For most sisters, summertime braids were par for the course growing up. It was a way to enjoy swimming at summer camp without the threat of looking crazy about the head, afterward. Even in adulthood, when it comes time to take that tropical vacation, many of us are headed to the braiding salon, or that cousin who does hair for our low maintenance look.
Last summer, I went to Croatia and I knew swimming would be in my future so I opted for kanekalon micro braids. They were easy and beautiful—and they itched like the devil. I tried everything from “braid spray” to tea tree oil to straight olive oil to combat the severe scalp irritation I was feeling. I kept my micros for eight weeks before letting them go in favor of a Marley hair crochet style.
A few weeks ago, I was over my crochet braids and went back to my sweet, Cameroonian braid stylist for a new set of micros. I was three days in before the itching returned. I tried olive oil again which started building up on the hair and weighing down my curls. I wanted to wash my hair and try again with vitamin E oil, due to its healing properties. A quick Google search opened my eyes to something I’d never heard of before.
Apparently, one of the finishing agents on synthetic/kanekalon hair is a skin irritant that causes bumps, itching, and burning in the scalp. I fell down the YouTube rabbit hole of hair aficionados pretreating their synthetic hair with apple cider vinegar and water before installing braid and crochet styles. What a novel idea—except the hair was already on my head.
I decided to take a gamble and put a 2:1 split of water and apple cider vinegar into a spray bottle, and saturated my braids and scalp. I covered my hair with a shower cap and let it sit for 15 minutes before rinsing out and I’m pleased to report that not only has the itching stopped, the damaged/irritated skin on my scalp has healed, and the process stripped the olive oil off of my hair. It was a freaking miracle. I did decide to continue using small amounts of vitamin E oil every few days to deal with dryness (since that’s one of my enduring struggles). I’m also pleased to report that I used the same process to cleanse my scalp every few weeks.
I learned in my travel group that this process doesn’t work for everyone (because we’re all unique and stuff), but it’s helped me and other friends exponentially.