How to Properly Cleanse Your Scalp While You Have Extensions

This is not the time to abandon ship.

How to Properly Cleanse Your Scalp While You Have in Extensions
Photo: Getty Images/InStyle

Whether you opt to start your day by clipping in a few tracks, or you just got a fresh weave installed, there's something about those cascading inches that puts an extra pep in your step. Well — until wash day.

Clip-in extensions can easy be taken out after a day of wear, but when you've got a weave? You can expect to have that in for up to two months, which means you're going to have to navigate how to still care for your natural hair and scalp while it's in. And by no means is this an easy thing to do, especially if you tend to take care of your hair at home instead of going to the salon.

That's why we reached out to two experts: Dafina Smith, founder of Covet & Mane hair extensions, as well as celebrity hairstylist Jennifer Yepez for some expert tips.

Does the Type of Hair I Use Contribute to Buildup?

Glad you asked, because yes it can.

"My experience with scalp issues is one of the reasons I created Covet & Mane," Smith shares. "It was a personal mission to create a way for women to enjoy the look and feel of hair extensions while providing them with free access to cleanse and care for their scalp."

The brand offers hand-tied extensions that are customized to each client's scalp. And no glue, melting, or tape is used for installation, all of which can lead to build up or residue.

What's the Best Way to Take Care of My Scalp While I Have in Extensions?

First and foremost, making sure the hair is installed properly.

"If you have more traditional forms of sew-in extensions, I highly recommend foregoing a net or anything that blocks access to cleansing your scalp," says Smith.

When it comes to actual cleansing, the beauty founder recommends using clarifying products on a weekly basis to ensure a thorough cleanse of your tracks. "I love products from the line Girl + Hair, especially their Clear ACV Clarifying Rinse, and Briogeo's Scalp Revival Brush," Smith shares. "But I'm also a fan of a good old-fashioned toothbrush to cleanse the scalp of any build-up before washing your hair."

You'll also want to be mindful of how long you leave your extensions in.

According to Yepez, you should take out clip-ins daily. "For bonds or tape-ins it depends on how fast your hair grows, but I would say typically two months," she adds. The two-month timeline also applies to sewn-in weaves.

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Yepez recommends starting off with an oil as a pre-treatment like May11's Purifying Scalp Oil, then you can work a clarifying shampoo into the roots. Just make sure to not be too abrasive, as you can create micro-tears on the scalp.

You should also only use a standard conditioner from the mid-shaft to ends of your weave to avoid leftover product residue on the braided hair. As for any leave-out, feel free to condition as normal.

"I recommend using a dropper bottle, or a color application bottle, to really access the scalp between braids," Smith suggests. "This allows the clarifying shampoos or rinses you are using to penetrate the scalp as much as possible. The other really important step when you have a sew-in to make sure that you sit under a hooded dryer to extract residual moisture whenever you wash your hair. Moisture and product buildup can lead to odor, bacteria, and skin issues."

What Happens If I Don't Properly Cleanse My Scalp?

"Your scalp can get clogged, which can lead to thinning hair or hair loss," Yepez warns.

So yeah, make sure you have a proper wash day plan, focusing on scalp care, whenever you get a new weave installed.

This is All Natural. From the kinkiest coils to loose waves, we're celebrating natural hair in its many forms by sharing expert tips for styling, maintenance, and haircare.

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