Dreadlocks Aftercare & Maintenance

Congratulations! Your hair has been lovingly sectioned, backcombed, knotted and waxed by your loctitian… but you do not yet have dreads. In fact, the first few weeks of wearing dreads will require diligent work to keep the sections separate and the knots forming and solidifying into neatly groomed locks. Think of your new locks like a new puppy, they will require lots of training at first, but once they settle in, they will be your good friends for years to come.

The First Month

  • Leave the rubber bands in place this first month. This is the time your dreads are most likely to “creep” meaning the sections will attempt to fuze at the scalp. This happens especially at the back of the head as it gets lots of friction from sleeping.
  • Wash every 5-7 days with a residue free soap. Regular shampoos and soaps may leave conditioners and residues that will actually inhibit the formation of your dreads. I recommend a dread specific shampoo (there are a few on the market.. I use the Knotty boy version) or simply Dr. Bronners for regular washing. Tea Tree, Peppermint or Eucalyptus oils can be used for their scalp cooling properties. Dread specific shampoo is really the best for proper cleansing and lock formation, and the cleaner your hair is, the better your locks will form. Focus your cleansing at the scalp and carefully rinse the soap through your baby dreads without too much agitation, or if you feel they are really fragile, you can stretch a nylon stocking over your baby locks and scrub gently through that stocking to avoid unraveling particularly small or delicate locks.
  • After each washing, your dreads will require some attention as early washing will cause them to fuzz out and separate. After you dry them throughly this is a great time to apply wax with either finger or palm rolling depending on the size of the dread, starting at the roots and working to the ends. Work each 3-4” section of the dread for at least 30 seconds and as you do, feel for bumps, and loose spots and even them out as you go. Lock formation is created by friction and compressed and held in place by wax. In this first month, don’t be shy with the wax, it will help hold the shape of the lock in place while more permanent locks form and can be washed out more aggressively when locks are mature. Both ingredients are required in these initial stages for the formation of well groomed locks.
  • Try to avoid soaking your hair or swimming in this first month (unless you are using a firmly fitting swimming cap). Water will loosen very new dreads.

I highly recommend scheduling a free 6 week “checkup” appointment so that I can answer your questions about maintenance and make sure the locking process is on the right track.

The First 6 Months 

The time from backcombing to mature dreads varies greatly from person to person and it may take as much as a year for your dreads to fully lock, but in order of importance, here are some factors that will influence your results:

  1. Maintenance, Maintenance, Maintenance… I cannot overemphasize the importance of your own input and work, especially in the early stages.
  2. Thickness of the sections – The thicker the section, the quicker the lock will form, the smaller the sections, the more coaxing they will require. The more hair in the section, the more overall knot formation will happen, thus creating a thicker and more solid network of hair at a faster rate. The thin, delicate dreads will take much longer to solidify and need lots of love and attention.
  3. Hair Texture – Although this is a factor that predicts ease of locking, I put this at the bottom of the list because I believe that with dedication to good maintenance, anyone can have a great looking head of locks.

And beyond… A few suggestions for ongoing maintenance:

  • Palm and Finger Rolling – Depending on the thickness of your dreads, palm or finger rolling back and forth (never just in one direction or a weak spot can be created) will assist in the shaping and locking of your dreads. Wax is only necessary when your lock begins to feel dry on the outside or frizzy. As locks become tighter, less wax will be required.
  • Clockwise Root Rubbing – This will be an ongoing task that will help to create new knots at the roots of your locks. Pinching the lock tightly with about 1/4 to 1/2 inch of regrowth, rub against the scalp in a clockwise direction. About 80-90% of growth and curl patterns found in human hair turn clockwise, so working in this direction takes advantage of the hair’s natural “grain.” Know formation is easiest when dreads are very clean, and in preparation for maintenance, you might even want to double wash your hair. Once you have rubbed the root for about a minute or two, you will get a poof of knots. Only once you have formed that poof will you add a small amount of wax to that knot and roll it into a shape that matches the rest of the dread to compress that knot and encourage the formation of the lock.
  • Loose Hair Fixes – Loose hairs happen. Its part of the natural growth process of our hair and has a couple fixes. 1) Crochet hooks are useful for weaving a few loose hairs back into the body of the dread. 2) Dread balling can be employed for larger chunks of hair and involves rolling loose hairs into a small ball of knots and then tucking that ball into the roots of the nearest adjacent dread. A little wax will help keep it in place and this can be done as you are clockwise rubbing to increase the cohesion of the knots.