Home All Things Natural Hair African Hair Threading/Ghana Plaits

African Hair Threading/Ghana Plaits

by Kristal C

Recently a friend asked if I knew how to do African Hair Threading. Initially, I did not know anything about the technique and went straight to Google to find out. Well I came across this awesome YouTube video from Girls Love Your Curls  that thoroughly demonstrated the process. Highly intrigued, I wanted to attempt this technique on Z. I never seen girls wearing (Ghana) plaits. The closest I have seen to African Hair Threading is the rope twists (a style I have yet to master). Fortunately I had a spool of black weaving thread!

The Process of African Hair Threading

I started with Z’s hair in her banded updo from a few days ago. The products used were my moisturizing spritz (water + Shea Moisture Curl Milk) and coconut oil as a sealant. I used the “scallop” parting method for this style starting from the back. The threading technique is pretty straightforward once you get an idea how much tension to apply around the roots. The first several plaits were looser at the root. However, in no time, I was able to wrap the thread at the base not too tight to cause breakage yet not too loose to promote slippage. The process of pulling the thread taut to create the corkscrew look was neat. I thought her hair would get caught up in the thread while doing so, but that was not the case at all! Her hair easily glided into shining, bouncing corkscrews all over her head. 🙂

The Results of Our First Set of Ghana Plaits

I love the way the scalloped parting turned out! My husband called it the tortoise shell. The only thing that concerns me is her exposed ends. I am protective styling over the fall/winter months and prefer not to leave her ends just out. I attempted to do some type of updo but her hair is not long enough yet. Ultimately I added barrettes to the ends. Not the best alternative but since she does not wear them often, I figured a they would not hurt.

This style took approximately 3 hours to do with breaks included. In other words, it did not take any longer than it would if doing a set of medium twists. I will aim to moisturize her ends every other day. I hope this style will last at least a week. Z really loves this hairstyle especially since it is something new, and she can swing her hair. The plaits are very light and soft; I am amazed at the sheen of her hair. Next time, I will pre-cut and knot the thread to help speed up the process since now I have a pretty good idea of how much thread is needed per plait. I look forward to seeing how her first set holds up over the next week (or two!). 🙂

Update #1: Here Are the Good and Bad of African Threading

What is the verdict on Z’s first set of Ghana plaits 5 days later

The answer is… I still totally adore them!!! Aside from a few issues, the African Threading technique is definitely something I plan to incorporate routinely into our rotation. So many styling possibilities especially on my pinterest board. I cannot wait to head to the beauty store for more weaving thread! The longer Z’s hair get, the more I see doing Ghana plait updos! Can’t you tell I am excited?!!! 🙂

The Pros about the Ghana plaits

  • Style is very manageable. The plaits remained in a downward position after much tossing and turning overnight. (Afro Mini Puffs hairstyle is another easy to maintain style overnight, btw). With regular two strand twists, I have to manipulate the twists the next morning with water to get them to hang uniformly downward again.
  • Style is truly low maintenance and great for protective styling.
  • Her scalp is accessible for moisturizing as needed. This is critical especially during the cooler months.

The Cons about the Ghana plaits

  • The ends are exposed. Although addressed in my previous post by adding barrettes, this is something I prefer to not do. The barrettes are cute, however, they can still be damaging to the ends.
  • The threads started to slip from the ends of some of the plaits on the SECOND day. This may have been a result of my threading technique, but it has been reported by others who have done African threading on their child’s hair. Nevertheless, the plaits still maintained their corkscrew shape. I was able to re-thread those few plaits.
  • The threads at the roots started slipping. Not a big deal to me, but something I have noticed more as the days passed. This could just be another result of my threading technique.

Proposed Resolutions for Next Time

  • Incorporate the plaits into a bun or updo where I can eliminate the use of barrettes yet keep her ends protected. 
  • Double knot the thread at the ends and not thread so close to the very ends of the plaits. Maybe I will stop a half inch from the ends before knotting.

Conclusion

I will leave this set of plaits in until Friday where I will let her sport the style minus the thread and barrettes. On Saturday, I will put in another set of Ghana plaits hopefully (and successfully) into a high bun (or two). I will continue to moisturize her hair with my homemade water and Shea Moisture’s Curl Milk spritz every other day.

Update #2: How Well African Hair Threading Lasts

I wanted to show how Z’s Ghana plaits evolved over the period of the installation. Many times, we tend to post pictures of a hairstyle freshly done. In reality though (about a couple days later), styles get frizzy especially with an active preschooler. Nevertheless, in our household, we embrace ALL aspects of natural hair–fuzz, frizz, and flyaways. That is just part of our natural territory. We run with it! #teamnoslickedges Our natural hair journey is not defined by how well/long a style stays “kept” and frizz-free. The idea I promote is freedom of expression, not bondage to other people’s standards and judgment. Remember, we are striving for SELF-confidence. 🙂

The Ghana plaits have been wonderful for the most part. I already discussed some of the pros/cons with the African hair threading technique above. The plaits are still so soft and have gotten plump over time due to humidity, regular moisturizing, and shrinkage. The actually look better the more they “age”.

Note of Warning When Using Hair Accessories

I noticed that some of her barrettes are getting caught in her hair. The reasons could be due to the increased frizziness of Z’s plaits and the design of the barrettes. The inexpensive beauty world accessories are not designed well and can have some rugged edges and corners. This will probably be one of the few and final times I put so many barrettes in her hair because of the possibility of damage occurring from the barrettes rubbing against her hair. Besides, my little girl is not as little anymore. She is definitely growing more and more into a beautiful “older” little girl! 😉

Update #3: How To Take Down Ghana Plaits

The Removal Process

The Ghana plait removal process took longer than expected because baby hairs were tangling within the threads at the roots of the plaits. I am uncertain whether her plaits getting wet in the bathtub or just regular play and tumbling was the culprit. I took extra time and care not to tug and rip hairs to get the thread loose. Since her hair was frizzy overall, I used a rattail comb to slide the thread from within her glorious frizziness. 🙂 The entire process took approximately one hour (aka an episode of Sesame Street in kid’s time). Haha!

Following the removal of the plaits, I sectioned Z’s hair into several parts. Next, I applied “cheapie” conditioner (some Pantene I got on sale weeks ago). Gently finger detangling her hair, I removed loose/shed hairs. Then I rinsed the conditioner out before applying co-washing her hair with Giovanni Smooth As Silk conditioner. After a good rinse, her hair was soft, well hydrated, and ready to be styled.

Re-installation Process of Set Number 2

Products I used to African thread Z’s hair included my homemade spritz (aloe vera juice, distilled water, and Shea Moisture Curl Milk), coconut oil, and my whipped shea butter mix. The oil was for her scalp and the shea butter was used as a sealant. One thing I wanted to do differently for this second set of Ghana plaits was to wrap the thread closer together on each plait. In contrast to the corkscrew look of the first set, these plaits came out stiffer and more elongated. This helped stretch her sections to be arranged into an updo.

When it comes to coming up with creative parting, I struggle! This is why I pin so many pins on pinterest of children’s natural hairstyles to help guide me and give me styling inspiration. Unfortunately, what I had in mind as an updo for this set of Ghana plaits did not come out that way after parting and threading her hair. Nevertheless, I liked how the plaits came out and knew that I will make this style work.

I gained a clearer understanding on how to secure the base of each plait without overwrapping the thread. My confidence is growing in this technique, and I look forward to mastering it in the future (once I go and buy tons of weaving thread!). Although I planned for her ends to go into some type of updo, I still moisturized and sealed them really well. I am hoping that this set of Ghana plaits last two weeks. In the next section, you will find out how I ultimately decided to style this set of Ghana plaits!

Update #4: Piggybacking with Second Set of Ghana Plaits

I played around with Z’s plaits until I settled for a piggyback hairstyle that I liked. Originally I wanted the plaits to connect upward but my creativity did not get far with that idea. The plaits connecting horizontally was something I could envision clearly in my head on Z’s head. Connecting the plaits was easier than I thought. I still need more practice with parting, but I really liked how this second set of Ghana plaits turned out. It was definitely a bonus not having to use any barrettes or bands to secure anything. Her hair is literally held together by a thread(s). True piggybacking!

Hopefully, she will enjoy the style more once we add a few colorful accessories to dress it up. I will maintain the style by moisturizing it with my spritz as needed every one or two days.

I asked Z what she thought of her style after she looked in the mirror, and her response was, ‘Eh.” I know that she would rather wear the plaits down, but I told her that if she wants healthier hair, her ends have to be protected most times. She settled for my explanation and went on about her business. At least she allowed me to get the above some pictures.

Update #5: African Hair Threading versus Banding to Stretch Hair

Here, I will go over my thoughts about African Threading her hair instead of banding to achieve a good no-heat stretch. My first attempt of the technique left a really good impression because it created a unique look to Z’s hair. I learned that African Threading can also be used to stretch the hair. I watched this video demonstrating the awesome results of the process that is very similar to using a blow dryer! First, let me explain the banding no heat stretching process.

What is Banding

Banding is nothing new to me; I have been banding my own natural hair for years. It was (and still is) a very popular and effective method of stretching natural hair.

The process of banding is really simple as I explained here. You are simply spacing out bands along a section of hair to elongate the curl pattern as the hair sets.

The level of stretch I achieve via banding depends on band spacing, section size, and hair dryness once the holders are removed. The best part I like about banding is how quick it is to install them to the hair.

An Issue with Banding

My only issue with banding is that shed hairs tend to get wrapped around the cloth ponytail holder. Obviously, this is not an issue when you use a nice new pack of ponytail holders. It is annoying, however, when the tangled hairs entangle other hairs on your head. I like to soak the holders in oil to prevent drying out the hair and wishfully to decrease entangling. The latter has proven unsuccessful. I guess that is just a natural part of natural hair and shedding.

African Threading

Although the African Threading technique is still relatively new to me, I still love how this method stretches Z’s hair. Particularly I like the idea of one continuous wrapping from root to tip. There is no stopping to grab a ponytail holder, smoothing out the loose section of hair with hand (or comb), wrapping and pulling the hair through the holder, and stopping to repeat the entire process.

With the threading, I can keep my hands focused on the section of hair to create a good even tension as I am wrapping the thread around the section.

In addition, I enjoy that I do not have to keep up with all those pesky ponytail holders. It is annoying to pick through which ones I can use immediately versus the ones I have to stop and pick the hairs out first before proceeding with the banding. With threading, I can have all my thread pieces cut, knotted, and ready to go as I move through her hair. Easy peasy!

Stretch results from African Threading

Hopefully this gave you a thorough insight on African Threading as a styling and safe no-heat stretching tool. Other methods we use for stretching include braiding, blow drying (via the tension method and this amazing styler brush). The no-heat stretching methods are definitely better in the long run for your natural hair. However, when time is short and a good stretch is needed, using heat is a good option only when the hair is properly prepared for using heat. Nevertheless, stretching the hair via any of the above methods makes styling curly, textured hair a lot more manageable.

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