Here’s Why You Should Always Wash Plastic Synthetic Braiding Extensions

Your scalp will thank you.

ALL NATURAL: Here's why you should always wash synthetic braiding extensions

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Braiding extensions are a great way to change up your look and add both extra length and volume to your hair. However, if you have a sensitive scalp, they can quickly turn into an itchy nightmare. Trust me, I know — I love braiding my hair, but those five hours of getting them installed are not my favorite.

Thankfully, I've got the solution for you: Washing your plastic synthetic braiding hair before you install it. Still curious to find out why plastic synthetic hair can cause scalp irritation? I spoke to Emmy-nominated stylist, Rukey Styles, and Ciara Imani May, founder of Rebundle, a plant-based hair extension brand, to ask them to share their wisdom on what makes plastic synthetic braiding extensions itch and how to wash them.

Why do plastic synthetic braiding hair extensions hair extensions cause itchiness?

“There are many reasons why plastic synthetic braiding hair might cause the scalp to itch,” says May. “A lot of chemicals are used to give plastic synthetic hair the same shine, smoothness, and style as human hair extensions. These ingredients can easily cause a negative reaction on your scalp.” 

She adds that one in three people will experience scalp irritation while wearing braids because of the toxins found in plastic synthetic hair. “These toxins are known carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, and huge pollutants in the environment,” she adds. “Unlike human hair, plastic synthetic hair isn’t as breathable. With your natural hair hidden underneath the synthetic styles, there’s potential for bacteria and irritation to form, causing itching and scalp inflammation. These irritations can then lead to further issues down the line, such as hair shedding and daily discomfort from your protective style.”

There’s a common myth that the tighter your braids are done, the longer they’ll last but according to Styles, braiding your hair too tight can cause irritation and build-up of product, creating a flare-up on the scalp and further itching.

How to prevent your scalp from becoming itchy:

One way to prevent plastic synthetic braiding hair from itching is to thoroughly wash and treat it using apple cider vinegar before installation, says Styles. She adds, however, that it’s better to start off with hair that is hypoallergenic, 100% PVC free, No acrylonitrile, polyvinyl chloride, phthalates or dioxin and made with antibacterial fiber. ​

May also agrees that the hair you are using for your everyday styles should be safe, non-toxic, and comfortable to wear from the start. “Here at Rebundle, we don’t believe that you should have to overly treat the hair before use,” she explains. “If you have to go above and beyond to prep your hair extensions before use, it is probably a sign that you should be using a different product. That’s why our hair is made with regenerative and natural materials to provide not only a natural and more comfortable solution to plastic synthetic hair, but a more sustainable option as well."

How to wash synthetic plastic braiding hair before installing:

Styles says an apple cider vinegar hair bath is the best way to clean plastic synthetic braiding hair before using it. Start by choosing a basin that is big enough to submerge the hair in a liquid solution. Add warm water (hot water can melt the hair so you don't want to use water that is too hot) with a cup of apple cider vinegar, then add the braiding hair to the water.

“When adding the hair to the water, make sure you keep the rubber bands on the hair to ensure it does not get tangled during the bath,” says Styles. “Let the hair sit in the water for 30 minutes, it will now have an apple cider vinegar smell, so rinse it well in another water bath, but this time, add a drop of shampoo and a few drops of your favorite essential oil." Rinse the hair until you can no longer smell vinegar, then let it air dry.

What other types of hair extensions work well for people with sensitive scalps?

If you don’t want to go through the effort of washing your braiding hair before installing it, Styles says to choose hypoallergenic braiding hair. 

"If you want to be free from excessive patting and vinegar soaking, I recommend trying out Rebundle’s plant-based hair extensions," says May. "They are itch-free, made with biodegradable ingredients for guilt-free disposal, 100% vegan, and use no animal ingredients or byproducts. Our patent-pending technology uses repurposed biopolymers, which makes them 97 % bio-based, earning the USDA's certified bio-based product label.”

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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