Human hair

Why Do My Braids Itch So Much?

Published By: Kennedy

Fact Checked By: Janine Griffiths

Last Updated: October 5, 2022

Having your hair in braids can be convenient, but if they itch, it can be unbearable after a while. There are several reasons why this happens. In this blog, we discuss the causes of itching braids, and the simple ways in which you can prevent them. 

Why Do My Braids Itch So Much?

Braids start to itch for 3 main reasons. Knowing which of these reasons apply to you can help you resolve the issue. 

#1. They Are Too Tight

Tight braids can cause irritation to the scalp.

Braids that are too tight will start to irritate the scalp. Braids should not hurt after they have been done. If they do hurt, that means that they have been braided too tightly or there has been too much extension added to them. 

When people get braids done by a stylist, many times they do not tell the stylist when they have braided it too tight. Some hairdressers will braid tightly on purpose to make the hairstyle last longer, but this is not healthy for the scalp.

Excessive pulling on the scalp can cause soreness on the scalp, raised bumps, and itchiness. Over time, excessive pulling on the scalp can cause traction alopecia. Constantly pulling on the hair ultimately damages the root which can lead to permanent hair loss. It is a process that takes years, so people are usually unaware of how constant tugging affects the hair until it is too late. 

There is an even greater risk of traction alopecia when the weight of the hairstyle is heavier. When people regularly wear long, thick, and heavy extensions, they are pulling on the natural hair more than they should. Traction alopecia mainly affects the hairline because that is where the most fragile hairs are, so if your scalp is irritated, you should keep this in mind. 

How to Prevent Tightness

If you are getting your braids done by a stylist, be open and let them know that you don’t want them too tight. If they braided too tightly, ask them to loosen the braids. It is better to deal with the problem before it gets worse and not after. 

If you are braiding your own hair, make sure that you are braiding loosely, remember, the braids should not hurt. 

#2. Your Scalp Is Dirty

Dirt or oil can cause excess buildup on the scalp and make it dirty. If there is a strong presence of dandruff that means that there is an excess of oil, dead skin, or styling products – which will cause itchiness and scalp buildup. Scalp buildup is one of the most common sources of itchy braids. 

Scalp buildup happens over time and can be caused by sweat, dirt, and styling products. When these things accumulate on the scalp over time without being washed, then it will start to become very irritated. 

How to Prevent a Dirty Scalp

In order to prevent scalp buildup while your braids are in, avoid using leave-in hair products. Constantly applying hair products will create buildup that will irritate the scalp. Also, be sure to wash the hair at least every two weeks.

#3. Your Scalp Is Dry

A dry scalp will also start to itch over time. A dry scalp happens because it doesn’t have enough oil. A scalp can also be dry because it is not getting enough hydration. Many times, when people have braids they forget that the scalp still needs water. If you are shampooing your hair every day, this can also cause a dry scalp because shampoo dries out the skin and hair. 

How to Prevent Dry Scalp

Using oils on your hair will help to prevent your scalp from becoming dry. Just try not to use too much oil on your hair every day. You can also spray water on your scalp every way to keep your scalp hydrated.

Watch this video on “How To Wash Box Braids for DRY SCALP RELIEF!”

How To Stop Braids From Itching

There are several simple things you can do to stop the scalp from itching while you are wearing braids. We discuss these in further detail below. 

#1 Get Rid of Scalp Buildup

In order to get rid of scalp buildup, use a clarifying shampoo. Clarifying shampoo is a shampoo that is meant to clean the scalp very well. Shampoos that sud a lot also helps to clean the scalp. While shampooing, the water should be warm and not very hot. Hot water will strip the hair too much and make it dry.

When washing the hair, rub your scalp in circular motions to increase blood flow and be gentle to prevent further irritation. Another method you can use is apple cider vinegar. Using apple cider vinegar to cleanse your scalp will kill bacteria. 

#2 Loosen the Braids

If your braids are too tight, trying to loosen them may help them to stop itching so much. One way to loosen your braids is to run your scalp under warm water while gently rubbing. A warm towel would also help. 

Wearing your braids down instead of in a ponytail would also help the braids be as loose as possible. Putting your braids in a ponytail causes further tension. If you find that when you put your braids in a ponytail, your scalp becomes irritated, take your braids out of the ponytail. If your braids are becoming very painful, then you may need to take them out altogether. This will relieve the tension and stop the itchiness. 

#3 Moisturize Your Scalp

Applying oil to your scalp with the braids in will help to moisturize it. One good oil to use is olive oil. Hydrating the scalp will also combat dryness. Water is a very hydrating ingredient, and your scalp needs this hydration at least every week. 

Also, co-washing your hair at the roots will also clean and hydrate your scalp. Co-washing is when you wash your hair with conditioner and not shampoo. Washing the hair in this way helps to prevent it from losing moisture as it is being washed.

Shampoos are great for doing a deep clean from time to time, but co-washing is great for removing product buildup. Usually, after a week or even a couple of days of using styling products, your hair will start to get stiff and in need of a fresh start.

Co-washing will not only re-moisturize your hair but also cleanse your hair and scalp enough to last until the next wash day. You should co-wash as often as needed, it really depends on what your lifestyle is and how frequently you use the products. 

Does an Itchy Scalp Equal Hair Growth?

An itchy scalp does not mean your hair is growing. Itchiness is an indicator that there is an issue that needs attention. However, it is also true that braids are a protective hairstyle that can promote hair growth. 

A protective style is one that keeps the hair tucked away and free from manipulation. The goal of a protective style is to give the hair a break from stressors and allow it to grow healthy and free from any breakage. Hair grows out very well with braids because the ends of the hair are protected. 

However, if the protective braids you are using are too tight or itchy, then you should seriously consider changing them, because it may not be the right style for you. 

Is Scratching Your Braids Bad?

Scratching the scalp while braids are in is not good for the hair. If you continuously and aggressively scratch your scalp, it can damage the skin and the follicles – which can cause scabbing and hair loss. The best thing to do when your scalp is itching is to remedy the problem – whether it’s dryness, tightness, or buildup.  

The Final Word

It is always important to remember to take care of your scalp, regardless of the style you use. Itchiness is usually not caused by the braids themselves, it is often because they are too tight, or there is too much buildup. If that is the case, then following the steps in this blog should help to prevent and reduce itchiness. However, to prevent damaging your hair, you should avoid braiding it too often. 


I have always had a love for writing and have been blogging for about 3 years now. I have a passion for teaching what I have learned over the years, especially about hair. I have had almost every hairstyle - typical of a cosmetologist’s daughter- including the big chop in 2015. With all the knowledge I have gained, I feel it is my duty to help others on their healthy hair journey. I believe education can be fun, and I strive to make it fun to learn about beautiful black hair.

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