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Maintain your braids with these easy tips, according to experts

Lock up the moisture on your braids.
Split image of a Woman with braided hair
Kara Birnbaum / TODAY

Braids are the perfect hairstyle for switching up your regular ponytail. While you might skip a few blowouts in between washes, braids require the same level of maintenance as an un-braided 'do.

Simply put, braids are interlaced strands holding your hair together with minimal effort. Aside from keeping your hair frizz-free, braids can also provide a simple solution to your typical mane conundrums.

Shop TODAY talked to natural hair experts on their go-to tips and tricks to care for your plaits.

Longevity | Maintenance tips | Recommended products for braids | How we chose | Meet the experts

How long should you keep your braids on?

According to hair care specialist Tatiana Dudley, braids with added extensions have a lifespan of four to six weeks, while those without tend to last approximately one to four weeks. "Anything beyond six weeks runs the risk of breakage," she says.

How do you make braids last longer?

There are many ways to extend the lifespan of your braids, but the most important thing is to make sure your braids aren't too tight.

"You should not feel pulling or tugging once the braids are in," says Yasmine Young, the owner of Diaspora Salon.

Many people have the misconception that the tighter the braid, the safer it would be, but this could damage strands and your overall scalp health in the long run.

Here are some other expert-approved tips to keep your braids looking brand new and hydrated without the extra tangling.

Wrap your braids up every night. Dudley suggests wearing a silk scarf or bonnet to keep frizz at bay. She also suggests using a silk pillowcase if wrapping your head at night is uncomfortable.

Use a light oil. "This can be applied a few times per week for the duration of the style. Heavy oils can clog the hair follicles and cause problems," says Dudley.

Use a hydrating spray. Young recommended using a leave-in conditioner to lock in moisture and keep your hair feeling supple.

Avoid tight braids around the hairline. "This can cause excessive breakage and pull of the hair from the hair follicle," adds Dudley. "This is noted by tiny white bulbs at the base of the hair strand and/or bumps on the scalp."

Hair products for your braids

Yanibest Silk Hair Bonnet

What we like
  • Holds thick hair
  • Easy to adjust
Something to note
  • Can run large

Turbans are a great curly-hair hack, but they’re also a great tool to protect braids. This satin-lined bonnet is ideal for reducing frizz and retaining moisture. The luxurious headwrap will help you relax during your sleep without overthinking if your strands are untangling. Also, this will help keep your braids and blowout looking fresh in the morning.

The Inkey List Salicylic Acid Exfoliating Scalp Treatment

What we like
  • Not itchy
Something to note
  • Hard to scrub off

Key ingredient: Salicylic acid | Size: 5 ounces | Usage: 1-2 times per week

This BHA (beta hydroxy acid) penetrates deeper to help exfoliate different layers of the scalp. Not only is this a great product for oily hair, but also does a commendable job removing buildup and refining greasy strands. For those days when you need to fight the flakes, just rub the treatment on your scalp for ten minutes and shampoo as normal.

Imbue Curl Restoring Intensive Mask

What we like
  • Great for dry and wavy hair
Something to note
  • Leaves residue on hands

Key ingredients: Cacao seed butter, camellia seed oil and shea butter | Size: 10 ounces | Usage: 5-10 minutes

Sometimes our scalp needs extra love after a braided journey. This intensive hair mask targets damaged hair to help reduce split ends and restore curls, according to the brand. The curl-friendly mask is free from mineral oils and helps prevents dryness, thanks to the added Cupuaçu seed butter and organic coconut oil. It works best if you have dry and curly hair that needs extra assistance to detangle.

Pattern Cleansing Shampoo

What we like
  • Helps to clear dandruff
Something to note
  • It has a light fragrance

Key ingredients: Jasmine, bergamot and sweet sandalwood | Size: 7.8 ounces | Usage: Twice per wash

Tired of your dry scalp? This shampoo should help eliminate any greasy buildup in your scalp without stripping away natural oils. It's enriched with aloe vera, matcha green tea and pathenol to help moisturize the hair cuticle. If you have low porosity hair, the shampoo will prepare your curls to receive all the hydrations it needs, according to the brand. Customers rave about this formula since it's hydrating enough and easy to comb through.

DESIGNME Hair Gloss.Me Hydrating Shampoo

What we like
  • Has a moisturizing texture
Something to note
  • Doesn't create much lather

Key ingredient: Cannabis sativa seed oil | Size: 10 ounces | Usage: Work 1 to 2 minutes into hair

Best for a medium to coarse hair texture, this shampoo is loaded with strengthening ingredients like moringa seed oil and hydrolyzed soy protein. With a near-perfect average, customers love its silky formula, signature scent (a wonderful mix of sandalwood, magnolia and violet) and how it left their hair feeling less frizzy after use. Use this shampoo for wash in between when your scalp needs an extra boost of hydration.

Innersense Refresh Dry Shampoo

What we like
  • Dries quickly
Something to note
  • Bottle is small

Key ingredient: Witch hazel | Size: 2.37 ounces | Usage: 1 to 2 pumps into palms and massage into roots

If you want to extend the life of your braids, this dry shampoo from Innersense should help remove buildup and excess oil. The product has tapioca start and witch hazel that pulls oil while give your hair body and shine. Shake the bottle, pump the amount as needed and blow dry your roots for better results.

Drybar Agua Fresca Hydrating Conditioner

What we like
  • Great for fine strands
  • Keeps hair frizz-free
Something to note
  • Thicker consistency

Key ingredients: Aloe leaf juice, jack fruit extract and prickly pear oil | Size: 8.5 ounces | Usage: Leave in 1 to 5 minutes and rinse

Once you untangle your braids, you'll want to condition your hair and add some extra hydration. This conditioner is great for dry, thirsty hair looking to revive the strand, thanks to a mixture of niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, amino acids and other antioxidants that'll promote a healthy hair structure.

"The consistency of the conditioner is thick and smooth and really leaves your hair feeling soft after you get out of the shower," said one reviewer.

Dr. Groot Scalp Revitalizing Shower Treatment

What we like
  • Great for itchy scalp
Something to note
  • Chemically scented

Key ingredients: Arginine, panthenol, niacinamide and salicylic acid | Size: 8.4 ounces | Usage: 2-3 times per week

Feeling itchy? This shower treatment is formulated with panthenol, niacinamide, salicylic acid and herbal scent to refresh your scalp. According to the brand, this treatment has clinically proven to provide hair smoothness in five seconds.

Amazon customers say this one is great for dry and itchy scalp, plus it helps detangle the hair. "My hair is smoother and shinier than before. It goes on warm, suds up a little bit, and when rinsed it leaves the hair feeling so soft and smooth," added one buyer.

Sol de Janeiro Brazilian Glossy Nourishing Hair Oil

What we like
  • Ideal for dry hair
  • Silky smooth texture
Something to note
  • Oil can be heavy

Key ingredient: Patauá oil | Size: 2 ounces | Usage: Apply from the mid-shaft to ends

This shine-enhancing treatment from Sol de Janeiro is infused with Patauá, buriti fruit and pequi oils that help fight frizz and restore split ends. According to the brand, the oil helps control frizz for up to 72 hours and offers heat protection up to 450 degrees. Aside from being formulated with exotic ingredients, its tropical scent of vanilla, sandalwood, pistachio and almond works as a vacation-worthy reprieve.

DevaCurl Wash Day Wonder

What we like
  • Great detangler
Something to note
  • Has a watery consistency

Key ingredient: Hydrogenated castor oil | Size: 12 ounces | Usage: Smooth onto hair and rinse out

Prepare and protect your hair with this curly hair detangler. The Wash Day Wonder is formulated with the brand's Tangle-Release Complex that melts away stiff coils and helps soften up the curls.

"It is an amazing slippery detangling serum you can use before shampooing for any additional stubborn knots or tangles," adds Young.

dpHUE Apple Cider Vinegar Hair Rinse

What we like
  • Removes product buildup
Something to note
  • Has a watery consistency

Key ingredient: Apple cider vinegar | Size: 8.5 ounces | Usage: Apply after shampooing

Extend the life of your braids with this refreshing hair rinse infused with apple cider vinegar. Whether you have hair extensions, weaves or braids, this product is great for calming any itchiness and removing buildup your scalp. Also, this is a great shampoo alternative and hair hack when you need a quick refresh without soaking your braids.

"This stuff is magical if you have a sensitive scalp! It leaves your scalp SO clean and your hair so soft," said one Amazon reviewer.

Gisou Honey Infused Hair Oil

What we like
  • Smells like honey
  • Consistency is smooth
  • Leaves her shiny
Something to note
  • Dispenser fills slowly

Key ingredient: Honey | Size: 1.7 ounces | Usage: 1-2 drops on dry hair

I love, adore and live for this hair oil. As someone with thick and dry hair, I usually apply this formula every other day to keep strands shiny and moisturized. However, if you have fine hair, it's recommended that you use only one to two drops.

The formula can be used on wet, damp or dry hair and is a great way to extend the life of your braids. But what makes Gisou's hair oil a bestseller is the honey-infused ingredient, which feels like a nice treat to your mane.

Harklinikken Hair Hydrating Crème

What we like
  • Ideal for dry hair
  • Helps detangle hair
Something to note
  • Thick consistency

Key ingredient: Organic argan, abyssinian and sunflower seed oils | Size: 9.81 ounces | Usage: Use on damp hair

This product is designed to hydrate, protect and reduce breakage while improving your hair's texture, fullness, luster and elasticity. The creamy texture doesn't feel heavy in your hair and immediately delivers a soft consistency to your strands, according to the brand.

I use this product when I want an extra dose of hydration and moisture. However, this product works better with wet hair. It's also formulated with organic ingredients such as sunflower seed oil and argan oil to promote a healthy hair growth journey.

How we chose the best products to maintain braids

We chose products based on expert recommendations and included formulas that help in extending the lifespan of braids. We also included the editor's favorite, along with tried-and-true formulas that help reduce frizz and add moisture.

Meet the experts

  • Tatiana Dudley is a hair care specialist and colorist based in Harker Heights, Texas.
  • Yasmine Young is the owner and founder of the Baltimore-based Diaspora Salon, which specializes in curly and coily hair types.