Braid Take-Down Tips: Taking Out Braids Without Damage or Loss

Take down your braids correctly to avoid damage and hair loss.
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Braid extensions can make life so easy. Once your hair is completely hidden away inside braids, daily maintenance is a breeze and only takes minutes. Of course, there comes a time when the extensions have to come out. You need to remove braids carefully and slowly to avoid damaging your own hair. It's a time-consuming process, especially if your braids were very small, so patience is a necessity! These braid take-down tips show you how to remove your extensions the right way so that you don't suffer loss or damage.

Cutting

First things first: you have to cut the extensions off. You should have a general idea of how long your hair is so that you know where your natural ends are. You don't want to cut too high up and risk cutting off more than just the extensions. To be on the safe side, cut about 2 inches below where you believe your hair ends. Cut one braid at a time instead of grabbing a handful and hacking away.

Working in Sections

Once all the extension ends are cut away, it's time to unbraid them. Working in sections helps to make this task less overwhelming. Divide your hair into 4-8 sections, and work one section at a time. Begin at the bottom of each braid and work your way up, using your fingers to unravel and detangle as much as possible. Spraying with braid spray, water-based conditioner or leave-in conditioner can make this step easier. Don't forget to spray your roots, but work the moisture along the length of the braids as well.

Your hair doesn't need to be soaking wet, but some dampness is good. This is one of the longer steps involved in taking out braids; if you can enlist some help, it'll cut down on the time spent doing it.

Detangling

Once the extensions are all removed, it's time to detangle. Don't reach for a comb just yet!

Your hair should still be sectioned off. Working one part at a time, start detangling with your fingers, beginning at the bottom and going toward the roots.

One note: The average rate of hair shedding is about 50-150 strands per day. Chances are you've had extensions in for at least a couple of weeks. The hair you normally would have shed had no place to go, but now it does. You'll experience a lot of shedding while detangling, so don't be alarmed!

Note on new growth: It's possible that your roots have begun to mat together. This is more likely if you've kept extensions in for longer than six weeks. While detangling the length of your hair may be relatively easy, proceed with caution at your tight roots. Gently pull these sections apart before attempting any finger combing.

Continue to spray your hair if it makes this step easier. Again, go slowly so that you're not pulling out excess hair, only the loose shed hair. Once you've worked through a section with your fingers, then you can break out a wide-tooth comb. Comb from the bottom and work your way up until the section is thoroughly detangled. It's imperative to detangle the roots; doing an incomplete job there can lead to matting, particularly once water hits them.

Braid, twist or pin the section up and out of the way before moving on to the next one.

Shampooing and Conditioning

Now it's time to cleanse your hair and scalp. Hopefully, you shampooed and conditioned while wearing extensions. Even so, your hair didn't get a great cleanse while covered up. It may still be helpful to shampoo and condition in sections at this point, especially if your tresses are long and/or thick. Your focus should be on your scalp. Gently massage your scalp, working shampoo lather down the length of your hair. You'll probably see even more shed hair. After shampooing, you can use a regular rinse-out conditioner, but a deep conditioning treatment is a much better bet since it's been a while since your loose hair was drenched in moisture.

Once your conditioner is rinsed away, style your hair as usual.

However, don't jump right back into braided extensions right away. Give your scalp and hairline some time to breathe and adjust to not holding onto the extra weight. It's a good idea to wait at least two weeks before getting your next set of extensions.

More on braids and natural hair care:

  • Maintenance Tips
  • What to do About Tight Braids
  • 5 Things to Know About Being Natural
  • Transition Timeline
  • Natural Hair Myths