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What The Heck Should I Do While I Take Out My Twists?


It's a valid question! And one so specifically relevant to my life that I've given it a trademark, The Takedown™—approval from the U.S. patent office notwithstanding. For me, The Takedown™ happens every couple of months or so, when the hundreds of twists or braids that have been plaited onto my head need to come out, extensions and all. I'm talking hours on hours of committed un-twisting because once you start you can't stop, given the half-braided look never took off. A bi-monthly exercise as easy as unraveling string cheese, but as boring as watching said string cheese get made. I don't want to watch string cheese-making! And I don't want to untwist my hair. But...I have to. And that's when a bit of ingenuity comes into play. So I’ve brainstormed some ways to make the process infinitely more entertaining. Follow along with me, and feel free to tweak to your own needs and desires.

The supplies

First things first, amp yourself up for the long sedentary journey ahead. Put on this playlist as you gather:
- A towel to sit on as you unbraid
- A comb with a long skinny handle
- A super slippery conditioner to detangle
- A hydrating conditioner to also help with detangling
- Detangling boosters, including apple cider vinegar and a hair oil
- A spray bottle (to mix the ACV and oil together)
- Hair ties, clips, and a head band to keep hair and guck out of your face
- A disposable bag where you can toss all your used extensions
- An airplane pillow (trust me)

The unbraiding strategy:

  1. I first divide my entire head of braids or twists into six sections (three on the left, three on the right).

  2. Focusing on one section at a time, I take out each braid and finger-detangle my natural hair from tip to root.

  3. I spritz a detangling cocktail once an entire section is finger-detangled (this is where that spray bottle above comes into play), and then comb each section again using a wide-toothed comb.

Now let's make this unbraiding strategy more interesting. Is your Brita filter filled? Your favorite Seamless meal on express reorder? It's time to...

Binge-watch as you unbraid sections one and two

To survive this untangling marathon, you’ll need a good rotation. Start with something foreign, tame, and pleasant, like Netflix’s Great British Bake Off. You’ll get a couple episodes in before you crave something foreign, scandalous and political—and for that, there’s Robb Stark (oh wait, now he's the British Jack Bauer) in Netflix’s Bodyguard. Then, you’ll recall that you are not from an island nation off the coast of Germany, and you can cleanse your palate with the very astute, very New York, Random Acts of Flyness.

Flex your ears as you take down sections three and four

Are your eyes starting to shrivel up from the blue light of your streaming device? Give those babies a break and let your ear muscles do the heavy lifting for a bit. Call your mom first—she’ll be thrilled to hear from you. Listen to Alex Blumberg’s latest podcast offering that’s now an Amazon show starring Julia Roberts. Catch up on Naked Beauty. You’ve got another couple hours before a switch-up in stimulation calls you elsewhere.

Treat yourself as you finish sections five and six

As I near the unbraiding finish line, I like to pamper myself with my last sliver of energy. 'Tis the chance to slap on some beauty treatments I can rinse off with my hair in the shower. I’ve been known to throw on some Baby Foot booties for kicks and giggles. Sunday Riley’s Sulfur Mask can refine and tingle comfortably on my face from 20 minutes to a couple of hours. And May Lindstrom’s Problem Solver Mask is also ideal for special times like these. Head to the shower: Wash the grit out of your hair, wash whatever dirt mask you chose off your skin. Come out of the shower a whole new you.

—Utibe Mbagwu

Photographed by Tom Newton