By Laura Holton

Braids that are too tight cause pain, and no hairstyle should ever hurt. This should be taken as an immediate sign that the braids need to be loosened. Other indications include small bumps around the hairline, as well as reddening and sensitivity of the scalp, especially from smaller braids. Very tight braids can even lead to permanent damage of the follicle and hair, at worst resulting in hair loss. A responsible stylist will always check the elasticity of the hair to ensure its suitability for the type of braids desired by client.

The good news is that it isn’t necessary to remove tight braids. There are various methods designed to loosen them, chosen depending on the type and size of the braids.

Massaging the scalp at the places where the braids begin helps to release the tension of a tight braid. This can be done in a hot shower or with the use of light oils, such as olive oil or peppermint oil. After showering with braids, the hair should be pat with a towel and left to dry naturally.

A small amount of leave-in conditioner can be worked into the tight areas as often as necessary. However, frequent use will mean the hair requires restyling much sooner than normal. For example, daily use with a style such as cornrows would reduce the time needed for restyle from four weeks to just one week.

The use of a smooth object, such as a pencil for large braids or a toothpick for smaller braids, can help to loosen braids individually. The object is inserted through the center of each twist and pulled gently. For cornrows, a rat-tail comb, used on the underside of the braid, at the point closet to the scalp, is more appropriate.

A braid spray, designed for for loosening, can help to relieve tightness, and has the additional benefit of strengthening and conditioning the hair. Ideal sprays are those designed for loosening before removing braids. These products are particularly useful for cornrows.

Moist heat is most suitable for small, close-lying braids and can be applied in three different ways. The first option is to place a warm, wet towel on the head and cover in a hair cap, and leave it in position for an hour. Alternatively, a handheld steamer can be used or simply a steamy bathroom.

It is advisable not to return to a stylist who braids too tightly. While tight braids will mean the style lasts longer, medium-taught braids provide the hair with the treatment it requires.

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