WHAT IS A BRAID?
By Michelle BeaA braid (or plait) describes a flat, three-stranded structure that forms a pattern by interlacing one or more strands of material such as hair, wire or textile fibers. The braid is normally long and narrow, with each strand functionally equivalent in zigzagging through the overlapping mass of the other strands.
Braiding has been around for thousands of years and may be used in a variety of ways. African tribes braided hair as a sign of cultural significance, fashion, tribal identity and cultural beliefs. A variety of braiding patterns in hairstyles indicated a person's community, age, wealth, marital status, social position, religion and power. The Zulu and Massai are among the primary tribes that used braiding as a form of expression.
Cornrows (or canerows) were often favored due to their easy maintenance. Cornrows are created when the hair is braided very close to the scalp, using an underhand, upward motion to establish a continuous, raised row. They are most commonly produced in straight lines beginning at the hairline moving toward the nape area. However, they can also be formed in very distinct curvilinear or geometric designs.
Depictions of women with cornrows have been found in paintings that have been dated back as far as 3000 B.C. This tradition of styling currently remains popular throughout Africa.
Cornrowing (and hair braiding) made a stylish comeback over the years and has been the foundation of many popular hair extension techniques. Braiding is a skill that has multiple uses and will never use its value.
Today, wearing hair extensions is more popular than ever and braiding and cornrowing hair will create the basic foundation for a variety of hair styles.
• Braids create the foundation for attaching wefts, wigs and hair additions, and latch hook/crochet hair.
• Braids are great for preventive styles where a person seeks to retain hair moisture and prevent shedding while growing out the natural hair.
• Braids are also an excellent form of expression.
THE BENEFITS OF BRAIDING
Keeping your hair braided can provide many benefits. Not only is it a convenient hairstyle, but it serves as a protective style that will help your natural hair grow faster. Braids will help lock the moisture into your hair and prevent excessive split ends my shielding your hair from heat damage, dryness and over styling.
Many people find that braiding the hair at night is the best hairstyle to wear while sleeping because it reduces the damage-causing friction that is produced by rubbing against the bed sheets and pillow fibers.
Of course, you must properly maintain your braids in order to reap the full benefits of wearing braids. Always remember to do the following:
• Detangle your hair beginning from roots to scalp. Always use a wide-tooth comb.
• Deep condition and moisturize your hair before braiding.
• Avoid braids that are too tight, especially around the temples. Braids that are pulled tightly will lead to traction alopecia.
• Keep your hair moisturized with leave-in conditioner or Braid Sheen. Do not allow your braids to get dry and brittle.
• Wear a silk cap while sleeping. This will help your braids last longer and keep them moisturized.
• Wash and condition your braids every other week. Keep them clean and free from oil buildup and perspiration.
• Experiment by wearing your hair in different styles. Do not consistently wear your hair up in the same style. This can also cause much traction and even breakage.
• Do not wear braids excessive periods of time. It is not recommended to wear braids longer than 1-2 months at a time.
WHERE CAN YOU LEARN HOW TO BRAID?
In most families, it is a custom to teach the child to braid when they are a very young age. It is passed down from generation to generation as a custom.
Braiding is traditionally a social art. Because of the time it takes to braid hair, people take time to socialize while braiding and having their hair done. Children watch and learn from the adults, start practicing on younger children or doll heads and eventually learn the traditional skill.
There are many ways to learn how to braid. The quickest and most cost-effective way is to ask one of your friends or family members to teach you. You will be amazed to learn that many of them know this skill.
If you are unable to learn from family and friends, there are a wide variety of instructional videos on the internet that will give you access to this skill at no cost. Additionally, you may choose to purchase an instructional DVD or even take a class to learn how to braid.