You planned your protective hairstyles months before summer actually hit. When the season finally came, you spent hours in a salon chair having your box braids installed. But once your plaits were perfected, you hit the beach, realizing you have absolutely no idea how to properly care for your twists through a day of sand, sweat, and sun. Yup, it happens to the best of us. Thankfully, Kamilah, a braid expert and New York state-certified natural hairstylist and cosmetologist, shares tips on exactly what to do to prevent a mane mishap when wearing braids to the beach.

1. Know the triggers. Kamilah says that three of the biggest challenges when wearing braids to the beach include protecting your scalp, retaining moisture in your hair, and keeping sand out. Although these issues exist no matter what style you’re wearing, the popularity of super-long braids (thanks, Beyoncé!) and extensions makes it particularly difficult if you’re not planning to take your braids out at the end of the day.

2. Don’t skimp on styling. It doesn’t matter if you’re wearing two jumbo French braids or a head full of micro braids, Kamilah points out that they need maintenance regardless of size. “There is a misconception that when you have braids in your hair, you don’t need to do any work,” she says. “It’s simply not true. Braids just reduce the amount of work you need to do [overall], but [having braids] does not eliminate the work.”

While all plaits and twists of any dimension require tailored care, smaller ones will look fresher longer, whereas bigger braids will lose their shape quicker and cornrows can potentially look frizzier faster. “The bigger the braid, the shorter time you should leave it in for the health of your strands as your hair is growing out,” she says.

3. Prep properly. Thoroughly wash your hair using a hydrating shampoo, like Carol’s Daughter Coco Crème Sulfate-Free Shampoo ($10), followed by a nourishing conditioner; Kamilah recommends Taliah Waajid Enhancing Herbal Conditioner ($8). Finish with a leave-in spray, like Kinky Curly Pool Party Leave-In Conditioner ($12). Once your braids are in place, spray your roots and hair with a lightweight leave-in conditioner that has UV protection.

4. Slather on the strand SPF. All skin needs protection from the sun, and the scalp is no exception. “It seems odd but sometimes we tend to forget that our scalp is skin, and our arms and legs are not the only thing cooking under that sun,” says Kamilah. Take sun protection up a notch with a hat and/or a leave-in conditioner with UV protection.

Woman sunbathing at beach

5. Steer clear of the sand. Okay, bear with us. It may sound completely unrealistic, but if at all possible, avoid getting sand in your hair. Not only will it be a nightmare to remove, but the salt can cause some major dry out. If the inevitable does happen, try not to totally stress. Kamilah says that it’s a difficult task, but it’s not impossible. “Shake the excess off the hair and use a small brush to get sand out at the root before starting the wash process,” she explains. For more on how to actually wash your braids without completely destroying your style, keep reading.

6. Follow these post-beach care instructions. If your hair is dry, start by shaking off any sand that is right on the surface. Next, use a rinse, like Crème of Nature Apple Cider Vinegar Clarifying Rinse, to help dissolve any buildup of products and sweat. Lather your hair with a moisturizing shampoo, like Shea Moisture Raw Shea Butter Retention Shampoo. When washing, take Kamilah’s advice: “Be sure to spread the product onto the actual braid and use your hands to push product throughout the braid.”

To rinse, stand under the shower head and guide the water down your hair in a “push” motion to ensure that you’re removing any remaining particles without encouraging frizz. If your hair still feels dry post-rinse, use a leave-in conditioner, such as Carol’s Daughter Black Vanilla Leave-In Conditioner or Jane Carter Revitalizing Leave-In Conditioner, to pump moisture back into your braids.

7. Slick the frizz. If you see any fuzzies or feel like your braids are slowly unraveling, there is a way to refresh them without a total re-do. Kamilah recommends grazing a gel or lightweight edge control product over your braids, to smooth flyaways and put your look on lock. Once the gel is applied, wrap your hair in a silk scarf to let it set, or allow it to air dry.

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