Thursday, 14 February 2013

Itchy dreadlocks?



Ah itchy dreadlocks, a problem that plagues many, well it's more of an itchy head than itchy dreads but I'm sure you get the idea. Itchy dreadlocks can be a real pain and it leads to lots of people cutting off the dreads all together! fear not, I am here to help!

What causes itchy dreadlocks?

There are a few factors that can attribute to an itchy head, but luckily most of them can be solved the same way.

Scalp Build Up:
Every time you wash your hair you are stripping away the oils from your scalp. The more frequently you wash, the more oils your scalp as to produce. So if you normally wash your head every day and then suddenly start to wash it once a week you're going to find that your head is still producing the same amount of oils that it used to and you're getting a really irritated scalp. You need these oils, it's a balance, if you have too much you get scalp build up (this build up occurs because dreadlocks aren't quite like normal hair, with normal hair a lot of this oils get all over your hair causing you to get greasy hair. You don't really get greasy dreads, instead it all stays on your scalp and become irritating.) If you have too few oils you'll get dry skin on your head and it'll get sore and equally as annoying. This is a common problem for people with new dreads, because you'll commonly go from washing every day with normal hair to only washing maybe a couple of times a week with the new dreads and so you get a really oily head. This is why I recommend slowly altering your washing schedule in order to minimize this problem and it's covered in my "Preparing For Dreadlocks" section. In order to fix this problem you just need to get into a new washing rhythm and stick to it. Decide how often you're going to wash the hair and then keep to it. If you decide you're going to wash every 3 days then after you've been doing this for a week or so your scalp will have gotten used to producing the level of oils required for this level of washing. This is why you can find that some people wash their dreads every couple of days and some people wash theirs once a week and neither have any problems - because their dreads are used to the frequency of the washing! If you want to quickly clean up your scalp you can use a bicarb soak to break down any oils that are building up on your scalp and then change to your new routine.

Dandruff:
This is another annoyance for those with dreads. Dandruff is when you have a dry scalp and it causes the skin to flake off and so you get little white flakes falling out of your hair and it can make the scalp itchy as they flake off. With normal hair you can fix this rather simply by buying some Head and Shoulders, unfortunately Head and Shoulders is not a residue free shampoo and therefore not recommended for dreadlocks. If you use H&S regularly with dreads you can quite quickly find that you get a sticky residue in the tips of the dreads and then lint will start sticking to the residue! To deal with dandruff I recommend a bicarbonate soak / dreadlock deep cleanse. You can either add some rosemary oil to a standard bicarb soak or you can soak your dreads and scalp in a rosemary tea. The rosemary will soothe the scalp and help prevent dandruff and the bicarb will remove any scalp build up you already have.

Shampoo Residue:
Not all shampoos work well with dreadlocks. If your shampoo leaves residue in your hair it can irritate your scalp. If you don't fully rinse out ALL the shampoo that you've used to wash your hair, it will remain in your dreadlocks. Dirt and lint can then stick to the residue and that can become irritating and unpleasant or the residue can dry out and flake off onto your head, drying out your scalp and again becoming irritating and unpleasant. To fix this problem I would recommend changing to a shampoo specifically designed to be residue free, I have a list of the ones I have had experience with in my "Washing and Dying" section. (Remember if you are using liquid doctor bronner's - the liquid needs to be diluted, the soap is very strong and thick straight out of the bottle and so I would recommend mixing it 1/10 with water before using it on your hair). You should then, once again use a bicarbonate soak / dreadlock deep cleanse - this will remove the soap residue that is stuck inside the dreadlocks and clean up your scalp allowing you to start fresh with your new soap. If you are already using a dreadlock soap / residue free shampoo and you are still getting build up I would recommend using less soap (I only use maybe 2 teaspoons of shampoo for my whole head) and spend longer concentrating on the rinsing out.

Other Causes:
There are other things that can cause dread itchy-ness and each case will be slightly different but the above are the most common and people with those problems often find it hard to pin point the cause. Other issues can arise when using other dreadlock "products" such as waxes, gels and other unnecessary dreadlock additives. Also over maintaining dreadlocks by trying to tighten the roots manually can cause tightness on the scalp and irritation. If you're having scalp problems I would recommend first dropping everything other than residue-free soap/shampoo and letting the maintenance regime relax.





10 comments:

  1. Thanks. This is really helpful to me.

    ReplyDelete
  2. My scalp is EXTREMLY itchy. I don't have residue because my dreads are only a week old. I've been putting tea tree oil on my scalp and it helps a little bit? I was running yesterday so I think that is why they're so itchy. From the sweat

    ReplyDelete
  3. Would it be a good idea to massage some coconut oil into the scalp? I got dreads just under a week ago and they are driving me crazy with itching! I know it's not natural oils because I only used to wash my hair twice a week before. I have rinsed them after a couple of runs I've done, once with bicarb, rock salt and tea tree. Maybe too much tea tree?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It would not be recommended to put rock salt on your scalp... that's unlikely to helping the situation. Adding extra oils onto young dreadlocks will hinder their progress.

      Delete
  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I've had a super thick head of dreads for 5 years now but only recently my scalp is peeling and irritated to no end! It seems to be more prevalent in the front (around my bangs, face, scalp) where my hair is finest. The ridiculous amount of annoyance, messing with my scalp, and itching is now causing a lot of breakage that I fear I won't be able to fix. For some reason I can't help but wonder if the sheer weight of my dreads could be contributing to this issue? There's 85 finger width dreads well past my waist. I have naturally loose curls, fine strands but very densely populated (most would just say I have very thick)Caucasian hair. I haven't changed my washing regimen or anything else that could contribute to this problem. Unlike others above, I never had the "new-dreads" itch that many other people get, luckily. Any thoughts?

    ReplyDelete
  6. I have an EXTREMELY itchy scalp, that gets even worse at night when I'm trying to sleep. I have new dreads from just over maybe a week so I haven't washed them yet. I went from washing my hair every day, to not washing them since I got dreads (about a week and a half without washing, two weeks at most.) If I massage Coconut oil into my scalp where it itches most commonly, would that help at all?? I'm desperate.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I have an EXTREMELY itchy scalp, that gets even worse at night when I'm trying to sleep. I have new dreads from just over maybe a week so I haven't washed them yet. I went from washing my hair every day, to not washing them since I got dreads (about a week and a half without washing, two weeks at most.) If I massage Coconut oil into my scalp where it itches most commonly, would that help at all?? I'm desperate.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Probably not. If it's been 1.5 weeks/2 weeks, you can start washing them(well primarily your scalp for now) with diluted soap. Get a foaming pumper bottle and dilute a dread-safe liquid soap like African black soap or most liquid Castille soaps and gently rub the foam into your scalp in a cicular motion with your palms. Then rinse like the dickens! You'll want to use this diluted gentle cleansing method for the first several weeks to months depending on your hair type and how fast they are maturing. Once your dreads are mature you can use just about anything on them in a pinch with no long lasting effects but do want to use a dread safe soap most of the time, not only on your roots but washing the entire dread as well. Coconut oil is not likely to help your problem right now, though. Most likely your scalp (sebaceous glands in particular) are freaking out after such an abrupt change in routine. Ideally you should try to wean off shampooing quite as much and switch over to dread safe soap a few weeks before getting dreads, but it's too late for that now, huh?! :-) All in all, your head probably needs a wash more than anything. See if you can find a soap with tea tree oil in it, or get a bottle of tea tree and add some to your foaming pump soap mixture. And itching is okay to an extent. You need to loosen dead skin cells in a safe manner, now that you won't be combing it anymore. Get something blunt and able to sterilize (like a stainless steel chop stick) dip it in tea tree and rub your scalp with it, where the itch is. Otherwise our scalps become too sensitive if we don't itch them occasionally. Just don't use your fingernails! You can tear open your scalp and introduce bacteria then have a whole lot of bigger problems than just itching!

      Delete