Hair-Care Tips

3 Stylist-Approved Tips for Prepping Your Hair for Better, Longer-Lasting Braids

Photo: Getty Images / Dianne Avery Photography
When you're getting your hair braided, all salons require you to show up with your hair prepped and ready to go. That can mean blown out or detangled into a few two-strand twists, but no matter what style you choose, one thing remains constant: You need to come in with freshly washed hair and a clean scalp that's free of oils, buildup, and dry patches. Illeisha Lussiano, founder of The Way, a salon on New York City's Lower East Side, says this allows you to get the most out of your style.

"If you're coming in to get a braiding service, that's obviously an investment... so we just ask people to arrive as prepped as possible," says Lussiano. "Anything they neglect to do at home... all that does is take away from their scheduled appointment time. If you're scheduled for a six-hour appointment, and you're not prepared on arrival, and it takes us an hour to prep, well, now we only have five hours' worth of time to do the braids, and it will affect the size."

Proper prep will not only cut down on your appointment time, but it will also keep your braids looking better for longer. So before your next styling session, be sure to follow the steps below.

1. Lather, rinse, repeat

"By coming in with a clean scalp, it's going to extend the duration of time that you're going to be able to have your braids in and looking good, because it's going to take longer for your hair to develop buildup or have any flaking," says Lussiano.

Getting this clean scalp isn't rocket science, but it may take more effort than you'd expect because textured hair products can be challenging to remove completely. "People may think their scalp is clean, but upon arrival, maybe they'll learn otherwise," she says. "You might be like, 'I spent an hour cleaning my hair, and it is spotless.' And I might get in there and like, 'Well, you missed this, you missed this, you missed this, and you actually have two dry spots right here and this knot—because you can only see the front of your head."

With that in mind, you'll want to take extra steps to cleanse your scalp thoroughly.  "I suggest people do two shampoos—like for real," says Lussiano. Make sure you're using a legit shampoo—not a co-wash—to do this. It can also be helpful to use deep-cleaning products like The Mane Choice H2Oh! Scalp Toning Micellar Water ($11) or the Verb Ghost Exfoliating Scalp Serum ($20) to help remove buildup and dry flakes before your lather-rinse-repeat.

2. Condition your mid-lengths and ends

After you shampoo your scalp and strands, there's no need to get fancy—a regular, moisturizing conditioner should do the trick. "Deep treatments and scalp scrubs are wonderful, but if it's not something you feel 100 percent comfortable doing, don't do it," says Lussiano. "If it's not washed out fully or anything like that, it's not going to work in your favor. It's going to work against you."

Once you're out of the shower, don't add any other product unless you're blowing out your hair. In that case, you can use a heat protectant but nothing else. "If you arrive and you've put in and leave-in conditioner or an oil, that can affect the product that's being used to create the style," says Lussiano.

3. Detangle and section your hair

It's also helpful to detangle and section your strands before your styling session, so Lussiano often asks her clients to come in with their hair in four two-strand twists. Of course, she says, "we understand that some people are coming in from the office or they're coming from places that maybe don't permit that, so we get it. But overall, we're not trying to create this 12-hour experience for people."

If you're able to twist your hair ahead of your appointment, start by sectioning your hair into horizontal sections at the nape of your neck. Then, part a small quarter-inch section and divide that into two subsections. "Start twisting each subsection between your thumb and pointer finger, then twist the two pieces of hair together," wrapping one piece around the other until you reach the end," says Jamal Edmonds, a celebrity stylist and Mizani Artist based in Washington DC. "Continue each section and then move up to the top of the head in creating a brick layering effect."

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