Practice and prep are key when it comes to getting the best possible results with hair braiding. Braids of every description take time and effort to create, so taking good care pre- and post-salon session is a must. To get the low-down on the best possible finish for your braids, Vogue speaks to celebrity hairstylist Vernon François who reveals his insider tips.
Vogue’s guide to hair braiding and post-braid care
Prep the hair
“The reason for having your hair braided is mostly to give it a rest, or if you’re travelling or on holiday and won’t be paying much attention to the health of your hair,” explains François. “I advise having a treatment beforehand, preferably a protein mask, and to use a hydrating spray every day once you have your braids in to nurture the scalp, lock in moisture and prevent breakage.”
Best products to nourish hair pre-braid
The traditional favourite when it comes to nourishing oil has been coconut oil, but there are plenty of others on the market now that will deeply hydrate and smooth hair down, including argan and camellia oil. François’s own Scalp Nourish-ment Braids and Locs Spray is lightweight and hydrating. “Spray onto the roots and mid-lengths of your braids or locs for a beautiful and comfortable finish.”
The best tools for hair braiding
Your best friend is the narrow-tooth comb with a slimline handle. This will smooth down the hair, keep static at bay and the handle acts as a useful separator for the sections of hair. “Use the tail end to help place sections of hair into accurate position for up-dos and to section,” explains François. “Depending on the texture, I will sometimes do a light blowout and braid with mousse or edge cream for hold or a wet look.”
Post-braid setting treatment will add that extra shine and also give your final look more staying power. “Braids should not be in any longer than four to six weeks max. It’s important to give your hair a rest. If you keep your braids in for longer, the weight from the extensions can often lead to long-term damage like breakage or hair loss. Using a silk or satin head scarf or pillowcase can really help with locking in moisture, retaining strength and even boosting shine.” explains François.
What about product once hair is braided?
Choose the right shampoo to keep your hair and scalp clean once they’re in braids. “If you feel the need to wash your hair, using a co-wash is your best bet. They often tend to be quite light, so will get underneath to the scalp and deeply moisturise too. It’s important to be mindful that you should rinse thoroughly after applying your co-wash, which is a combination of shampoo and conditioner together. It means less harshness on your kinks, coils and curls,” explains Francois.
Scroll ahead for some braided hairstyle inspiration:
Serena Williams with braids
Lupita Nyong’o with braided hair