DIY braids: How to get rid of the itch

Any womxn of colour who has ever braided their hair with the synthetic hair pieces will tell you how incredibly itchy the scalp becomes once the hair is installed. 

This is due to a chemical used to coat the synthetic hair called the Alkaline Lye. It’s an alkaline solution which is applied on the synthetic hair to prevent mould from forming on the hair. It also makes the synthetic hair heat resistant, which is why you’re able to use hot water to curl it or hair dryer to dry the hair. 

While there’s obviously positive benefits of the Alkaline Lye, it does also have negative aspects to it. It’s the core cause of scalp and hair itching. It also causes the white build up on the base of the hair where the synthetic hair connects with your natural hair. 

I’ve known about this for a couple of years, but to be honest, I’ve never really paid attention to it. So, I’ve just been buying the hair and installing it straight from the packet. That was until last month, thanks to the lockdown, I’ve been paying attention to even the smallest details in certain aspects of my life and behaviours. 

When I decided that I was going to DIY a protective style for my TWA, I also decided to try the process of removing this chemical and see if there would be any significant difference in how I experience my braids. 

The results of removing Alkaline Lye on synthetic hair

I experienced the results of removing the chemical instantly. What I mean is, usually half way through the braiding process, I would already start to feel the itch on the parts where I’ve installed. But this time, I did not feel the itch at all. Typically, when the braids are becoming less tight on your scalp, there’s an itch right, which has nothing to do with the chemical. But what I’ve experienced this time was a significant drop of the levels of the itch. It wasn’t unbearable and I simply had to hydrate and moisturise my scalp to feel better. 

Now let me tell you about the build up. It wasn’t visible at all. Usually, I’d start noticing the build up about three weeks into my braids. Which would prompt me to either wash my braids or take them down altogether. But this time, it was only on the day I removed the braids that I noticed tiny bits of build up. And in the month and two weeks I had the braids on, I only washed my hair once. In my books, this is a positive experience. 

So, how do you remove the chemical? Easy, check out what you’ll need and follow the steps below: 

What you’ll need

  • Apple Cider Vinegar or normal white vinegar.
  • A plastic hanger.
  • A bucket or bowl.
  • Water.
  • The synthetic hair.
  • Conditioner.

What to do

  1. Pour your vinegar of choice in the bowl or bucket. How much vinegar is really dependent on how many packets you’ll be using. I used half a cup as I was using five packets. 
  2. Fill up the bucket or bowl with water. Again, how much depends on how many packets. You can use cold water if you want but I used lukewarm water. 
  3. Dunk the hair onto the bucket or bowl. Leave it to sit for about an hour. You’ll notice that the water is cloudy, which indicates that the chemical has come off from the hair.
  4. Rinse it with clean water until the white substance comes off and on your last rinse add a bit of conditioner to the water. This removes the smell of vinegar on the hair. How much conditioner? Let your ancestors do the math beloveds. 
  5. Once done rinsing, hang the hair on the hanger using the rubber bands. Let it air dry or if you’re looking to use it urgently use the hairdryer. I let mine air dry. 

I’m not entirely sure if this process completely removes or removes a portion of the chemical because I was still able to make my hair curly using the hot water process. But that’s all you do and then you’re ready to DIY-your hair. Btw, I also moisturised the hair once it was dry, using my leave in conditioner. 

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