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Truth About Braids

 I remember as a child all the little girls in the neighborhood wore braids. I also remember they were easy to take care of and fashionable. Sure they were time-consuming to have done, but a time-saver in the morning because you didn’t have to do anything to them to get ready. Now that I have learned more about the health of my hair, it worries me to see the extremes we put our hair through for a particular style.

I often wonder why so many people are wearing braids. It’s not just a cute style for little girls anymore. Now it’s women, boys, and men too. Is it because of convenience, laziness, health issues, or hair issues?

I can understand braiding your hair if you are resting the hair shaft from every day wear and tear or chemical usage. However, once the hair is combined with yaky, facky, or tacky (synthetic hair) your hair is going to suffocate. The weight of one synthetic hair is 5 times the weight of an average human hair strand. In addition, the human hair strand has very little cuticle strength due to the harsh relaxer process. This additional weight on the hair strand puts too much pressure on the hair follicle. Synthetic hair does not twist or bend like curly hair does. This causes the hair to break or to be completely pulled out of the follicle. This is why many women have a balding hairline. Braiding, natural or even processed hair alone without added synthetic hair is not harmful but healthy for the scalp and hair. The only exception to this is when the hair is braided too tight for too long, which can result in hair loss due to traction alopecia.

Traction alopecia occurs when the constant weight on the root (either by braiding too tight or using synthetic hair) inhibits the hair’s natural turning process as it grows out of the follicle womb. When hair is not allowed to naturally turn and twist from the root, it causes stress, rupturing the bulb and creating muscle weakness.

Damage to scalp resulting from braids

Damage to scalp resulting from braids

During the 60’s and 70’s, Black Americans wore braids and experienced a rapid growth rate and healthy hair and scalp. Black men including sports figures and celebrities find it masculine and a statement of Black culture to braid their hair. Once it is cleansed and re-braided the hair is longer and healthy. However, box braids and extensions with synthetic hair braided into the natural fiber or relaxed hair doesn’t allow the cuticle to breath or twist. Once unbraided, the hairs that would normally fall out will and should, but hairs in their resting phase (telogen) binding tightly over a period of two to three months, dehydrates and sheds prematurely.

This leads me to a curious question. Why do we talk our daughters into this practice and not boys? Boys are allowed the opportunity to have the natural process of braiding and natural hair growth. The boy’s hair growth surpasses the girls hair growth to Kanekalon (plastic) or foreign synthetic hair that does not promote hair growth. Oxygen needs to get to the cuticle and the follicles need the weight to normalize for healthy hair growth. The synthetic hair prohibits oxygen from entering the cuticle.

Give your hair a healthy break by trying to braid without synthetics.

Photo courtesy of Buzzle.com

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