Common braidout mistakes
Do your braidouts begin with puffy, frizzed out roots and end with tangled, ill-defined, would-be curls? If successive failures are starting to make you think braidouts just don't work on your type of hair, wait a minute. Usually, when things go awry with natural sets like this, it's a case of the wrong technique rather than the wrong hair type. Too jaded by braidout flops to believe it? Before you resign yourself to failure, take a glance at this checklist of top braidout mistakes. Stop making them and see just how beautiful your braidouts can be!
Doing braidouts on wet hair
It may seem counterintuitive, given the traditional methods of setting hair, but braiding from wet is usually a no-no.
Not only does it take forever to dry, but for supercurly hair, it tends to be the least effective method. Why? For one, it can dilute your styler, ruining the consistency and making the product ineffective. Secondly, as your hair dries, and shrinks, crimps and coils into its natural shape, the strands can pull into all kinds of random positions inside the plait.
This in turn disrupts the braid, preventing it from superimposing the braidout pattern onto your natural hair. This is especially true if your hair is not highly pliable when wet (this you can tell by pulling a section straight while soaking wet. If it stays more or less that way until it starts to dry then it's highly pliable. If it puffs right out and curls right back, it's not).
In the majority of cases, it's best to wait until your hair is fully dried. And it's best to airdry; airdried hair is more flexible and sets better than blowdried hair, which tends to be stiffer.
Next, if your hair is highly pliable when wet you may spritz it so it's damp, though not soaked, then apply product and braid. If your hair is not particularly pliable when wet, then skip this step and head straight for the styler. In the latter case, it's best your hair gets just the minimum amount of water (already present in the styler) it needs to temporarily reset your hair's natural bonds. Too much will drive it crazy.
The exceptions: Straight hair. If your hair is wavy or straight then any natural tendency to curl out of the braid pattern is not an issue. Here, the wet version of your hair acts more like a blank canvas on which to imprint the braidout.
In this case, braiding when wet allows you to take full advantage of water's ability to temporarily overcome your hair's natural bonds, and mould your tresses into an opposite pattern.
Not securing the roots
Do your braidouts have curls at the ends which are dwarfed by a big cloud of fuzz from the roots to several inches down? That's what happens when you don't secure the roots. If, once you're done braiding, your braids look like little mounds with sticks poking out of them, then you know the “cloud at the top, curls at the end” look is what you're gonna get when you take those braids down.
Securing the roots can be harder to do if your hair naturally tends to puff up near the base of your braids. This is often the case on hair where the curl at the roots is a lot tighter than everywhere else. One option is to use tiny bands right at the base of the hair to secure it. You can also choose to do smaller braids where the puffing won't be as obvious, though that does limit you to creating only smaller waves and curls with your braidout.
The most effective option is to use cornrows to achieve your braidout rather than loose single plaits. Braiding the hair against the scalp will secure the roots, minimising or eliminating that all-too-common root swelling. It also takes less time than loose, single plaits since you need to do fewer sections, plus it gives better volume.
Taking the braids down before they're set
This is probably the #1 reason for failed braidouts. Your hair needs to set before you take your braids out. How do you know it's set? Simple: your braids will be100% dry. You can test them by squeezing gently at different points along the braid to feel if any styler or moisture escapes. If nothing does, you're ready. Take them out before then and you interrupt the pattern you were trying to imprint onto your hair, making your braidout a wasted effort.
Think of it this way: removing braids while hair is still wet is akin to removing rollers when your hair is still wet. If you would never even think of doing that to your rollerset, then remember your braids are your rollers when you're doing a braidout. Taking them out early just leaves you with an unsatisfying mix of your natural pattern, a lot of frizz and a half-done set.
In a rush? You can sit under a hood dryer on a medium setting for 30 minutes or so, or hold a blowdryer on low temperature at least 6 inches away from your hair, moving it constantly around the head to dry as fast as possible, without overexposing any one section to heat.
Using too little styler or not distributing it well
The styler is what you are depending on to hold your braidout in place. If it only gets to the surface of your hair, or you apply less than your strands need to stay in place, your braidout will fall apart in your hands before you even finish taking the braids down. Avoid this scenario by brushing, combing or fingercombing the product thoroughly into each section right before braiding, to make sure every strand is sufficiently covered.
Not cleansing and deep conditioning before a braidout
You might think these steps matter for little. You would be very wrong.
Cleansing your hair properly leaves a clean surface to work with, free of oil, product debris and dirt – all of which can interfere with how the hair sets and interact with stylers. If you use a lot of products, then you'll need to use shampoo. If your product use is minimal, consisting of only water soluble ingredients, a co-wash should suffice.
And then there's conditioning. Deep conditioned hair lends itself better to sets because when hair is well-moisturised and lubricated it becomes more pliable, readily transforming into the different shapes and patterns imprinted by a set. On top of that, well-hydrated hair naturally has more curl definition, so a good round of deep conditioning will add spring and pop to both your braidout and the natural curls beneath them.
If you have resistant hair that doesn't set easily or curls that are hard to define, then ensuring you use a good cleanser and an excellent deep conditioner are the first steps you should take in improving your braidouts. You have to get the foundation right or your style will be going nowhere fast.
The Braidout Bonus
By the way, all the info above applies equally well to twistouts. When you're doing these highly similar natural sets, remember that the best thing about braidouts and twistouts is that you get to use your own hair to set your hair. No tools required! This makes the style versatile and able to suit all hair types – as long as you adapt your technique to suit your own hair.
Eliminate the errors above, make whatever individual tweaks you find necessary to suit your hair's uniqueness, and you'll have your own super-original version of the enviable braidouts you've seen on other people's hair. Happy braiding!
Dionysius Burton | Reway 2007 |Marissa Elkind | NegFoto | Remy The Quill
DHA Hair Care Experts