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I Just Found Out What Happens If You Leave Your Box Braids In Too Long And WHAT THE HELL?!

You'll never make this mistake again after reading this.

This is Jennifer Cherilus. She's an award-winning NJ-based hairstylist who specializes in all things natural hair care.

Beyond Perfection Beauty Bar

She can do lots of styles, but it's her gorgeous protective styles that keep clients (like me!) coming back for more.

@natural_jc / Via Instagram: @natural_jc

Yep, Jennifer does my hair too. Every black girl knows that finding the right hairstylist is harder than finding your soulmate, so shout out to God.

Jennifer and I recently had a nice long chat about some of the common misconceptions around protective styles. And she revealed a major no-no that clients commit all the time: Leaving their styles in for waaaaay too long.

Columbia Pictures / Via

"Protective styles should only be worn for a maximum of eight weeks" she told BuzzFeed. "This applies to box braids, crochet braids, cornrows, and any other style where the hair is sewn down or kept in a locked position on your scalp. Yes, I get that this style cost $100 or $200, or how ever much it was, but you absolutely need to cleanse your scalp and let it breathe."

The Chic Natural / Via

She also recommends a good shampooing at four weeks—the halfway point—to try to remove some of the build-up that’s already accumulated. For those people worried about the hair swelling and getting frizzy post-wash, you can try cleansing your scalp with an astringent like Sea Breeze. But keep in mind that they typically contain alcohol, which tends to dry hair out, so you’d have to immediately start your moisturization regimen again right after using it.

According to Jennifer, your scalp is an extension of the other skin on your body, just like your face, for example. "And how do you think your face would feel if you covered it up for a week?" she asked. "All of those natural oils and dead skin cells that your skin produces would have nowhere else to go. Well, it’s the same for your scalp."

TV One / Via

"When you leave any hairstyle in too long, there's nowhere for those oils, skin cells, and shed hair to escape. So those things sit underneath your wig, your sew-in, your crochet braids—whatever style—and they start to build-up on your scalp."

But that's not all! So we shower, sweat, and whatnot while we're rocking our protective styles, because life, right? Well that brings water and moisture into the equation, and that's when shit gets REAL ya'll.

VH1 / Via

"All those oils, skin cells, and shed hair are just kind of brewing in this restricted area that's dark and damp, which is the perfect environment for bacteria to grow and thrive," Jennifer told us. "It’s basically a breeding ground."

VH1 / Via

"At that point, you’ve opened yourself up to serious scalp infections, mold, and even egg-storing bugs and insects," she added. (The latter’s not common among African Americans, but that doesn’t mean we can’t get them.) And Jennifer's witnessed these super scary results herself, having seen people's scalp turn colors, like gray and green. "When it gets to that point, the only solution is really cutting off all your hair and starting over," she said.

Jennifer understands that there's not a ton of professional education on natural hair care yet, so she's not trying to shame anyone who's gone over eight weeks. She said she just wants people to look at the bigger picture and take their hair care seriously.

Jackie Aina / Via
  1. So we wanna know: How long were you keeping in your protective styles before this?

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So we wanna know: How long were you keeping in your protective styles before this?
    vote votes
    Maybe 6 weeks or less
    vote votes
    About 7 or 8 weeks
    vote votes
    Longer than 8 weeks