Why Do I Get Bumps On My Scalp After Braids? (How To Treat)

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Tight braids can result in too much tension and can leave you with bumps on your scalp. But what exactly causes these bumps and how can you treat them?

woman with braids

Written By Nicola Bodington

Braids are a great protective style if you are looking to grow your hair and give it a break from chemical and heat exhaustion.

However, there can be a downside to braided hair that can result in your head hurting and causing you pain for days.

Swelling or bumps on the scalp after braids are called folliculitis. This condition means that the hair follicles have become inflamed and it could potentially cause permanent damage to the hair and scalp. 

Why Do You Get Bumps After Braids?

If you have noticed bumps on scalp after braids, you may think it’s purely down to your braids being too tight.

While tight braids can cause itching, irritation, and bumps, there are other factors that you need to consider. 

Here are some of the reasons you may notice bumps on your scalp after getting braids:

Braids Are Too Tight On Scalp

Most people like to have their braids tight as it helps the style last longer and keeps the hair looking neat. Sleeping with braids that are too tight can cause even further discomfort.

However, tight braids can cause tension bumps on your scalp and leave you in a lot of pain. Tight tension can be damaging to your hair, hairline, and scalp. 

When your braids are too tight, they pull at your hair’s roots, which causes the hair follicles to become inflamed.

Tight braids that result in tension can cause the hair to break away from the root, leading to red, inflamed bumps along the edges

Chemicals In Synthetic Extensions

Synthetic hair extensions can irritate the scalp making it itchy and inflamed.

This is because a chemical is used to coat the synthetic braids to help protect the hair from heat while preventing mold from forming in the hair. 

The alkaline-based coating helps the synthetic fibers to look and feel like natural hair. Although this chemical does have its purpose, when applied too close to the scalp, it can make it itch and become irritated.

Not Enough Moisture

Having braids can prevent moisture from getting to your hair. When your hair doesn’t get any moisture, it becomes extremely dry, which can cause itching.

If your hair gets wet from sweating or rainfall and it is not dried correctly, you may notice mold starting to form in your hair. This can also cause irritation which could lead to bumps on your scalp. 

Untreated Dandruff On Scalp

Dandruff is caused by many things such as dry skin, irritated skin, and a yeast-like fungus called Malassezia.

If you notice dandruff when your hair is braided, it can be stubborn to treat. 

What happens is that dandruff triggers inflammation at the root of the hair, which causes continuous itching. 

Also Read: How Tight Should A Wig Be? (Easy Ways To Tell)

What Do Tension Bumps Look Like?

Tension bumps manifest themselves either as red, inflamed bumps or as scalp sores.

Scalp sores from tight braids can be very painful and should be treated as soon as you discover them. An irritated scalp needs specific care and has to be dealt with appropriately.

Red, inflamed bumps can also be painful but these can often be managed by simple measures.

How To Treat Bumps On Scalp Caused By Braids

If you are experiencing pain or bumps on the scalp caused by braids, you need to treat them immediately to prevent further damage to your hair. 

Here are some ways on how you can relieve the irritating and itchy symptoms: 

Release The Braid Tension

As soon as you notice the bumps on your scalp, you need to work out if the tension is caused by the braids being too tight or how you have them styled.

Tight braids that are causing pain will need to be taken out straight away to release the tension. 

The braids may be tight but may not be causing the issue. If you have them styled in a tight bun, for example, loosen the hair.

If this helps relieve the irritation, you know to avoid tight hairstyles going forward. 

Tight hairstyles put tension at the nape of your neck and can cause bumps and swelling. 

Massage The Scalp

Massaging the scalp is another way to release the tension and treat the bumps on your scalp.

Use light oils like argan oil or coconut oil that can be easily absorbed into the hair. Pine tar oil also has healing properties such as treating dry scalp and eliminating dandruff.

Apply your chosen oil to the inflamed area to soothe the pain and reduce any swelling.

Your scalp will feel relieved and relaxed from any irritation, and you should notice the inflammation and bumps start to reduce. 

Give Your Hair And Scalp A Break

After you have taken your braids out or loosened your hair from a tight hairstyle, you will need to allow your scalp time to heal.

You will also need to give your hair time to recover from any damage that may have been caused. 

There’s no timeframe for how long it will take to heal, but it’s important that you don’t rush into redoing your braids or another protective hairstyle that could cause further tension bumps and damage to the scalp. 

Ointment and Creams

If you suffer from scalp sores caused by braids, these should be attended to immediately.

If your scalp is flaky or you suffer from seborrheic dermatitis, it’s best to use medicated ointments and shampoos.

Look out for ingredients such as pyrithione zinc, salicylic acid, and selenium sulfide.

Also Read: Growing Edges: How To Avoid Thinning Hair With These 5 Tips

How To Prevent Braid Bumps On Scalp

girl with braids

We’ve discussed how you can treat braid bumps should you experience them, but how can you prevent them in the first place? 

Let’s take a look at some of the ways you can stop irritation and bumps on your scalp:

Use Human Hair Extensions

The hair extensions used when braiding are typically synthetic, which can cause the scalp to become itchy and irritated.

The alkaline-based coating that is used can cause irritation. To prevent this, ask your stylist to use 100 percent human hair extensions as the chemical coating is not used on these. 

Soak Synthetic Extensions In Apple Cider Vinegar

Human hair extensions can be costly, and they may not be an option for some people.

Using synthetic hair extensions can be fine and may not cause irritation for some people.

However, to prevent them from possibly causing irritation, soak the synthetic extensions in apple cider vinegar.

Doing this will help remove the manufacturer’s chemical coating and leave the extensions feeling soft. 

Let Hair Down

You now know that constantly tightening your braids and pulling them up into updo hairstyles can cause damage. This also tends to happen with dreadlocks and can even lead to hair loss.

Try to let your hair hang down at the end of the day to relieve any potential tension. 

Apply Leave-In Conditioner

Your hair and scalp need to stay hydrated when you have braids, so apply a leave-in conditioner to prevent it from becoming dry.

If your scalp feels dry and tense, you can massage the leave-in conditioner to the areas that need soothing, helping relieve any pain. 

Use Shampoo Directly On Scalp

Oils and leave-in conditioners do have their benefits, but they can also result in build-up.

If this happens, the residue can block the hair follicles, leaving the scalp dry and itchy.

Use a sulfate-free cleanser directly on the scalp to keep it exfoliated and clean while also leaving your braids looking frizz-free and neat. 

Remove Braids After Eight Weeks

When your hair grows, it can get tangled and twisted and irritate your scalp.

To stop this from happening, make sure you remove the braids after eight weeks. Leaving braids in longer than this can cause damage to the hair and your scalp. 

Take Braids Out

To prevent breakage, hair loss, or bumps on scalp after braids, take the braids out as soon as you feel any tension.

Although this is frustrating and a waste of time and money, your scalp will thank you for it. Trying to persevere with your braids when they are causing you so much pain is just not worth it. 

Remember to give your hair the proper care once you have taken the braids out. Essential oils like lavender, peppermint, and chamomile will soothe and calm any aggravated areas. 

Also Read: 4 Amazing Benefits of Burdock Root Tea Rinse for Hair

How To Care For Braids (And Your Scalp)

bumps on scalp after braids

Braids are a great way to keep your hair neat and stylish while also protecting it from the potential heat damage that hairstyling appliances cause. 

If you have had braids and previously experienced an itchy or dry scalp, it may have put you off getting them again.

However, with the correct care, you can enjoy tension-free braids once again. 

Here are some tips on how to care for your braids: 

Wash Braids Often

Washing braids can be offputting for some people, as they can take a while to completely dry.

But not washing your hair for long periods can cause problems such as dead skin cells and sebum becoming trapped at your roots. This will leave you with an itchy scalp and wanting to scratch. 

You should aim to wash your hair every three to four days, according to hair care experts. Try to use an antimicrobial toner in between washes to help get rid of any bacteria. 

Reduce Itching With Essential Oils 

Implement essential hair oils like jojoba oil and castor oil into your hair routine.

Simply apply your chosen oil directly to the scalp and leave it in. Not only will it help soothe any itchy sensation you may be feeling, but it also mimics natural oils that are produced by your skin. 

Apply the oil as soon as you feel any tension that your braids may be causing. The oil will hydrate your scalp and prevent any bumps on the scalp after braids. 

Wear Braids Loosley

Although tight braids may seem like a good idea to keep hair neat and in place, the potential risk of hair and scalp damage outweighs this.

Besides, tight braids don’t guarantee your hairstyle to be long-lasting, so why risk the pain? 

Ask your hairstylist to braid your hair so that it will allow you to keep the style but not pull at your hair’s roots and cause the follicles to become inflamed.

Wearing looser braids can prevent those bumps from forming on your scalp. 


  • Protective styles like braids have great benefits, such as giving your hair a break from chemical and heat exhaustion. 
  • You may notice bumps on scalp after braids if they are too tight. 
  • It’s important to immediately treat any bumps or irritation by releasing the tension, massaging the scalp, and giving your hair and scalp a break. 
  • Taking proper care of your braids can prevent a dry and irritated scalp. 
bumps on scalp after braids

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