People constantly ask me questions about braids since I've spent about 30% of the last decade with my hair that way. The questions are usually innocent but sometimes naive and slightly insulting.
Ask anyone with an afro or any king of curly hair (no, not that wavy type that everyone has but real curls) and they will tell you that touching their hair is a complete no-no. If you wouldn't go up to a middle class white male with mainstream hair and ask to touch his hair then don't do it to others. Hell, just live by the rule that unless invited in gold embossed writing, don't touch any part of another person.
It isn't always insulting and it is sweet that every second day, someone exclaims how beautiful my hair is. Being different is fine and has its consequences. One them is answering all the questions there are about braided hair. Here are the most common queries.
Does it hurt? It looks painful.
The way my hairdresser braids my hair involves plaiting in synthetic hair (oh, shock horror) in to my hair from the base. She takes a small amount of my hair and plaits in about ten times that amount of hair in to one braid.
The first time you get braids, your scalp will be sore. If it isn't, the braids are not in tight enough and will not last. How long they last is another question. Each consecutive time you get your braids in, it doesn't hurt. At least not for me. I believe I have an average pain threshold.
When I say hurts, it is like a bruise. The first night you sleep on them, it can be quite uncomfortable but the second night they loosen and it is fine. That was so long ago for me that I might have forgotten how painful it was but I don't seem to remember it being awful.
Simple answer is: Yes, the first time.
Do you wash it?
First of all, don't call my hair "it." That's not very polite. We aren't discussing a new puppy or a crushed velvet jacket.
Yes, I wash my braids just like I wash my non-braided hair. There is a lot more shampoo and conditioner used as the hair mass is more but the ritual of washing is the same.
The braids stay in and are not undone each time I want to wash them. That is a common extension question.
Simple answer is: I wash it the same as I would my normal hair.
How long does it last?
This is a question that is subjective and depends on the braidee (yeah, I made that word up). My braids are put in very tightly and easily last 2-3 months. In that time, they will not be undone. Unplaiting a braid will usually destroy the braid completely so they stay in the whole 2-3 months.
The question should be When do you take them out? The answer to that is that it depends on how fast your hair grows. As your normal hair grows the braid will move away from the scalp. Certain kinds of hair products and pulling on the braid when washing it can result in the braid slipping off the hair. Even the way you sleep on your hair at night can effect the braid and make it loosen. All of this adds up to how long before you need to remove it.
Simple answer is: Anywhere from 1 to 3 months.
Can I touch your braids?
Huh! That was a test. Go back and read the introduction. No, you can not touch my hair.
I hope that helps answer your questions about braids. If you have anymore, let me know but I'll expect a cup of coffee in response.