If you've been thinking about getting braids installed then you have certainly chosen the right time of year for it.

Photo courtesy of @cara.daniels

With temperatures cooling down, protective styles become a go-to for many naturals leading to questions about proper maintenance.

How often should I get braids installed?

To a large extent, how often you get your hair braided depends on the style and your hair. Truth be told, some of us have really fine hair that will break off in a stiff wind, so braiding with extensions, no matter how infrequently, is out of the question. And if that is the case for you, the strands of our hair are so fine that they are unable to handle the weight of extensions. Sounds like you? Install your braids using the crochet braiding method. However, if your strands are able to handle it, you may install braids in your hair as often as you like, provided you take the following guidelines into consideration.

  1. Try to keep your braids in for no longer than 8 weeks at a time for optimal scalp and hair health.
  2. Leave them in for at least a week between installation so that your scalp has the opportunity to breathe.
  3. Prep your hair for braiding with intensive deep conditioning treatments that improve the strength and moisture of your hair.

How do I maintain my natural hair while wearing braids?

As tempting as it might be, braiding one's hair is not a fix it and forget it kind of deal. In order to maintain or improve the health of your hair while wearing braids or any other protective style, you must continue to moisturize your hair and scalp. A homemade hair spritz is great for this purpose and you can probably make one pretty easily with ingredients you already have on hand.

  • Washing your hair while it is braided or twisted is a matter of preference but choosing not to wash your braids doesn't mean you can't still have a clean scalp. One way to keep your scalp free of dirt and product build-up is to cleanse your scalp with witch hazel.
  • If you would like to wash your braids without causing frizz, do it while wearing a stocking cap is a great option. You must be prepared to maintain your braids while you wear them and though your routine doesn't need to be elaborate, you must ensure that your own hair stays moisturized and your scalp is healthy and clean. Check out this video from YoursNaturally11 for more braid guidance.

How long should I keep my braids in?

Tanya Pebbles of East Coast Salon told Bustle that 12 weeks should be the maximum amount of time any person keeps their braids in. According to Mane Addicts writer Kadia Blagrove, 2 months should be your cut off point, and then only if you are refreshing your hair as you go.

Here's the truth:

However long you keep your braids installed is a personal choice things like activity level and how you maintain them will play a role in how long you are able to keep them in. I would say it is best to err on the side of caution and keep your braids in for no longer than 8 weeks as long as your hair and scalp show no sign of distress. If you notice any breakage or persistent tenderness then it's a good idea to take your braids out to curtail any damage.

Just remember this: your protective style will only work if you do!