Disclaimer: I am NOT a hair expert, I just know what works for MY own hair and since so many people ask me about it, I will share.
As everyone knows, I love braids. They are easy for someone like me who hates to devote a lot of time to fix her hair. Often I get compliments on my hair, and if I say my braids are 2 months old, people don't believe me. And they ask how is that. So I will share.
First: Ask your self "Should I get braids?!?" Braids are not for everyone. They do require some level of care. Typical braid prices run from $150-$250. I pay $200 for my micros (hair included) and $180 for synthetic singles or kinky twist (hair included). Micros typically last about 2 months (8 weeks) and synthetic hair lasts about 3 months (10 to 12 weeks) but I can push those up to 4 months if necessary. Also consider your hair type, are you relaxed or natural? if you are natural, you may want to consider kinky twists. That way as your hair grows and recurls from washing, it won't look as noticeable. When you see chicks with nice braids, ask them where they got their hair done. Go to a well known African spot (yeah I said African spot!), they do braid tighter but the braids last longer, and I haven't had problems.
Second: Washing Braids. Yes, you have to wash braids. It's trifling if you don't. With micros I do not wash my hair until the 4 week mark and then every other week after that. If you are natural, once you wash your hair, it will curl back up. So keep this in mind because you might have to take out micros sooner. That's why I recommend kinky twist. I use a deep conditioner once a month, usually Pantene 5 minute treatment in the jar.
With synthetic hair it's a bit different. I wash at the 4 week mark, and then whenever I need to. So when it starts looking or feeling dirty, I wash them. There is no set schedule.
I wash my hair with a clarifiying shampoo the first time. The following times after that, I use herbal essence hello hydration (blue bottle), both the shampoo and conditioner. I try to use conditioner sparingly because it will cause your braids to slip. Sometimes I substitue with Cantu Leave in Shea butter. now the most important thing to remember: ONLY WASH YOUR ROOTS!! Do not scrub your hair with shampoo! Wash the roots and let the suds run down your hair. That's all you need to do. Scrubbing and scrunching will mess your braids up fast.
Third: Moisturize! Get you some African Pride Braid Sheen and spray them bad boys ever day. that's all you need! Don't be greasing your scalp, that causes build up! Don't put all that extra shit on it. Just pray it with the sheen or use some tea tree oil if it itches. Simply is better!!!
That's basically it. I am simple. Do these simple steps and at the three month mark, your braids will still look new! Not brand new but it won't look like WTF. You will still have growth, you will retain MORE growth this way and your hair will be clean!