Friday 19 October 2012

Dreadlock Removal?

So, you've decided that you've had enough, you cannot go on?!....or you're just reading my blog and want to know that it's possible...

First of all, don't do it! whatever problems you may be experiencing with them can surely be resolved! If you are truly finished with them and there is nothing I can do to change your mind then read on and I'll help you as best I can. So yes, it is possible, I've done it... well not to my own hair, but I have assisted in the removal of some 2 year old dreadlocks that had reached their usefulness-expatriation-date.

I heard you have to shave your head to remove dreadlocks?

This is a huge pile of misinformation. You do not have to shave your head to get rid of them. Obviously the fastest way to remove them is to shave your head, but it's not the only way.

You just want to save some of my hair, maybe an inch or two?
If you want to go from dreadlocks to short hair (an inch or two of growth) then this is a relatively simple thing to do, and probably the most common step after removing dreads. The roots of dreadlocks do not lock up right at the scalp. The more mature your dreadlocks are, the closer to the root they will lock, but even the maturest, oldest dreadlocks will not be solid dreadlock tight up against your head. So, how to get rid of the dreads?

  • Cut the dreadlocks anywhere between an inch or two inches from your scalp, the more mature the dreadlocks, the nearer the scalp you will want to cut.
  • You will find that the hair you are left with isn't solid dreadlock and you can simply brush that out and be left with the hair. Washing and conditioning the hair will make it easier to brush.
  • Because you've cut each individual dread you will find that the hair is uneven, so you'll probably need to get it balanced out, but you won't need it shaving off!

You want to go from dreadlocks straight back to long hair?

Ok, now this is a very time consuming task. Exactly how time consuming will depend on; how long the dreadlocks are, how many dreadlocks you have and how long you've had them. But, for some people it's the only option, especially if you're a girl - I've found most girls don't really want their heads shaved. So I'm going to walk you through how you can go from dreadlocks, back to long hair. It's something I've helped my girlfriend do and now you'd never know she had dreads.

You will need:
  • Lots of time. This is a very time consuming process, it took us a couple of hours for a few nights. The dreadlocked one sits on the floor, while the dreadlock-remover sits on a chair or the couch behind them. You can do it while watching TV so it's not an entirely boring task.
  • More time. Ok, it's best to do this while you have a vacation or long weekend because chances are you won't get it done in one night, so you'll have an inbetween point where you're half dreadlocked and you might not want to go to work/school like that. Also once your dreadlocks are completely removed you'll probably want to go to the hair salon to get it all evened out before you start flaunting your new straight hair-do.
  • Warm water
  • Lots of hair conditioner (VO5 conditioner works great) and/or De-tangler
  • Knitting needles.
  • Sewing needles.
  • Hair brushes.
  • Towels.
  • Trash bag/can.
  • Atleast one helper.
How it's done:
  • The first task is to soak the dreadlocks in warm water. You can do this in the shower, or with a bucket. You should use as warm water as you can handle - but don't burn yourself!
  • Then you need to start rubbing in the conditioner. Don't rub it all over your head! just massage it into the dreadlocks you're going to start de-dreading first.
  • Once you've got the dreadlocks wet and conditioned you can start pulling them apart with the knitting or sewing needles. Some people find the knitting needle easier to use, others like the sewing needle. I find that each needle is best suited to a different role. I'll use the sewing needle to get it started and and knitting needle for part way down the dread.
  • Your just going to slip the needle into the edge of a dread near the tip, push it into a loop and then slowly pull the loop out. You're going to only pull a small amount at a time, somewhere between 1mm and 1cm up the dread. Slip the needle in, and pull it down. It's like you're brushing the hair, but with just one tooth at a time.
  • It's going to take a long time to make it all the way up the dread and you're going to have to keep reapplying water and conditioner to keep it soft.
  • The dreadlocked person might want to take some painkillers because they might get a headache from all the pulling.
  • It's possible to do this by yourself, but it's recommended to have atleast one helper, because the dreadlocks at the back will be very tricky by yourself. Also the more helpers you have, the faster it will go.
  • The roots can be painful because it's so near the scalp, so be careful once you get there. I found that the dreadlocked person usually wants to do that part themselves.
  • Once you're all the way down the dread you can brush it and move onto the next one
Important information:
  • There will be a lot of loose hair that pulls out when you're brushing with the needle. Do not fear! with dreadlocks, the hair that naturally falls out during the day, well it doesn't because it's stuck in the dreadlock, so when you remove the locks, you're going to be removing the loose hair also. It's going to look like a scary amount of hair is falling out, but it's all the hair that would have normally come out had you had it non-dreaded and brushed it regularly anyway.
  • Also obviously be careful with the knitting needles and sewing needles. Don't poke yourself in the eyes or stab yourself.


  1. As a comment to this entry, I will say that it was very painful to remove my dreadlocks(not sure what was worse - taking them or removing them). As I missed being able to brush my long blonde locks, I decided I had to do everything I could to save as much hair as I could. Don't get me wrong, I loved my dreads, but I felt I'd had enough of that experience after two years.

    Another thing worth pointing out here is that my dreadlocks were thin and quite soft. I didn't use wax or any of that jizzle. For someone with thicker, denser dreadlocks, it might not be as easy, though it is definitely worth a try if you really don't want to cut your hair off(like me).

    And yes, after removing them, a proper wash and haircut is needed(to get rid of the most damaged hair etc). One and a half years after removing mine, I still have "left over" hair on my head from where the hair was dreaded. Ask your hairdresser, I'm sure he/she will be able to tell you exactly where it started.

  2. I just wanted to add, for me personally, heaping a bunch of conditioner on wet hair made it quite hard to comb through. Using a de-tangler was a much better way to go. There is also a video a girl on youtube did that mentioned that she used a kids de-tangler spray that worked much better for her than a bunch of conditioner as well. Just a thought for some...

    1. Thanks for your contribution. The conditioner was mainly used for loosening up the whole dread before individually picking through them with a needle. I'll add de-tangler to my list.

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  4. Hi,

    Found this site while looking for someone based in Sheffield who can redo my neglected and slightly screwed up dreads (2 - 3 years old). I was planning on picking/combing them out back to long hair and then having them started off properly as I have lost a lot of individual dreads over the past year and a half due to weak roots and now the sides of my head are pretty much long hair again.

    Given I accidentally used hairgel for a while at first to get the hair to stick together (stupid I know), would you recommend trimming the dreads and then combing out from there in terms of making it easier? Or would it be easier to comb out from the roots in my case to a length of 6 inches or so and then discard the rest?

    And since you live in Sheffield can you recommend anyone in or near the city who can help start off my new dreads once I've got long hair again?

    Glad to find your site and the information here looks like it'll be very helpful for maintaining them when I have mine re-done. Look forward to hearing back from you.

    Cheers, O

    1. Hi Owen. Personally I would try to salvage the dreadlocks you have as it's a shame to waste those 2-3 years, but if you're dead set on removing them and starting afresh, that's fine too and the above info on this page is how I'd recommend to do it. I wouldn't however recommend coming out from the root as I do not believe that is even possible. You can trim them down to reduce how much you have to comb out, but then it's a risk that you won't know how much hair each dread is going to provide and the longer the hair you're left with - the faster the new dreadlocks will form. I don't personally know anyone in Sheffield who starts dreadlocks. I know that Hair By Christmas in Broomhill, Sheffield does (or did used to) make dreadlocks, so that's the only place I can think of.... but be aware that Hair By Christmas waxes dreadlocks - which obviously I'd never recommend, but I'd imagine that they'd do whatever you asked them to do - it's worth enquiring anyway.

  5. this is a note to anyone in Owen's position. i had problems in the early days with my dreads falling apart. i knotted them by sticking my finger through at the root and pulling the dread through, which makes them slim and very very hard with a slightly nobbly look. i then sew in excess hair with a wool needle (huge eyed needle).

    after 11 years together, me and my butt length dreads are considering parting company, largely due to my severe skin condition (icthyosis vulgaris) which has caused a massive build up of dead skin on my scalp. i'm wondering about cutting them and undoing them or just shaving them off. hmm. or just shutting up and keeping them forever more.

  6. How accurate are the results? I've had my dreads for almost 5 years and I am not the slight bit interested in cutting my hair at all. I do want to continue growing it and I just want to make sure this works.

    1. How accurate is it? Well, when it comes to dreadlock removal.. the method either works.. or it doesn't ^^ and I can say from personal experience that it works... it's not easy, or quick! - but it's quicker than growing your hair back from scratch.

    2. I just brushed mine out after 6 years, took about an hour or so a dread and I lost almost 6 inches in length. But it was surprisingly healthy still, just quite thin

  7. I need help. I have two giant knots that have formed and taken over 5or 6 dreads each. My dreads are about a month old or so. I used the back comb method and it seems like the sections didn't hold up because the new knots are combining everything. I'm ok taking them out and starting over, I just don't know what to do. :(

    1. Well you could take them out if you wanted to, but hopefully it should not need to come to that - dreadlocks need separating regularly to stop them from knotting together. While dreadlocks are young some people find they need to separate up to as often as every day. Separating is generally carried out by taking two of the dreads that are knotted together and pulling them in opposite directions to break the binds between them. This will be difficult to do when the dreadlocks are very knotted together so it's important to carry it out regularly in order to keep on top of it.

  8. Is there a "point of no return" in terms of combing them out? For example if you have them for 20 years, would you be able to comb those out, or is cutting them your only option?

    1. Dreadlocks don't get tighter and tighter and tighter - they become "matured" which is as tight as they're going to get, and beyond that they just grow longer. You should be able to brush out dreadlocks of any age, technically, but if for example they were 20 years old, they'd be very long, and I'm not sure that you'd physically want to try and brush out that much hair, that much length would be very impractical to work with.

  9. Hi guys,thanks for all the comments,really need some input at the moment. Been talking about cutting my dreads for years now..have chopped bits in the past! But now I'm determined and partly because of ..ew...headlice from my kids. Am breastfeeding so can't use anything chemical and anything herbal not working but anyway...the plan is to cut them up...nearly down to my waist and try detangle,after 17 years and with really curly hair for you reckon I have a chance? Shaving not an option...definitely don't have the face for NO hair! HELP!

  10. Hi guys,thanks for all the comments,really need some input at the moment. Been talking about cutting my dreads for years now..have chopped bits in the past! But now I'm determined and partly because of ..ew...headlice from my kids. Am breastfeeding so can't use anything chemical and anything herbal not working but anyway...the plan is to cut them up...nearly down to my waist and try detangle,after 17 years and with really curly hair for you reckon I have a chance? Shaving not an option...definitely don't have the face for NO hair! HELP!

    1. I had the dreaded nits from my kids occasionally, I found the only thing that got rid of them was a natural treatment from the chemist called 'quick nits'.. I left it on over night and they literally die or crawl out trying to away from it and then u just get someone to pick the dead ones out.. gross but it worked for me :)

  11. Hey buddies, such a marvelous blog you have made I’m surprised to read such informative stuf

  12. Im here combing from the root to bottom... Like Owen asked... and it was mentioned impossible. Its so hard for me to start from the bottom up.. but i hope im not losing more hair >.<

  13. What's up fellow Dreadies! This is my 4th iteration of dreads (at 37yrs old) and all but my first have been natural growth. For me this poses a problem because Like Ashley White, I had "the continental divide of 2 main roots and hydra deads coming out. My roots are close and they all have untangled tails of about 2-5 inches of very relaxed wavy blonde tips.
    Should I cut the tips, something I like quite a bit, but makes me look more disheveled than anything? Should I cut them to 2-3 inches and work them out for the "corporate look"? Or should I try to keep the long hair on top of my head (past shoulder length and no sides or back except a sweet little duck tail I got growin?
    Do bother with w/e you prefer bullshit (pleas). I just started a tech company after owning a marketing and creative design company and a brand management, positioning and advertising agency, I'm going more modern and techno-nerd.
    Help out a free spirited brother.

  14. I have had my dreads for a little over two years and my hair was originally somewhat thick and curly. I havnt been happy with my sections on the top of my head for a while and i think im going to go through with taking 12 or so dreads down and resectioning them and making them smaller adding much more dreads. Any advice or concerns would be greatly appreciated before i go though with this

  15. Big fan here, I had dreads for a year, just recently decided to start looking for a different direction careerwise. So I've started combing out my dreads. Im 5 days in and down to my last 3 dreads, I'm going to be honest, I've lost alot of hair. Both Length and thickness. I'm hopeful because I used dreadlock specific shampoo, no chemicals or heat that my hair will grow back, I do have different layers of length now, I'm just going to have to rock the 80's hair metal puffball for a while.

    After removing dreads how soon can one color their loose hair?