FAQs about hair braiding

What is the difference between hair braiding and hair wrapping?
Can you braid your hair yourself?
Will a hair braid damage my hair?
Does braiding hurt?
What do I need to know about braid care?
How do I remove a braid?
Why is there dead hair in my braid?

What is the difference between hair braiding and hair wrapping?

Nothing - they are different names for the same thing and we use both terms on this website. However hair braiding can also mean cornrows and similar tightly plaited hair styles, as well as other ways of weaving hair such as French plaits, twists, rope braids and Dutch plaits.

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Can you braid your hair yourself?

I don't think so. It would be really difficult to see what you were doing and to make a good braid. I can't say for definite that it's impossible - I'm sure someone might have managed it, but I would strongly recommend finding a friend to do yours in return for you doing theirs! If nothing else it's much more fun to learn together.

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Will a hair braid damage my hair?

Many people have heard of the damage that can be caused to hair by cornrows and similar styles which pull tightly on the hair roots and can cause hair to fall out.

A wrapped hair braid should not cause this type of damage, as long as the person making the braid is not pulling too hard while they make it. There is no need to pull hard to make a good braid. If you think you are pulling a lot when you learn to braid, try practising on a removable braid tied to a chair with only a thin piece of thread that will snap if you pull hard. Or borrow a hair dresser's training head and sit it on a table without using the clamp. Every time you pull it will fall over!

If you plan to braid someone's whole head, especially with heavy wools, try out a few braids first and make sure they are not too uncomfortable. Braiding hair low on the neck where the hairs may be sparse and further apart can tend to pull more, and some people may develop the appearance of a slight rash where individual hairs are pulling.

A few people may react to the lanolin present in wool, or even to the dyes or other substances in threads.

If a hair braid is accidentally caught in something, it can be rather painfully pulled out, roots and all. If you are worried about the danger of this happening, you may not want to put beads on the end of the braid. Using only small knots further reduces the chance of catching the end of the braid in anything.

Don't let all this put you off making hair braids! With a bit of common sense and care, braiding is safe and fun.

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Does braiding hurt?

Carefully done, hair braiding shouldn't hurt. However when you are learning you will probably worry about pulling or hurting, and you may prefer to practise on removable braids first.

Apart from pulling (see the section above) there are a couple of other reasons why a braid might be uncomfortable.

Be careful when you make the initial plait that you don't plait close to the scalp like a cornrow. This can make the braid pull and be very uncomfortable if it is moved around, until a few days hair growth has relaxed it. Also don't push your first thread turns tight up to the scalp - this can make the braid stand out at a funny angle and pull.

The other reason a braid may hurt while it is being made is if you are twisting it. This can pull a lot on just a few hairs and is very uncomfortable.

Many people find a new braid mildly uncomfortable for the first day of so, or until it is first washed. Even one or two days of hair growth can make a big difference, and the braid will be much softer after it is washed.

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What do I need to know about braid care?

Braids are easy to care for. As long as the threads used are washable you can wash your hair as normal. You may need to avoid using a hot hair dryer directly on the braid if the threads are synthetic (they could melt) or wool (lightly to shrink). Cotton threads are no problem.

Avoid playing with your braid a lot as this can damage it.

Be careful if you tie or clip your braid back. Pulling it out of hair bands or clips will cause damage.

Lift your braid out of the way when you brush or comb your hair.

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How do I remove a braid?

Most braids can be unwound without cutting the hair. It's easier to get someone to help you remove your braid than to do it yourself.

If the braid has a large knot at the end, cut just above it. Then unwind the threads. As you unwind, keep cutting the threads short. Some people find it easier to unwind braids while the hair is wet.

If the braid is hard to unwind, this may be because hairs have been wound around the braid with the threads. Or if you have very fine, curly hair the hair can become caught around the braid over time and make it difficult to unwind.

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Why is there dead hair in my braid?

You lose dead hairs all the time, and these hairs naturally fall out or collect in your hairbrush.

If you keep a braid in for a few weeks or months, the hairs that would have fallen out during that time stay trapped in the braid as they have nowhere else to go. When you unwind the braid, you may notice these hairs and need to comb then out. They can form a little knotted 'dreadlock' just above the braid after a few months.

These hairs have not died because of the braid.

After many months, the number of hairs left attached in the braid become fewer and fewer. (New hairs growing can't get into the braid to replace the ones that have fallen out!) This increases the chance of the braid eventually falling out because too few hairs are left attached to support it.

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