By: Rosh De
So you’ve just gotten a fresh set of sleek cornrows and want to milk them for as long as possible, but are not quite sure how to care of them. You’ve come to the right place. Cornrows are great because they’re relatively quick to install (depending on the design) and they’re relatively easy to maintain (relative being the operative word). Even though they’re an easy style, they do require a little bit of effort to keep your hair healthy and looking great. Coming out of our deep expert-backed exploration of proper protective styling practices, we’ve put together this essential guide for taking proper care of your cornrows.
[Oh by the way 👋🏾, our short film on protective styles really is a must-watch. Check it out below and learn more about safe protective styling here.]
How long should I leave my cornrows in?
Having realistic expectations about how long to keep your cornrows in is key to properly maintaining them. Although you might feel tempted to leave your cornrows in for as long as possible, 2-8 weeks is the expert recommended time frame, depending on how active you are, the overall condition and health of your hair as well as how well you take care of it while it’s braided. If convenience and not worrying about your hair for a long period of time is more of a priority than the health of your hair, that’s understandable; however leaving cornrows in for too long can result in matting and fungal infections as dirt and product builds up in the crevices of your braids.
How often should I wash my cornrows?
You should generally wash your hair while it’s braided or in any protective style as often as you would if it wasn’t in a protective style. So, for example, if you typically wash your hair once a week when it’s out, you should wash it once a week when it’s braided. That said, however, most styling professionals agree that every 1-3 weeks is generally a good frequency, depending on the condition of your hair and scalp.
So how do I actually wash my cornrows?
Once you step into the shower to wash your hair, there’s a certain protocol you’ll need to follow, unless you fancy flyaways and frizz. Oh, all the frizz. So here’s how to go about it.
- Use a shampoo with a nozzle, like this one from Dark and Lovely, which makes it easier to get the product in between your cornrows. Mix it with a little water to build up a nice foamy lather.
- Next, gently work the shampoo throughout your hair, use the pads of your finger tips to work the product onto your scalp and the length of the braids. Using careful stroking motions will prevent frizz.
- After shampooing and rinsing, it’s time to condition. Apply conditioner throughout your hair evenly, focusing on the areas that feel less hydrated. Again, using your fingertips, not fingernails, massage the product into your strands with measured strokes, from your scalp to the tips, taking care not to disrupt the natural pattern of your hair.
- For a deeper condition, place a shower cap over your hair (with the conditioner still on) and let the conditioner sit for 5 – 15 minutes. Then rinse it out with lukewarm water.
- Dry your hair with either an old cotton T-shirt or a soft microfiber towel.
- Finally, use a leave-in conditioner or curl milk for added hydration.
Pro Tip: Never use hot water on hair; the heat is too intense for it and will cause breakage as well as dry hair. Always opt for warm water or if you can stand it, cold.
Keeping Your Hair Moisturized
Moisturizing your hair in any protective styles is key to keep your hair healthy. Moisture helps prevent breakage and it can reduce itchiness. To keep your hair moisturized, simply use a moisturizing spray, the Dark & Lovely Hair Refresher is actually great for this (plus it’s a dry shampoo); and also use light oils. The best oils to use to keep hair moisturized and hydrated are olive and jojoba. A dash of eucalyptus oil will also help with an itchy scalp prone to dandruff.
How often you moisturize will depend on your hair’s condition, but we generally recommend moisturizing your hair every 1-3 days.
How do I minimize frizz and refresh my cornrows?
Okay, so, most people avoid washing their cornrows (or moisture in general) because they’re afraid of frizz, but it’s not a good idea. If you’ve just washed your hair or you’ve been wearing your braids for a while and a little new growth is sprouting up, there’s something you can do to keep your cornrows looking sleek.
Moisturize your hair, especially if you’ve just washed it. Then wrap your hair with a silk scarf and dry it. You can dry it overnight or use a dryer. Putting the silk scarf on quite literally lays all the flyaways flat down on your hair. Some people apply setting mouse to their hair before doing this, but it works with just a moisturizer and oil as well.
Once your hair is dry and flat, if you’re really anti-frizz, you can use jam to slick down your baby hairs and even slick down the flyaways that might pop up in between your cornrows. (Heads up, using jam on your baby hairs too frequently can lead to thinning.)
How do I sleep with my cornrows?
You’ve put in a lot of effort (and time) into washing and taking care of your cornrows, but if you don’t sleep with them correctly, you run the risk of frizz springing up and undoing all your hard work. We definitely don’t want that to happen, so here’s what you can do to keep those freshly rinsed locks looking their best while you catch some Zzzs.
- If you haven’t moisturized your hair already, doing so before you go to bed is a great time to do it.
- Then wrap your braids in a silk bonnet or in a satin scarf, tying the knot securely but not too tight. If you have long braids, also wrap a silk scarf around the length of your braids. This bonnet from Amazon is great for long braids and it comes with a silk scrunchy to keep your hair from moving around.
Ok, so I’m ready to take my cornrows down. Any tips?
Two words: moisture + time. The most important thing to do when taking down your cornrows it take your time. Impatience ultimately causes breakage because you end up mishandling your hair. Instead take your time to moisturize your cornrows first. You can use this detangling cream made specifically for takedowns. Apply it or any moisturizer to your hair generously before you begin. Let it sit for a couple minutes then start taking down your cornrows gently. The moisture will give your hair elasticity, making it less likely to break. If you encounter any tangles or tough spots, take your time to detangle them. The slower approach is annoying in the process but you’ll ultimately be happy with the length you retain and the breakage you avoid.
In a nutshell, taking care of your cornrows means keeping them clean, moisturized and covered when you sleep at night. Cornrows are a minimalistic, no frills hairstyle for the busy girl-on-the-go, but just like any other hairdo, they do need some TLC to make them really pop.