Getting braids installed for hours on end may feel taxing to the customer sitting in the chair, but just imagine the toll it takes on the stylist installing them. We spoke to Swella braid bar Co-Founder Zanbria Asante and Swella Stylist Arkel Washington about the phenomenon of braider burnout, how to combat it, and the exciting new tool being developed to take braids down twice as fast.

What is braider burnout?

“When a stylist is in charge of prepping hair, collecting all the products for the style, installing, and braiding down it causes physical pain” explains Asante. “Braider burnout used to only refer to the physical pain stylists were experiencing, but in today’s world – braider burnout includes the mental toll of doing everything from marketing to braiding hair for hours a day.”

What You Should Know About Braider Burnout and How to Stop It

How does braider burnout affect stylists?

Washington: Personally, the most challenging effect of braider burnout for me has to be fatigue, irritability, and forgetting to eat! I’ve noticed that if I stand in the same position for hours on end, my body becomes sore which makes it a bit more challenging to move around during basic activities.  Not to mention the stress that comes from early morning and late nights if you don’t set strict hours. The toughest challenge I will mention is forgetting to eat. Certain styles such as Small Knotless Braids take many hours to complete and I can simply forget to eat during that time.  To fix this, I’ll set a reminder on my phone to stop and have a quick snack such as a granola bar and a drink of water.  This allows my client a chance to rest or stretch for a minute as well.

Asante: The majority of braiders serving customers are having to do everything from prepping hair to installing and braiding. On top of the manual tasks of braiding, they also have to keep their social media up to date and market themselves and their services to gain customers, it’s another job on top of braiding that can be mentally draining. 

What You Should Know About Braider Burnout and How to Stop It

Do you have advice for braiders who are currently experiencing burnout? 

Washington: My best advice from experience is to be sure to enjoy more relaxing activities such as massages, meditation, yoga, and more specifically, hand massages. Be sure to set boundaries and get some sleep. Be mindful of simple things you may be missing such as moments with family or even a meal while providing your clients the best service possible.  You can’t pour into your hair community and clients if you’re empty yourself!

What are some practices that have been put in place for the welfare of stylists at Swella? 

Asante: At Swella, we ensure that we’re putting the welfare of our stylists first by leaning into group dynamics. We have Operators that handle all the tasks outside of installing braids. This allows our stylists to focus on just braiding. We offer expedited services with certain styles that take a longer period of time so that stylists have an assistant braider there to help them complete services faster. At Swella we handle everything from marketing to our online booking platform which allows our stylists to just focus on one task. We’re excited to integrate technology such as the Unravl device to automate some of the tedious processes that over time start to cause physical pain to stylists. We aim to increase sustainability amongst our stylists and decrease braider burnout through technology. 

What You Should Know About Braider Burnout and How to Stop It

What is the Unravl device and how did you come up with it?

Asante: The Unravl device automates the unbraiding process and makes it 2x quicker to take braids down. I came up with the idea after a long and tiring Friday night in college taking my braids down. I wanted to get my braids re-done the next Saturday morning for an event on Sunday, but I had to take my braids down and wash my hair. I spent about 4.5 hours unraveling my medium-sized braids, and I wasn’t able to go out with my friends, or even eat because I was sitting on my bed taking each individual braid down for the next 4 hours, and this required both of my hands the entire time. I’ve been wearing braids since I was 5 so taking braids down was always a part of the process. But when I was in college, I saw an increase in automation in almost every industry except for the braiding industry. That’s when I had the idea to automate this manual and monotonous task to give people back their time and energy! 

How can braiders get an Unravl device? 

Asante: We plan to roll out the Unravl device by Q1 of 2024. You can join our waitlist on Once you sign up, you’ll be the first to know about the exact date we plan to release the Unravl device!

Read more: Meet Swella, The Black Woman Owned Luxury Braid Bar

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