Dreadlocks 101- Before you begin

Hello all you dreadlock wanting/ dreadlocked people or newbies who are doing research on dreads! Good on you!! (: You’re at the right place, because this post is about dreadlocks 101- from techniques to care to maintenance to shampoos and pros and cons about dreads! Read on! Hope this post is useful to you!

This post is all about dreadlocks yes, as you can see from the title. I’ve only been into dreadlocks for about a year, and it took me about 2 years to actually get them, and I wanna get them off soon. Why? Because I miss regular long hair, and I can form my dreadlocks on my own without needing to do to the salon. Yes there are heaps and heaps of Youtube videos on how to make your dreadlocks and dreadlock care stuff, coming from people from all over their world and their experiences. After a while they kinda all start to sound the same and listening to them on Youtube rolling their eyes while talking and always facing one direction while filming and saying “whatever” and “you know”, really starts to tick me off. Oh and the word “like”… what’s like so up with that?! =.=

So, I’ve been working on and off at this hair salon in Perth. There are only 2 super well known ones in Perth, namely Weirdsistas located in Freo and Blackberries Hair Design located in Wellington. Anyhow, I think they both employ to different sorts of techniques to their dreadlock formation styles, namely: rip and twist and backcomb- crochet (as I would like to call it). Weirdsistas use your natural hair fibers to form your dreadlocks by stripping it of any natural hair oils (so I’m told by a friend who did his dreads there, and they do try to sell you heaps of hair stuff so enable them to work on your hair. Thus I reckon they use the rip and twist method plus they don’t use wax. That’s a super good point. Which I will get back to later. Blackberries use the backcombing method, and they use wax.

Okay, so lets start!!

Before you get dreads, it’s good to read through this:

How can dreadlocks be formed?

- Naturally when your hair gets knotted together. Usually this happens to people with really fine, dry hair, like mine, at the base of their neck. Particularly if you have chemically damaged your hair, or have natural frizzy hair (like me). I hate it so much.

What kinds of techniques can dreadlocks be formed with?

- There are a couple of ways. There is the rip and twist method- which is like how you would fray a rope. You can look this up on Youtube. There is the backcombing method- section your hair and backcomb them tightly, then crochet them into cylindrical dreads. There is the lock and roll method- grab a hair section and just keep rolling it together until it forms this knotted mess, eventually you’ll get a dreadlock. Finally, there is neglect. In simple terms, basically just leaving your hair to do it’s own hair thing and naturally you’ll get a dreadlock.

I want a natural looking dreadlock, which technique should I use?

- Erm… neglect? That’s the most natural. But some people with coarse thick hair strands, won’t form dreads that way and may end up opting for the backcomb method which you may need wax to help maintain the shape… Fine, frizzy, fluffy hair people can do pretty much all the techniques cos our hair will just dread a lot better.

Which technique do I prefer to use?

- I was taught the backcomb method, though through experimentation, I like the rip and twist method better.

What should I do before I decide to get dreadlocks?

- Research. DO a lot of it! Different websites will tell you different things- like interlocking and it’s pros and cons and tips on how to care for your dreads etc. Dreads are probably the MOST high maintenance hairstyle on this face of the planet. Dreads do not mean you’re stinky and dirty and are not meant for the homeless and hippies. Dreads are a way of life. You either have it in you, or you don’t. Don’t force it. Also, if you tend to get dermatitis, it’s best not to get dreads because.. dreads can aggravate the problem. I’ve had customers with really bad dermatitis, and because of what the hair dresser says, they don’t use SLS containing shampoo- which is a large chemical based ingredient found in most shampoos and also in medical shampoos that help treat dermatitis. I’ll explain more about shampoos later.

I’m scared! How will I know whether dreadlocks will suit me?

- Try getting African braids or Bali braids first. You’ll look like that if you had dreadlocks. Alternatively, you can purchase dreadlock extensions or dreadfalls to see if the look is suitable for you.

Why is wax bad for my hair?

Some hairdressers like to use beeswax to seal the ends of your dreads to lock them in place. Particularly if you had course hair that won’t dread well. However, wax causes build up of gunk, others say it encourages fungus or mould to build up and get trapped. I agree with all that, plus it looks pretty gnarly after a long time. I’ve had customers come in with so much wax build up that it looks disgusting, feels disgusting and smells BAD. If your hairdresser insist on using wax, inform them to use the most minimum amount because when the times comes and you want to remove your dreads without chopping off your locks or shaving bald, combing through and removing the wax will be your largest enemy of your life.

What kinds of shampoo can I use?

Your hairdresser and many other websites will tell you not to use SLS (sodium laureth sulphate) shampoos that are chemical and preservative free. I’m guessing because dreadlocks are “au naturale” they would want you to opt for more natural shampoos. Personally I love using bar shampoos or SLS and chemical free shampoos because my hair is fine and fluffy (like Caucasian hair) and there tends to be a lot of chemical build up on my hair shafts that make it limp and flat, also I have a sensitive scalp that gets flaky if I use chemical based shampoos. So, I would say, for the first couple of months, go with chemical free shampoos to ensure your dreads lock-in first, then switch to whatever shampoo you want to use. I use Head and Shoulders when I get an itchy scalp. Or use prescription shampoo from the doctor’s to combat dermatitis. Do remember to condition your hair!!

Drying hair?

No matter what hairstyle you have, you always want to make sure your hair is completely dry before covering it up or tying it up- it will stink if you don’t. With dreads particularly, you have the added disadvantage of mould growing in your dreads which is result in a funky smell that you’d smell on old homeless people or a really old cupboard that hasn’t been cleaned in years. Yup! Mildew growth in hair stinks for miles, and I’m not sure how you can remove it… unless you chop or shave your dreads!!! Don’t encourage mildew growth!!

Tightening my dreads

I’ve tried 2 ways of tightening my dreadlocks.

1: Interlocking. Basically its running a tool parallel or perpendicular to your scalp to form loops and pulling the dread right through the loops- causes a weaving effect. Some people will say that it is bad for your hair because it’s causing your hair to go in a direction it doesn’t naturally go i.e. downwards. I like to interlock my hair when there is at least 1 inch of new grown hair, because there is less stress and tension on my scalp, so after interlocking, there is still new hair that grows in the downwards direction.

2: Rub-lock-roll: this method is hard to describe. What you do it rub your dread against your scalp in a circular motion several times, then palm roll it from the roots all the way down the shaft while stretching it. This is a natural way of locking in the roots. I prefer to do this while shampooing each and every single dreadlock.

When can I put beads in my hair?

Any time you want!! Do remember that your dreads grow thicker as the grow older. Much like trees. So you might want to go a size up after your dreads have grown fat, otherwise they might look kind of funny!

How long does my hair have to be to get dreadlocks?

About 10cm would be a good starting length for most.

If I have short hair and I want longer dreads, can I do that?

Yes!! Just like how a person with short hair wants to have instantaneously long hair, they go for hair extensions! You can get dreadlock extensions as well! They are woven onto the ends of your natural dreads. You can either have human hair extensions (can be dyed like normal hair) or synthetic hair extension (that come in heaps of colours!!).

What’s the difference between the two kinds of extensions?

Human dreadlock extensions are made from human hair typically found in wefts for regular hair extensions, then dreadlocked and woven into your own dreadlocks. These wash like normal human hair, can be dyed and don’t weight down your hair.

Synthetic dreadlock extensions are cheap and come in a variety of colours. These are made from kanekalon fibers, which are either dreaded using the crochet method or heat sealed together. Synthetic dreadlocks will definitely weigh down your hair and all bulk. They will fray after a couple of months and look like real dreadlocks.  Synthetic dreadlocks look like this:

P_20130406_125052

 

They can be single or double ended. But if you’re going to extend your dreadlocks, rather than doing temporary ones, they will always be single ended. These ones are made by me.

 

That’s about all that you would need to know if you’re thinking of getting dreadlocks. If I’ve missed out anything, please leave a comment below!

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