How to Loosen Tight Braids

If you’ve ever experienced the pain of too-tight braids, you’ve likely wondered how to loosen them without ruining your hairstyle. Not to worry, there are several methods you can try! You can use water to loosen your braids, like by wrapping your hair in a hot, damp towel. You can also loosen tight braids by massaging your scalp with oil, applying leave-in conditioner to your roots, or applying a braid spray. Try several methods to see which gives you the most relief while keeping your style intact.


EditTaking Immediate Action

  1. Take a cold shower to provide instant relief. Cold water will provide instant relief from pain due to tight braids. If your braids are really bothering you, hop in the shower and turn the faucet to cool or cold. Let the spray soak your scalp and you’ll start to feel better immediately. Gently pat your braids with a dry towel when you get out of the shower to remove excess water from them.[1]
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  2. Use a pencil eraser to decrease tension at the scalp. Slip the eraser end of a pencil underneath cornrows or tight braids to get some relief. You could also use the blunt end of a skewer or the thin end of a long-handled fine-tooth comb. Gently wiggle the eraser, skewer, or handle to loosen the braid at the scalp. Be careful and take your time so as not to ruin your braids.[2]
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  3. Wrap a hot, damp towel around your head. Applying moist heat directly to your braids will increase their elasticity, which can provide relief. First, wet a towel with hot water. Wring out the excess moisture, then wrap the towel around your head. Leave the towel on for up to an hour before removing it.[3]
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  4. Use a hair steamer to loosen your braids. You can pick up a hair steamer at your local beauty shop, or visit the salon and use theirs. Set up the hair steamer, then sit under it. Direct the steam at your braids and at the places you are feeling the most tension or pain. Sit under the hair steamer in 10-minute sessions, with breaks in between, until your braids feel better.[4]
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    • You can apply a deep-conditioner to your scalp before sitting under the steamer to increase the relief.

EditUsing Products

  1. Massage your scalp with oil each day. While you have braids in, it’s important to do daily oil scalp massages. Use 1 tbsp (14.8 mL) of a pure, natural oil such as avocado, castor, coconut, jojoba, or almond oil. Apply the oil to your scalp, then massage it in with your fingers using gentle, circular motions for 1 to 2 minutes each day.[5]
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    • You can also add a few drops of essential oil to the oil you choose to scent and refresh your scalp.
    • Peppermint essential oil can really help with scalp itchiness, so consider using that for your daily scalp massages.
  2. Apply a leave-in conditioner. Adding a leave-in conditioner to your dry braids can reduce their tension and tightness. Put 1 or 2 small drops of leave-in conditioner on the spot where each braid meets the scalp. Use your fingers to gently work the conditioner into your scalp and braids.[6]
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  3. Try a braid spray. If you often get your hair braided, invest in a braid spray, such as Vernon Francois Scalp Nourishing Braids & Locs Spray or Oyin Juices & Berries Herbal Tonic. Spritz the braid spray on your scalp to prevent itching and lubricate your braids, which will loosen them and relieve pain.[7]
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    • You can use this when getting ready in the morning as well as throughout the day to reduce tension on your scalp caused by tight braids.

EditTrying Alternative Solutions

  1. Wear your hair down. Putting your braids up on top of your head can increase their tightness, and therefore your pain. After you’ve had your hair braided, wear it down for a couple days to avoid added tension on your scalp. Let your braids hang loose or tie them back into a low ponytail if you want them out of your face.[8]
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  2. Take a warm shower to increase your hair’s elasticity. Warm water will open up your hair shafts, making your braids looser and more elastic. If you want to loosen your braids, take a warm shower and allow the water to run over your scalp and through your braids. After getting out of the shower, use a towel to remove excess water from your hair by gently patting your braids.[9]
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  3. Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water each day to ensure your scalp and hair are properly hydrated, which can lessen the effects of tight braids.[10] Men should drink 13 cups (3.1 liters) while women should drink 9 cups (2.1 liters) of water per day.[11] Keep a water bottle on hand at all times so that you can stay hydrated and keep your braids feeling great.
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  4. Remove the braids if they keep hurting. Though you may have spent a hefty chunk of change getting your hair braided, if they are way too tight and are causing you pain, the best solution is to remove them. You can take them out yourself or go back to the hair salon and ask your stylist to take them out. Let your stylist know that they are too tight and are causing you pain.[12]
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  • Don’t be afraid to tell your stylist that your braids are too tight! As a paying customer, you should be comfortable with your style, so speak up as soon as you notice the braids are too tight.[13]


  • Running water through your braids may cause you to need to get them redone sooner.[14]
  • Braids that are too tight can cause a certain kind of hair loss called traction alopecia. Talk to your stylist if you have concerns about this issue.[15]

EditSources and Citations

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