known as seborrheic dermatitis, opt for a shampoo containing zinc pyrithione which can cut down on flaking and itching.” First Aid Beauty’s Anti-Dandruff Shampoo ($30) is a great option, especially because it’s sulfate-free. Then condition and detangle, shampoo again, then condition again. Switching off shampoo with conditioner instead of just shampooing twice back to back helps you detangle as much as possible. Then, deep condition afterwards and make it extra luxurious by using a steamer like the handheld Q-Redew ($79) or this  $23 cap from Amazon that you just pop in the microwave first. If your hair is feeling weak or limp, consider adding a protein treatment like Briogeo's Don't Despair Repair Rice Water Protein + Moisture Strengthening Treatment ($42) or the Repair Solutions by ion Rapid Repair Kit Packette ($3). 
Don’t fall for social media trends. It’s tempting to do anything to achieve hair growth, especially with all the pressures put on Black women. But at the end of the day, it’s just not worth the bald spots.

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