5 Ways To Refresh Your Scalp While You’re Wearing A Protective Style

No more scalp itch.

Here are five ways to refresh and sooth a painful or itchy scalp if tight braids are causing problem...

Protective hairstyles are a great way to give your natural hair (and your arms) a much-needed break from weekly tugging and twisting — but they aren’t completely maintenance-free. Some issues can arise: Itchy scalp. Headaches caused by painfully tight braids. Excessive flakes. While you’re wearing twists, weaves, bantu knots, or any other style that gives your curls a time-out, scalp and root care is crucial.

Nothing’s worse than desperately attempting to pat away scalp itchiness or fervently scratching between wefts. “Some protective styles can make it difficult to reach your scalp and maintain moisture,” Lacy Redway, Unilever Global Stylist & Celebrity Hair Artist, tells Bustle via email. “The areas that are closed off and not receiving enough moisture and oxygen can become drier and cause itchiness.”

Excess tension can also be the culprit behind an irritated, painful, or itchy scalp. Kellon Deryck, hairstylist to stars like Megan Thee Stallion and Missy Elliot and Creme of Nature brand ambassador, tells Bustle that scalp irritation tends to come from your protective styles being too tight or improperly installed. An allergic reaction to synthetic hair may cause irritation as well, adds celebrity hairstylist Felicia Leatherwood.

In short, neglecting your scalp while you’re wearing a protective style can have some major consequences. Read on for five ways to relieve scalp pain, fight off flakes, and more.

Use A Steaming Towel To Alleviate Pain From Tight Braids

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If your braids or twists are too tight, Deryck has a quick hack for relieving the scalp pain caused by the tension. “Use a great [scalp] oil and a steaming towel. The moisture will help loosen up some of the tension from the tight braids and hopefully loosen your install.”

To do this, take a towel and soak it in hot water. Remove it with tongs and wring out the all the liquid. While it’s steaming hot, place the towel over your braids and apply light pressure where your scalp hurts the most.

Keep Your Hair (And Scalp) Hydrated

When wearing protective hairstyles, hydrate your scalp like you hydrate your curls: Use treatments, a leave-in conditioner, oil, and or cream specifically for nourishing your exposed scalp. Redway recommends moisturizing your scalp and roots every two to three days.

“Making sure you keep your hair and scalp hydrated and moisturized while wearing a protective hairstyle will keep your scalp healthy,” Deryck explains. His recommendations: Creme of Nature’s Cleansing Scalp Treatment, Invigorating Leave-In, Invigorating Scalp Oil, and Restorative Daily Scalp Cream. Pro tip: Make sure you use it proactively (before you see flakes). “Being preventative and using [scalp oil] after shampoo and conditioning will help flaking not to occur,” Deryck explains.

Cleanse Your Scalp Biweekly

All the oil, leave-in conditioner and serum you’re adding to soothe your scalp can create buildup, which can make your scalp itchy. Leatherwood suggests you “cleanse your scalp every 10 days or every two to three weeks.” She recommends using clarifying cleansing products like WOW’s Apple Cider Vinegar Shampoo and Conditioner and an exfoliator like the My Black Is Beautiful Scalp Scrub.

Take Care Of Your Edges


Excessive tension can severely damage your hair, especially in sensitive areas like the nape of your neck or your hairline. It can even cause traction alopecia. Your baby hairs will benefit from a pomade. CURLS Hair Under There Protect Me Edge Styling Pomade, which launches later this month at Walmart, is a great option that will make sure your most delicate strands are laid, hydrated, and protected.

Don’t Keep Your Style In For Too Long

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Prolonged tension and buildup can compromise your scalp health. Redway explains that the amount of time you can keep your protective hairstyle depends on the style and your hair type. “Smaller box braids can last for three to six weeks, [while] cornrows are better for two to three weeks,” she says. “Once your strands get too frizzy – that not even something like the TRESemmé Flawless Curls Moisturizing Mousse and a head covering can repair – that’s a tell-tale sign that your protective style is ready to be removed.”

Deryck says that eight weeks is the absolute cut off. “It’s key to not keep your protective style in for longer than two months,” he says.