Most ladies have at one point in time found themselves in this situation: deciding whether to lose the braids or endure the itch. Let’s also not forget the bumps on edges from braids. I mean, you just got done at the salon and are rocking your beautiful braids.
Heads are turning and you are being complemented by even strangers in the streets. You get home, brave the first night of pain, take some aspirin the second night, then on the third day, the itching gets worse. You take care of it with a pat here and there, and you get some short-lived relief.
After a few hours, you are desperately trying not to scratch out your hair like a wild person. You then begin to wonder: should I just get rid of the braids or endure the never-ending discomfort? Did I just describe an experience you’ve been through? Well, you are not alone. I’ve been that hell as well. Let’s delve into this issue.
Why do braids itch so much?
Sometimes the braids look too good to take off even though we are in a world of discomfort and pain. But why do braids have this kind of effect on your scalp every time you have them installed? Below are some of the reasons why you get so much itching and even bumps on edges from braids.
Chemicals in braids
Braids have a tendency to make the scalp itch. This constant itch comes as a result of a chemical used in coating the synthetic hair braids are usually made of.
The chemical is used to protect the hair from heat. In other words, it makes the hair heat resistant and also prevents mold from forming in the hair.
Unfortunately, it’s one of the biggest causes of scalp irritation and itching.
Lack of moisture
Braids also tend to itch after some days due to the fact that your hair is trapped under these braids without moisture getting to it.
This, in turn, makes the scalp really dry and results in the itchy sensation that spreads throughout the hair.
The hair can also get wet from either sweating, rainfall or a steam bath. If it is not dried properly, mildew or mold can begin to form in the hair and this can cause itching.
Dandruff is also one of the causes of itchy scalps during braiding. It is quite stubborn and it can cause a continuous and irritating itch.
It doesn’t matter how beautifully designed the braids are, once there’s dandruff on the scalp, there’s sure to be a lot of itch.
Dandruff form when there’s an overgrowth of yeast on the scalp. This, in turn, triggers some inflammation at the root of our hair, leading to itching.
Dandruff is easily noticed by its characteristic flaking or peeling away of dry layers on the scalp.
Can tight braids cause itching?
Due to lack of knowledge, some hairstylists (and some clients as well) like to install the braids as tightly as possible because they believe that the tighter the braid is, the longer it’ll last.
This, however, is detrimental to our scalps. Tight braids pull at the roots of our hair, leading to the inflammation of the hair follicles, resulting in constant pain.
Beauty shouldn’t be painful or uncomfortable. Tight braids cause tension on the scalp and this eventually leads to irritation or itching of the scalp.
In some cases, it even leads to loss of hair, especially around the edges.
Bumps on edges from braids
Tight braids are supposedly guaranteed to last but the question remains: At what cost?
When the hairdo is too tight, it creates tension on the scalp leading to the hair breaking away from the roots and this causes red inflamed bumps along the edges.
This condition is actually known as traction alopecia and it can lead to follicle damage, hair weakness, and sometimes irreversible hair loss.
There is one sure way to avoid bumps on edges from braids: tell the hairstylist to start leaving edges out of braids. You can then use good edge control to style the hairline for a neat look.
How to treat bumps from braids
It’s now very obvious that those irritating and painful bumps are as a result of tight braids.
What do you do when you have them? Below are some tips that would guarantee you a bump-free, painless and less irritated edges.
Reduce the tension of the braid
These braid bumps are actually inflamed hair follicles called folliculitis.
In most cases, they are caused by a fungal or bacterial infection and braid stress.
The tension on the scalp is one of the causes of having bumps on edges from braids.
These swellings sometimes become severe and begin to ooze puss just because of the pain and tension inflicted on the scalp by braids or protective hairstyles that are too tight.
Although tension is usually caused by tight braids, sometimes the braids are okay, it’s the styling of the hairdo that’s the problem.
The fastest way to relieve this tension is to take out the braids as quickly as possible.
Once you’ve ascertained that the hairdo was installed too tightly, take them out and save yourself from serious distress.
I’ve personally had to take out (beautiful) braids the same day they were installed because I could not even turn in bed without feeling pain.
However, if the hairdo isn’t tight and the bumps are caused by styling it too tight (for instance putting it in a tight bun), please loosen the hair and avoid tight hairstyles.
The health of your scalp cannot be foregone for beauty and result in pain or discomfort.
Another sure way to release tension from the hair and get rid of the bumps is by massaging the scalp.
The trick to doing this is by using light oils that can readily be absorbed into the hair. A perfect example of this is argan oil.
After releasing the braids from a tight bun, for instance, massage some oil around the inflamed area in order to relieve the pain and reduce the swelling.
The scalp will certainly feel better and become relaxed after the massage. This will help to reduce the inflammation and bumps on edges from braids.
Breaks are essential
Anytime you have an injury while playing a sport or doing some chores, it’s always advised to take some time off to allow your body to heal.
Your scalp is also a body part and it needs the same treatment after such an injury. Take some breaks between the installation of braids.
It’s not advisable to braid your hair back to back as you are unknowingly causing irreparable damage to your scalp (especially if the braids are always done so tight).
Ensure to give your scalp the time intervals needed to heal and recover from the last hairdo before going into the salon for another braid or protective hairstyle.
The healing period is solely dependent on the amount of damage inflicted on the scalp (it could be long or it could be short).
Many years ago, I personally had to take a seven-month break from getting braids installed after I lost my edges as a result of tight braiding.
Your scalp really needs the time intervals between braid installment to heal from any damage caused.
Home remedies for an itchy scalp with braids
Without a doubt, braids are one of the most popular protective hairstyles amongst black people and some people who are mixed.
Braids protect your hair from constant manipulation. They also shield your hair from any heat damage because you don’t need to use heat styling appliances when your hair is braided.
Despite the benefits of having braids, the possibility of the dreaded itchy scalp has people shying away from this particular protective style.
There are some tips and DIY remedies that will help you tackle this problem and flaunt your lovely braids without the need to have your hands in your hair all the time, scratching away.
Wash your braids regularly
The issue with washing braids is that they often take a long period of time to completely dry off and this discourages people from washing them. This, therefore, makes them go for long periods of time between washes.
This act is however detrimental to the scalp as the dead skin cells, sebum and dust which are collected by the scalp become trapped at the roots of the hair and cause itching.
Although daily shampooing is definitely not achievable with braids, hair care experts recommend washing them after three to four days.
An antimicrobial toner in between washes would also help to eliminate bacteria and if you are aiming for a deeper cleanse, soak a cotton bud in the toner and rub in between braids to clear accumulated dead skin cells.
Aloe vera juice
I prefer this method to the ACV (apple cider vinegar) as it smells better and it isn’t drying like the ACV.
If used on your scalp, the itchy feeling will disappear in no time. Aloe vera juice is also great for hair growth as well as dealing with eczema and psoriasis.
Using hair oils such as jojoba oil, castor oil or other oils, would be a great plus to your hair care regimen as a whole.
If you apply the oil to your scalp, it will mimic the natural oils produced by the skin. This is great for the scalp and will help in reducing the itchy sensation in no time.
To use (your preferred) hair oil, simply massage it into your scalp with your fingertips, and don’t wash it out.
Besides oil, I’ve also tried the Shea Moisture Jojoba Oil & Ucuuba Butter Track Tension & Itch Relief Serum that I got from Amazon after a friend recommended it.
It’s a non-greasy serum that cools the scalp to relieve the discomfort caused by tight braids. The jojoba oil contained in this serum deeply hydrates to prevent breakage – especially along the edges – that can be brought about by the bumps.
Wear your braids loosely
Tightly braided hair supposedly saves you from spending some bucks at the salon to change hairstyles frequently.
However, you need to ask yourself if it’s truly worth the itch, pain, discomfort and possible loss of edges.
Ensure that your stylist knows this and discourage them from pulling too tight while installing the braids.
Tight braids lead to tension on the scalp which can, in turn, lead to traction alopecia if not controlled.
Tighter braids do not guarantee a long-lasting hairstyle. Even if they do, the possibility of permanent and irreversible hair loss is just not worth it.
The type of braid you choose matters a lot. Some synthetic hair is made using an acrylic fiber that’s coated with an alkaline substance.
If you install this kind of braid, you run a risk of having it run against your scalp, which is a recipe for more itching.
To solve this, make sure to soak the synthetic hair in an apple cider vinegar (ACV) mixture for about half an hour in order to neutralize the alkalinity before getting the braids installed.
The ratio for this mixture is 3:1 – 3 parts of hot water and 1 part of ACV.
Why do cornrows itch?
Cornrows are a pretty protective style that can be done at any time of the year to protect your natural hair from adverse weather effects. Their level of maintenance is also quite low.
However, some cornrows also itch. I’ve outlined some of the reasons below:
The hairdo is too tight
This happens frequently, especially if the braiding isn’t done by you.
In an effort to make the cornrows look “neat” the hairstylists pull your hair too tight.
When your hair is too tight it irritates the skin and makes it itchy.
Your scalp might be having an allergic reaction to the products used when preparing your hair for the protective style. The products might also have been used on your hair after plaiting.
If you aren’t aware of the products used, you might find yourself having adverse reactions. One of the most common reactions is a never-ending itch.
A dry scalp is equivalent to an itchy scalp. If you leave your cornrows exposed with no moisture, the scalp will dry out and cause irritation and even flaking.
A dry scalp can also be caused by the overuse of hair products that are not really moisturizing. You need to properly moisturize your scalp on a daily basis using the right products.
Half-done rinse out
This can happen whether you do your own hair or you get it done at a salon.
Leaving products which contain harmful processing chemicals in our hair can be very dangerous.
There is a reason that certain products shouldn’t be left in for longer than the recommended amount of time.
They can be the reason for your scalp irritation; and also clog up your pores if left in for too long.
Braids and cornrows are some of the protective styles preferred by many women.
However, you don’t have to endure things like pain, itching, discomfort, and bumps on edges from braids.
You can end this agony by following some of the steps listed in this article. You deserve to enjoy braids and cornrows without the inconveniences.