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How To Start Dreadlocks

Basic Dreadlock Care  Basic dreadlock care information page

Are Dreadlocks for you?  Help with deciding if dreadlocks are for you

How To Start Dreadlocks

Anyone can have dreadlocks, but it definitely helps if you have very nappy (curly) hair.  The straighter your hair is, the more time it will take to loc.  However, with patience and time, all hair will eventually loc no matter what the hair type.  If you have a perm, you will have to grow it out and cut off the permed ends.  Healthy hair is a necessity.  Frail or brittle hair will only break off in the twisting process (of which there is much in the initial stages).  It is also good to start with a few inches of hair so that the starter locs will hold their shape.  Two inches is okay but 4-5 inches is ideal.  If the hair is too short, it will unravel more quickly.

When using a method that requires the application of products, remember that less is better.  Too much product will clog your pores and disrupt hair growth. Products also help to attract dirt and lint which may become embedded in the dreadlock.  Products should be used sparingly.

Also note that the very top of your head (where the soft spot is on babies) will be the last section to loc and often the hardest part of the hair to keep loc'd.

There are so many methods of creating dreadlocks.  No one way is right for everyone.  As a rule, you should start out with clean hair.  The methods described below work best for nappier (curlier) hair. 

Unfortunately, we have no experience with starting dreadlocks on naturally straight hair.  This usually requires the application of different types of hair products and sometimes chemical processes. But we have found a site that does provide help and products for straight hair. http://www.knottyboy.com

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Comb coils

Usually done by a hairdresser.  The hair is parted neatly to the size of your liking and twisted into sections using a small-toothed comb.  The sections will be very tidy but they can unravel more easily than the other ways, when they become wet.

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Palm Rolled

Another process usually done by a hairdresser.  Hair is sectioned and rolled between the palms with a gel.  It’s my understanding that this method is the most likely to become undone in the beginning stages.

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Here you start off with small box braids and let them fuzz over.  The braids can then be palm-rolled to look like locs.  The subsequent new growth can be twisted into actual dreadlocks.  You may cut the starter braids off after your new growth has loc'd.

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Organic (called the Neglect Method)

Hair is left to separate and mat as it pleases.  This is how traditional Rastafarians achieve locs.  They wash the hair, shake it and leave it.  Sections will form on their own.  As the hair grows and the individual desires, they can separate locs into smaller sections, or leave them to grow into larger dreadlocks.

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Finger Twisting

Sectioned hair is twisted around and around with gel, beeswax or just plain oil and water.  Groups of new twists are pinned together to prevent unraveling.  

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Washing (while starting dreads)

When you first begin, you shouldn’t wash your hair too often (this is possibly where the myth of dreadlocks being dirty came from) or too enthusiastically.  Your newly twisted dreadlocks will unravel.  It's okay to dampen it weekly for re-twisting. When you do wash it, try not to rub too vigorously and use only a small amount of soap.  You can try placing a nylon stocking over them and wash your hair 'through' the stocking to keep the locs from untwisting.  You will have to retwist any locs that are becoming loose.

In lieu of washing, you may also blot the scalp with a mild astringent like Sea Breeze or witch hazel.  It will help to remove trapped oil and dirt and keep your head smelling fresh and clean, without over-drying the scalp.

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Beeswax or Not?

Pros Cons
  • Perfect for holding your locs together when they are new

  • Easy to find and inexpensive

  • Leaves behind a residue that can build up

  • Can hold dirt and lint until it is completely melted out

Please note that we recommend that the use of beeswax be confined to the beginning stages only.  The purpose is to keep your new locs together until they begin to loc by themselves.  After your hair has begun to loc, you should stop using beeswax and switch to a lighter, less sticky product.

Sleeping on your new locks

To keep your new locs from unraveling in the beginning stages, you should always sleep in some type of wrap.  A DooRag or nylon stocking will do.  Try our to hold freshly twisted hair in place while sleeping.  It is made of a light, 4-way stretch material that will hold your locs in place.  Cotton bandanas can be very drying to the hair and they rarely provide full coverage or stay on correctly all night.

While dreadlocks are new, you may become anxious to achieve that "lions mane" look.  Try pulling all your locs up into one big ponytail on top of the head at night.  They will have extra lift and body when you release them in the morning.

Remember, it takes TIME, PATIENCE AND DEDICATION to reach the point where you'll have a natural, long, flowing mane of dreadlocks...several years actually.  All the more reason to start NOW!!









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