Caring for Your Braids, Weaves, and Extensions

Janell M. Hickman


One our favorite aspects of beauty is the ability to reinvent yourself as you please. How fun is it to rock a pixie one day then showcase long flowing locks the next? As with most things, with options come responsibilities—especially when it comes to  care and protection of your delicate strands underneath. We caught up with a few experts to teach us how to maintain gorgeous, healthy hair no matter what type of extension style you select. Let the fun begin!

Find The Right Hair Type
“To find the right texture, you have to ask yourself a few questions,” explains Whitney Green, a stylist at Ted Gibson Salon. “What look are you going for? Are you wearing the hair curly, wavy or straight? Do you want to go with the natural texture of your hair? Finally, are you selecting a shade close to your natural hair color or adding a pop of color.” Another key tip? “You should never try to match natural hair to extension hair while damp—wet hair always appears darker,” cautions Green.

Prep Your Hair Before Installation
“A lot of people install their hair without washing and conditioning and thats really important,” explains Natural Hairstylist/Licensed Cosmetologist, Susy Africancreature. “ A clean scalp is key, as is hydrated hair.  Before installing braids, [I’d suggest] applying your favorite leave-in conditioner along with coconut oil. In terms of those installing weaves, chose a liquid or cream-based moisturizer since excess oils can make extensions look greasy. Also, don’t forget to detangle! You don’t want to additional stress to delicate strands trying to eliminate knots and get braids at the same time.”

Know Your Style’s Expiration Date
“Weaves and/or braids can last from six weeks to two months,” shares Celebrity Curly Textured Expert and  Author of Textured Tresses, Diane Da Costa. “But never exceed the three month mark—your hair will start to lock and tangle. It will be very difficult to remove tangles which can result in alot of hair loss and breakage.”

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But Wigs Allow for More Flexibility
“[Personally], the longest [I suggest] you only keep the braids in is for about two to four weeks in order to  let your hair breath and scalp breathe,” shares Hadiiya Barbel, who works with clients including Ashanti and Diane von Furstenburg. “But if you are a crown (a.k.a. wig) wearer, before you go to sleep you can wash and braid your hair as often as you like.”

Avoid Chemical Processes Before Extensions
“If any of my clients have had a chemical service, whether it’s, color, relaxer, or a keratin treatment, I make them wait at least 2 weeks before installing extensions,” adds Green, who installed box braids for actress Lupita Nyong’o. “Yes, they may be upset about having to wait—extensions make any woman feel fabulous, but I’m all about pampering your natural hair underneath. Unfortunately, chemical processes can be stressful to hair and cause damage if extensions are installed too early.”

Maintain The Look of Your Hair
“One great way to extend the life of braids is to get touch ups on the braids every three weeks,” advises Da Costa who works with Lenny Kravitz and Lauryn Hill. “This will keep your  braids looking fresh, new and extend the life of the style for two to three additional weeks. For weaves, I suggest you service your weave every two weeks with a salon shampoo and steam treatment and tighten up any loose tracts at that time.”

Let Go Of Misconceptions
“I come across this question a lot: ‘Is the hair going to fly off?’” says Barbel. “Another is: ‘Are people going to be able to tell it’s not my hair?’ I always tell them it’s all in the cut!  At Hadiiya Barbel Collections, we always refer to wigs as ‘crowns.’ Our custom pieces are not only versatile but they also enhance your sense of self-love because you have something looks like your own hair [only better]. Having a crown really gives you the opportunity to love and take care of your natural hair—and try a new look.”

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Create Your Own Hair Freshener
“For braids keep a spray bottle with coconut oil, rosemary oil or your favorite oil with a little bit of water,” advises African Creature who works with the Knowles sisters, Beyoncé and Solange. “I’d also suggesting washing your hair while the hair is installed or using dry shampoo or apple cider vinegar and water mixture.”

Craft Your Own At-Home Routine
“Maintaining the extensions at home is a must,” explains Da Costa. “Make sure to hydrate braids or curly hair with a leave-in conditioner daily.  At night, wear a satin bonnet or scarf to minimize dryness and/or tangles. Brush your straight or wavy extension hair daily with a paddle brush made for weaves to avoid  excess knotting.  Avoid heavy products; less is more with human hair—try light serums like CHI’s Argan Oil version.”

Don’t Rule Out Clip-Ins
“They’re a great way to try out hair extensions if you’ve never had them before and definitely it’s the most affordable out of the other types of installations,” shares Green. “Typically, since clip-ins aren’t worn daily, they’ll last longer. I have known clients who I have made clip-in extensions for, who have had them for three or more years due to the quality of hair I purchased for them. Last but not least, they are healthier for your hair. Removing them at night means you are not sleeping on them, which, in most cases, can cause tugging on your real hair, therefore, pulling it out.”

Look Out For New Styles
“We are starting these new styles with yarn: Yari Twists & Yinko Locs and they are mixture of creative locs, twists, creative material included, and lots of love,” explains African Creature. “Last year, it was the Bey braids—the ones braided to one side in a shape of a beehive with the braids coming down—seen on everyone from Monica to everyday women.”