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

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

woman with braids

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. 

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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.

Why Do You Get Bumps From Braids?

Let’s have a look at the potential causes of braid bumps:

Tension bumps

The number one culprit of braid bumps is having too tight braids.

Tight braids can cause itching and irritation, and usually, will cause so-called tension bumps on your 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

This is similar to the rubber band method which may hurt if done too tightly.

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 On The Scalp 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 braid bumps on the scalp

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 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, a chemical reaction, or how you have them styled.

In order to treat tension bumps from tight braids and stop them from causing pain, you will need to take out the braids straight away to release the tension.

  1. Firstly, assess the scalp. Is it sore to the touch? Is the scalp swollen from the tight braids? If so, you can rub it gently in olive oil to calm down the irritation while you undo the braids.
  2. Check the state of each braid. It could be that only a few cause the tension on your scalp and it would be a shame to undo them all.
  3. Gently undo each braid that is causing the issue. Let your scalp rest, ideally overnight, and see if the bumps caused by the braids are looking better

Now, the braids may be tight but it could be that they are not causing the issue. So 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. 

Of course, if your scalp is sore from the tight braids or you’re experiencing scalp sores, do not massage your scalp until you have picked up the right ointments and creams. See more for this below.

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 tight 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.

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 the 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 your 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. 

Frequently asked questions

How do I treat braid bumps on my neck?

The best way to treat braid bumps on your neck is to loosen the braid causing the issue and massage the neck area in which the bumps appear. This will help relieve tension and make the bumps disappear.

How can I treat a swollen scalp caused by braids?

If your scalp is swollen after getting braids, try massaging the area using a hot oil treatment. You can also mix 1 part apple cider vinegar with 1 part water to reduce inflammation. If this does not work, loosen the braids that are causing the tension on your scalp.

How many days does it take for braids to loosen up?

Braids will usually loosen within 1-2 days but it can take up to 3 days before you find complete relief from tight braids. If needed, take paracetamol for the pain.

Can tight braids cause hair loss?

Continuously wearing tight braids can cause traction alopecia which is a condition caused by repeatedly pulling on your hair. If you experience tension headaches or bumps on your scalp after getting braids, make sure you massage the area or loosen the braids for relief

Does steam loosen braids?

The heat from the steam helps to loosen your braids and relieve any pain you may have from the tension. Steam opens up the pores in your scalp while adding moisture. This also helps combat a dry, sore scalp.

How do you sleep with new braids?

Wear a silk bonnet to avoid friction with your pillow and use a light oil to moisturize your new braids. This will help prevent your hair from going dry. Avoid heavy creams and butter as your hair may get very greasy.

bumps on scalp after braids

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