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How To Start And Maintain Dreadlocks

How To Start And Maintain Dreadlocks

Dreadlocks can by a mystery to many who are curious about them but don’t know how to go about the process. There are several ways to start and maintain dreadlocks, and here I will provide you with tips about what I learned from having from dreadlocks, from my own personal experience and how it helped or hindered my process. 

1. Backcombing Method 

A preferred method by many to start and maintain their dreadlocks is to backcomb their hair. To do this you will want to section your hair, the smaller the sections the thinner the dreads, but over time as hairs get locked into the dreads, they will thicken. Start with thinner sections first.

Starting as close to the root as possible, take a comb, preferably metal as plastic combs will break and begin to comb the section up, going towards the root. Do this with each section until your head looks like a frizzy mess. For the few weeks consider using little elastic bands to keep them separated. Over time some dreads will form together. Backcombing is also a preferred method to maintain the dreads as they grow out, and can help blunt the tips when they get too loose. 


Something to keep in mind when starting dreads is hair length. When you create dreads, your hair will shorten. Consider starting with longer hair. For example, my hair before dreads covered my whole chest, but afterward, they shoulder length. 

How To Start And Maintain Dreadlocks

2. Twist And Rip Method

The twist and rip method is the second most common way to create dreadlocks (and the method that I choose to use). As your dreads form, however, this method because less of an option and you will have to resort to backcombing or using a crochet hook.


For twisting and ripping you will want to section your hair, as with any method, take the section and begin to twist the hair close to the root. Twist around once, and pull the section into, meaning you’re separating it in half, pulling up towards the root. Twist again, and pull apart. Twist, and pull apart. Keep doing this until you reach the tip. 

Don’t pull too hard, causing pain to your scalp. Also, don’t always separate the strand down the middle. Vary how you part the sections because this will help the hair lock up easier. 

3. Freeform Neglect Method

Another method that some people have used is to simply not doing anything to prevent their hair from dreading. Anyone’s hair can naturally dread if not being properly brushed and conditioned. If you were to avoid brushing or using conditioner, your hair would surely start to lock up in some way, but you should still want to keep it sectioned. 


4. Washing And Drying Dreadlocks

Now that you’ve formed your dreadlocks, you’ll want to learn how to keep and maintain them. Keep in mind, however, that dreadlocks are not instant. They take months and years to form, so this journey will be a commitment and a grueling one if you lose patience. 

Contrary to belief, dreadlocks are not dirty. They NEED to be washed to form properly. It is best to start with clean hair because the oil buildup from unwashed hair will prevent the hair from dreading, as it causes the hair to be slippery.

After the initial dreading session, the recommended wait time to wash your hair is 2 weeks. After that, it is recommended to wash your hair 1 time a week, until you feel dreads are no longer soft and you can increase the number of times to a normal 2-3 times weekly. 


With young dreads, you want to use products that are going to help them mature. Dread Heads Shampoo is an ideal brand and product to use that will help your dreads lock while not leaving residue buildup. Reside buildup is extremely important to avoid in dreads. Do not use conditioner! You’ve probably have heard this, but conditioner will soften the hair, which is the opposite of what your dreads should be doing. 

To dry dreadlocks, start by ringing out individual dreads multiple times, whether in the shower or over the sink. This will squeeze out most of the excess water. Towel drying them like you would normal hair is the second step. I liked to wrap mine in a towel and get dressed, then unravel the towel to proceed to blow dry. Because the dreads hold water, you won’t as easily dry the very inner parts of the dread, but I found blow drying to be helpful in getting most of the moisture out. 

5. Maintain Them With A  Crochet Hook

There are a lot of concerns within the dreadlock community about the use of crochet hooks. It really becomes a preference and something you’ll learn from personal experience. I found using a small crochet hook to blunt the tips and trap loose hairs within the dreads to be helpful in keeping them neat.


To do this method you must perforate a part of the dread where a lot of loose, fuzzy hairs are. Bringing the hook through the other side, use the tool to gather the loose hairs and pull them back through into the dread. This helps the loose hairs to lock up.

Another thing I learned to do was to use sewing thread to keep them neat looking, especially at the roots. This involved taking a long piece of thread, tying it several times at the utmost of the root-as close to the scalp as possible, and wrapping it around the entire dread all the way to the end and tying it securely at the bottom. Try double wrapping, meaning take both ends of the thread and wrapping them around, in opposite directions, at the same time for a more secure hold. 

The concerns surrounding the use of a crochet hook is that they may damage dreads by breaking the hairs. While it is possible, this is something to be careful of if you choose to use this a method to maintain them. 


How To Start And Maintain Dreadlocks

6. Going To A Salon

The other option to maintain dreadlocks is by going to a salon, which through personal experiences has its benefits and drawbacks. The benefits being, someone else does all the hard work for you and your dreads look a hell of a lot neater and nicer and not such a frizzy mess!

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However, the downsides are the cost, because it can be very expensive to use this route, the preference of the stylist and what they choose to do will determine how your dreads look, and the potential products they use.

Another drawback to going to the salon is that it hurts! Nobody tells you this, but it does! Your scalp is being pulled on, and your hair is being twisted and knotted, very tightly. In all honesty, I would equate the pain of a salon dreadlock maintenance to that of a tattoo-and I’m not the only one who has said this, according to my former hair stylist. 

Your dreads will be more neatly sectioned after the salon. It’s much easier for someone else to do it for you because they can see what they’re doing. 


How To Start And Maintain Dreadlocks

7. Sprays and Waxes

Let’s talk about sprays first. I was given sprays at the salon, which I used a few times on dreads. Each time though I regretted it because it left my hair feeling dirty and gross. The sprays were designed to smooth loose hairs flat, helping them settle in with the dreads. There are also dreadlock lotions, designed for this as well. While I didn’t feel like the lotions left my hair feeling dirty in any way, I’m not sure how much of a benefit came from using them. 

Waxes. We have to talk about dreadlock waxes. This is the only thing within this article I would completely advise you against doing if you want mature dreads. Dreadlock wax is meant to flatten the loose hairs into the dreads as well, except the problem is, once is dry, the hairs are unable to move.


The loose hairs must be able to find their way into the dreads to lock properly, and by denying the hair movement it’ll stay like that, not locking in any way. This is completely counterintuitive to the whole process, and one I would not recommend. 

8. Patience 

Dreadlocks take a very long time to form, and it’s not always a pretty sight. You’re going to look like a crazy person if you form your dreadlocks by yourself, but once you have those matured dreads you always wanted, hopefully, it will be worth it.

There are going to be stages in the process where you’ll want to shave your head because your roots are frizzy, or your ends keep coming undone, or you have congos (when multiple dreads become one) forming. It’s going to be an intense journey but have patience. The more your stress about how your dreads look, the less you’ll enjoy having them. 


How To Start And Maintain Dreadlocks

Were these dreadlock tips helpful in demystifying the hairstyle? Let us know if there are some other tips you can think of not listed here!

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