I was listening to my reggae playlist on the train home from work one day and had a sudden desire to change-up my hairstyle right then and there.
A Bob Marley song came on during my mix as I was getting off the train in Brooklyn. Once I had service, I immediately texted my cousin: “What is the name of that hair? It’s lightweight? You can do twists or locks?”
She immediately texts me back with one word…“Marley.”
So I popped into the nearest beauty supply store and bought eight packs of Marley synthetic braiding hair; I was determined to figure out how I can achieve temporary twists for a few weeks. This was my mission, this was my goal, and I was going to make it happen, dammit!
But let’s take it back for a second: I started doing my hair myself a few years ago. It took A LOT of trials and I made A LOT of mistakes, so in no way am I professional. But I was determined to save money, and my hair. Going to the hair salon since I was a pretty young thing (well, like, nine years old) did a lot of damage to my natural hair. From random women pulling my hair in different directions, to literally burning my scalp from relaxers, I was just done with all of that because I am not about that life.
So I made the big decision two years ago and decided to chop off all the processed hair from years of perms and processing. While getting my Solange on and transitioning as my hair grows in its natural state, I have opted for protective styles that require low maintenance. I’m having fun with all the different styles I come up with in the meantime.
Protective styles are hairstyles that require low manipulation of the hair that are done to protect the hair or give it a break from daily styling and/or wear and tear. This can include weaves, braids, wigs, and twists.
For this particular style, I told myself that I had a choice. So I said self, do you spend $48, plus another $200- $250, for someone to install it for you or do you want to spend JUST $48 for the hair and install it yourself?
Self chose the latter once again. Five hours later (and a few episodes of Dexter), this was the end result. You like?
I washed my natural hair with Crème of Nature Ultra Moisturizing Shampoo, and then conditioned with Crème of Nature Chamomile & Comfrey Nourishing Conditioner.
I then deep-conditioned with Olive Oil Replenishing Pak, and I usually keep it in longer than the package suggests to ensure penetration into my strands, keeping them nourished and filled with moisture. Leaving it in for 15-20 minutes usually does the trick for me, and then I rinse.
- 7 ½ packs of Harlem 125 Ya Man! Afro Kinky Marley Braid Hair (measures about 24 inches)
- Shea Moisture 100% Shea Butter
- Ampro Pro-Styl Protein Styling Gel
- Hollywood Olive Crème Hairdress
- Jumbo Bobby Pins
This was my first time installing the Marley hair braids/twists, and it was really about trial and error as I went further along in my protective style. The middle of my head was done loosely and further from my roots due to time. However, I made sure to catch every piece of hair along the perimeter of my head as well as the top of my head for a more polished look, especially for my updos.
Marley hair already comes separated, so no need to do any measuring. Just decide how many pieces of synthetic hair your natural hair will allow you to use. I have seen most people use two strands of Marley and others four, but YOU KNOW THE STRENGTH OF YOUR HAIR! If you have fine or thin hair, eight packs might be too many. Yes, you want to look good, but you want to avoid breakage as well.
My hair is pretty healthy and strong so I opted to use three pieces of hair because my inner Erykah Badu loves BIG Hair and my hair said she is OK with that. For my edges on the other hand, I used two pieces of hair because I wanted to avoid as much tension as possible.
Here’s the process:
To begin, I brushed my fingers through the Marley hair before installation to kind of puff them out to achieve a more bulky look.
Taking a fine-toothed comb, I separated my natural hair into equal sections to install the synthetic hair to my hair. I did this throughout my head as I went along.
I used bobby pins to keep any hair that I am not using in place, to avoid it running astray and attempting to join forces with the hair I will actually be braiding/twisting.
I then dressed my natural hair with a coat of Shea Butter followed by a coat of Olive Crème in order to keep my hair moisturized while in the twists. Natural or kinky hair tends to be dry and needs moisture in order to be supple and strong. The key to retaining moisture is layering and sealing, which is why I used a cream-based moisturizer as well as the Shea Butter. Afterwards, I used a wide toothed comb to lock in that moisture from root to tip.
TIME TO INSTALL!
First, I took the Marley hair to make a “U” shape, making sure that it is even on both sides.
Then I looped the synthetic hair on top of my natural hair. This creates the three divided sections I needed to start a braid: one section to the right (Marley), another in the middle (mine) and the other to the left (Marley).
THE BRAID PATTERN
Take the left piece of the braid, which is the synthetic hair that is in your left hand. Cross it over your natural hair that is in the middle of your braid pattern. Now your natural hair is on the left of your braid.
Then take the right piece of the braid, which is the synthetic hair that is in your right hand and cross it over the middle piece of hair, which was the left piece of synthetic hair originally.
Then take your natural hair, which should now be on the left side of your braid and cross it over the middle piece, which was originally the right piece of Marley hair.
I continued this pattern four to five times, using the Ampro Pro-Styl Protein Gel on my own hair in between each “crossing over.” I love this gel in particular because it does not dry my hair, and it doesn’t leave any nasty flaky residue. Plus, it’s alcohol-free. Using this leaves my hair more sculpted within the braid/twists for a sleeker look.
Simply separate the hair evenly. You can either divide your hair and assign each equal piece to the right and left Marley hair or as I did, I chose to add my hair to one side and just used more gel to sleek it within each twist.
You don’t want those twists to unravel. So TAKE YOUR TIME to make sure that the twists are secure from top to bottom. If you mess up, just try, try again. Your hands will get accustomed to doing the braids and the twists the more you practice.
SECURE THE ENDS
Since this is synthetic hair we are working with, heat is what will be needed to lock in the style. But DO NOT use a curling iron, a flat-iron, a wand, or any hair iron of any sort to do so. You will burn that synthetic hair to a crisp and you will weep after you spent all that time and did all that work.
Instead, you can take a pot at home and bring water to a boil. Section your hair in four sections on your head: one at the top left, one at the top right, one on bottom left and the last on bottom right.
Tie the bottom of each section with an elastic band. Dip each section into the hot water for one to two minutes. Blot the wet hair with a towel until cool. This should keep your twists in place and keep them from coming apart.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about: Watch this YouTube video to get a better idea.
Being that this is a temporary protective style, you do not want to keep the braids or twists in for too long and neglect your natural hair. The accumulation of shed hair within the twists will start to dread and will be harder to detangle when it is time to take them out.
You also want to avoid excessive manipulation, tension or anything that will cause stress to your strands. I have had these in for about two weeks and plan to keep it no longer than four to five weeks to ensure healthy natural locks.
Although this hairstyle is time-consuming, it’s worth the all the effort. I constantly have women coming up to me asking how I achieved this look or stopping me to pay a compliment. I definitely will revisit this hairstyle in the future.
Until then… “Keep ya head up.”