Itchy scalps are a common and frustrating experience with hairstyles like box braids and cornrows. Irritation can occur with new braids or existing styles. The first step to finding relief is to understand what causes your itchy scalp and what solutions exist to address it.
In this article, we explore all the most common reasons for itchy braids. This will help you determine whether your skin is itchy due to a dry scalp, tight braiding, heavy hair, allergic reaction, or buildup that clogs and irritates your hair follicles.
You will learn how to manage this annoying itching immediately and how to keep your scalp healthy preventing it from occurring again.
It is important to address itchy braids, as neglecting scalp health can worsen to more severe issues like hair loss and infections.
By the end of this article, you will better understand what’s causing your scalp to itch with braids and how to effectively find relief.
Itchy braids are often caused by a dry scalp, as tight braiding prevents natural oils from spreading across your entire scalp and hair. This lack of oil distribution leads to dryness, which you may notice through visible symptoms like whitish, flaky roots, scaling, or peeling of your scalp’s skin. It can quickly cause irritation, acute itchiness, and discomfort.
If you regularly deal with dry scalp or if these symptoms emerge with new braids, it likely indicates insufficient hydration.
To find relief, use light hair greases or natural oils, like jojoba or coconut oil, to generously moisturize your scalp and braids, taking care not to pull on the braids.
For best results, lightly mist your scalp with water before applying oils to seal in moisture. Alternatively, diluted apple cider vinegar rinses can help restore your scalp’s pH balance while removing buildup.
It’s also important to avoid harsh shampoos which can strip natural oils. Instead, opt for moisturizing shampoos and conditioners suited to your hair type, using gentle shampoos up to twice weekly to prevent oil and dirt buildup.
Always follow with an intensive conditioner after shampooing to lock in hydration. Deep conditioning treatments at least once a week provides added moisture.
If itchiness persists, medicated shampoos with coal tar can provide relief, followed by a hydrating conditioner. Scalp serums containing urea and ceramides can also help balance your scalp’s pH to avoid dryness.
Factors like poor diet, sugar-rich diets causing insulin surges, and nutrient deficiencies in vitamins B6 and B12 can also contribute to dry scalp. A balanced, healthy diet and drinking plenty of water supports scalp health.
Do your braids seem to pull uncomfortably on your scalp? Excessive tension from too-tight braiding puts strain on hair follicles and skin, often causing problems like irritation, inflammation and itchiness. You may even develop a condition called traction folliculitis with tender, swollen bumps emerging.
As tightly woven braids tug on roots consistently over time, traction alopecia can also occur causing noticeable hair thinning and loss. The strained scalp may feel sore, tense and tender leading to deeper issues like headaches and restricted blood flow. Care must be taken to prevent long term damage from overly tightened styles.
If your new braids feel painful during installation or you later experience any related discomfort like itching or scalp tenderness, promptly revisit your stylist to have them loosened. Any quality braider knows too-taut tension risks harm and will happily adjust tension as needed. When opting for long-term protective braided looks in the future, communicate your sensitivity to tightness so appropriate precautions are taken during the initial braiding process.
If you are currently suffering from irritable braids, scalp massages boost circulation and allow blood to flow to restricted areas that need healing.
Meanwhile, use gentle hair products without harsh ingredients that may contribute to further dryness or inflammation.
Be sure that your braiding schedule includes sufficient downtime for scalp recovery between installations.
You minimize the risks of traction-related irritation by avoiding unnecessarily tight braiding tension, listening to warning signs, and responding quickly when discomfort arises. Your hair health and moisture levels will thank you!
If your braids feel too heavy on your scalp, that added weight can cause irritation and itching. Heavy braids put pressure on the roots of your hair, which can lead to inflammation, uproot hair strands, and make your scalp itchy. You may also notice bumps or rashes along with the itchiness. This tends to happen more with very long or thick hair that gets braided. The extra weight strains your scalp.
To find relief, opt for lighter braids instead of braiding all your hair at once. Avoid overloading each braid with too much hair. The goal is to minimize the pressure on your scalp from the braids.
You can also use a clarifying rinse when you wash your braids. This will remove any product buildup and reduce the weight somewhat.
Both solutions ease the burden on your scalp so it stops sending itch signals. With less scalp irritation from heavy braids, the itching should improve.
Allergic reactions to ingredients in hair products or extensions can also make your braids itchy. Contact with something you’re allergic to causes contact dermatitis on your scalp. This is when your skin gets red, irritated, and itchy after touching an allergen.
Common irritants in hair products include fragrances, preservatives, dyes, and chemicals used in synthetic fibers.
Inferior or low-quality braiding hair often contains harsh dyes or preservatives that provoke reactions in sensitive skin. Alkaline chemicals used to preserve extensions can also cause issues. The high pH of these additives clashes with the lower pH balance of a healthy scalp.
Contact with these ingredients triggers inflammation and itch signals as your body mounts an immune defense against the foreign invader.
To reduce allergic reactions, pre-soak synthetic extensions in apple cider vinegar. This removes the preserve coating.
If the hair is already installed, spray diluted apple cider vinegar on your scalp or apply a cool compress to ease inflammation.
If your scalp is already itchy due to a reaction, it’s preferable to stop using the problematic product.
To prevent allergic reactions, try to identify any ingredients that have given you problems in the past. Then, check product labels carefully and avoid those products when braiding your hair.
Contact dermatitis caused by an allergy can be managed with specialized treatment by a dermatologist if symptoms persist or worsen. By making adjustments, you can prevent future braided styles from causing you allergic reactions.
Buildup from Products, Dirt, Sweat, and Skin
Allowing too much gunky buildup in your braids can make your scalp itchy. Hair products, dead skin cells, sweat, dirt, and oil easily accumulate underneath braided styles.
Over time, these products leave behind residue that traps sweat, dirt, bacteria, dead skin cells, and oil on your scalp. As this residue traps debris against your scalp, it clogs pores and disrupts pH balance. Bacteria and fungi thrive, provoking inflammation and sending itch signals begging you to wash the area.
Signs of excessive buildup include white flakes, feeling product coated hair, increased oil and itchiness. Without proper cleansing, this irritation from the trapped gunk only intensifies. And the limited airflow from tight braids makes clearing away buildup extra difficult.
You can take steps to prevent excessive product buildup. Carefully monitor the amount of gels, waxes, oils, and other styling products used on your hair during braiding. It’s easy to overdo it without realizing.
Once your braids are in, clarify any initial buildup by gently washing your scalp every 2-3 weeks. Use a formulated detox shampoo to clear away product, dead skin cells, dirt, sweat and excess oil.
The proper care of your scalp prevents buildup from accumulating, bringing relief from itching and discomfort so you can enjoy your braided style without irritation.
Certain preexisting scalp conditions like dandruff, psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis, or trichorrhexis nodosa can flare up when you get braids. The snug environment under braids allows these conditions to thrive and worsen.
For example, the yeast malassezia furfur triggers dandruff symptoms like flaking and itchiness. Under braids, the added heat, sweat, and oil accumulation exacerbate the yeast overgrowth. That means more irritation and even larger, oilier yellow flakes than you may see otherwise.
Other problematic conditions like psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis also display red, inflamed, scaly patches when flaring under braids. Any discomfort, itching or issues you have with a scalp condition will likely intensify with a braided style restricting airflow.
If you have a diagnosed scalp condition, take proactive steps before getting braids. Treat the condition with medicated shampoos or antifungal products like tea tree oil or Sulfur8 to prevent its spread.
Also gently wash your braids more often to reduce oil, sweat, skin cells that aggravate the condition and provoke flare ups of itchiness.
Adjusting to New Braids
New braids may initially itch the scalp because of an adjustment period. The tight tension and contact with synthetic fibers often causes initial irritation and reactions. Additionally, coarse braiding hair with frizzy flyaways can physically poke and irritate the scalp.
The discomfort caused by these adjustment factors will fade within 1-2 weeks as your body acclimates to the newly applied braids. Immune responses settle down as you get used to the tension, materials, and products used.
By choosing smooth, silkier braiding hair, you will be able to prevent poking irritation. In most cases, the scalp will settle down for a comfortable, long-term wear.
Itching of the scalp may occur due to the natural hair growth cycle. As hair follicles progress to active growth phases, tingling or itchy sensations can sometimes develop. There is therefore a common assumption that head itching signifies new hair growth. However, itchiness can also result from product buildup or dirt accumulating on existing hair that requires cleansing with shampoo. Proper hair care hygiene is important to differentiate between growth-related irritation versus itching from unclean hair and scalp.
New Hair Growth
It’s a common belief that an itchy scalp means new hair is growing. But while new hair growth may cause some mild irritation, persistent itchiness often signals an underlying issue that should not be ignored. Proper hair and scalp care is key to relief.
Gently cleansing with shampoos and cleansers formulated for itchy, flaky scalps can help lift away excess oil, dead skin cells, and buildup. This helps remove irritants that are causing inflammation and discomfort.
Over time, a consistent hair care routine reduces aggravating factors, calms the scalp, and reveals fuller, healthier hair – minus the scratching.