Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Extension Braids and Natural Hair Care (Part 1)

Naturally Leslie, a great natural hair blogger, shared the wonderful news recently on her blog that she is expecting her first child. Congrats to her! I love her hair and I love her blog. While reading her updates, she shared her plans of putting her hair in extension box braids. She was inspired by the following styles from Jada Pinkett Smith and Solange Knowles, respectively.

These pictures definitely take me back to the days when I wore extension braids for extended periods of time. I enjoyed the beauty of crochet braids, micro braids, and corn row and box braid extensions. The last time I had extension braids, however, were in high school. Why so long? Several reasons, the first being I have been embracing my own natural hair and texture in the meantime and also that I been wary of wearing extension braids for fear of them being put in to tightly and wreaking havoc on my edges. 

But Naturally Leslie, who has stated she will be using the Crown and Glory Technique from GrowAfroHairLong.com, has motivated me to look into braid extensions with a new goal. That goal is to maintain the health of the natural hair as much as possible, maintain maximum length, and take precious care of edges. I will delving into doing some serious research concerning this goal, to see if I will every be willing to wear extension braids again. Here are my main concerns:
  1. How do I ensure the hair is not braided too tightly? I remember too well my micro braids days, when my edges were braided so tightly that I couldn't even put my hair in a ponytail the first few weeks of rocking the style. Extension braids should never hurt. Finding someone who will braid my hair beautifully, but not too tightly, will be a project. I might have to settle for learning how to do it myself.
  2. How do I maintain well moisturized hair while wearing braids? How much I have learned since my school age days. I would wear extension braids for days without moisturizing my hair. When I finally did, I called myself moisturizing them with old school grease. I know better now. My research will assist me in learning to do better.
  3. How long is a safe amount of time to wear extension braids? The general idea I have been reading from initial research is 1 to 2 months. That sounds about right. But while my hair is in the braided style...
  4. How do I properly wash and condition my hair while in extensions? Especially taking into consideration that I don't want to make my hair look fuzzy or otherwise mess up the actual style. Rinsing out product thoroughly is another concern. 
  5. How do I properly take out extensions without breaking of otherwise damaging the hair? As always, the hair must be handled with tender loving care. When taking out extensions, the same applies, and other precautions might need to be taken into consideration. 
Jc of The Natural Haven wrote an article about why extensions should be abandoned. I had never read this article, but I remember seeing it. With this new research in mind, I read the article and realized what Jc was saying that extensions should not be worn so much that you do not embrace and learn to care the actual natural hair on your head. Although extensions are great for transitioning and growing hair, it spoils the wearer into not having to deal with her actual hair for extended periods of time. When I was forced to stop perming my hair in middle school, I wore extension braids so much, many of my peers had not seen my actual hair for years. It wasn't until my sophomore year of high school that I abandoned the extensions and wore my own afro to school one day, shocking many of my peers. 

Well, I have a new goal in mind. Extension braids are an option that should remain open for natural. Naturally Leslie herself will be wearing them shortly before and after her delivery date. End the end, I might not even actually choose to wear extension braids anytime soon, but I think the information will still prove helpful for those who wish to. Stay tuned for updates...


  1. I must admit that I have a fear of extension braids from my past experiences with them. Even when I braided my own hair, it just seemed like the weight of the braid was too much for my strands of hair. But, I am still interested in this post series. Looking forward to it...

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  3. I don't think everyone's scalp and hair can take it. I happen to have VERY thick 4A almost Bra Strap Length hair. Leaving it in braids grew it to that length but I also stick to a strict natural hair regimen and organic vegetarian diet.

    I have been wearing braids every semester while at college. This is actually the last time I will be wearing braid extensions since I am graduating this semester. I kind of had to go that route since I reside in the dorms. It is difficult to give my natural hair the love and care it needs when left out.

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