Monday 22 October 2012

Things To Consider Before Starting Dreadlocks

I thought it was necessary to create a post with a little bit of information that could be important for you before you start. If you're on the fence, this should help you decide.

Dreadlocks, to begin with, can be a lot of work. They're going to do what they want to do and if you try and fight them, well... good luck with that. I'll elaborate - every set of dreadlocks is different, you can get dreadlocks, but you cannot get dreadlocks identical to a musicians, celebrities or friends set. It's just not possible. Everyone has different coloured hair, different thickness, curly, straight etc etc. You have some control over how fat they're going to become if you start with a method other than the neglect method. (If you go neglect then the only thing you can do as far as shaping them is ripping the strands apart to stop huge dreads forming). So, you know you don't have as much control over them as 'normal' hairstyles, as they're going to lock and grow however gravity and various frictions deem fitting.

After you've started they are going to be MESSY. 'Tidy' tight dreadlocks take time to acquire and I mean TIME. On average you're going to be looking at an easy 1 year+ before the locks start to mature and knot/lock up by themselves. The only thing I can recommend here is to grit your teeth and bear it. You can wear hats, use headbands or tie them back (if they're long enough), but you won't be able to escape the fact that you've got loose hairs, tips and roots and that there isn't a huge amount you can do about it. See my Loose Hair, Roots and Tips post for more information on this. So yes for the first year to year and half you're going to have a bit of a birds nest / rats tails, BUT once they start to mature and lock up, well then you can relax a little because your patience will have paid off and they will only continue to mature and tighten more and more!

They take a long time to dry. Each dread is like a little sponge and so they soak up water and cleaning them will involve squeezing them out and drying will also require more of this. The dry time is also obviously much longer than with normal hair. How long depends on the thickness, length and maturity of the dreads. More on washing and drying HERE.

Dreadlocks can also affect some hobbies and activities. More info on that HERE.

But..... dreadlocks really are a get up and go hair style, the extra time lost in washing and drying is more than clawed back when you consider the hair doesn't need brushing, straightening, conditioning.... you get out of bed in the morning and it's good to go. When they're young and messy you can just tie them up (if they're long enough you can tie them back with themselves!) and get on with your day.

Dreadlocks are a fun process, there are active online communities full of like minded dreadlocked people. Unlike with most things you do to your hair dreadlocks don't wash out and once they've gotten going they just get better and better, so you can make picture timelines and really see how they're progressing, getting stronger and longer.

Once you've got dreads they're cheaper than 'most' other hair styles. You buy just one shampoo or soap or bicarb... or whatever you choose to wash with and that's pretty much it. No expensive shampoo and conditioner combos. No expensive trips to the hair salon etc. Once the dreadlocks are left to mature they will do their own roots and tips and will lock in the loose hair by themselves, completely free.

Also, to set your mind at ease - dreadlocks don't attract bugs like some myths would suggest. They aren't inherently dirty (they're as clean as you make them). You CAN remove them without shaving your head.

Other things to consider are the various negative and usually false stereotypes that accompany dreadlocks which get tiresome: No I'm not homeless, I probably wash my hair more often than most, I definitely shower as often as anyone else, I don't listen to reggae, I'm not a stoner, I'm not uneducated - working towards a Physics degree, etc etc, you get the picture.

Still interested?! continue onwards to the Starting Dreadlocks section to choose the method of starting dreadlocks that suits you best and the Preparing for dreads section to get your head and hair ready for dreads!


  1. I'm reading almost all your videos... Kind of. Thank you so much for giving text versions too - I can take in information more easily.

    I think I'm having a bit of a midlife crisis and I figure Dreads look fun and if I end up not liking it my second idea was going cueball bald!

    As a white female with straight hair, I wasnt too sure about if my hair would dread at all, but I think actually I have a good chance - blowdrying it alone makes it tangle horribly. I seem to have very fine, but thick hair. I braid it before I go to bed, get up and I have to work it out carefully as its started to felt!

    One question is scalp itchiness: I suppose everyone loses hairs and stuff like that, and while my scalp problems went away when I got better quality shampoos and stuff, I guess I worry about 'knot itch'. Is that a problem you find? I suppose a constantly dry scalp may not be friendly to dreads. Your thoughts?

    1. Everything going into dreadlocks is going to experience a certain amount of irritation as the conditions on the scalp are quite different. However it doesn't take all that long for things to balance out again. There are many different options available when it comes to washing the hair and caring for the scalp and so a dry scalp would not necessarily be a problem.

  2. Thank you. Good to know. I'm just waiting for the OK from my boss. I work night shift, so I dont see a problem but you never know right? Especially before theymature.

    One more question: Can you 'trim' dreadlocks? like if for some reason you ended up with one super long one and a bunch of shorter ones, can you trim the longer one so they were more even?

    1. Yes, you can trim them - but you won't want to do it until they're older, otherwise the "new" tips will be prone to fraying out.

  3. I just started my dreads two days ago and some of them are really loose and they have a lot of loose hairs coming out. Is that normal? How to I get them to tighten up and will the loose hairs become a part of the dread eventually? I'm also trying to avoid using wax in my hair since I hear it's not that great for dreads.

  4. Help! My little sister got lice and gave it to me. I tried soaking it in alcohol for about 3 weeks waiting about 3 days in between. I ended up getting so stressed about it not going away i did it every night for 3 nights. This still did not help. I tried dying it a different color even. That didn't work either. I bought the actual lice treatment and it still did not work. I found another bug... Immediately i treated my hair again. I have have my dreads for about 8 moths and they are starting to lock very well i really don't want to get rid of them over this...:( please help!

    1. From what I know don't lice not like clean hair? Have you tried using oil on your scalp. That is said to suffocate them, from my experience that is

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