For most of us getting the itch when we’re wearing protective styles is something that we’ve always thought was normal, with most of us having worn styles with synthetic hair from a very young age. Which also means we’ve developed our unique itching techniques and depending on the severity of the itch it can vary from the casual or not so casual head pat (we’ve all seen this on the bus or in church) or even as far as finding the closest pencil like object to soothe that damn itch!
Most of the time we make judgements about the length of time ‘Patty’ has had her hair in, to make her publicly drum her head with no shame. The truth is, there’s one thing that you probably don’t know that is causing the itch you get when wearing protective styles such as braids, twists and weaves.
Before I tell you, let me quickly share my recent experience with you and because I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy, is the reason why I’m writing this article.
Having had the big chop in August 2016, inspired by my afrolicious baby, Mayah (Read my big chop story here) I, like most women was super excited for when my hair was finally long enough to install a protective hairstyle. It was perfect timing for the winter months and if you saw the way I rushed to the hair shop with the same excitement I had the first time I was allowed extensions in my hair as a child.
I had obsessed over how amazing Instagram beauty @kiitana totally rocked her different crotchet styles, not to mention how quick it was to install. I mean, I’d always hated the numb bum feeling you got 3 hours into individual braids or sometimes when your hairdresser got comfortable with you, being left to finish the ends of your braids yourself, kmt (kiss my teeth). So, a few @kiitana videos later, I felt confident enough to install my crotchet myself. I went for the faux locs, which including the braiding took me under 2 hours to install, with a little help from my husband when I got the crochet hook stuck at the back.
I loved it! It had been 5 months since I had done anything to my hair and it was nice to have alternative styling options again. However, about 5 days into the crochet, I noticed a slight stinging sensation directly under the braids, so I would spray the areas with oil sheen and braid spray which would only be a temporary fix. I was not about to be that head drummer on the train, so I would usually hold my sh*t together until I stepped in my front door, drop everything and itch my scalp like a possessed woman. After enduring it for 2 weeks, I thought, right, it must be the hair so I bought a different style of crochet hair.
This next crochet style was the closest you can get to definition of jumping from the frying pan into the fire. Again, the itch came about 5 days after getting my hair done, which this time I had done at the hairdressers.My scalp was red raw and this time was also covered in small sensitive yellow bumps. I started jumping to a few more wrong conclusions, like, the hair shop must be selling fake hair or maybe my hairdresser must have used combs / products that was contaminated from someone else. My scalp felt like someone had poured fire ants all over it, similar to that burning feeling you have when you have left the relaxer in for too long.
My scalp was red raw and this time was also covered in small sensitive yellow bumps. I started jumping to a few more wrong conclusions, like, the hair shop must be selling fake hair or maybe my hairdresser must have used combs / products that was contaminated from someone else. My scalp felt like someone had poured fire ants all over it, similar to that burning feeling you have when you have left the relaxer in for too long.
Uncomfortable and feeling betrayed by my hairdresser I jumped on the internet to see if by any chance other people had had a similar experience. It was then that I came across different blog posts, articles and pictures of women who had experienced exactly the same thing. The actual truth was that I had had a very common allergic reaction to the alkaline base coated on almost all types of synthetic hair. Should I have known this was possible? Did I miss a warning label on the packaging that the hair came in? and why isn’t this being shared through the natural hair community? I generally do not have sensitive skin but I found out that the difference between a bearable itch to a full on allergic reaction is due to the level of alkaline used to coat the hair. It may seem like a hassle but trust me you do not want to take the chance and experience what I went through. So what can you do so you’re not playing Russian roulette with your hair and scalp.
The answer is simple, pre-treat the hair. It only takes 30 minutes and is the only reason why I can carry on using synthetic hair without worry about suffering another allergic reaction. This also applies to any style were you will be adding synthetic hair to any part of the hair. This includes using it for the cornrows under weaves and especially important if you will be using the hair on a child. Here are the steps to follow to remove the alkaline base that causes the itching and reactions.
What you will need.
A bowl / sink
Apple cider vinegar (ACV)
NOTE: You should not take off the ‘whatever’ is holding the hair together to stop the hair from becoming tangled.
Fill up the sink / bowl with enough water to cover the hair and still allow it to move freely and depending on the amount of hair you are treating add 4-6 cap full of ACV.
2. Soak the hair in the sink/bowl and swish it around (I wear a glove) to be sure that all the hair is covered and leave it for 20 minutes. A white film will appear on the surface, which is the acidity of the ACV removing the alkaline base from the hair.
3. After the 20-Minute period, drain the sink / empty the bowl and refill with clean warm water and add a bit of your shampoo and again gently swirl the hair to get rid of the smell of the ACV and too deep clean the hair.
4. Rinse for one last time with clean warm water and water and hang the hair to dry. I like to drape the hair over a hanger and add a little add to add a little sheen back to the hair. Make sure the hair is fully dry before installing. No-one wants to smell like a wet dog.
Follow these 4 simple steps and you’ll be good to enjoy a protective style without the itch. The natural hair community has never been stronger so share this with the community and save yourself, your friends and your mum, pain, time and money.
Have you had a similar experience or do you have another tried and proven itch free secret, would love to hear your thoughts?