I can remember when my grandmom use to sit me on the floor, between her legs to braid (or, we used to call it "plait") my hair. Today, this tradition has turned into a multi-million dollar industry.
Originally a form of art, this long-time tradition has now become a booming business. Natural Hair Salons have opened up in virtually every major city and suburb. This ancient custom has been elevated and is now a highly respected profession.
The art of hair braiding can be traced back thousands of years to ancient Egypt and many parts of Africa. Today, hair-braiding techniques range from very simple to highly elaborate and complex styles including Cornrows. Cornrows is a more recent style of Hair braiding that lies flat against the scalp. They are often braided in much thinner rows as the tresses are woven under one another. The thinner styles require more braids and are more time-consuming than the thicker ones.
However, there are certain issues to be considered before visiting a Natural Hair Stylist whose specialty is not in this field. Concerns like scalp conditions and health problems. Caused by unlicensed operators and Stylists with no knowledge of Hair Care, and non-existent or improper sanitary regulations for the tools they use.
I would suggest that you find a well-respected Hairstylist, Natural Stylist, and insist on receiving a consultation prior to scheduling an appointment. Hair braiding alone can take anywhere from three to ten hours to several days. In addition, it can be very costly. So you definitely need to count the cost before making a decision.
Whenever you consider trying a new hair style that will put tension on your scalp. It is very important that you sit down with your Stylist for a consultation. Whether is braids, extensions or a weave, the Natural Hair Stylist should discuss the pros and cons of this hair service. He or she should also educate you on how to maintain your new look, and the cost involved for the service and maintenance of your new look. Moreover, most importantly during the consultation, the Hair Stylist - Professional Braider should examine your hair texture, porosity and elasticity! Braids, twist or weaves should NEVER be performed on hair that has poor elasticity.
Elasticity is Relevant
Hair Elasticity is the ability to spring back to its original shape and length without damage. Wet hair that is in the best condition can be stretched up to 25% of its length and return back to its original length when dry. To test the elasticity, hold a strand of hair about two inches long in your fingers and pull, you should be able to see considerable movement.
Hair Elasticity depends mostly on the keratin levels and sulfide bonds in the cortex of the hair. These can be easily damaged by chemical treatments, such as relaxers, coloring or bleaching. These chemical services can then severely alter and often destroy the elasticity of your hair. Which means the ability of your hair to stretch is greatly diminished. The hair becomes damaged, weak, fragile, and breaks easily. Sometimes poor elasticity can be treated and improved by the use of good conditioners and herbal remedies. Treatments containing Keratin Protein are highly recommended. Before considering Braids or a Hair Weave you should wait a minimum of two weeks after a chemical service - longer if your hair is chemically degraded.
Alopecia (Baldness) Caused by Braids and Weaves
Alopecia is a medical term for hair loss. There are various types of Alopecia.
Traction Alopecia is usually due to excessive pulling or tension on the hair shafts as a result of certain hair styles. It is seen more often in women, particularly those of East Indian and Afro-Caribbean origin. Hair loss depends on the way the hair is being pulled. Prolonged Traction Alopecia can stop new hair follicles from developing and lead to permanent hair loss caused by constant stress on the Hair Follicle.
This is often seen around the hairline from tight braids, glued-in weaves. Due to the continuous wearing of tight pony tails, hair buns and most commonly hair braids, corn rows, or hair weaving techniques. Some Hair Stylists will insist that in order for braids to look neat and to last any length of time without loosening, they need to be put in very tight. Most Hair Stylists specializing in braids or weaves have great dexterity and strength in their fingers. It is important when receiving this service, to let the stylist know if they are pulling too hard. However it is my experience that some Hair Stylists normally insist that they need to be pulled tightly. However if you continue to braid your hair on a regular basis (every 6 weeks or so), your hair will eventually pull away from the follicle, shortening the lifespan of the hair.
Braids Can Sometimes Shorten Your Hairs' Lifespan
The lifespan of an individual hair is on average between 2 to 7 years. Hair overly stressed during braiding can encourage the hair to fall out shortening its lifespan.
Scalp Problems Caused by Braiding Wet Hair
I have known Hair Stylists who wet or dampen the hair before they braid. What happens then, is that when pulling the wet hair it will stretch it to its fullest potential. This will of course depend on the condition and elasticity of the hair. Then, as the hair dries it will contract and try to return to its previous length causing great stress on the hair follicle. This can cause severe headaches for days after the appointment. It can also cause sores to appear on the scalp which in turn can become infected and extremely painful. These sores can also be caused by the Hair Stylist being too harsh when using sharp combs or implements during braiding.
Hair Breakage Caused by Braiding Too Soon After Chemical Services
There are cases when braids are applied immediately after a chemical service. This is not recommended or acceptable. Because after a chemical service, the hair does not have an optimum moisture level and is overly porous. More importantly, the hair has poor elasticity. Even if the hair does not break at the time of service, it can break within days or weeks after the service is performed.
Caring For Your Braids
For all of the above reasons it is vital that once you have your braids, it is imperative that you take care of them. Follow the Hair Stylist's instructions. However, due to the lack of conditioning once your hair is braided--it is often recommended that you do not condition for fear of the conditioner making the hair soft loosening the braids. I would recommend that a month prior and past your appointment that you spend time giving your hair lots of nourishment. This means nourishing your hair with shampoos and conditioners that will restore your hairs moisture level to its optimum health. Treatments that are designed to improve elasticity. We recommend Hair Treatments at least once a week.
There is no reason you cannot enjoy the experience of Hair Braids or Hair Weaves. As long as you take the proper precautions. Go to a well-respected Natural Hair Stylist and preferably a Hair Educator as well. Use good Professional Hair Care Products, and ALWAYS get a consultation first.
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