The sight of little girls in pristine grade school uniforms with tidy braids are not new to us. In fact, people adore girls with simple, three-strand braids that stay in place until the end of school day.
This neatness, however, could come at a price. Apart from the usual discomfort (complaints like “It hurts, mommy!”), braids can damage her hair in the long run.
The Anatomy of Hair
Hair fibers are like wool — they’re bundled tightly to make a single hair strand. Each strand grows out of a follicle and comprises three layers: the medulla, cortex, and cuticle. Inner fibers compose the medulla, which is surrounded by the cortex. The cuticle is the outermost layer that protects the inner components from damage.
Each strand grows about ¼ an inch each month. It sustains this growth for up to six years. Then, it falls out and makes way for a new strand.
Tight braids, however, can disrupt this process.
How Braids Damage the Hair
Not all types of braids damage the hair. Loose French or waterfall braids don’t pose much of a threat to your little one’s locks.
The problem lies in very tight braids — the one parents are fond of having their daughters sport in grade school. People can’t blame you; the tidy parting of your kid’s hair and the tight, interlacing locks makes them look sharp.
If the braids pull her hair back too tightly, though, the strands can break away from the roots. This can split the strands in two and result in hair weakness. It can also cause tensile stress, which occurs when there’s constant tugging on the follicles. The stress can weaken her hair follicles and pave the way for hair loss. Over time, tensile stress could lead to traction alopecia.
The damage could be greater if you create the hairstyle without drying her locks. Wet hair strands are more fragile than their dry counterparts.
Letting Go of Tight Braids
Take note that tight braids don’t automatically damage your little girl’s hair. The culprit is constant tugging on the strands. So, occasionally wearing tight braids isn’t bad at all. Here are other suggestions to decrease the risk of hair damage:
- Loosen Her Braids – Don’t braid your little girl’s hair too tightly. Even though tight braids look better, loosely interlacing the locks is more beneficial to her scalp. Plus, loose braids are more comfortable to wear. No more “It hurts!” comments, too.
- Take Breaks – Your little girl might be known as the girl with the pretty braids. Loosen up once in a while and give your kid a braid break. Every other day, tie her hair in a neat bun or ponytail and add a cute bow. You can also let her hair down and crown her with a bedazzled headband.
- Use Hair-Strengthening Products – Reinforce the strength of her hair. Moringa-O2, a provider of hair and skin care products, recommends Argan oil. It’s rich in nutrients that stimulate hair growth and prevent hair loss.
Tight, three-strand braids look beautiful on your child, but they can damage her hair follicles in the long run. So save the tight locks for a few days of the week. Dedicate the rest to other types of braids. Your little one might even fall in love with her new style.