While this annoying and unfortunate development is incredibly inconvenient and unpleasant it is not altogether uncommon. This is something called “tension bumps”. The fancy, scientific name is “scalp folliculitis”. Any time that the scalp is “traumatized” such as being pulled into a protective hairstyle like braids or locks the hair follicles can become irritated. When this happens the pores and follicles become open wider than usual and scalp becomes susceptible to bacteria and/or fungal cells that already naturally exist on many folks’ scalps and skin. These microorganisms can invade the irritated follicles causes these tiny bumps.
While at Raging Roots, I always aim to keep my work at a healthy tightness/looseness for longevity and scalp health, sometimes folks are particularly predisposed or sensitive and may develop tension bumps in spite of my efforts. It’s like the perfect storm of factors that can lead to this. Typically, if clients experience this it only happens after the initial placement of locks and never again after. I have been troubleshooting ways to help prevent this including an upcoming product that I will be including with every new set I start which is a skin disinfectant with cooling ingredients to both soothe and cool the scalp as well as prevent any bacteria from getting any funny ideas while your scalp re-adjusts to the experience of being in a locked hairstyle.
BUT if you aren’t a client — what else can you do??? (YES, I want to help YOU, too!) Here are some other suggestions to help get you over this proverbial hump. Sorry — bad pun. Too soon?
- Get your locks WET! I mean REALLY wet. This may seem too simple, but using water to release some of the tension is one of the best first steps you can take! I know if your locks are fresh your loc artist may have told you to hold off on washing for a bit BUT the water will help to loosen things up a bit to make it more comfortable. If you’re really worried about your locks unraveling, try pouring water over your scalp while you hold your locks out away from your head so the locks themselves don’t get wet.
- Coconut Milk Soak — If you have kinkier/coilier hair or more established locks you can also try my Coconut Milk Soak recipe which moisturizes the locs and helps loosen any tension at the same time!
- Apply Soothing Oils — use a light carrier oil like Avocado oil (which you can buy at your local grocery store) and add some peppermint and tea tree essential oil to it and apply it to the affected areas. It will not only be soothing, but these oils both help to break down bacteria and fungus to keep things from getting worse and will hopefully even help it heal.
- Let Your Locks Hang — Wearing your locks up when they are fresh can most certainly further irritate the scalp unecessarily. Try your best to wear your locks down and loose as much as possible during the first few weeks especially.
- Scalp Soothing Products — I am a HUGE fan of the NogginOil “Chill” product which takes option #2 above and really kicks up the efficacy. It is awesome for soothing itchiness and helping with sweat, bacteria, and naturally-occurring fungus on the scalp that normally doesn’t bother us but may cause early discomfort with new locks. PLUS it comes in a handy-dandy roller bottle for precise, neat application without messy oily fingers.
Generally speaking, the earlier you treat the bumps the sooner they’ll go away. If you find they are still persisting after 3 – 4 weeks (at which point your roots should have loosened up plenty to give relief if that was the only issue) it may be worth talking to your doctor or a dermatologist to make sure there isn’t a larger issue at play!
Wishing you a speedy recovery from your new locks so you can enjoy all the amazing parts of the journey to follow!