Scab hair. Its meaning is more complex than you probably think. Initially, I thought scab hair was literally having scabs in your hair as a direct result of over-processing relaxers. Seems my assumption was off a little bit. Upon researching the topic of scab hair, I noticed there were not many results but seemed to be a problem amongst many transitioners. For those of you who do not know what transitioning means, in the “hair world,” it’s simply the transition of your hair; could be from relaxers to natural or relaxers to texlaxing, or even natural to permanent coloring of hair. Most often, it is to relax your hair through chemicals then to transition hair to its natural state (untreated, chemical-free hair).

What is Scab Hair?

Basically scab hair is the new growth from the scalp that was affected by chemicals, usually the toxic mixes in relaxers. Even though there is not much science or research into this, most likely underneath the scalp has been directly invaded by the harsh chemicals causing the hair to grow in a straight, dry patch of rough hair.

Scab hair normally is the first few inches of new growth during the start of transitioning.

The Cause

Despite the hair being new growth (unrelaxed), during transitioning, it seems to be confused by the transition. Keep in mind that the hair has been processed with chemicals over the years, so when the hair has all of a sudden stopped being relaxed, the underneath follicles are unsure of how to act or adapt to the “natural” state of the hair. When the hair begins to grow out (new growth), it has a straight, dry, look to it. That’s scab hair. This type of hair is easy to break.

Not everyone experiences scab hair. When I was transitioning, I did not experience this at all, in fact, I never heard of it until I was asked what to do about it. As stated previously, scab hair is real, and seems to affect those who have had long term use of relaxers.


Since this is the first few inches of new hair growth after the last relaxer, some people usually wait out the scab hair. Others have simply cut off the scab hair so no remnants of straight hair remains at all.

Remember that scab hair is dry, brittle, and tends to break easily. It has no curl pattern at all, or if any, it has very little curl to it. If you decide to keep the so called scab hair, use moisturizing agents daily to keep this area from breaking. Once it breaks off, split ends will begin to occur. This will also cause a problem. For example, if you already have scab hair and it is breaking off due to daily styling without any moisture present in the strands, the strand will continue to split down the haft as it grows out. You will then have to eventually cut it off regardless.


  • Deep condition regularly
  • Moisturize hair daily
  • Try not to put too much stress on that area (i.e: combing obsessively, brushing while wet)
  • Limit heat to that area. (Scab hair is unsure of itself already, don’t further add to it by heat training, unless that is your aim)
  • If you are going to cut off the scab hair, use sharp professional scissors. Wait until you have a few inches after the scab hair to do this.

Scab hair does not have any harming affects if protected. The worse that can happen is splits and breakage. Follow the above tips and scab hair should not be any burden on your hair journey.

Ijanei Smith has been into healthy hair practices since the age of nine. Learning different techniques to gain optimal health to her own hair through trial and error, she aims to spread the knowledge with other African-American women who are struggling with their hair as well.

Her philosophy is “to know better is to do better,” and when it comes to ensuring she spreads her knowledge of growing or maintaining hair, there is no limit or trial she is not willing to try.

Learn more about me here:

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