Every time I get some braids, you basically can't tell me nothin'. Then when you take the cute factor up a couple of notches due to how convenient braids are, sometimes I have to literally talk myself into taking a break from 'em (like now). Anyway, while I'm not sure if I'm going to get my signature box braids in for the summer that is only a few weeks away (can you believe it?!), I definitely know that if I do happen to book an appointment, I'm going to do all of the things that trial and error have taught me is an absolute must.
A wise person once said that she who learns, teaches. Keeping that in mind, if you're seriously considering getting some braids soon, please take a moment to run through this 10-point checklist. That way, you can be confident that your hair will turn out just the way you want it to—and that your natural hair will be good and protected in the process as well.
1. Find Someone on Referral (or Meet with Your Potential Braider First)
I can't think of one time when I didn't go to get my braids done based on either a referral from a friend or by doing a thorough amount of research beforehand. When I got them as a teen, I only went to one person. When I got them a couple of years ago (and wore them for a few "rounds"), I not only read the online reviews of that particular salon, I also met up with my braider before booking an appointment. Listen, you're going to be spending too much money, sitting in that chair for far too long to be out here wingin' it. You need to go to someone you trust, so that you can get the best results. The extra time it takes to look into who is qualified is definitely well worth it.
2. Discuss the Types of Hair That Are Available
A huge mistake that a lot of women make when it comes to getting their hair braided is believing that all hair is the same. IT. IS. NOT. I remember once getting my hair braided by a dope braider yet the quality of hair was on the cheaper and itchy side (which is oftentimes the case when synthetic hair is packaged poorly and/or it's coated with a base that can trigger an allergic reaction). That's why it's also a good idea to ask your braider what kind of hair they have available and what would be the best kind for the style you want to have. Sometimes they may have the right hair on tap. Sometimes they may not.
For instance, the last set of box braids I got, I wanted a really natural ombre look, so I ordered some ombre-colored braiding hair online myself. It was one of the best decisions I ever made because the hair was good quality, felt really light on my head and the color ended up looking fabulous once the braids were in. I also got to knock some of the price off of my braiding appointment since, most times, the hair is factored into the prices. That made it a win, all the way around.
So yeah, don't just hop in a braider's chair without knowing what kind of hair they'll be working with. It matters just as much as the price, style and how long they presume everything will take.
3. Be Open to Getting More than Just One Style
Not all braided styles are created equal. That said, if you've got a good braider, while it is their job to make sure that you're happy as a customer, they should also offer up a few options that could be more complementary and/or take less time and/or could last longer than what you initially have in mind. Shoot, there have been several times when I thought I wanted something like Janet Jackson's hair inPoetic Justice, only to walk out with smaller braids in a lob (long bob) and I had absolutely no regrets.
I've also had moments when I thought I was married to jet black (my favorite color) braids and yet wound up with some random white and brown braids throughout my look and adored every minute of my reflection. Sometimes, the style we're after isn't the best when it comes to our face structure. Or, it's going to end up being heavier and hotter than we thought. Or, we just aren't aware of how many different braided styles actually exist. That's why going into a braids appointment with a couple of looks and also an open mind can never ever hurt. I can certainly testify to that.
4. Understand the Required Maintenance Beforehand
There are a couple of people in my world whose braids end up looking crazy about three weeks in while mine don't really need a retouch until week seven or so. The difference? They seem to think that braids require no type of maintenance at all and chile, that couldn't be further from the truth. Braid sprays can help your hair to retain moisture. Hot oil treatments can soothe and nourish your scalp. I don't know why folks think that they don't need a silk or satin scarf or bonnet to wrap their hair up at night (it reduces frays and frizz). High ponytails and top knots can put too much tension on the middle of your head and lead to breakage.
Wash days are still required (kinda; more on that in a sec). You definitely need to care for your nape and edges (more on that in a sec too). And, if you know that you're going to experience a good amount of regrowth, getting your edges tightened (which basically means getting the front and sides of your hair re-braided) is something that you need to schedule in too. While all of what I said may not hold a light to what you currently do, my point is you shouldn't overlook that braided hair still requires a regimen. Just something else to keep in mind.
5. Exfoliate Your Scalp
OK, now the prepping for the braiding itself. Remember how I said that sometimes the kind of hair that you use can lead to itching? It can cause a lot of irritation too. That's because our scalp is used to natural strands not synthetic fibers. Oftentimes, our scalp is already not in the best shape on braid day, so maybe 2-3 days before your braid appointment, consider prepping your scalp by exfoliating it. That can help to detox it and also remove any flakes.
Some people do detox their scalp by giving their scalp a massage with a bit of a warm carrier oil (such as jojoba, avocado or, my personal favorite, grapeseed which is great at treating dandruff) with a few drops of lavender (it cleanses the scalp) or peppermint (it invigorates the scalp) essential oil.
Others opt for making their own scalp scrub out of ingredients like brown sugar, sea salt or even lemon juice. If you'd prefer to go the second route, there are some easy recipes that you can try here.
Speaking of scalp irritation, another tip to keep in mind is to keep your scalp nourished once your braids are in. Sweet almond oil is great when it comes to providing moisture. Chamomile is wonderful if you want an oil that will soothe your scalp. Just get a bottle that has a nozzle for its top (that makes it easier to apply the oil in between your braids) and commit to oiling your scalp, eh, every couple of days or so. A soothed scalp means your braids can remain in longer without you being bothered by them.
6. Deep Condition Your Hair
Braids are definitely considered to be a protective style. The main reason why is because, two of the main benefits of getting them is 1) you literally don't have to do anything to your hair for 4-8 weeks and 2) your natural hair can get a break from constant styling and manipulation. However, there's no point in getting braids if, when you take them out, your own hair is a hot ass mess because it's dry and brittle due to lack of proper pre-hair care. That said, your natural hair needs as much moisture as possible before it's covered up in synthetic strands. That's why it's so important to deep condition your tresses, 1-3 days before braid day.
It will hydrate your hair. It will make it soft and manageable. It can also make it easier to either find fairy knots or prevent them. I've shared before that I like to deep condition my hair by mixing some regular old conditioner (pretty much any braid will do) and then adding some Chebe powder and sometimes some Jamaican black castor oil. After shampooing my hair, I'll apply the mixture and leave it all on for at least a couple of hours. My hair feels so amazing, every time I do it (which is every wash day). If you'd prefer to take another approach, check out "8 Hair Masks & Deep Conditioners That Revitalize Dry, Damaged Hair" and "5 Deep Conditioners Your Curls Deserve". You should be able to find a conditioner that you like there.
7. Prepare to “Baby” Those Edges
I know someone who was so used to wearing braids that she no longer has any edges left. Y'all, if constantly pulling, tugging and even brushing and combing your hair can weaken your edges, just think about the weight of what braids can do over time. This is why your braider shouldn't braid your hair so tightly that you basically look like you got a free facelift. As far as the kinds of styles that can take some of the pressure off, feed-in braids or halo braids are ones that can do it. Whatever look you decide to go with, definitely keep the updos to a bare minimum.
Oh, and the baby hairs that so many of us still try and make happen? Please don't make that a daily occurrence and, when you do go with an edge control, make sure it has no alcohol in it (alcohol can dry out your hair and lead to breakage). One more thing, "feed your edges' follicles" by applying some olive, coconut or that Jamaican black castor oil that I already mentioned. Since your edges will still be (somewhat) showing, they need to be "babied" a little more than the rest of your hair does; especially while your braids are in.
8. Understand What Your Wash Day Requires
Wash day is interesting when you've got braids. The reason why I say that is because some people prefer to shampoo their hair, pretty much like normal while their braids are in while others would actually like to cleanse their scalp only (so that their braids can remain as intact as possible). Me?
Usually, I just keep my scalp clean by either parting my scalp and cleansing it with something like Sea Breeze astringent or Cantu's Apple Cider Vinegar Root Rinse (I really like it because it has a nozzle that makes it easy to apply to the scalp). If your braids are only going to stay in for about a month or so (and you don't typically experience a lot of flaking when it comes to your scalp), focusing on your scalp only can reduce the chances of your braids frizzing up.
Oh, and if you're thinking that dry shampoo can do the trick, please avoid that at all costs. It will definitely have your braids looking dusty and could irritate your scalp as well. If you do decide to all out wash your braids, it's probably easiest to do it in the shower. Be sure to go with a mild shampoo (preferably one that is sulfate-free because you still need to protect your natural hair and sulfates can dry it out). Put your shampoo into an applicator bottle (that's one that has a nozzle attached) and apply the shampoo directly to your scalp.
While you are washing, use your fingertips on your scalp and DO NOT rub your braids together. Let the shampoo naturally flow down to your braids, let it sit for a couple of minutes and then rinse your hair thoroughly. As far as conditioning goes, spraying some leave-in conditioner onto your scalp and braids is probably all that you will need to do. I won't lie to you—wash day with braids (especially if you've got a lot of 'em or your braids are long) can take several hours.
Many people just let them air dry; however, you can sit under a hooded dryer (or put on a hood attachment to a handheld dryer). Just make sure that your braids dry thoroughly because they can get mold in them (yuck, I know). Anyway, if you're more of a visual learner like I am, the YouTube channel Shanique Buntyn has a video that can walk you through the steps of how to wash your braids so that they come out looking as frizz-free as possible. You can check it out here.
9. Keep Them in No Longer than Eight Weeks Tops
Listen, I've seen plenty of videos out in cyberspace where sistahs have tried to "rig up" keeping their braids in by knotting up (literally twisting the hair or tying the roots into a knot) the new growth. Yeah, don't do that. All you're ultimately doing is asking for your hair to either lock up or for it to be pure hell for you to get everything untied when you're ready to take your braids down. While most stylists will say that six weeks really needs to be the limit for how long braids stay in, please don't push it past eight.
Otherwise, your natural hair could start to break, your scalp will probably get irritated (dabbing some peppermint oil onto your scalp with a Q-tip is a great hack for this), your hair follicles could weaken (due to the weight of the new growth combined with the weight of your braids)—it's just not a good look all the way around. Oh, and don't book your next braid appointment to be a mere couple of days after you took your braids out either. Even though braids are indeed a protective style, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing; your natural hair needs to breathe.
Two weeks off to wash, deep condition and let your hair rest are ideal.
10. Get Your Mind Right When It Comes to Taking Those Babies Out
I don't think there has been one time when, about halfway through a braiding appointment (for the size and length of the braids that I typically get, two women on my head ends up being 5-6 hours of braid time), I won't think, "Damn. I'm gonna have to take these out at some point." When your hair is relatively short, it's not that big of a deal because you can kinda cut the braids wherever you want and unravel them. Get a little length in, though, and it can definitely turn into an all-day process. SMDH.
The main things to keep in mind is 1) you need to be patient when cutting the braids so that you don't cut your own hair; 2) you need to find something fun to do to distract you (like binge-watch a television show), and 3) you definitely need to wash and super deep condition your hair once all of the braids are out. However much time you need to set aside to accomplish those three goals, that is what you need to purpose in your mind to do.
Putting braids in requires some hours. Taking them out does too. Both are worth it yet lawd, they both can get on your very last nerve. So, when it comes to getting braids (and getting rid of them), please make sure your head is—pun not intended—in the game. Happy braiding, y'all.
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Different puzzle pieces are creating bigger pictures these days. 2024 will mark a milestone on a few different levels, including the release of my third book next June (yay!).
I am also a Professional Certified Coach. My main mission for attaining that particular goal is to use my formal credentials to help people navigate through the sometimes tumultuous waters, both on and offline, when it comes to information about marriage, sex and relationships that is oftentimes misinformation (because "coach" is a word that gets thrown around a lot, oftentimes quite poorly).
I am also still super devoted to helping to bring life into this world as a doula, marriage life coaching will always be my first love (next to writing, of course), a platform that advocates for good Black men is currently in the works and my keystrokes continue to be devoted to HEALTHY over HAPPY in the areas of holistic intimacy, spiritual evolution, purpose manifestation and self-love...because maturity teaches that it's impossible to be happy all of the time when it comes to reaching goals yet healthy is a choice that can be made on a daily basis (amen?).
If you have any PERSONAL QUESTIONS (please do not contact me with any story pitches; that is an *editorial* need), feel free to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org. A sistah will certainly do what she can. ;)
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
Imma tell y’all what — it seems like not one week goes by when I don’t see some sort of so-called term that has me like, “What in the world?” For instance, when I first stumbled upon “self-partnering,” honestly, I laughed. Then shared it with some other single people as well as married folks I know. And I kid you not, every individual was like, “What the heck does that mean?” When I told them that it was yet, one more way to seemingly define single living, basically everyone’s follow-up was, “Oh, brother.”
Why can’t (more) singles just be single and be okay with that? Good Lord. Why does there need to be some sort of relational play-on-words to make it sound like we’re with someone — even if we’re not?
Now masterdating? Even though it’s not even close to being a “real” word, it’s something that also brought a laugh outta me — although it was then followed by a genuine smile. The laugh because I almost immediately caught the play-on-words. The smile was due to the intention behind it all.
If you’re not familiar with what masterdating is and you’re curious about why you should even care, take a few moments to at least skim through what it’s about and why I think participating, as a single person, is a pretty cool (and effective) concept.
Masturdate: a date w oneself
What’s Masterdating All About?
Masterdating. Okay, so let the word marinate for just a moment. What does it sound like? Yeah…exactly. And since a huge part of masturbation centers around self-pleasure, it’s cool to explore how “self-dating” could produce similar (as far as pleasure is concerned in a broader sense) results. Because masterdating is all about spending quality time with yourself, pampering yourself, treating yourself— and yes, taking yourself out on dates.
Any of you who may think that masterdating is a consolation prize — and a pitiful one at that — for not being able to go out with another human being or get that dream $200 first date that social media was all in a tizzy about last year (bookmark that) — personally, I think that you’re the demographic who needs to try out masterdating first and the most. Why? Off top, I’ll share my three good reasons.
3 Reasons To Strongly Consider Masterdating
1. It’s an intimate way to get to know yourself better. I’ve been working with couples for a pretty long time at this point and if there’s a pattern that I see arise, OFTEN, it’s that two people are oftentimes so busy trying to “find their person” that they didn’t even know who they were. As a direct result, they found themselves in a relationship with someone who only complemented the “kiddie pool version” of who they were.
That’s why it can be so beneficial to spend time getting to know yourself on the “deep end” of things: what makes you tick, what your passions are, what you want most out of life, what are your interests beyond obvious things — and masterdating can help you to discover all of this. Whether it’s traveling alone or taking out a weekend to drink some wine and journal, the more you get to know yourself, the clearer you’ll be about who complements you on a romantic and friendship level.
2. It will definitely help to boost your confidence levels. I guess since I’m an ambivert, I don’t really get why people freak out at the mere thought of going to a restaurant or movie alone. Personally, I think it requires a helluva lot more energy and gumption to wait around and plan stuff with other people (#Elmoshrug). However, whether you’re an introvert, extrovert, or ambivert, there’s no way around the fact that the more comfortable you get with doing things alone, the more your confidence levels will increase — no, soar — because of it.
One article that I read on the topic said that doing things alone can make you more creative, improve your mental health, and help you to be totally okay with being alone (so that you’re not “needy” for other people’s attention). A psychotherapist from a New York Times article on the benefits of spending time alone said, “Getting better at identifying moments when we need solitude to recharge and reflect can help us better handle negative emotions and experiences, like stress and burnout.” And when you’re able to stare negativity in its face without flinching, how could that not make you bolder, more self-secure, and hopeful about your life?
3. It will teach you to value your time more effectively. In every facet of your world, you’re gonna operate from a healthier place if you’re operating from a “full cup” rather than an empty one. When it comes to this topic, think about it — if you’re constantly waiting on someone to call you to go out or wishing for a dream date with some guy, all you’re doing is wasting precious time that you could be spending taking a cooking class or hell, hiring a chef to make you dinner at your own home.
Indeed, waiting has two sides to it: when it’s in the form of patience, it is indeed a virtue, yet when it’s wrapped up in the notion that you’re not really living life unless you have an audience…it is totally working against you. Choose wisely.
10 Solo Date Ideas To Help You To “Master” Masterdating
So, what if you’re someone who has either never considered actually masterdating before or you don’t really know what to do beyond dinner and the movies? Here are a few ideas to consider:
1. Attend a workshop or masterclass that you’re interested in. If there’s something that you’ve always wanted to learn, sign up for a workshop or masterclass. The cool thing about this option is there are probably some in your city, as well as some that you can find online (like here) that are convenient and affordable.
2. Binge-read at a local coffee shop. Aside from their coziness and oftentimes inviting scents, I once read that a lot of us gravitate to coffee shops because we can be around people without having to actually socialize with them. So, if you want to “hang out” while still being able to enjoy a bit of solitude, take a book that you’ve been trying to finish to a local coffee shop, order your favorite latte, and sit in a big-ass comfy chair. Usually, you can sit there for hours, and the staff will be just fine with it (another bonus).
3. Have a spa day in the next town. You can never go wrong with a spa day. And while going with a friend can be fun, sometimes there’s too much talking transpiring to be able to fully chill out and relax. So, go off of the grid, get a change of scenery, and hit up a spa in the next city (or town). There are lots of studies out here supporting that day trips or “daycations” can actually be really good for your long-term health and well-being.
4. See a community play. Some of the best solo dates that I’ve ever been on consisted of taking in some of the local arts in my city. What’s really cool about this particular option is, oftentimes, they are extremely inexpensive, if not totally free of charge (in exchange for making a donation or putting money into a tip jar).
5. Plan a trip. Whenever people say something along the lines of, “If you don’t expect anything, you won’t be disappointed,” I know that they low-key have some (additional) healing to do from past disappointments. There’s simply too much intel out here to support that anticipation (of good stuff) makes us more motivated and optimistic, keeps our dopamine levels up, and makes life more exciting overall.
Since traveling alone is more cost-effective, gives you the freedom to do whatever you want (when you want), and increases the possibility of meeting new people and having new experiences on your journey — why not devote a day this weekend to planning a solo trip? All the way around, it’s good for you.
6. Try your hand at your own “$200 date.” Uh-huh. Roll your eyes if you want to, but it’s real easy to talk left about how a man should be able to just drop $200 like it’s nothing…until you actually try to do it. So yes, while taking yourself out on this type of date could serve as a bit of a reality check, it can also “scratch the itch” of waiting on some dude to do it for you. It’s also way less emotionally draining because, at least when you’re taking your own self out, it’s guaranteed that you’ll enjoy the company…right?
7. DIY some pampering. When you get a chance, check out “5 Reasons You Should Unapologetically Pamper Yourself,” “Want To Love On Yourself? Try These 10 Things At Home.,” “I’ve Got Some Ways For You To Start Pampering Your Soul,” and “When's The Last Time You Actually Pampered Your Vagina?” The bottom line here is pampering is all about, not mere self-maintenance; it’s all about treating yourself to levels of EXTREME SELF-INDULGENCE. So, if nothing else tickles your fancy on this list, at least consider doing that, chile.
8. Feed your creativity. Something that I used to be really good at is art. That said, one of my goddaughters is insanely talented, so she has reminded me to tap back into it. Also, a big part of what got me into the writing world is poetry; I actually used to be a house poet at a local spot. Sometimes, my best quality time moments with myself have been revisiting these creative sides of me — and this is definitely easier to do (and enjoy) alone.
9. Try some stargazing. When’s the last time you took a blanket into your backyard, laid down on it, and just stared at the stars for hours on end? While some say that stargazing can teach you to be mindful, others say that being in that form of nature reduces stress, while others believe that looking up at the universe at night can increase your attention span. All solid reasons to give it a shot, if you ask me.
10. DO. ABSOLUTELY. NOTHING. Let me tell you something that nobody will ever be able to make me feel bad about: doing absolutely nothing. I’ve got data to back me up. Good Housekeeping shares that doing nothing can help you decide how you want to respond or react to certain things. I like howThe Guardian says that taking this approach helps you to regain control of what you give your attention to.
TIME magazine says that it can ultimately make you more productive.BBC offers up that it can help you tap into your ingenuity.Henry Ford Health says that it can make you kinder and a better problem-solver. So, if you want to invest in yourself, do nothing sometimes.
Closing Thoughts from the Lovely Javicia Leslie
While some of y'all may know Javicia Leslie from being the former Batwoman, I discovered her back in the day from the indie series Chef Julian (and yes, "Julian" was right to say that "Mo" looks like Tatyana Ali...the real ones know). Sometimes I'll hop on her IG to see what she's got going on and this story popped up within a few hours of me penning this...so, I took it as hella confirmation.
TREAT YO SELF. WAIT FOR NO ONE.
WAIT FOR NO ONE. TREAT YO SELF.
RINSE AND REPEAT.
Sooo…what kind of masterdating plans do you have for this coming weekend? While going out with others has its perks, hanging out with yourself has a ton of ‘em too. Enjoy!
No…for real. ENJOY!
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