Getting the tension just right can be difficult when you’re getting braids, especially at the hairline, but even if your braids end up perfect, you still have to prepare for them and to make sure that you care for your hair correctly.

Learn the essential hair care tips for braids, in order to keep your scalp and hair in top shape and avoid any damage or breakage. From simple care tricks to keeping your hair safe while you sleep or work out, here’s what you need to know about braid care.

Get Your Hair in Shape Before Braiding

Before you consider what type of braids you want, you need to prepare your tresses for the stressful process. You should focus on deep conditioning (2-3 times in the week before you get your braids done), but you can also add a multivitamin supplement to your diet. Iron, zinc, vitamin D, and B-complex vitamins are the most important nutrients when it comes to your hair.

Keep Your Scalp Moisturized

One of the most important hair care tips for braids is to make sure that your scalp is never dry. Even if your scalp produces a lot of sebum naturally, you can benefit from moisturizing shampoos, conditioners and other moisturizing sprays. You should also protect your scalp from direct sunlight with a good sunscreen spray.

Prepare Natural Hair For Braiding

Go for a Natural Oil to Seal in Moisture

Even if you moisturize often, it’s important to use a natural oil to seal in moisture and keep your hair looking and feeling better. Coconut, jojoba or sweet almond oil are great options and you should apply it from root to tip on each braid after washing your hair.

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Use an Applicator Bottle When You Shampoo

Thick shampoos are not a good fit for braided hair. One of the most useful hair care tips for braids is using an applicator bottle for the shampoo. You can also dilute it with water, up to 50/50, to make sure it’s easy to rinse away. The applicator bottle will allow you to reach every part of your scalp, and you can also use it for moisturizer, especially if it’s not a leave-in product.

Deep Condition Regularly

You might also need to dilute a deep conditioner, since their texture is usually pretty thick. If you only wash your braided hair once every week or more, you can deep condition every time after shampooing, but if you’re in a hurry, every other time helps too. You’ll need a conditioner cap and a minimum of 30 minutes in order to let the product work well before rinsing it.

Protect Your Braids at Night

Making sure that your tresses are protected when you sleep is a very important hair care tip for braids. The best way to do it is by covering your braids with a satin bonnet or scarf. Satin pillowcases are another good option, as long as you make sure you keep your hair in a bun. Always protect the ends of your braids, and avoid cotton pillowcases that draw moisture out of your hair.

Massage Your Scalp Regularly

While you should massage your scalp when you shampoo, you can also do it without getting your hair wet. Oil treatments are another good time to massage, but if you find it comfortable, you should massage your scalp every few days, in order to improve circulation and reduce the risk of pulling and breaking. Just remember to be very gentle.

Make Braids Last Longer

Avoid Product Buildup

One of the best hair care tips for braids is to make sure that you’re keeping your hair free of product buildup. That means you should choose products with a lighter texture, while also cleansing it the right way before you shampoo. Apple cider vinegar and witch hazel are great ways to naturally get rid of product buildup. Use them diluted all over your scalp before shampooing.

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Protect You Hair When Working Out

Jumping isn’t the best way to exercise when you have braids, since gravity is the enemy of your scalp. Keep your braids secure either in a bun or low ponytail when you work out and don’t forget the swimming cap if you’re tempted to exercise in the pool.

Don’t Keep Your Braids for Too Long

While some women keep braids on for 3 months or more, it’s safer if you get rid of them every two months and let your hair rest. One of the best hair care tips for braids is to always get touch ups every month, in order to avoid matting and tangling.