Thursday 18 October 2012

How To Make Dreadlocks

My experiences are with Caucasian hair so these methods will be appropriate for those with similar hair. I will list various methods for attaining dreadlocks and the pros and cons of each.

Common to all methods

What all the methods share in common is the requirement for time and patience. Regardless of what you do to your hair, you will still need to wait for the hair to begin to lock and 'mature' on it's own. Repeat application of backcombing or twist and rip will just slow down this maturing process. The best thing you can once you've got them started is leave them alone and forget about them! For months after I started mine I was worried about all the loose hair and how messy they looked - then I stopped worry and stopped caring about them and before I knew it, they were locking by themselves.

Until they've matured they will not lock by themselves so you can end up with loose unlocked hair at the tips and at the root. This is completely normal, leave it alone! it will sort itself out, I promise. Palm rolling or further twisting and ripping is counter productive to the maturing process. I never touch my hair now, the only maintenance I do is washing and drying. Washing keeps them non-greasy and drying roughly with a towel and blow-drier helps them knot up. My roots and tips sort themselves out and so will yours if you give them time!

Also all methods will result in vary degrees of shrinkage. I.E your dreadlocks will be significantly shorter than your straight hair and will take longer to grow. This is because the hair in dreadlocks are all bunched up rather than growing straight downwards. So be prepared for that.

Methods other than the natural/freeform method will include sectioning of the hair. Sectioning will determine the positioning and thickness of the dreadlocks and there is more info on that "HERE".

Neglect /Natural /Freeform

The neglect method is the first which I shall touch on. This method requires you to do nothing... nothing!. If you leave your hair along for long enough it will in fact form deadlocks. To use the neglect method successfully you simply need to stop brushing and conditioning your hair.

  • This method will create completely 'natural' dreadlocks. Their appearance will differ from those attained by other methods because the hair will not be constrained to any predetermined root pattern. 
  • This is obviously the cheapest method because you don't need to buy anything special or pay anyone to create the locks for you.
  • This method doesn't require any hair or scalp work so you will not experience the sore scalp that some of the other methods immediately result in.
  •  This method doesn't require any products / no waxes or gels are required for this method
  • This is in some ways the slowest method for attaining dreadlocks. While all methods will take 1 year+ to mature, Neglect dreads take a really long time before they even look like dreadlocks.
  • You have very little control over how they look. The other methods have a vary degree of control over how thick or thin the dreadlocks are because you create them from the root upwards and therefore the dreadlocks will always be as thick or as thin as the root pattern you used. In the case of neglect dreadlocks you are leaving them to their own devices and this can result in very uneven looking dreadlocks. You will have to periodically pull the matted sections of hair apart yourself in order to stop them forming one huge dreadlock, but that's about all the control you will have.

Backcombing /Back combed

This is probably the most common way of creating dreadlocks outside of neglect. This is the method that most salons will use. It is advisable that you get someone else to do this for you as it is particularly hard to do it yourself. This method involves dividing up the scalp into sections, the size of the sections determines how fat or thin the dreadlocks will be. The backcomber then takes the section of hair and using a fine steel toothed comb will begin to brush the hair from the tip inwards towards the scalp. This causes the hair to go frizzy and knotty and begin to take dreadlock form.

  • This creates hair that looks instantly dreadlock shape.
  • You have control over the thickness by controlling the size of the partitions you use.
  • Most salons use wax to hold the backcombed lumps of hair in place and stop the knots from falling / washing out. Everyone has a different opinion on wax, but my own opinion from my own experience and the opinions of those I've met who have also experienced wax is - try to avoid it as best you can.
  • The backcombed locks are very stiff at first so they will stand on end resembling the hair of Sideshow Bob from the Simpsons. Over time the dreadlocks will flatten down and tighten up making them not as fat though, so don't fear.
  • The initial locks formed by the backcombing have a different tougher texture to the locks that will form from the new growth. The backcombed parts are more solid and less bendy.
  • Backcombing is painful, it involves someone pulling at your hair and scalp for as long as it takes to cover your whole head, which moves me onto my next point....
  • It takes a long time, it can easily take 4 hours or more to fully and properly backcomb a full head of hair into dreadlocks. It will depend on how thick and long your hair is....
  • Because it takes a long time it can be very expensive at the salon (if you choose to have a salon make the dreadlocks for you). So a lot of pain, for a lot of time, that you have to pay for.
  • Without wax they can fall apart and wash out quite easily and look quite a mess. But with wax they will feel greasy and the wax will stop them from drying properly and stick to dirt.

Twist and Rip /T&R

This is a method that is becoming more and more popular as an alternative to backcombing. It requires the hair to already be in a dreadlock encouraging state - dry and unconditioned.
This causes the hair to become static and knotty and increases the friction, so whereas normal conditioned hairs will just rub past each other, these dry unconditoined hairs will knot up. You need to take two sections of hair and twist them together. You twist the two sections of hair around and around until you reach the tip. Then you pull the two sections apart causing the two interlocked sections to rub past each other. As you keep pulling and then relaxing they will rub and knot together.

  • Not quite as rough or painful as backcombing and it's possible to twist and rip your own hair.
  • You don't need any special tools, just a wool jumper and two hands.
  • Twist and rip dreadlocks fall out even more easily than backcombed dreadlocks. So while they might look dreadlock shaped to begin with, they will look like knotted hair once you start washing them and therefore it will still take the 1 year+ like all the other methods before they mature and lock properly on their own.

Dread Perming

This is where your hair is treated chemically to make it very dry and frizzy and then it's partitioned and one of the previously mentioned methods is used to actually shape the dreadlocks, this differs depending on who is doing it.

  • This is all differs from salon to salon but the chemicals are able to make the hair very frizzy and therefore very 'dreadlock' friendly.
  • This method is usually by far the most expensive and will still take up to 1 year+ before they start to mature and lock properly by themselves.
  • The dread perm can be damaging to your hair.
  • This method still usually relies on backcombing or twist and rip to form the locks and their cons are mentioned above.


Obviously you can have dreadlock style extensions added to your existing non-dreaded hair or attached to the end of your backcombed or twist and ripped dreadlocks.

  • They will look like 'real' dreadlocks from the start.
  • You won't lose any hair length / you can gain length.
  • You can take them out if you don't like them.
  • They're expensive.
  • After a while they begin to fall out.
  • Depending on what they're made from and how they're formed, they can retain water / be harder to dry and therefore can smell like wet dog overtime if you're not careful.

Other Methods

Completely crocheted dreadlocks is another method. I don't know much about it because I've never spoken to anyone that has actually done this across their whole head, so I don't fully understand how it works. I know it's popular among people with asian-type hair that is usually very very straight and otherwise very difficult to dread. Crocheting involves making all the knots yourself, it's very very time consuming, requires considerable skill and because of all the maintenance  I am doubtful the locks would ever get chance to mature on their own. The dreadlocks have a very distinctive texture that is unlike dreadlocks formed with any other method, they tend to appear very 'processed', in the same way that a Big Mac, though still technically a beef burger, doesn't look the same as a home made ground steak burger.

I've heard of various other methods but they all tend to be a variation on one of the above methods and will all still take time, there is no quick-fix.


  1. I've used the T&R method, but I wouldn't twist the two parts entirely, I would twist the two parts once and rip, another and rip, and by halfway of the dread, the parts of hair left wouldn't be enough to continue with T&R so I'd do some back combing, then I'd "shuffle" the "rest" with my palm, then palm roll the whole thing to take the proper shape, then crochet the whole dread quickly, just once so I don't ruin my hair too much, then palm roll again with some healthy coconut hair cream, to make the dread less fluffy. It works for me, actually, but I have quite frizzy curly hair.

    Nice blog!
    Mia Persson

  2. using a mix of rubbing my hair in clockwise motions every few days (in the beginning every day) and neglect + only washing my hair with water and roughly every other day (beside brief wetting to restyle after beadhead) seem to be working fine so far, but I started it when my hair was really short (in february) and have continued it (its been 4 months so far). Getting longer now and looking abit more like dreadlocks. They are messy in the sense the sizes of the knobs vary accross my head, but no HUGE variations. Some are smaller, some larger, that is all.
    NOTE: I have afro hair texture, and the tightest one possible aswell (West African)

  3. is there any methods on growing faster hair as far as the neglect method goes

    1. A healthy diet promotes healthy hair growth.

    2. Fermented rice water promotes fast hair growth. I personally use brown rice and and 64 oz of water. You take 1 cup of brown rice and 64 oz of water and let it sit up to 24-48 hours. Soak your hair and leave in for about 15 minutes and rinse out with plain water. With this method, you don't need to use any other soaps as the rice water will remove dirt and oils from the hair. I like adding different types of essential oils to make my hair smell pretty. lol But don't worry, just using plain fermented rice water does not leave any unwanted smells. :) My hair grows about 3-5 inches a month with this method. Average natural hair growth is 1-3 inches per year. So yes, this method will cause your hair to grow rather quickly. I do this 1-2 a week. :)

  4. So just to clarify, I just need to do the Twist + Rip method once, remove rubber bands, and wash normally after a few days without doing it again - or does it take more than once?

    1. Twist & Rip is used once to hold the hair in sections, it's not repeated. Over time the sections knot up and lock.

  5. i want to have extensions put into my hair.. then dread normally.. using my preferred method and i have tried extending after and they have failed... any insight on dreading with pre existing extensions placed in beforehand

    1. I'm afraid I have no personal experience with extending dreadlocks and so I'm not the ideal person to advise on them.

    2. I got my hair twist and ripped which took 3-4 hours and then added extensions to the ends after 1-2 days, which took 2 hours or so. They're only 3 weeks old but look pretty mature (due to extensions) and are as long as I want them to be. My scalp is pretty damn itchy but otherwise everything is great.

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  9. Hi, I really want to have dreadlocks because i'm a rasta and it is just so beautiful so I really want to have them. But there is a problem... my parents don't want that I have got dreadlocks because they said that it is dirty and they just don't want that I have dreadlocks.They just don't know enything about dreadlocks. My parents are very hard to it but I really want to have them, no matther what, I'm in love with dreadlocks zo my question is, do you maybe have an advice for me so that I can convince my parents to having dreadlocks?
    Thanks! :-)

    1. I mean so and not zo, sorry that was a little mistake :-).

    2. Just show them some info on dreadlocks and the washing process... if they can see a youtube video on someone washing their dreads and all the lovely smelling oils and stuff you can get for them, it should convince them that they're not dirty.

  10. What can be done about new dreads that were twisted wayyyyyy too much during the twist and rip method They look loopy and its only been a.week

    1. Abit late for a response but might help future people reading... I'm currently mixing techniques to get my dreads... I started off at the base of my hair at my neck, Twisting a ripping. When I got larger loops coming through i neatened them with a crochet hook. I think a crochet hook works wonders for tightening them to look the way you want.

  11. I am using neglect method. I twist and ripped the ends of a few to hold them better about half way up after they began separating. I have thin, curly, fine hair. There holding well. But I want that neglect method look. Will twist and ripping the ends still achieve the desired look out will it affect my hair as two methods were used. I can't find info on mixed method use. Any suggestion would be helpful.

  12. Hi my friend! First I wanna say that your dreads are AMAZING and your information (video website) is so appreciated! Your knowledge of the subject is outstanding and the best I have come across for Caucasian like hair. My question is.... Is it ok during the neglect method to tie hair back in a standard ponytail during the day or would that hinder any of the locking process. I give you many thanks in advance and wish you many blessings 😀

  13. Hi. I recently did the T&R method about 3-4 weeks ago. And each twist/pre-dread is pretty thin. I always wanted to have thick dreads though, will they get thicker over time? Also, I've been washing my hair with shampoo once a week, is that recommended?

    1. I did the same thing... yes apparently they get thicker over time and u can dread 2 of ur thin dreads together to form thicker ones... also, what i did was had relatively thin dreads at first and added extensions which were slightly thicker... so now when I tie them up they look quite thick. Yes washing once or twice a week is fine just make sure they dry well.

  14. from personal experiences and experiences of my friends:
    *the crochet method* too small of a needle can rip and tear
    your dreads on the inside since the crochet needle is very
    sharp(the small ones are)so dont use it too much,but
    instead try and avoid it all together.Eventually your dreads break and
    fall off,and a too big of a needle can cause holes(and other unwanted
    looks and patterns)and cause other hairs to untangle from the
    dread,some people(like my friend loves the way it looks, making a
    knot with lil loose hairs below it, and i knot below that , the
    loose hair below that,then knot)But it depends on what you like.
    (my friend always complains about his dreads falling out though) its a very
    counter productive way of getting dreads(personally), this might work better
    with non-caucasian hair, i have no idea,but this was tested on semi
    curled and very curled as well as, just straight and silky
    smooth hair.The Crochet method causes stiff and very tight dreads
    (i didnt like this at all), dreads fall out, and you constantly
    need to redo hairs that wont stay in(depending on what
    method you used with the crochet method, like backcomb, twist
    and rip)but i personally would not recommend it, try going natural
    instead, in the long run you'll be happier(well i am happy with neglect)
    . i started using twist and rip and crocheting the loose hairs
    to speed up the process, it looked good, but there are too much cons.
    leaving your hair to do its(natural) thing, brings out your true
    natural form, instead of forcing it to look the way you want it to
    (which will probably leave you disappointed, i was). But that's just
    me,i love the natural way(neglect).* the twist an rip*: works fine but ive
    noticed when forcing your hair to become dreads quickly, it
    will only be the tips of the dread(sometimes it becomes thicker,
    sometimes it makes a balloon like effect, my friends called
    it the polony effect,wich is basically a thin self made dread at the tip,
    and a thick dread at the scalp)it grows out it grows out allot more thicker than the
    ones you originally started(the tips),making a thick dread at the scalp
    and thin tips.the twist and ripped dread can tighten and become thicker(in the case of my friends and i it didnt)
    ,but its a 50 50 that it will get thicker, after a few months of new growth you
    will start to see the clumped up hair at the roots, will start to
    form the actual dreadlocks(thats if the dread at the tip is unchangable, otherwise the wole body of the dread will become a good lock),
    after a few years your actual dreads will be long then you can literally
    see the difference between the forced dread at the tip,and the actual dread
    growing from your scalp. in the end its your choice. crocheting loose hairs
    are very good for grabbing one or two loose hairs if you prefer ZERO loose hairs(new groth loose hairs),
    (if you already have dreads).hope you guys Get your dream dreads,
    it sure is wonderful to have your dreams come true, Never stop dreaming, never stop working to make them come true.
    never be discuraged, keep on living your dreams out every day
    much love,much peace.

  15. I watch your videos, and they're awesome. I am currently TNR-ing and not sure if all is going well, been experimenting on differing the twisting vs ripping, the problem is that they still come out looking the same, like semi-knotted up twists. Not sure if this is how they should look or if I am doing something wrong. Any help is greatly appreciated, love and light, brother.

    1. For reference, I have thick and wavy hair, soft though, sicilian except for the texture.

  16. Deffinetly right about no wax. I had taken mine out after a year of having them and it made so much gunk stick to them.
    Before i did a twist and rip method because it seemed faster and i was impariwnt and just wanted them done. They werent horrible but a bunch of loose hairs and loopy even after a year in. I couldnt even get a solid photo that you could really tell u had a full head of dreads.
    I promised my fiance i wouldnt get dreads till after we got married, wich will give them time to grow also. But i will deffinetly take the time to section an backcomb my hair this time either at a salon or hopefully ill find a festival friend i can coax into spending the day and putting them in with me :)