Yes, you can safely shower and wash your braids. While getting your braids wet can lead to a longer drying time and the possibility of frizz or loosening, it’s neither harmful nor damaging to the hair.
In fact, washing your braids every 2-3 weeks is essential for maintaining scalp health and preventing the buildup of dirt, sweat, and residue.
Understanding the correct showering techniques is key to preserving your braids.
To help you with this, we’ve put together a complete guide on the best practices for managing braids in the shower and maximize the longevity of any protective style.
By the end of this guide, you will feel confident to care for your braids through every step of the shower process, ensuring they stay healthy and look their best.
Table of Contents
How To Shower With Braids
Assessing Braid and Scalp Condition
Before showering, check the condition of your braids and scalp. This will determine if your braids need washing or if you can simply protect them with a shower cap.
Freshly done braids may not need washing yet if they still look neat. But braids a few weeks old likely need some cleaning, especially if you notice flakes or itchiness.
Before hopping into the shower look for any flaking, frizziness, looseness, or buildup in your braids. Also check your scalp under the braids for dryness, irritation, or dandruff. If you notice buildup or your scalp feels itchy or irritated. These are signs that it’s time to cleanse and soothe the scalp.
A clean scalp promotes healthy hair growth and reduces buildup when taking braids down. Keeping it free from irritation can also prolong your protective style. If you notice any scalp issues, know that washing can provide relief.
Using a Shower Cap for Protection
If you’re not planning to wash your braids, wear a shower cap to prevent them from getting wet in the shower. Shower caps protect your braids from the direct stream of water. Since braids take a long time to dry, keeping them dry while showering helps maintain their neat look.
You can also try using a plastic grocery bag tied securely around your hairline if you find that a regular shower cap doesn’t keep your braids completely dry. The bag ensures no moisture gets in. Wearing a silk scarf or durag under the shower cap offers further protection.
Another option is to put all your braids in a high bun while showering and then only wash your face and ears carefully. This bun method keeps the length of your braids up and away from the water.
Removing Accessories and Wigs
Before stepping in the shower and washing your braids, remove any beads, jewelry, or accessories that are on the braids. Taking these off prevents tangling or damaging them.
Also, take off any wigs or hair pieces you may be wearing. Carefully detach the wig from your natural hairline using a mixture of water and rubbing alcohol. This allows the wig to slide off smoothly without disturbing your edges.
Removing accessories and wigs ahead of time leaves your natural hair exposed and ready to be cleaned.
Dampening Hair with a Spray Bottle
Before shampooing your braids, use a spray bottle to dampen your hair and scalp.
Using a spray bottle gives you more control than standing directly under the showerhead. It allows you to focus the water and shampoo specifically on your roots without completely soaking your braids.
Fill a spray bottle with water and, optionally, a small amount of shampoo. Section your hair and lightly mist your scalp, roots, and braids until damp. Avoid harsh rubbing or scrubbing to prevent damage to the braids.
Dampening your hair ahead of time is recommended as it helps lift dirt and debris before shampooing. You can do this step right in the shower as well.
Selecting a Scalp Cleanser or Shampoo for Braids
When washing braids, use a gentle shampoo or scalp cleanser made specifically for braided hair. These are formulated to cleanse the scalp without creating too much lather, which can be difficult to rinse from braids.
Look for sulfate-free formulas that contain moisturizing ingredients like argan oil or shea butter. Avoid harsh shampoos with sulfates and parabens, which can strip moisture. A bottle with a nozzle makes application directly to the scalp easy.
Consider using a clarifying shampoo occasionally for a deep cleanse or if you’re dealing with sweat or dandruff. Look for options with natural ingredients like shea butter, argan oil, tea tree oil, and peppermint, which cleanse the hair and scalp without stripping natural oils.
If you don’t have a specialty braid shampoo, dilute your regular shampoo with water so it flows through the braids more easily. Apply just a small amount to your scalp and roots.
You can also make a homemade scalp cleanser by mixing apple cider vinegar, tea tree oil, peppermint oil, and lavender oil with water. This natural solution will effectively cleanse follicles with a protective style.
Massage gently before rinsing thoroughly.
Investing in a quality braid shampoo will cleanse your scalp thoroughly without disturbing your style. Focus the product on your roots and scalp rather than the braids.
Diluting Your Shampoo
If you don’t have access to a specialty braid shampoo, diluting your regular shampoo allows you to cleanse your scalp without weighing down your braids or leaving behind residue. Thinner shampoo glides through braids more smoothly than thick, creamy shampoo.
Add a small amount of your usual shampoo to a spray bottle and fill the rest with water. Shake before each use to remix the solution. Section your hair and spray the diluted shampoo directly onto your scalp, roots, and hairline.
Massage gently with your fingertips to create a light lather targeting your roots.
Diluting regular shampoo allows you to cleanse your scalp without weighing down your braids or leaving behind residue. Rinsing will also be easier. Just be sure to concentrate application on your roots only.
Considering Dry Shampoo
For a quick refresh between full shampoo sessions, consider using a dry shampoo. This allows you to absorb excess oils and sweat to clean your scalp and roots.
If you don’t have time for a full wash but need to quickly cleanse after an activity like swimming that gets your braids wet, dry shampoo is a good solution. Focus application on the roots and scalp only to refresh without needing to do a full shampoo routine.
Look for dry shampoos formulated for braided hair when possible. Spray or sprinkle onto your scalp, let sit 2-3 minutes, gently massage in, blot braids with a damp washcloth, and style as desired. The braids will look freshly washed.
Dry shampoo is not a replacement for regular cleansing and conditioning in the shower, but it’s a time-saving way to maintain fresh, clean braids between full washes.
Effective Shampoo Application
Gentle Application on Scalp and Roots
When shampooing your braids, it’s essential to be both precise and gentle during application. Avoid rubbing the shampoo vigorously into your braids or hair strands. This can cause frizzing and damage.
Instead, apply the shampoo directly to your scalp and roots using the nozzle of the bottle, if it has one. Gently massage it into your scalp using the pads of your fingers, not your nails. Precision and patience are key.
If you don’t have a nozzle bottle, mix shampoo with water in a spray bottle. Section the hair and lightly mist the diluted shampoo onto your scalp. The targeted application prevents excess product weigh down.
Concentrate on applying the shampoo at the braid’s base and the roots. The scalp and roots tend to accumulate more buildup from styling products, oils, and daily debris. Targeting shampoo in these areas ensures cleaning where it’s needed most.
Don’t worry about working shampoo all the way down the braid length. As you rinse, the shampoo will cleanse the rest of your hair.
Scalp Massage Techniques
Once you’ve applied shampoo to your scalp and roots, use your fingertips to massage it in gently. Work in a circular, downward motion to cover all areas of your scalp without disturbing the structure of the braids.
Avoid aggressive back-and-forth scrubbing. Instead, focus on moving the shampoo around with your finger pads using delicate yet targeted movements. The downward direction will allow suds to slide through strands instead of scrunching braids.
Take your time massaging to lift dirt, oils, and product buildup from your scalp. Thorough coverage and gentle technique prevent frizz and irritation. Rinse cleanly when complete.
Proper Rinsing Techniques
Using a Handheld Showerhead for Rinsing
When rinsing shampoo from braided hair, use a handheld showerhead for the best control. Adjust it to a gentle setting to lightly stream water over your scalp while carefully massaging with your fingers to remove lather. The hand control allows you to target just your roots without tugging or over-saturating the braids.
Rinsing Techniques for Braids
When rinsing out shampoo, focus most of the water on your scalp instead of your braids. This avoids over-saturating all of the braids which can lengthen drying time.
You can flip your head forward in the shower while rinsing to really get to all areas of your scalp. Another option to reach your scalp and roots easily and keeping the braids length protected is putting your hair in a loose high bun.
Let the water flow from your scalp down through your braids to rinse out shampoo without lots of extra pulling on the braids. Gently squeeze braids to get the water fully through the hair with the shampoo. Be gentle to avoid frizzing.
Ensuring a Thorough Rinse
Rinse your hair very thoroughly after shampooing braids. Make sure to remove all shampoo and buildup from your scalp and braids. Any leftover residue trapped in braids can lead to irritation, itchiness, and buildup.
Use warm water to help get them extra clean. Spend a few extra minutes under the shower spray focusing on your scalp until it feels completely clean and residue-free.
If you haven’t washed your braids in awhile or notice leftover buildup, do a second shampoo and rinse for a deeper clean.
Fully rinsing out all shampoo and debris will help prevent itchiness and residue forming before your next wash. Take the time to really rinse those braids squeaky clean.
Conditioning Your Braids (Optional)
After shampooing your braids, you can use a hair conditioner for extra moisture. Focus first on massaging conditioner gently into your scalp. Then smooth the conditioner over the entire length of your natural braided hair from root to tip. Avoid putting conditioner on any synthetic hair pieces.
Let the conditioner sit on your braids for about 20 minutes before rinsing out gently. This gives it time to really nourish the hair.
Look for hydrating conditioners that also provide smoothing and anti-frizz properties.
Conditioning every time you shampoo is optional, but can help braids retain moisture, sheen and style.
Drying Your Braids Correctly
Wringing Out Excess Water
After showering, gently squeeze out excess water from your braids without pulling on them using a microfiber towel, which is more gentle than regular towels.
If a microfiber towel is not available, a t-shirt can work well too. The soft cotton is a gentle alternative for drying braids.
You can also try gently patting your braids dry with the microfiber towel, being careful not to rub too much to prevent frizzing.
Towel Wrapping with a Microfiber Towel
Then, wrap your braids in a microfiber towel to help absorb moisture and dry them. Microfiber is gentle while also being highly absorbent.
If you don’t have a microfiber towel on hand, a regular cotton bath towel can also get the job done, particularly for heavy, long braids.
Wrapping hair with two towels post-washing is effective for heavier braided styles like faux locs to soak up excess water.
Blow Drying on a Cool Setting
Your braids may continue dripping for a while after washing. Partially drying them with a blow dryer on a cool setting cuts down on drying time. The cool temperature is important to prevent heat damage, especially with synthetic braids which could melt under high heat.
For guys with braids, put on a durag after applying mousse and holding spray. Then use the blow dryer to set the style perfectly in place, keeping braids neat and frizz-free.
Air Drying When Possible
Allow your braids to air dry completely whenever possible. Let them air dry as much as you can, focusing on fully drying the braids before applying any oils on too wet hair.
Avoid using heat styling tools like blow dryers or flat irons as the high heat can damage braids. If you have the time, it’s best to let your braids fully air dry.
Don’t go to bed while braids are still damp, as this could lead to mold, mildew or matting. Make sure braids are completely dry before sleeping.
You can wrap damp braids in a silk scarf or bonnet to gently draw moisture while air drying. The silk helps absorb water without being harsh on the braids.
Post-Shower Braid Care
Moisturizing with Leave-In Conditioner
After showering or washing your braids, it’s important to add moisture back in. Start by applying a gentle, light oil like jojoba or almond oil especially to your scalp. Massage it in gently to rehydrate the scalp area.
Next, use a leave-in conditioner or dedicated braid spray all along the length of your braids. Focus on coating the ends thoroughly as they tend to be the most fragile and prone to dryness. This will help restore moisture to keep braids conditioned, soft and shiny.
You can also spritz hair follicles with an aloe vera spray, which nourishes the scalp, prevents dandruff and promotes growth. The added moisture also prevents braids from drying out.
Finally, seal everything in with a hair oil on the lengths. This locks in moisture so your conditioned braids stay supple for longer. Oiling damp braids helps the product absorb better as well.
Sealing with Hair Oil
After showering and washing your braids, refresh the hairline by sealing in moisture with an oil or grease while the hair is still damp. Applying oil to wet hair allows it to absorb better. Though optional, this step is recommended for scalp health.
To encourage hair growth and prevent dryness along the edges, use a hair oil elixir, concentrating application along the hairline and temples.
If dealing with an itchy or dry scalp, massage in a soothing scalp elixir like Head & Shoulders Royal Oils. Its cooling sensation relieves irritation.
If needed, apply a light oil like As I Am Dry and Itchy Scalp Care, which contains olive oil and tea tree ingredients, to moisturize the scalp. But use oil sparingly as overuse requires more frequent washing.
Adding Shine with Mousse
After showering and washing your braids, apply mousse to smooth and lay down the hair. Mousse helps lay flyaways flat and provides shine for a neat, polished finish.
Choose a mousse with medium or strong hold specifically formulated to reduce frizz post-shower. Apply all over the braids, then tie hair down and let it dry.
Finish by misting braids with a light holding spray, concentrating on the hairline and part to securely tame any remaining wispy hairs or frizz. The final touch creates a polished, photo-ready style.