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How Dreadlocks Work

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How to Start Dreadlocks

Developing dreadlocks requires the same basic step-by-step process, whether you're paying a professional stylist, or working on your own hair at home. The point of variation comes when it's time to twist the locks into shape. Depending on the preferences of your stylist and the texture of your hair, you can twist it up in a number of different ways. Regardless, this simple step-by-step procedure will lay the foundation for permanent dreadlocks:

  • Step one: Wash your hair and dry it thoroughly before beginning the process.
  • Step two: Divide the hair into sections. You can do this either to the entire head first and hold the sections with bands or clips, or finish each section one at a time.
  • Step three: Pay attention to the size of your sections. When you pull them tight, the roots of the hair you're holding should be outlined by a perfect square of exposed scalp. The larger your squares, the thicker the final locks will be.
  • Step four: Add a small amount of product to each individual strand before you work with it. (Experts differ widely and passionately about what to use. Some use creams, waxes or aloe to prevent the hair from drying out. Wax is especially helpful for straight hair. Purists just use water.)
  • Step five: Twist each lock of hair tightly in a clockwise direction and clip it at the end. (See sidebar.) If you have straight hair, or curly hair that is very long, you will have to backcomb the hair first. To backcomb, pull each section of hair straight. While holding the tip, use a fine-toothed metal comb and run it through the hair from the tip to the root. Repeat to the same section of hair until the individual strands are drawn toward the root and tangled together. You want to continue this process until the entire length of hair has formed those tangles, and then repeat with each strand.
  • Step six: Completely dry the locks with an electric hair dryer. If you used wax, this step will also melt the wax into each lock.

But the process isn't over. Maintaining these proto-dreadlocks, and caring for them over the years, also requires several important steps.

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