Hair braiding, also known as hair plaiting, is a creative art that some people are naturally endowed with, while others have to be trained for it.
It involves the intertwining or weaving, twisting and locking of two or more strands of the hair.
Braiding the hair helps people who want to change their facial appearance through their hairstyle to change the way they look.
Hair braiding is 5,000 or more years old. In Africa, it can be traced to about 3500 BC. It is part of many cultures in the world, including Africa, the Americas, Asia, Egypt and Europe.
In Africa, hair braiding is a social event for some women. It offers them the opportunity to socialise, and in some cases where particular styles are tribe-specific, it has the function of passing a tradition on.
In Europe, braiding was practised to keep the hair clean, and people still do that today when they do not have time to wash their hair, while in some tribes in Asia, only married women wore their hair braided. In modern times however, hair braiding has become a fashion.
Types of braids
There are hundreds of braiding styles. Some of the most common include the English Braid, which uses a three-strand plait and starts at the nape of the neck; the French Braid, which instead of starting at the nape of the neck starts at the hairline and travels back and down, weaving strands in along the way; a Dutch Braid which is an inverted French Braid that weaves strands under, rather than over, giving the braid an almost embossed look; Swiss Braids which are English Braids that are wrapped around the head and pinned down; multi-strand braids which are when the weave is with more than three, five, nine or any odd number of strands and finally, Crown Braids, which are braids that are woven like French Braids but around the crown of the head.
The most common names given to braids are: Microbraids, cornrows, fishtail braids, blocky braids, black braided buns, twist braids, tree braids and hair bands, among others.
Benefits of braided hair
Braiding your hair for months gives your hair some rest and protects it from harsh environmental conditions.
It gives you a break from the damage caused by the daily stress of styling and heat.
Well-braided hair helps in enhancing your appearance and makes you look beautiful.
Also, it helps in protecting your hair by not allowing its ends to split. You can therefore save money and time used in going to the salon for a hairstyle.
According to cosmetologists, however, braiding does not obviate the need for you to wash your hair. It is important to wash your hair regularly when you have braids such as cornrows.
Disadvantages of hair braiding
Braids do not need to be tight to be effective. Braids that are too tight can cause headaches and damage hair, breaking the hair and pulling the hair follicle.
A beautician, Mrs St. Claire Adotey, who always discourages her clients from braiding their hair, says braiding frizzles the hair, making it resistant to hair relaxers.
Also, she says it makes the hair lose its shine and splits the ends.
Braiding consistently, she adds, also removes the hair follicles, which could lead to baldness. It also makes people lose their natural beauty because braiding removes one’s hairline.
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