If you’re asking yourself this question it’s (almost) safe to assume that you don’t have dreads yet but are considering it.
The good news is that NO, no hairstyle is permanent! …unless you’re bald, and well, that’s most likely not the case for you if you’re reading this.
Dreadlocks can be a temporary hairstyle but it’s still a long-term commitment. I know a lot of people who had dreads for a certain period of time and then decided to go back to loose hair. Perhaps you’ve noticed that in the last few months many of the popular dread heads on social media and YouTube are returning to their normal hair. None of them had to shave their hair off, by the way. So there are plenty of examples to debunk that myth.
I helped a friend brush out her dreads once and although the process was nothing short of dreadful (pun intended!) we were able to save most of her hair. If anything, the process requires a lot of patience and conditioner but it’s by no means impossible.
Things to consider before fully committing to dreads
Dreads are not for everybody, yet everyone I know that has (or had) them loved the entire process and hairstyle. If you’re in limbo with the decision to get dreadlocks, I’ll give you some insights to fill you in on what to expect.
I’ll start with the bad news first.
1. Dreads are a literal pain to get installed.
If you plan to get it done by a professional, expect to sit in a chair for approximately 8 hours (this really depends on the length and texture of your hair of course but 8 hours is an average number).
2. Dreadlocks take time to adjust to, especially in the very beginning.
A lot happens in and around your head when you get dreads. Your scalp is probably the part of your body that suffers the most. For the first few months, your scalp will continue to produce oil as it has been used to, except the excess oils will quickly build up and become uncomfortable for you. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself scratching your head ALL THE TIME.
3. Dreads require a little bit of extra maintenance at first.
Some people think that dreads can fend for themselves because they’re completely maintenance-free. Wrong! Even the dreads that were started using the neglect method require a certain level of maintenance and lovin’.
If you want healthy hair, you have to invest some time in it. Your hair-care routine is going to be very different than when you had loose hair. You will have to get used to using residue-free products (many of which are not as easy to find at the store- but that’s what Amazon Prime is for, right?). Some find it annoying at first- I know I did! – but luckily, the maintenance routine gets easier and easier over time. I should say, the thing that gets more difficult over time is drying your hair. Dreads become like sponges. If you spend a lot of time in the water, expect your hair to stay wet for 24+ hours. If your hair doesn’t have enough time to dry thoroughly, you risk moldy hair.
4. You won’t get perfect dreads overnight.
Dreadlocks take time and a lot of it. You need to go into it with the mindset that it’s a process. Just like planting a garden won’t give you flowers overnight, getting dreads won’t give you the perfect look you’re hoping for overnight. If you want “perfect dreads” for a short time (a dress-up party for instance), I recommend you try fake dread extensions, otherwise known as faux locs.
5. There could be a negative stigma that comes with having dreads.
I say “could” because this is not always the case- people view dreads differently but racial appropriation is real and some people are not shy about giving you their opinion even if you didn’t ask for it. I have never experienced negative feedback on my hair, but I know some people who have. I’m not saying this is a deal-breaker for everybody but something to think about if other people’s opinions really matter to you or if it’s going to become a barrier between you getting your dream job or career.
6. Dreads can give you headaches and neck pain.
I know this is not the case for everybody but it’s very important to mention. If you have a very sensitive scalp, head, neck or shoulders, think twice before committing to locs. It’s not worth going through the whole locking process, live in miserable pain for months and then have to brush your hair out. You can read more about the pains associated with dreads here in this post.
Ok, enough negative dread-talk. Let’s talk about the GOOD NEWS!
7. Dreads are the beginning of a meaningful journey.
I don’t know how to describe it but dreads really change people- I’d like to think that it’s in a positive way. Most people go into the journey with a purpose in mind, such as growing deeper in their connection with God, or kicking in some healthy eating habits like veganism, or finding the purpose in their life and living intentionally. Everyone’s story is different and valid. I feel like I’m a different person since I started my loc journey yet I know that I still have a lot of growing to do to become who and what I want to be. I’m learning to give myself the same grace and patience that I have given my hair thus far knowing that the best is yet to come.
8. You’ll attract a lot of attention.
If you’re an extroverted person you’ll find this is a positive thing. I have had more conversations with strangers in random places than I ever did with regular hair. It’s a great way to break the ice and get a smile out of somebody. People are really curious for some reason and if you’re anything like me, you’ll love the unexpected compliments.
9. You won’t have to cut your hair too often, if at all.
During the first year of your loc journey, you can expect that your hair will shrink a significant amount. After that, however, you may notice that it grows at “super speed”. This is true for many especially if you’re eating the right nutritious foods and taking good care of your hair.
10. Your hair will be healthier if it’s in dreads.
I know the thought of knots and tangled hair doesn’t sound like it’s going to benefit your hair at all. But believe it or not, locs promote healthy hair. Think of it this way. When you have loose hair, you tend to straighten, curl or blow dry it more often and brush it at least once a day. You probably wash it with shampoos that contain chemicals that are stripping your hair of its natural oils and moisture. Your hair is also freely exposed to the elements- the sun, wind, etc. On the other hand, dreadlocks have to be washed with residue-free shampoos, they get washed every one to two weeks. Some strands will never see the sun while other strands are always exposed (giving your hair a natural lighter tint). If you brush out your locs after some time, you will be pleasantly surprised that your loose hair is strong and healthy!
11. You will have an incredible amount of volume.
One of the reasons I chose to get dreads was for the volume. My hair is so straight that it can’t hold a curl. It was impossible to style it the way I wanted because I couldn’t make the style last more than five minutes. With dreads, that has completely changed. All the hair you normally would shed (50 to 100 strands of hair per day) becomes trapped inside your locs, so instead of losing hair, you retain it. Over the course of the first year, your dreads will take on a thicker shape that gives you incredible volume all over. Styling your locs is so much fun when you have a lot of hair to work with!
12. They look amazing!
This is definitely the best tip on the list. If you like the way dreads look on other people, you will (most likely) love the way they look on you. Trust me, you will learn to appreciate every stage they go through. You’ll be making a bold fashion statement with this hairstyle, that’s for sure!
Getting dreadlocks was one of the best decisions I made with regard to my physical appearance. It’s not always rainbows and butterflies but it’s a journey with a lot of positive outcomes.
I hope this blog opened your mind to the good and the bad part of committing to such an adventure. It’s amazing but it’s not for everybody, so you should at least know exactly what you’re getting into.
Are you planning to get dreadlocks? What questions do you have for someone who already has them? Let me know in the comments!