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How to Safely Braid Hair

By: Jody Ehrhardt - Updated: 30 Mar 2013 | comments*Discuss
Braided Hairstyles French Braids

Braided hairstyles, such as pony-tail braids or French braids, can be a great option for keeping hair styled, tangle-free, and out of the way. However, if the braiding technique is not performed properly this carefree style can actually cause unwanted damage to your hair and scalp.

The Hazards of Hair Braiding

Since hair braiding requires the weaving of hair strands or segments together to create a hairstyle there are a few mistakes that can be made that could damage your hair. For example, if you braid the hair segments too tightly together the style could put unwanted pressure on the hair follicles and inadvertently pull individual hair strands out of the scalp. Repeated styling with very tights braids could lead to premature hair loss and balding patches on the scalp.

The same is true if you braid your hair off centre or if your hair is very long and thick and the resulting braid is very heavy. An off centre braid will cause excess pulling on one side of the scalp and result in unwanted stress on the hairline in that area. Heavy braids put too much pressure on the hair roots and can cause hair strand breakage or premature hair loss.

Finally, small, tight braids that require intricate twisting of the hair strands can lead to breakage. The excess stress on certain areas of the hair strand can wear down the strand's resistance and cause the hair to snap in half.

Tips for Safe Hair Braiding

Luckily you do not have to forgo the convenience of hair braids in order to keep your hair healthy. By following a few simple rules you can braid your hair as often as you like and still avoid unwanted hair strand damage.
  • Never braid wet hair. Hair is less manageable and more easily tangled when it is wet. The increased tugging and manipulation required to braid wet hair can result in excess strand breakage and removal at the root.
  • Avoid tight braid hairstyles. The best braiding styles for healthy hair include those that are loose, those that use larger sections of hair, and those that begin at the centre of the scalp.
  • Never hold your style in place with a tight rubber band. Always finish off the braid with a soft, cloth-covered elastic band or ribbon. Tight bands can cause breakage at the end of hair strands and weaken the hair follicle.
  • Never let a heavy braid hang loose. If your hair is very long or very thick you can still enjoy the look of braid as long as you secure the end of the braid to your scalp. By pulling the braid up to the hairline you can relieve the stress on the scalp and hair roots and avoid hair fallout and strand breakage.

The Proper Technique for Braiding Your Hair

One you know the do's and don'ts of safe hair braiding you also need to make sure that you are braiding your hair correctly. Hair braiding is a complex task that requires patience and practice, however, once you master the technique you can enjoy a fast, easy hairstyle that looks great and keeps your hair in line.

To begin a simple braid you will need to separate your hair into three equally sized segments. Then, with your left hand grasp the section of your hair by your left ear in a closed, thumb pointed down fist. Do the same thing with your right hand on the right side. Leave the middle section of hair, the segment at the base of your skull, hanging loose for now.

Next, using your left index finger, hook the hair from the right hand and pull the segment over the middle section making sure to keep the two sections separated in your left hand. Now, with your right hand, grasp the middle segment of hair and pull it to the right side of your head.

Next, using your right hand, pull the left segment of hair from your left hand (the only hair remaining in your left hand should be the original right segment) and hold without mixing the two segments. Now, using your left hand, pull the middle section to the left and hold.

Next, use your right hand to pull the original right hair section back the right side. Continue weaving the hair strands from side to side in the original order (right section, left section, middle section) until you reach the end of your hair. Secure with a soft tie or band.

Once you have mastered the simple braiding technique you can move on to other, more complicated styles.

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