Braids are a popular hairstyle for many reasons, but they can also cause some discomfort if not properly cared for. One common issue is a dry, flaky scalp, which can be itchy and uncomfortable. If you are here, it means you're currently experiencing this issue, have a client that is, or you're trying to prevent it. 

If you are experiencing scalp itchiness, braids bumps/ hair rash, hair loss, hair thinning, and/or any other irritations, check out our other articles for a thorough understanding. In this article, we will cover the  several ways to alleviate dandruff from braids and promote scalp health while still enjoying your braids.

Why does my scalp flake with braids?

  • Your scalp is not healthy prior to protective styling

If you have a dry scalp before getting braids, it's likely that the condition will worsen during the time you wear the style. Instead of trying to hide the problem, it's best to address it directly by seeing a dermatologist. In the meantime, consider using wigs as a way to cover up hair or scalp issues while you work on resolving the problem. Crochet styles are also a good option for those with a troubled scalp, as they are easier to clean and allow for easy access to the scalp for applying soothing products. These types of styles are low-tension and give you the ability to massage your scalp with less odds of loosening your braids. Traditional weave styles or heavy braids can be more difficult to manage and may exacerbate scalp issues. It's important to note that you will have to oil your scalp more often due to the hair extensions being susceptible to absorbing moisture.

  • You haven't oiled your scalp

It's often assumed that protective styling means that you don't have to do anything. It's a myth! In order to have an effective protective style that grows your hair, you must oil your scalp daily. Braids provide manageability and easy access to your scalp. We recommend using oil directly and if you use mousse too sleek down the frizzy's make sure it has some type of oil in it. Naturally, your skin produces sebum which is an oily, waxy substance produced by the sebaceous glands, however extensions can be extra drying, so it's important to oil your scalp to make up for what the fibers absorb.

  • Chemicals on the synthetic hair extensions

Most of the synthetic braiding hair on the market is treated with a preservative called alkaline. Alkaline is a on the acidic side but is compatible with the fibers commonly found in braiding hair; modacrylic, vinyl chloride, vinylidene chloride, polyester, and nylon. It's very important that plastic hair extensions are treated with a preservative to prevent the growth of yeast, bacteria, and fungi. There's also no saying how long your hair was sitting in a warehouse prior installing it. You must be asking, how and why would my braiding hair be susceptible to the growth of yeast, bacteria, & fungi? According to the National Institute of Health (.gov) 
"A metagenomics analysis of bacteria on human scalp hair revealed high diversity with 4,838 core bacteria and 1,220 transient bacteria (Tridico et al., 2014)".  In combination with environmental changes, synthetic hair has the ability to harbor bacteria. It's important to consult a dermatologist if you are unsure.

How do I stop my scalp from flaking with braids?

Understanding why your scalp is dry and flaking is one thing, but now you must be asking how do you get rid of dry scalp with box braids? Taking these steps are necessary to prevent the issue altogether, but they can also be used to treat your scalp. 

  • Keep Your Scalp Clean and Moisturized.

One of the most important things you can do to prevent and alleviate dry scalp with braids is to keep your scalp clean and moisturized. Use a gentle shampoo to cleanse your scalp and avoid harsh chemicals or products that can dry out your scalp. After washing, apply a moisturizing oil or serum to your scalp to keep it hydrated. You can also use a scalp massager to help distribute the oil and improve circulation. Additionally, make sure to drink plenty of water and eat a healthy diet to promote overall scalp health.

  • Avoid Tight Braids and Styles That Pull on Your Scalp.

One of the main causes of dry, flaky scalp with braids is tight styles that pull on your scalp. This can lead to inflammation and irritation, which can cause dryness and itching. To avoid this, opt for looser styles that don't put too much tension on your scalp. You can also try using a silk or satin scarf or bonnet at night to protect your braids and prevent friction. If you're experiencing discomfort, take a break from braids and give your scalp time to heal before trying a new style.

  • Use Natural Oils and Products to Soothe Your Scalp.

Natural oils like coconut oil, tea tree oil, and jojoba oil can help soothe and moisturize your scalp. You can apply these oils directly to your scalp or mix them with your shampoo or conditioner. Look for hair care products that contain natural ingredients like aloe vera, shea butter, and chamomile, which can also help soothe and hydrate your scalp. Avoid using products that contain harsh chemicals or alcohol, as these can further dry out your scalp and exacerbate the problem.

  • Avoid Overusing Hair Products.

Using too many hair products can contribute to a dry and flaky scalp, especially when it comes to braids. The buildup of products like gels, hairsprays, and oils can clog your hair follicles and prevent your scalp from breathing. This can lead to irritation, inflammation, and even infection. To avoid this, try to limit your use of hair products and opt for natural alternatives whenever possible. Also, make sure to thoroughly wash your hair and scalp after removing your braids to remove any buildup.

 Common Questions

  • How often should I oil my scalp with braids?

You should be minimally oiling your scalp every 2-3 days, if not daily. It depends on your scalp specifically and your lifestyle. If you regularly work out, it's important to wash your hair or use a dry shampoo then follow up with oil. If you don't sweat often and your scalp holds moisture well, then you can get away with the later of 2-3 days.

  • What can I use for dandruff with braids?

We recommend using a clarifying shampoo and conditioner that isn't alcohol based weekly. There are shampoos and conditioners that specifically treat dandruff, however ensure that it's for kinky hair. Dandruff does not mean that your hair is damaged, it simply means that your scalp is dehydrated to the point that it's shedding. It's important to ensure that the products you use to to treat your dandruff doesn't exacerbate the issue. Try to avoid ingredients such as coal tar,  charcoal, sulfates, and parabens as these can cause damage. We recommend consulting a dermatologist for the best course of treatment.