Tree Braids – Protective Hairstyles for Transitioning to Natural Hair




TREE BRAIDS – Second Attempt

A protective hairstyle that I tried during my transition from relaxed to natural hair is tree braids. It was not a successful style for me (tried twice), but if it was done properly, I think tree braids would have worked well for my transition style.  I was approximately 45 weeks post relaxer at this time.

I had seen tree braids on-line and the photos that I saw were of women with loose, flowing hair (some straight and some curly) with a cornrow base. It was very different from a traditional weave as the hair was braided in rather than sewn or glued.

For my first attempt I tried a salon and that was a disaster.  I regret not going to a salon for the second attempt, against my better judgment, and instead I went to a home stylist that I found on craigslist. My husband did not even want to leave me and he did wait outside for a while and got nervous when I did not call for him to pick me up after 4 hours, which was about how long the braids were to take: 3 – 4 hours. I got no signal on my personal phone but I did thankfully have my work phone and he called to check on me a few times. It took far longer to complete than I was told.

The braider said that she had done tree braids many times and that she had tons of repeat customers. I felt they would be a great protective hairstyle for me while I grew out my relaxer. I had her send me photos via email before I agreed to let her do my tree braids. I also had her show me photos that had not yet been downloaded from her camera. I did not notice any repeat faces and again I did not go with my gut feeling to just go back home.

Well, I was clearly lied to because the result was very similar to my first guinea pig experience with a woman in Harlem who claimed to know how to do tree braids.

I was okay with the final product at first except the way my own cornrows were left out at the back of my head along with a few of my braids that were braided into one large braid underneath four – yes FOUR PACKS of hair. I usually buy human hair and put 6 – 7 ounces in for fusion weave or a sew in with thin wefts. This braider told me to have 4 packs of hair available.

Upon further inspection, I told her about my issue with the loose braids hanging out at the back of my head and she braided some of the loose braids together. I had a tail of braids at the back of my head in addition to some loose braids that were just hidden underneath all that hair. It was not comfortable and I could just imagine the matting if I tried to keep it installed for a few weeks.

I also felt that too much hair was used but there was not much I could do about that once it was installed. The shedding was WAY more than I expected too. She said it was normal to shed though. It was much worse than with fusion weave. Hair was coming out immediately and constantly. I could not even brush through it without hair coming out. Complete sections came out too, not just one hair here and there. The cornrows loosened right away and the knots at the front of my head were much bigger than I expected.

Once I felt the full weight of the hair pinned up in a clip I hated it.

I thought 3 packs would be too much (about 12 ounces of 18 inch hair) but four packs? I should have known that I’d end up hating it quickly. I have to add that my husband loved the long, thick hair but it was just so heavy on my head that I removed the braids after only a couple of days. He kept asking me to let them stay in for a while to “grow” on me but when I explained how heavy it was by reminding him of how heavy his hair is when he wets his long dreadlocks to wash his hair. I explained that my head felt heavy like that 24/7….and then he even said to take them out.

The goal was to grow out my hair, not to ruin it with heavy braids.

They took EIGHT HOURS to install. It took me 4 hours to take them down – very carefully. If I ever find someone who can actually do tree braids, locally, I will probably have them done again. I do still think tree braids would be a great protective hairstyle for a transition from relaxed to natural hair.