If there’s one thing summer has taught us, it’s hot as hades and you need to put your hair up! During the summer months, especially July, I’ll often keep my hair in braids. Braids are a low maintenance hairstyle but still require some upkeep. In the post I will share how to moisturize hair in braids – specifically natural hair.
Note: This is an updated post to include even more intel on moisturizing braids with natural hair. I’ve also updated the specific products I use to braid and moisturize my own fine natural hair with.
Using Braids to Grow and Retain Length on Your Natural Hair
When you want to grow your hair longer, doing braids can be a great way to achieve healthy hair growth.
Braids are great for protective styling when you want to grow your natural hair. It’s been proven that when you tuck your hair away (not neglect it) for periods of time, you’ll recognize more length retention.
Notice, I didn’t say just “grow” because hair is always growing (unless there’s something wrong health wise).
The problem most ladies have when they don’t see there hair gaining in inches is length retention.
When you want to use braids to help you retain length, you’ll need to know how to moisturize natural hair while in this protective hairstyle. Making sure you moisturize your hair when it’s in braids is an important step to actually seeing your growth come through.
Also, how you install and take down your braids is very important.
You need to be careful, gentle and take your time during ever step of the process. This is so you don’t incur hair breakage or worst, hair loss.
Braiding your hair tightly with a lot of tension puts stress on the hair follicles. This can result in traction alopecia, a form of hair loss.
We won’t go too much into the installation of braids or even the process of removing them. These are just some important points to know.
For the purpose of this article, we’ll discuss how to moisturize hair in braids. You can use the technique below when you are doing braids with your real hair or added hair.
Types of Braids
There are many types of braids. Some require adding braiding hair, for others you can just use your real hair. The braiding process will be different for each. This is something to take into consideration before choosing a style.
It’s good to know the types of braids you can do in your hair. You may even find a favorite protective style using braids as a base.
Below are some of the different types of braid hairstyles you can do.
By far, the easiest and best way to braid natural hair is in classic box braids. This is because you won’t need to add braiding hair unless you have short hair or just want longer braids.
That’s not to say you can’t add hair extensions but any time you add hair to your own hair, just know that you are adding additional stress to your strands.
This isn’t great for those of us with fine hair. So, that’s something else to keep in mind.
To create box braids, all that’s needed is to part the section into a square or box. Then, braid.
Video Tutorial for Large braids (no hair added): https://youtu.be/o6pmcrlSCOg
Another type of box braid on the scene is knotless braids. These are done by braiding your natural hair at the root about 3-5 braided links down, before adding in braiding hair.
Knotless braids look a bit more natural than braids where the synthetic hair is added directly at the root. However, they don’t stay as neat at the root as long.
Video Tutorial for Fine Hair (hair added): https://youtu.be/nBK7M_eJflQ
Also known as BoHo braids, this style is so cute. It’s a combination of box braiding with loose curls coming out of the braid at different points along the braid.
Video Tutorial for Fine Hair (no hair added): https://youtu.be/FJi4SiVah-c
Likely the most difficult of the four, crochet braids require the use of a crochet needle to weave synthetic crochet braided hair into your own hair.
This style can be done with or without cornrows. Obviously, it’s much easier doing it without them.
Also, crochet braids aren’t like the other styles. Another installation method is to crochet in loose hair, so they have more the appearance of a weave install.
Video Tutorial (weave like appearance without cornrows): https://youtu.be/Tz5574pUiWo
Video Tutorial (box braid appearance without cornrows on very short hair): https://youtu.be/6uCfUM3og8Y
When doing braids, there are a few things you should do so that they look their best, your hair is kept healthy and they last longer.
Firstly, you want to gather all your tools and products in advance. This should include your:
- Parting comb
- Detangling tools (ex: a wide tooth comb or detangling brush)
- Sectioning Clips
- Rubber bands (optional)
- Spray bottle
- Leave-in conditioner
- Deep conditioner
- Scalp and Hair oil (for example: coconut oil, olive oil)
- Hair ties or bands
Secondly, the best way to do braids is to work with clean, conditioned hair.
If you braid dirty hair, you’ll end up with dry hair that breaks.
Instead, on wash day follow this simple hair routine (sectioning as needed):
- Cleanse (co-washing is great before braid installation since it doesn’t strip your hair of its natural oils)
- Detangle with one of your slippery regular conditioners. I use a specialty detangler from Ominira Naturals: Using the Tangle Slayer with the 90/10 Detangling Method
- Rinse and apply a moisturizing deep conditioning hair mask for at least 20 minutes (alternatively you can do a hot oil treatment which is great for moisture retention)*
- Rinse with cool water
- Apply your leave-in conditioner
- Seal the moisture with a light oil
You also want to make sure you part your hair in clean even sections. This is a good rule of thumb to follow for all types of braids.
* If you have high porosity hair, use a deep conditioner containing some protein
Braiding for Moisture Retention
As it relates to the health of your hair, you always want to braid with moisture retention in mind. Just know that when you have a professional braid for you, this is not one of the goals they have when braiding your hair.
Professionals braid your hair with precision, speed and tightness in mind. So, braiding for moisture retention is something that you will have to do on your own. Hence, why I prefer to braid my own hair.
Layering products (conditioner and light oil) on your hair before or during braiding is what will help them
How to Moisturize and Seal Small Braids
Before sharing my step by step method for how to moisturize hair in braids, take a look at an old video where I shared my previous method for moisturizing and sealing small braids.
Braids are a relatively low maintenance style. When I do them, I find that my ends stay in fabulous condition and I get little to no breakage since I haven’t been messing in my hair. Yet, while that is a wonderful thing for length retention, they remain short lived.
When you have braids in your natural hair, you must be careful to still give your hair the attention it needs. It’s not, “set it and forget it.” You must moisturize your braids regularly.
Technique to Moisturize Braids
Moisturizing braids doesn’t have to be a time consuming process. With water being the ultimate moisturizer, you can start with that.
However, I find using a hair tea more effective for moisturizing my braids.
Here’s a video sharing my recipe on YouTube:
Step by Step Process to Moisturize Braids
Using the hair tea, here’s the step by step process I follow for how to moisturize braids in hair:
- Work in sections on clean and conditioned hair (4 is the recommendation)
- Spray hair tea on the scalp and massage in damp, not wet hair
- Spritz the hair tea on the length of the braids and squeeze the moisture into the braids
- Use a small amount of gel down the length of your braids and focus it on the ends (a light weight all natural gel, like flax seed gel is great)
- Massage a small amount of hair butter (I’m currently loving Aloe Vera butter – brand linked below) down the length of the braids
- Focusing on the ends, apply some Jamaican Black Castor Oil, smoothing it in
That’s it. This process is super simple and with consistency, your braids will remain very nice for a longer period of time.
Most importantly, you hair will be healthy because you will moisturize your braids effectively.
Products Used to Moisturize and Seal Braids
When it comes to what to use to moisturize your hair in braids, it’s personal preference. Moisturizing is only the first step. You have to also apply a product for temporary sealing of that moisture.
However, we always want to know what others are using when we come across any piece of advice so here are the products that I currently use (aside from water and I rotate them):
- Moroccan Hair Tea
- Melanin Hair Care Multipurpose Leave-in Conditioner
- Kinky Curly Knot Today Leave-in Conditioner
- Ominira Naturals leave in conditioner (NEW)
- EcoStyler Gel
- Camille Rose Naturals Curl Maker
- Aloe Vera Butter
- Shea Butter
- Mango Butter
- Jojoba Oil
- Sweet Almond Oil
- Jamaican Black Castor Oil
How to Care for Your Scalp While in Braids
While the purpose of this article is to share how to moisturize hair in braids, I’d be remiss by leaving out some important pointers for the care for your scalp.
Yes, you need to moisturize your hair but you also need to moisturize your scalp while your hair is in braids – especially when you use added hair. This includes human hair and synthetic hair.
If you neglect your scalp, you’ll find you may begin to suffer with dry scalp and/or itchy scalp.
A couple of techniques you can use to maintain a healthy scalp include:
- Massage a light oil mixture with a few drops of peppermint oil into your scalp once or twice a week
- Lightly mist a hair tea that’s been blended with essential oils (ex: lavender, tea tree oil) into your scalp
How to Preserve Your Braids
Once you’ve put in your beautiful braided style, you want to make sure it lasts as long as possible.
Depending on the style, you can wrap the braids around into bantu knots and secure them with satin scrunchies. Then, sleep on a satin pillowcase.
Otherwise, you can typically just tie a silk scarf or satin scarf on your head to make sure your braids (and edges!) stay put. You can even find really long satin bonnets designed for sleeping in braids.
Using edge control is optional but can make a style appear neater. However, a good idea I didn’t mention above is when you are braiding your hair, you can add a little edge control to your fingers when braiding. Only a small amount is required.
The best thing about this technique is when you use a pomade based edge control product, your natural hair won’t begin to curl up in the braid. It will lie smooth.
Applying a little of an edge control product to your new growth can also extend the life of your braided style by a few days.
For best results, you don’t want to add moisture to your braids every day. This will cause them to frizz. However, the process noted above for how to moisturize hair in braids will help keep them looking neat for much longer.