Itchy Scalp Braids – How To Treat Them

by Harini Natarajan

From Alicia Keys’ signature cornrows to Beyoncé’s Lemonade braids, many celebrities have sported the iconic braided look. Although glamorous and graceful, braids come with their own set of challenges. They cause scalp dryness, bumps, inflammation, and itchiness. What can you do to stop this? In this article, we have explained the top 8 ways to manage an itchy scalp with braids. Scroll down for more information!

Why Do Braids Itch?

Braids itch due to the following factors:

  • Tight braids might cause scalp irritation.
  • ‘Sandy’ hair because of a day out-and-about on the beach.
  • Infrequent oiling of the scalp.
  • Sweat and oil trapped in the hair.

Apart from these external factors, your hair itself may sometimes make your scalp raw, tender, and itchy.

Synthetic hair extensions are coated with an alkaline formula, which prevents mold and makes the hair heat-resistant. But, on the flip side, it causes allergies, skin irritation, and itchiness.

A box braid gone wrong can lead to a tender and raw scalp. Follow these steps to stop your braids from itching.

Top 8 Ways To Manage An Itchy Scalp With Braids

1. Relieve The Tension

Box braids lead to hair tension because of constant pulling. Avoid tight up dos to avoid pulling on the roots. Also, ask your stylist to adjust your braids if they feel too tight.

2. Soak In Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)

Rinse your hair extensions with apple cider vinegar before installation. The ACV soak strips alkaline from the extensions.

Here is a quick snapshot of the process:

  • Soak your store-bought braided hair in a solution of warm water and a cup of apple cider vinegar.
  • Wait for about 15-30 minutes or until a white film appears (this is the chemical coming off the hair).
  • Wash the extension in cold water twice.
  • Air dry it completely before use.

If you have already installed the synthetic hair, use ACV as a braid spray to prevent itching. Here are the steps:

  • Mix 1 part ACV with 3 parts water.
  • Pour the solution into a spray bottle.
  • Spray it directly on your hair and scalp.

If you want to apply ACV without damaging the hair or need temporary relief from itchy braids, try spot cleaning. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Dip a cotton ball or Q-tip in ACV.
  • Dab it on the affected areas.

This method prevents product buildup and soothes scalp irritation.

3. Condition, Condition, And Condition!

The best way to stop your braids from itching is to keep your scalp hydrated and nourished. Gently massage a leave-in conditioner in circular motions to combat scalp dryness. Repeat this daily for the best results.

4. Medicated Shampoos For The Win

An anti-itch shampoo is suitable for people with scars or scabs on the scalp caused by excessive itching. Choose a medicated shampoo with coal tar as the active ingredient. However, these shampoos might dry out your hair. Here’s how you can use it:

  • Apply the shampoo directly to the scalp.
  • Massage it gently with your fingertips.
  • Wait for 10 to 15 minutes and then wash off.
  • Use a moisturizing shampoo and conditioner to prevent hair dryness.

5. Add Essentials Oils To Your Shampoo

Add a few drops of lavender, peppermint, castor, or tea tree essential oils to your shampoo to tackle bumps and inflammation. These oils are power-packed with anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, which help soothe the scalp (1), (2), (3), (4).

Do a patch test before applying the essential oils to check for any allergies. If the oil does not cause any rashes or irritations, add it to your shampoo. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Pour 100 ml of shampoo into a bottle.
  • Add 15-20 drops of any essential oils mentioned above. Do not go overboard as essential oils are strong and might irritate your skin.
  • Mix the oil and shampoo well.
  • Use this shampoo daily to stop your braids from itching.

6. Avoid Leaving Your Braids On For Too Long

Remove your box braids within 6-8 weeks as keeping them in for too long might irritate your scalp. If your braids are too tight, remove them within two months.

Give your hair a break for a few days before reinstalling new braids. Trying out protective styles frequently might cause irritation and hair thinning. Oil your scalp with a nourishing hair oil and wash and condition your hair in between braids.

7. Opt For 100% Natural Human Hair Extensions

Go for 100% natural human hair extensions instead of Kanekalon hair extensions. Human hair is easier to wash, maintain, and style.

8. If Nothing Works, Get Rid Of It

If none of the tips mentioned above works for you, say goodbye to your extensions. Otherwise, you might run the risk of scalp trauma. Look out for damaged hair symptoms, such as inflammation, red bumps, severe itching, and hair thinning.

If that pesky, uncontrollable itch persists, try these home remedies to eliminate the inflammation.

Easy Home Remedies To Treat An Itchy Scalp Under Braids

1. Witch Hazel And Tea Tree Oil Spray

Witch hazel is a natural astringent with anti-inflammatory properties (5). When combined with tea tree oil, which has antifungal and antibacterial properties, it can combat an inflamed, itchy scalp from box braids.

You Will Need

  • 1/2 cup of witch hazel extract
  • 5-10 drops of tea tree essential oil
  • A 100 ml spray bottle

 Instructions

  1. Pour the witch hazel extract into a bottle until it is three-quarters full.
  2. Add 5-10 drops of tea tree essential oil.
  3. Shake well before spraying on your scalp.
  4. Use this spray a couple of times per week.

2. Baking Soda And Lavender Oil

If you want to prevent scalp itchiness, apply some baking soda to your braids before installing. Baking soda eliminates itchy flakes and restores the pH balance of your scalp (6). Lavender oil has anti-inflammatory properties that help soothe the scalp.

You Will Need

  • 3 tablespoons of baking soda
  • 10-15 drops of lavender oil
  • Clean/filtered water
  • A bowl

Instructions

  1. Put three tablespoons of baking soda in a bowl.
  2. Add half a cup of water to make a paste.
  3. Add 10-15 drops of lavender oil to this mixture and mix well.
  4. Apply the paste to your scalp.
  5. Leave it on for 10-15 minutes and rinse well.

Note: Apply this paste 2-3 days before braiding.

3. ACV And Tea Tree Oil Astringent

If you have a sweaty scalp, apply diluted tea tree oil between your braids for quick relief.

You Will Need

  • 15-20 drops of tea tree essential oil
  • 30 mL of ACV
  • 90 mL clean/filtered water
  • Cotton balls
  • A bowl

Instructions

  1. Mix the ACV and water in a bowl.
  2. Add 15-20 drops of tea tree essential oil.
  3. Soak the cotton ball in the mixture.
  4. Apply it to the scalp to remove excess oil and sweat.

You may have experienced dry flakes while getting box braids, especially if your scalp is naturally dry and dandruff-prone. Let us look at how to manage scalp flakes that creep up after a braid session.

How To Get Rid Of A Flaky Scalp With Box Braids

  • Deep condition your hair before braiding. Use a hair mask and let it sit for 30-60 minutes before rinsing.
  • Use jojoba oil on dry hair spots to moisturize your hair.
  • Avoid using excessive hair care products. Regular applications of gels and mousses cause extra buildup in your hair and irritate the scalp.
  • Wash your braids once a week with diluted shampoo and conditioner. Diluting them helps eliminate buildup and ensure that the product spreads evenly.
  • Remember to apply a scalp pomade post-wash.

Closing Thoughts: Fight The Itch The Right Way

Maintain a healthy hair care routine before and after installing braids to prevent issues, such as itching, redness, and hair loss. But this can be challenging. Hence, follow the time-tested tips mentioned above to get itch-free braided hair easily.

Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions

Why does my scalp itch when I get braids?

Itchy braids result from three main factors:

  • Dry scalp
  • Infrequent washing or long stretches between washes
  • Tight installation

How do you stop your scalp from itching after braids?

To prevent scalp itch after putting your braids on, soak them in an apple cider vinegar bath for about 15-20 minutes. Shampoo and condition as you usually do.

Can tight braids cause itching?

Yes, tightly-braided/weaved hair can cause hair inflammation and scalp dryness.

How often should you oil your scalp with braids?

Go for a bi-weekly coconut or olive oil hair massage to retain your hair’s moisture and prevent scalp irritation.

Should I oil my scalp before braids?

Yes, you can oil your scalp before braiding to keep it hydrated and prevent your braids from itching.

6 sources

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Harini Natarajan

As Chief Editor, Harini sets the tone and editorial direction for StyleCraze to deliver engaging, interesting, and authentic content revolving around women's health, wellness, and beauty. She has over 14 years of experience in content writing and editing for online media. She specializes in the areas of Beauty, Lifestyle, and Health & Wellness and is proficient in Medical Sciences (Biology, Human Anatomy and Physiology, and Biochemistry). Her background in Biomedical Engineering helps her decode and interpret the finer nuances of scientific research for her team. Harini is a certified bibliophile and a closet poet. She also loves dancing and traveling to offbeat destinations.
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