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NewsAfrican braids: pros and cons of using them

African braids: pros and cons of using them

African braids are a really cool and unique hairstyle where you weave your hair into fancy patterns that are close to your scalp. The hair braiding technique has a really long history that comes from African culture. It’s become super popular all around the world because it’s really pretty and has a lot of cultural meaning.

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What are African braids?  

African braids

African braids, which are also called cornrows, canerows, or box braids, are a type of hairstyle that has been passed down through generations. This hairstyle involves braiding the hair tightly against the scalp in straight rows or fancy designs. The braids can be either thin or thick, and they can be made using either natural hair or by adding hair extensions to make them longer and fuller. African braids have different styles like cornrows, microbraids, box braids, Senegalese twists, and more. These styles show how creative and skilled the person doing the braiding is. 

Historical significance and cultural roots of African braids  

The cultural significance of African braids goes back many hundreds of years. In many African cultures, braiding hair is a deeply rooted and culturally significant tradition that has been passed down through the years. Not only did people use braiding techniques to produce stunning hairstyles, but they also did it as a manner of expressing themselves culturally, identifying with a group, and even communicating with one another. 

People’s haircuts were utilized to convey information about their age, marital status, religion, wealth, and social rank in many African communities. A person’s ethnicity or tribe might be represented in this way as well, providing a useful means of social differentiation. Family and friends would teach one another new braiding skills, fostering a sense of community and pride in one’s history. 

 Why are African braids popular worldwide?  

African braids have become really popular all around the world for many different reasons. 

  1. Unique Beauty: African braids have a really cool and fancy look that’s different from regular hairstyles. The way these patterns are made is really impressive and attractive to people from various cultures.
  2. Versatility: African braiding has many different styles to pick from, so it’s a good choice for people with different hair types and lengths. Moreover, hair extensions are a great way for people with shorter hair to have longer braided hairstyles.
  3. Long-Lasting Style: African braids are great because they can last a long time and require very little effort to maintain. This makes them a good choice for people who are always on the go.
  4. Cultural Appreciation: In today’s globalized world, people from various backgrounds are becoming more interested in learning about and valuing different cultures. African braids are now seen as a symbol of cultural pride and are liked by people from different ethnic backgrounds as a way to honor African heritage.
  5. Influential Celebrities and Media: The popularity of African braids has increased a lot because of famous celebrities and the media. Celebrities and influencers frequently show off these braided hairstyles at fancy events, in music videos, movies, and TV shows, which have a big impact on fashion trends all around the world. 

Different types of African braids 

  1. Box Braids: Box braids are a type of braids where the hair is divided into small square sections and braided individually. First, you need to divide the hair into sections. Then, take three strands of hair and braid them together. If you want to add hair extensions, you can incorporate them into the braids. Box braids can come in different sizes, like thin or thick, and they can be styled in different lengths, ranging from short to really long. 
  2. Cornrows:  These are a type of hairstyle where the hair is braided tightly and close to the scalp in straight lines. The term “cornrows” got its name because the rows of braids resemble the rows of corn in a field. Cornrows can be worn in either simple straight lines or in more complex and fancy designs. 
  3. Senegalese twists: These are twists made by twisting hair extensions with natural hair. The twists are usually better and smoother than regular box braids and are often put in using Kanekalon or Marley hair to make them look more natural.
  4. Microbraids: Are really small braids that are woven really close to the scalp. They are thin and intricate. Installing these braids can take a lot of time because they are quite big and need to be done with great care and skill. 
  5. Fulani braids: These are a type of hairstyle that takes inspiration from the Fulani ethnic group in West Africa. Usually, these hairstyles are made up of cornrows or braids that have a middle part. Sometimes, they are decorated with things like beads, cowrie shells, or hair rings. 

Techniques and processes involved in creating African braids 

  1. Sectioning: To make the braids, the hair is separated into smaller parts. This helps to create a base for the braids. The sections’ size and shape are determined by the braid style you choose.
  2. Plaiting: This is when you take a section of hair and divide it into three equal parts. Then, you cross these parts over each other again and again until the braid is as long as you want it to be.
  3. Adding Extensions: To make braids longer or thicker, you can add hair extensions to each section before you start braiding. This process is about combining the extensions with the natural hair to make them look like one.
  4. Tension and Grip: It’s super important to keep the tension consistent when you’re braiding so that your braids turn out nice and even. Braiders use their fingers to hold the hair tightly when making the braids. 
  5. Finishing: After you finish braiding, you can use bands or different techniques like burning or dipping in hot water to secure the ends. 

Advantages of African Braids 

Low Maintenance 

The daily maintenance required for unbraided hair is greatly diminished by the use of African braids. Braided hair requires much less care than loose hair, which must be washed, conditioned, and styled on a regular basis. People can have more fun and less hassle with their daily lives. The time savings it provides is an added bonus. Braided hairstyles are popular because they need minimal upkeep, freeing up more time for people to devote to other pursuits. 

Versatility in Styling 

African braids can be worn in a variety of ways. Braids are versatile and may be worn in a variety of ways, from simple and elegant for work to complex and inventive for parties. It’s a blank slate you may use to express yourself in many different ways. Beads, ribbons, hair bands, and other accessories can be added to braids to give them a personal touch. 

Protection for Natural Hair 

As a form of hair protection, African braids keep your natural hair from being damaged by the elements (such the sun, wind, and pollution). This shielding can aid in preserving the hair’s health and preventing damage. When hair is carefully braided and tucked away, it is protected against breakage and split ends because of the lack of friction and manipulation. Because of this, hair can flourish and maintain its strength. Additionally, because they cover and protect the ends of the hair, African braids aid in the preservation of length. Individuals can get longer, healthier hair by taking care of their hair and avoiding damage. 

Longevity and Durability 

Depending on the individual’s hair type and how well they care for the braids, a well-plait set of African braids can last for weeks or even months. The use of high-quality hair extensions and the braiding technique let the style last for a long time. Protecting braids when sleeping with a satin or silk scarf or pillowcase might help them last longer. Braids can be kept looking good and lasting longer if they are not pulled or manipulated too much. 

Potential Drawbacks of African Braids 

Initial Discomfort and Tension 

Those who are not used to wearing their hair in tight fashions may experience some discomfort throughout the process of creating African braids. The first few days after getting braids inserted can be a little rough for some people. The scalp may need some time to get used to the added tension of braids. It’s possible that wearing braids will feel strange at first, but after some time the scalp will adjust. 

Allergic Reactions and Sensitivity 

Certain types of human hair extensions and synthetic fibers like Kanekalon have been linked to allergy reactions in certain users. The scalp may become itchy, red, or irritated as a result of an allergic reaction. Braids can be uncomfortable for those whose scalps are especially sensitive, either because of their tightness or because of the materials used to style them. Before getting braids installed, it’s important for customers to discuss any sensitivity or allergy concerns with the braider. 

 Time and Cost Investment 

Depending on the complexity and length of the braids, a full day may be spent plaiting African braids. Those with few free hours or low tolerance for boredom may want to look elsewhere. Due to the technical expertise and time commitment involved, having African braids professionally done can be quite costly. Labor, hair extension quality, and additional style and/or customisation options may all go into the final price. 

Potential Damage to Hair 

Traction alopecia is hair loss due to chronic stress on the hair follicles, such as that generated by tight braiding. Stress on the hair and scalp from braids, especially if they are overly tight or kept in for too long, can cause hair to break or thin. Hair damage can occur during the application or removal of braids if done incorrectly. Damage and breakage to the hair might occur if the braids are not removed gently. 

Conclusion 

In conclusion, it’s important to celebrate the beauty and cultural significance of African braids. These hairstyles have transcended borders and continue to be admired and embraced worldwide. They not only showcase the creativity and skill of braiders but also symbolize cultural pride and heritage for many communities. By understanding both the advantages and drawbacks of these hairstyles, individuals can make informed decisions, allowing them to embrace the beauty of African braids while also taking the necessary steps to care for their hair and overall well-being. 

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