How to Protect Your Natural Hair from Weaves and Extensions
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How to Protect Your Natural Hair from Weaves and Extensions

As much as I love my curls, I wouldn’t mind sporting a straighter style sometimes. A bone-straight sleek ‘do I could keep for longer than a week — but no more than a month — would satisfy my occasional desire for a different look.
But flat ironing only lasts a week before my hair reverts back to its natural texture, and a relaxer is permanent, forcing me to cut my straightened strands and start over with new growth to get my curls back.

Weaves and extensions, however, are other options which many women consider when they want to change things up with different textures, colours or lengths, or to just give their hair “a break” from constant styling and manipulation. It sounds like a sweet deal – get a hairstylist to blend the extension hair with my own, and voila! Instant new ‘do.

Weave technology has advanced significantly in recent years, and a popular choice now is the “closure,” or “frontal,” which allows wearers to part and style the front of the hair like their own. Very little of the user’s natural hair shows while wearing a closure, except for maybe the edges.

Adding hair is the easy part, but weaves and extensions both require an extra level of attention. Proper styling is needed to maintain the appearance of the additional hair, and curly hair care must be taken to preserve the natural strands underneath. Failure to do both could lead to longer-term damage to your own hair and scalp.

Stylists are noticing more clients with weave-related damage such as tension or traction alopecia, a gradual form of hair loss resulting from continual tension on hair strands, such as stretching and pulling into tight ponytails and braids. Because natural hair is pulled tightly for weave installation, regular use of extensions can lead to alopecia. Extension sections that are larger than the hair sections is another common cause of tension alopecia.

If you’re considering a weave, here are some tips to keep it looking great while preserving the health of your natural hair:

Choose high quality hair in a texture closest to your own.Human hair will cost more than synthetic, but it’s much gentler against your own hair and will keep your style in place longer. The extra cost will pay off in the end.

Avoid the glue. I had a glue-in weave about two decades ago that was not only a pain to remove, but pulled out my own hair in the process. Instead, use the method that allows a stylist to “weave” extensions through your own hair braided close to your scalp. Don’t sew too tightly though! Another consideration is using a weaving net on top of your braided hair to sew tracks in. This will make removal easier and create less damage to your own hair – which, by the way, should be deep conditioned before braiding.

Handle with care. Once your extensions are in, comb or brush gently to avoid pulling out or otherwise damaging your own hair. Extension hair is prone to tangles, so don’t yank the brush through when you detangle. When it’s time to wash your hair, section your hair and use a spray bottle with a shampoo/conditioner/water mix near the scalp to distribute product. Massage with the pads of your fingers to loosen dirt and grime from your 

Keep it simple. You don’t need styling products to maintain your weave, nor should you use heat (curling irons, flat irons). A small bit of oil can be directly applied to the scalp or edges for moisture.

It won’t last forever. Two to three months is the general rule of thumb for weave/extension longevity, as your new hair growth should be noticeable by that point, but consider taking it out sooner if your hair is getting matted or tangled underneath. This practice should also prevent your hair from suffering from dryness and breakage.

Weaves and extensions can offer versatility and a fun change of pace, but make sure not to neglect your natural locks in the process!