Photo: Courtesy Maybelline for Self Portrait

Fall is officially here, meaning that it’s time to finally break out those protective styles you’ve been adding to your Pinterest board all summer and put them to work. Whether you’re opting for waist-length box braids or intricate feed-ins, the options are endless (and spoiler alert, they’re all cute). If you’ve ever gotten a protective style with added hair only to have your scalp itch and small red bumps appear a few hours or days later, then you’re not alone. This is a common reaction to braiding hair (especially hair purchased at the beauty supply store), and is a sign that you might be allergic to synthetic hair. Most braiding hair is coated with an alkaline base that can trigger a reaction in many people, but don’t despair — it can be avoided by pre-treating the hair with a simple solution: apple cider vinegar.


Here’s how it works. ACV lifts the alkaline base from the hair, and once dry, it can be installed without causing irritation to the scalp and hairline. The process is simple, and can be the difference between struggling through the next five weeks of a protective style and flourishing from one look to the next. To do this you need apple cider vinegar (any brand/type will do), hot water and a large bowl or bucket.


STEP 1: Start by filling a bowl with hot water and apple cider vinegar. The ratio should be one part apple cider vinegar to three parts hot water, and should be enough to completely cover one or two packs of hair.


STEP 2: Without separating the hair (don’t remove the rubber bands or try to comb it out), submerge it in the mixture and wait 15 minutes. After a few minutes, the alkaline base will lift from the hair and form a white film on the top of the water.


STEP 3: Remove the hair from the mixture and allow to air dry. Don’t worry about the smell, it’ll evaporate once the hair is dry.


STEP 4: Install and style the hair as normal.


Already installed your hair? Don’t worry — add some ACV and water to a spray bottle and spritz all over your head, it should give you some relief. Still need help? Watch this tutorial by beauty guru MIIX MII to see it in action:


If you can’t wait for your hair to air dry, or just don’t want to do it yourself, you can buy pre-treated braiding hair or opt for human hair (although it’s much more expensive).


Do you pre-treat your braiding hair? Sound off in the comments below!


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