Back in 2016, Beyoncé issued a call to arms for black women in America to get in “formation” and demand their respect in society.
Her visual album Lemonade is perhaps her most signature work, garnering the singer nearly a dozen visual award nominations.
Those visuals included a nod to historical moments in the country as well as key figures in the Black Lives Matter movement and several artists and collaborators.
The album gave us an hour-long retrospective of Beyoncé, her influence, her story, and lots of representations of black hairstyles.
One of the most notable examples was when she wore side cornrows with extensions, which came to be known as “lemonade braids.”
Lemonade Braids: A Brief History
For Lemonade’s filming, Beyoncé turned to Pantene celebrity hairstylist Kim Kimble. The goal was to showcase natural hair, as well as iconic hairstyles from decades past.
Kimble says that “hair is a woman’s crown” and this became evident throughout Lemonade. The whole vibe was bringing us a vintage throwback to a time when African American women didn’t use hair relaxers in their hair.
In those music videos, we saw Beyoncé wear a crown of braids and loose, natural curls. She also wore several other styles such as Dutch braids and Victorian updos with an Afrocentric twist.
We also saw those iconic cornrows that brought us back to the ‘90s.
The side cornrow braids that were seen throughout Beyoncé’s work conjure up images of the singer during her Destiny’s Child days. Also, it reminds us of standout African American women in entertainment, such as Brandy and Janet Jackson.
Cornrows can exude a certain toughness but some baby hair on the edges can give them a softer look, which we saw in Beyoncé’s music video.
It’s a protective hairstyle yet it makes a statement, especially given the context of Lemonade.
Nicki Minaj’s Pink Lemonade Braids
A year after Beyoncé shook the world with Lemonade, Nicki Minaj came out with her music video for “Motorsport.”
She wore long cornrows that reached down to the floor, prompting fans to deem them “pink lemonade braids.”
The braids were done by none other than Kim Kimble with help from Kendra Garvey.
Nicki’s pink lemonade braids coming on the heels of Beyoncé’s iconic “Formation” hair ushered in a new era of black hairstyles.
More trends began to incorporate the cornrow style, mixing in vibrant colors, extreme lengths, and the addition of jewels and ombre effects.
The “Do’s and “Don’ts” of Lemonade Braids
We recommend that first-timers go to a professional hair salon for their lemonade braids. However, if you’re interested in a DIY approach, Bray does a fantastic job in the video above describing the approach.
While lemonade braids are considered a protective hairstyle (meaning that the style shouldn’t cause damage to your hair and should protect the ends of your hair to encourage length retention), this only applies if the style is installed correctly.
If the braids are installed too tightly, creating unnecessary tension on your hair and scalp, you increase the likelihood of incurring significant hair damage.
As you consider either installing lemonade braids yourself or having them installed at a salon, the video below demonstrates several things that you should keep in mind.
The following products were used within these tutorials:
How to Prepare Your Hair for Braids
Start With Clean, Moisturized and Conditioned Hair
Braids are often worn for long periods of time, so it’s critical that you wash, moisturized and condition your hair prior to having braids installed.
If you’re going to use hair extensions within your lemonade braids, some women with sensitive skin choose to soak their braiding hair in apple cider vinegar to avoid itchiness after the braids are installed.
Following the apple cider vinegar soak, be sure to thoroughly rinse the braiding hair with warm water to remove any remaining vinegar.
If you prefer, you could also gently wash the braiding hair with your favorite shampoo prior to install.
Massage Your Scalp with Oil
We believe that scalp massages should be a key component of your hair care regimen regardless of whether you’re wearing braids.
Scalp massages are often addictive because they feel amazing. There is also evidence that incorporating scalp massages into your regimen encourages hair growth.
Often we recommend using your favorite essential oils during scalp massages, however, some women like to utilize witch hazel and water if their scalps are feeling itchy.
Scalp massages are optional, but it’s recommended if you’re trying to encourage hair growth. Plus, they feel wonderful.
Consistently Use a Nighttime Hair Care Routine
To protect and prolong the life of your braids, wear a satin bonnet or silk scarf around your head at night to protect your edges and scalp.
If your hair is on the longer side, then it would help to wrap your hair in a scarf at bedtime. Having a silk pillowcase helps too. Read our natural hair regimen article to create a step-by-step nighttime hair care routine.
Avoid Using Heat Styling Tools and Techniques
Most synthetic hair extensions cannot handle high temperatures, although some human hair extensions can hold-up to heat styling tools. However, we recommend that you avoid heat and allow your hair to air dry to be on the safe side.
Have Fun. Be Creative.
Lemonade braids (and other braided hairstyles) can be done in a multitude of ways, so feel free to play around. The examples shown by Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj are just two examples, but the options are nearly endless.
You can always incorporate concepts from box braids, crochet braids or goddess braids to create a unique look. Or, you could add in some color or incorporate jewelry into your hairstyle. Take a page from Nicki Minaj’s book and explore the possibilities.
Take a Break Between Braided Hairstyles
After these braids are removed, especially if they were tight, you will want to give your hair time to breathe. Jumping straight into another tightly braided hairstyle can increase your chances for traction alopecia.
Should It Feel This Way? Lemonade Braid Maintenance
Cornrows are relatively hassle-free. They’re versatile and low-maintenance, making them a great warm-weather hairstyle.
That being said, cornrows can look fabulous during any season and their high functionality and pop culture status make them a good choice when you’re not sure what to choose.
All it takes is a re-watch of Beyoncé’s Lemonade to get some style inspiration.
Despite being considered a protective style, it is still possible to damage your hair while wearing lemonade braids.
If the braids are too loose, they’ll easily come apart, but if they’re too tight you’ll be reaching for painkillers to ease a throbbing headache.
It’s common for braids to feel a “little” tight at first, but if the tightness is prolonged or becomes painful, the braids are too tight.
One additional revealing sign is if you start seeing little bumps along the hairline. These bumps often indicate that the braids are too tight.
It helps to ask for a test braid from a stylist so you can gauge how the braids feel. If the braids are too tight, you could do serious damage to your hair and scalp.
Always remember that you’re in control. Ask your stylist to adjust the tightness of the braids if necessary.
It’s important to note that most braided hairstyles can last for several weeks. However, many professional stylists suggest only keeping braids in between four and six weeks.
We generally agree with this recommendation, although a shorter timeframe is always better. It’s also important to continue to take care of your natural hair while you’re wearing braids.
How to Wash Your Braids
The process for washing your braids will vary a bit from person to person but everyone should focus on the scalp since that’s where oils and dirt will usually build up.
We recommend using a gentle shampoo that is free of sulfates, then follow up with a moisturizing conditioner. You read this article to find the best natural hair products (including shampoos and conditioners) to use while wearing braids.
The next step after washing and conditioning your hair is to use a lightweight hair oil and gently massage it into your scalp. Some women even use oil and water mix to gentle spray their braids to preserve their shine.
It’s easy for shampoo to get stuck in your braids and just linger there. To minimize the chances of this, you can fill a spray bottle with equal parts of water and shampoo.
Spray this mixture on your scalp and braids to ensure that you’re getting them clean but you’re not drowning your hair in product.
Then you can rinse it out without worrying about any excess shampoo clinging to your braids.
Finally, we recommend that you steer clear of dry shampoo as it can leave residue around your scalp that can be difficult to get out.
What About Removing the Braids?
When it comes to taking the braids out, first-timers should go to a stylist. A hair professional will be able to take the braids out while minimizing damage and potential hair loss.
Don’t be alarmed if you see minimal shedding or some infrequent loose strands falling out; this is normal. Of course, you also don’t want cascades of hair falling from your scalp.
That about sums up what you need to know about wearing and taking care of lemonade braids.
Sure, you might not have a Pantene celebrity hairstylist on speed-dial to help you out, but this guide should cover the basics so that you can confidently rock your next look.
Remember to have fun and bring out your creative side with your lemonade braids.