Dude, I've had it up to here trying to find time for someone to do my hair. In a previous post I mentioned that I would give myself a break from extensions, but with midterms starting at school and summer around the corner I think it's time for more long-term styling. But every time I look at my schedule I'm overcome with the desire to magically warp the calendar so that Monday morning can be adjacent to Wednesday night and then maybe, just maybe, I'll have enough free hours to have a protective style installed. I know there are stylists who generously offer to return the next day to finish the job, but I've never taken anyone up on that because it seems so cruel! So after agonizing over my schedule, I recently found myself at the local beauty supply store. I was originally hunting for grapeseed oil, but ended up walking out with several packs of Kanekalon hair instead (I know it's the cheap stuff, but I'm a beginner so cut me some slack!). That's right. Then and there, I decided I was going to take matters into my own hands and do my own darn hair.
When I got home I immediately Googled "fast, easy protective style tutorial" and variations thereof. Bless the naturals on YouTube for there was no shortage of helpful videos. After skimming through a few I figured box braids would be the easiest (my twists always unravel prematurely) and resolved to spend the next few hours putting them in. I was armed with conviction, the right tools, and a good window of time in which I could feasibly finish half my head, but even this amount of diligence could not prepare me for the lessons I was about to learn.
1. THE STYLE IS ONLY AS GOOD AS YOUR PARTS - Even though I have a metal rat-tail comb, I still suck at parting. Maybe it's because my hair is short, or maybe it's just that I need more practice. Whatever the reason, I must get better because my ridiculous parting job caused my box braids to look unkempt and haphazard.
2. KNOW HOW MUCH HAIR YOU NEED - This goes hand-in-hand with the quality of your parting. If you use too much hair for each section you'll put too much strain on your follicles, which could cause hair loss. On the other hand using too little hair (as I did because I was scared of running out) will make it tricky to blend your natural hair in with the extension hair.
3. THERE'S ALWAYS AN ALTERNATIVE - When I first started I tried to mimic everything I'd seen my hairstylists do, from fluffing out and sectioning strands of extension hair to applying oil on my scalp as I went along. All these tricks proved invaluable for the most part, but YouTube quickly showed me that there are several different approaches and none is necessarily right or wrong. This was welcome news, as I was growing increasingly frustrated with one method of starting a braid that seemed physically impossible for me to achieve. The technique I eventually settled on was far simpler and more intuitive than the first, yet garnered the same results.
4. DETANGLED AND MOISTURIZED HAIR BEHAVES BEST - I'm not a newb. The day before commencing this entire endeavour, I luxuriated in a hot oil treatment, cleansed thoroughly with shampoo and conditioner, t-shirt dried, detangled, and spritzed with a mix of aloe vera juice and oils. In other words, my hair was in prime condition to be styled... but this wasn't enough! As I broke each section into smaller and smaller sections, it became clear that more detangling and moisturizing needed to be done. A good chunk of my first braids were a hot mess. Giant puffs of hair poked out every which way as if the style was pushing six weeks. Unfortunately it wasn't until I reached my ears that I remembered the sight of my beloved hairstylist in Edmonton, Loius, running a fine-toothed comb over each tiny section of hair before wrapping the synthetic hair around it. Before that she would moisturize my hair with some sort of oil, which I now realize is what kept my ends from popping out like a ghost in the night.
5. TIME IS MONEY - The last thing I learned is that the longer you spend doing your hair, the more it would've made more sense to just have it professionally styled. I spent a few hours over the span of three days installing my braids, and admittedly they look terrible. If you're trying to save money by doing your own hair and you haven't got much experience, trust me, you're far better off paying someone who knows how to glam you up. That being said, I don't mind walking around for the next couple of weeks with this semi-disaster on my head because A) my hair actually is being protected, and B) I'm proud of what I was able to accomplish. Even though it feels like I spent 3.22 decades on it, I'm already looking forward to my next go-around so I can apply everything I learned.
Have you ever tried putting in your own extensions? Tell me how it went in a comment below!
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