How to Get Rid of Post-Braid Buildup

Woman flicking braids
 Getty Images/Mike Harrington

Braid extensions left in for 10 or so weeks can lead to matting at the roots and a lot of yucky buildup. This can leave you with pretty greasy hair and matting that's hard to wash out. Plus, you might experience a ton of shedding.  If you've run into this problem and you want to wear braids again, don't fret. There are steps you can take to prevent the unseemly buildup that many women experience.

How Long Should Extensions Stay in For?

First, 10 weeks is really pushing the limit when it comes to sporting extensions.

Eight weeks is usually the max when it comes to extensions or you risk that matty buildup. Some women report horror stories of not being able to remove these mats at all because the hair essentially becomes locked. If that happens to you, a major haircut will be your only solution–a pretty dramatic fix no matter how much you like short hair. Your only other option will be removing matting, which is incredibly time-consuming and may create scalp sores.

Some buildup is likely to happen, even if you're diligent about shampooing while wearing your braids. However, a greasy, gunky buildup is probably due to wearing extensions way past their prime. The longer your hair is covered and not able to be combed through and detangled, the more shampoo, conditioner, scalp oils, and other products will build up on your hair and scalp, particularly around the roots.

Take Your Time and Be Patient 

Removing your braids takes time and patience.

Depending on how long your braids are, and how many you have, it can take up to two hours. if you rush the process (and tug too hard on your hair) you risk hair breakage.

Once the extensions are removed, carefully and gently work your fingers through any mats. Don't use water just yet. Instead of raking your fingers down the length of your tresses, pull matted sections apart.

If you happen upon stubborn areas, use a natural oil or lightly mist your hair with a conditioner so you can ease the comb through. Don't saturate your hair at this point and don't be surprised if you encounter oily flakes in the buildup.

Shampooing and Conditioning Your Hair

When you've worked through mats and tangles with your fingers, then you can wet your hair. Use a clarifying shampoo for this first cleansing. Make sure your hair is thoroughly saturated before shampooing. Even if you routinely wash your hair in a sink, it's recommended to perform this shampoo in your shower, where your hair will hang down straight and not get tangled on top of your head

Focus on your scalp first and take your time working in the shampoo. Depending on your level of buildup, you may have to lather up anywhere from two to five times. This is perfectly normal. Only work the shampoo through the rest of your hair when you shampoo for the very last time. At this point, you can also use your regular moisturizing shampoo if your hair seems dry.

Extra Steps

Once you've gone through all the steps mentioned so far, rinsing with apple cider vinegar is an option if you feel your scalp needs additional clarifying, because there's still scalp buildup.

Also, you can use a regular rinse-out conditioner after shampooing, but a deep conditioning treatment is highly recommended. Remember, your hair hasn't had a deep treatment in a long time and is probably in desperate need of some conditioning. Make sure you use clean tools when combing any conditioner through your hair because you don't want to add any dirt or buildup back into your hair. It's a good idea to use heat to deeply penetrate hair strands for maximum conditioning.

After a deep treatment, your hair should now be clean and soft. After wearing extensions for a long time, it's always a good idea to give your hair and scalp a break from the extra weight.