Why Are My Dreads So Itchy?

Dreads is a beautiful hairstyle that helps protect the scalp and hair structure, but it comes with its own challenges. One of these challenges is an itchy scalp, and many with this hairstyle facing this …

Dreads is a beautiful hairstyle that helps protect the scalp and hair structure, but it comes with its own challenges. One of these challenges is an itchy scalp, and many with this hairstyle facing this problem keep asking, why are my dreads so itchy? 

One major cause of itchy dreads is the build-up of dead skin cells on the scalp due to lack of scalp stimulation. Washing and brushing hair can help stimulate the scalp and get rid of the dead skin cells.

Several other factors can also cause itchy dreads, which we will discuss in this article. So, read on to know more about what causes dreads to itch and how you can relieve the itchiness.

What Causes Dreadlocks To Itch So Much?

There are a lot of factors that cause dreadlocks to itch, which include:

  • Lack Of Stimulation
  • Improper washing
  • Residue Build-up
  • Wet hair
  • Dandruff

Lack Of Stimulation

This is one major cause of most itchy dreadlocks. Stimulation here means brushing and washing the hair and scalp. When you don’t stimulate the scalp, it results in the build-up of dead skin cells, which causes the dread itch.

Stimulation helps the scalp get rid of dead skin cells, and consistently washing the dreads plays a major role. Another way to improve scalp stimulation is to massage the scalp during showers. Massaging the scalp gives the added benefit of improving blood circulation on the scalp, which helps boost hair growth.

Improper Washing

It is important to note that it is usually not the dread that requires washing but the scalp and hair roots. Not washing your dreadlocks would lead to a build-up of dead cells and would make your dreads itch.

While regular washing of your dreadlocks is ideal for proper growth and development, over washing it would also result in itchy dreads. The reason is that over-washing would make the scalp dry out as it removes its natural oils.

Residue Build-up

When washing your dreads, using the wrong soap or shampoo would also cause itching. Any soap or shampoo that leaves residue behind is not ideal for washing dreads because tightly packed hairstyles like braids and dreads trap residues.

Residue slows down the dreading process, and when they build up, it irritates the scalp and causes itching. Using a residue-free shampoo or soap and rinsing the hair thoroughly after each use ensures no residue remains on the hair.

Wet Hair

When hair is not completely dry, it becomes a fertile ground for the growth of microorganisms. Microorganisms like mildew thrive on moisture. Leaving hair wet allows them to grow, and this causes itchiness.

Besides, not drying hair appropriately leads to odors and flakiness, which are all unpleasant hair conditions. After washing your dreads, dry thoroughly to ensure you leave no room for microbial growth.


Before the flakes appear, dandruff first causes an itchy scalp. Dandruff is a reaction to yeast found on the skin. It results in waxy and flaky shedding of skin. This reaction also causes the overproduction of sebum which is the oil produced by the scalp. The yeast feeds on the sebum, and this results in a cycle.

Many people think dry scalp is the sole cause of dandruff, and this is not true. Using too many products on your scalp can cause dandruff too.

Does It Get Better The Longer You Have Locs?

The age of your dreadlocks does not play a part in whether they itch or not. Without proper care and attention, the longer you have dreadlocks, the more intense the itching.

The reason is that the older the dreadlocks, the more developed is the root system, making it difficult to access the scalp for a thorough wash.

What Can You Do To Help Relieve the Itchiness?

An itchy scalp makes one very uncomfortable. Below are some ways you can relieve the itchiness.

1. Using Oils

Not every oil is ideal for use on an itchy scalp. This is usually true if the itchiness is due to dandruff. Using essential oils like argan oil, tea tree oil, and lemongrass oil can help eradicate itching from your scalp. The reason is that these oils have antimicrobial properties that help get rid of microbes while reinforcing the natural barrier present on the scalp.

2. Washing Locs with Clarifying Shampoo

A clarifying shampoo differs significantly from the normal shampoo in action. While normal shampoo washes hair thoroughly, removing its natural oils, clarifying shampoo cleanses hair effectively while retaining its natural oils. The reason is that natural oils produced by the scalp help ensure it does not dry out, thereby preventing hair conditions like dandruff and flakiness.

3. Washing Locs Appropriately

Washing Locs excessively is one of the major causes of dry and itchy scalp. If you wash your dreadlocks too often, especially at the early stage, it will take a longer time to lock. Also, washing locs more often rids it of the natural oils, which in turn causes itchiness and dry scalp.

4. Adequate Drying

After each wash, ensure you dry your hair thoroughly to prevent the growth of mildew and other microorganisms that can cause itching.

5. Cooling Spray

A cooling spray is a quick fix to an itchy scalp. It stops the scalp from itching while improving the smell of the hair.

6. Massage

Instead of scratching the hair when it feels itchy, it is better to massage it. Massaging the scalp provides it with the stimulation it needs to exfoliate on its own. On the other hand, scratching your hair might damage the root of your dreadlocks.

Massaging in one direction instead of scratching also has the added advantage of helping new growth lock.

7. Drink Water

Drinking plenty of water would improve the health of your skin and scalp. An itchy scalp might be your body’s way of telling you that you are dehydrated.

How Often Should You Wash Your Dreads?

There are no laid down principles on how often you should wash your dreadlocks. But it is always advisable you wash your dreads every 2-3 weeks to get rid of any debris or product residue trapped in the scalp and strands.

You ought to know that dreadlocks are intertwined hair clumped together. This clumped hair often traps dirt and debris, which is why washing your dreads frequently is important.

There are factors that determine how often you wash your dreads. These include;

  • Your Lifestyle: If your day is filled with activities and you sweat a lot, washing your dreads daily might become a necessity. This is to prevent sweat build-up and odors.
  • Age of dreads: The age of your dreads determines how often you wash them. If your dread is still relatively new, washing them often would unravel them. While for older dreads, washing them would not do any damage. If your dread is new and you want to wash, you should wear rubber bands at the roots and tips of your dreads.

What Signs Show You Your Hair Needs Washing?

  • Oily Hair: Oil is good, but too much oil is detrimental to the health of your dreads. Hair with excess oil clogs up scalp pores, reducing hair growth. When hair starts feeling oil, it is best to wash it.
  • Dry Hair: Clogged pore spaces and hair follicles or the use of unhealthy hair products could make hair dry. Dry hair needs moisture, and the best way to moisturize hair is by washing it.
  • Dandruff and Flakes: Dandruff causes the scalp to produce flakes. While washing the hair might not eradicate dandruff, it would improve the hair’s moisture condition, ridding it of the flakes.
  • Odor: Odors are a strong indication that your dreadlocks need a wash. Odors often result when your locs do not dry properly, excess moisture inside your dreadlocks, or if you had a sweaty day. If your dreadlock is prone to odors, probably due to your active lifestyle, you must develop a routine to wash and dry your hair properly.

How Often Should You Do A Detox?

You should soak or do a penetrating detox 1-2 times per year. Detox involves deeply cleaning your dreadlocks to eliminate accumulated build-up. With a detoxifying shampoo, you can detoxify your dreads regularly as it helps prevent build-up. While using this shampoo, you should know that detoxification strips the hair of its natural oils, resulting in a dry scalp.

An itchy dread gives its owner discomfort. There are many reasons why dreads get itchy, from personal hygiene, diet to underlying health conditions. Dead skin on the scalp is one of the major reasons why dreads itch. The scalp removes this dead skin naturally through the process of exfoliation.

Stimulating the scalp is one way we aid the scalp to rid itself of dead skin cells. Stimulation often occurs through washing and brushing the hair. You must know why your dreadlocks get itchy, as it helps you determine how best to take care of the itch.