How Dreadlocks Work

Dreadlock Hair Care

Now that we've talked about how to form locks, let's talk about some grooming and hair care tips for all locks, regardless of hair type:

  • Washing: Once they're mature, you can wash locks as often as you want. Some people wait a week; some do it every other day. When you do wash, massage the scalp very carefully, and just let the soapy water run through the dreads.
  • Drying: To prevent mildewing and buildup of product, dry the dreads thoroughly every time you wash them. You can squeeze them to wring out excess water, and then use a blow dryer.
  • Hair care: Everyone with dreadlocks seems to have their own opinion on what products and treatments are best for mature dreads. Some use hot oil treatments to prevent the hair from drying out, while others use gels or salt water "accelerators" to tighten individual locks as they form. Many advocate using only natural and/or clarifying shampoos. What you want to use depends on how natural you want to be. In general, you want to avoid shampoos that leave a lot of residue, since this can lubricate the hairs and cause them to come lose from the locks.
  • Sleeping: Wear a bandanna, stocking or loose pillowcase over the locks if you don't want them becoming crushed as you toss and turn.
  • Exercising: Wear a bandanna or hat both to contain the locks and keep them from becoming too sweaty.
  • Repair: Dreads can begin to fuse together if you don't roll them individually on a regular basis. Unless you want the fused dreads popular among some Rastafarians, you'll want to separate any newly combined locks by pulling them apart and ripping the hair that has connected.
  • Tension: If you twist your locks too tight during the first few months, without leaving enough room at the roots, they can put strain on the scalp, and sometimes break off. Avoid applying too much tension at the root. You need some loose hair at the root to allow your hair to continue growing.
  • Removal: If you want to get rid of dreadlocks without cutting them, there are heavy duty conditioners on the market that can help you loosen the locks so you can individually pick out the tangles. Your hair will be undamaged afterward, but removal without cutting takes a lot of work.