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As women, many of us can appreciate a good sew-in. They give us a sometimes much-needed break from daily styling and they offer variety. Unfortunately, this go-to hairdo, which was once touted as the ultimate protective style, has betrayed us in some ways because the sew-in has become synonymous with thinning hair and breakage. Thus many have sworn off hair weaves; however, this may be like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

While sew-ins can wreak havoc on one’s hair when not cared for properly, if the right steps are taken, an install can still be a great protective style that helps to promote hair growth. If you happen to be a person who loves sew-in weaves, but you’re completely fed up with the damage and breakage that they are causing to your real hair, consider implementing the following practices before giving up hair weaves for good.

Deep condition thoroughly

While it may seem like a no-brainer, the way that you care for your hair between installs has a significant impact on the manner in which your hair will respond to a sew-in installation. Hydrated hair will always handle manipulation, such as braiding and threading, way better than dry, brittle hair would. Use a high-quality deep conditioner prior to installs and always use heat when doing so as it will help to restore elasticity and moisture.

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Use a protein treatment

In addition to applying moisturizing deep treatment prior to the installation of a hair weave, it’s also a good idea to apply a protein treatment, such as the ApHogee Keratin and Green Tea Restructurizer, or for a heavier protein treatment, the ApHogee Two-Step Protein Treatment. Protein treatments help to strengthen hair strands, which limits opportunities for breakage. Of course, you’ll want to be sure to avoid protein overload, so double-check the ingredients on your deep conditioner to ensure that it does not include protein as well. Too much of something can be a bad thing when it comes to this.

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Moisturize and seal

After your hair is clean and properly conditioned, you’ll want to moisturize your hair properly using either the LOC or LCO methods. To do this, you’ll need a liquid leave-in conditioner, hair oil, and a cream moisturizer. Since it will be a while before your hair is out again, you’ll want to take your time and apply the products to your hair one section at a time. Doing so will allow your hair to retain moisture for longer periods of time beneath your install. Because your hair won’t be out, it’s important to make sure it’s well-moisturized.

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Stretch and detangle hair prior to install

After washing and conditioning, you’ll want to take your time to properly detangle your hair. You may even want to stretch your hair using a blow dryer. If we’re being completely transparent, not all hairstylists concern themselves with hair care, which means that they won’t be nearly as careful as you would be if the detangling is left up to them. As a result, it would be in your best interest to properly prep your hair and installation, otherwise, you may have to sit and listen to it snapping, crackling, and popping while your cornrows are being installed.

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Hire a skilled stylist

Since we’re being honest, let’s just be blunt about the fact that you can’t have just anybody who says they do sew-ins with their hands in your hair. It’s important to note that not every person with a hair page on Instagram and booking information in their bio is a skilled hairstylist. This is not to downplay self-taught stylists but to emphasize the significance of having a seasoned professional handle your installs because as we all know, allowing the wrong stylist to install your weave can result in severe breakage and a major hair journey setback.

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Wash and condition while installed

Your work isn’t done just because your sew-in is installed and looks cute. Of course, preparing your hair for an install is only part of the battle. Hair must also be maintained beneath the sew-in. At the very least, this means weekly or biweekly washing and conditioning. To be sure that the products are reaching your hair beneath the sew-in, consider purchasing a nozzle-tip applicator bottle. Whatever you do though, don’t get too comfortable that you forget about your real hair. Make sure that you’re maintaining it so that your hair doesn’t look and smell like a matted mess later.

Woman grooming hair

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Moisturize regularly

Between washes, you’ll also want to be sure that you are moisturizing your real hair on a regular basis. You can do this by using a leave-in conditioner spray such as the White Peony Leave-In Spray by Mielle Organics. One of the primary reasons for sew-in-related breakage is chronic dryness. Make sure you moisturize your hair after it has thoroughly dried underneath your sew-in. Also, don’t overdo it on the spraying. That can leave your braided hair wet and again, we promise that’s not what you want. Spray a leave-in lightly in your real hair and it will be refreshed.

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Don’t exceed three months

Sew-ins can be great protective styles, but they are not meant to last forever. Leaving a hair weave in for too long can result in matting and extreme breakage. To avoid this fate, commit to seeing your stylist at least every three months to have your sew-in reinstalled. It can also be a good idea to give your hair week or month-long breaks between installations. Even if you don’t have the extreme results of matted hair after holding on to your sew-in for too long, extended-wear can at least make your strands a tangled mess that you won’t want to deal with.

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Moisturize during take-down

When removing your weave, it’s a good idea to lubricate your braids using hair oil. That’s right, you need to moisturize your hair at all times with sew-ins, prior to installation, during installation underneath the sew-in, while taking the weave out, and intensely after your extensions are all out (don’t forget to wash the extensions if you want to use them again). This will help to keep your hair from snapping and breaking as you remove the thread and take out your braids. After your hair has been braided this way for months, you’ll want to be extremely gentle as you take it down.

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Trim regularly between installs

Another powerful defense against breakage is regular hair trims as they help to rid your hair of split ends. As a rule of thumb, you should aim to trim after every two installs if you tend to leave each one in for two to three months. Perhaps you’re paranoid about going to the salon because you believe any growth wins will be chopped off by a stylist. If you trim it yourself, and if you’ve done right by your strands while they were braided up under your weave, you should only need to lightly clean up the ends

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