Are Dreads Bad for Your Hair?

Are dreads bad for your hair?
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I always wondered how damaged dreadlocked hair would become.  A bunch of knots all over your head can’t be good…or can it? I did a lot of research before I decided to take the plunge myself and I was very surprised by what I learned. 

Can Dreads Ruin Your Hair?

Can dreads cause damage to your hair?

The short answer is no. It’s quite the opposite. 

Dreadlocks as a hairstyle actually help protect your hair. But don’t get too excited just yet! There are many factors that can destroy your hair, as we will discuss in this blog. The good news is that if you take care of your locs, your hair will by no means suffer.

Let’s imagine “normal” or unlocked hair for a minute. 

The things we do to make our hair silky, soft, shiny, straight, curly, and colorful are unbelievably damaging. We often mask this damage with products. There are thousands of products out on the market advertising restoration, hydration, growth, and everything else your hair could want or need. Truth be told, most of those products are a waste of money. Yes, of course they can have some positive effects but they’re not ideal. Obviously, I haven’t tried everything out there but I know that your hair wasn’t made to be overwhelmed with so many chemicals.

Before I got dreadlocks, my hair went through a lot. My ends were dead and parts of my hair were fried due to chemical dyes. My straight hair had no volume whatsoever, so of course I had to use a hair curler to encourage some flow of movement. On the days that a strand of hair was out of control, I tamed it with the hair straightener. 

On top of all this damage, I washed my hair every day. This removes natural oils and moisture. The conditioner meant to make your hair silky actually added a lot of unwanted product buildup and weight. On occasion, I used hair spray to keep my hair intact for several hours. This all typically goes unseen in unlocked hair.

Anyway, you get the idea. For years, my hair was never able to catch a break. 

Fast-forwarding to my dreadlock journey, my hair initially went through a good amount of damage because my loctician used the crochet and interlocking method. A lot of hair was ripped and pulled out in that process (all of which is growing back beautifully now, yay!) 

Since I had my locs, I only got them professionally maintained once. I wash my head once every 7 to 10 days with non-residue shampoo. I use a blow dryer once a week. The only products I use on my hair are essential oils, lightweight carrier oils, water, and aloe vera to encourage moisture, new hair growth, and a healthy scalp. 

If I were to carefully brush out my locs today, I know the majority of my hair would be really healthy. (Perhaps a bit frizzy the first few days but healthy nonetheless.)

In this blog, we’ll discuss the main ways to avoid damage to your hair and baldness after you get dreadlocks. Again, if you take good care of your locs, you’ll never have to worry about hair damage.

Do dreadlocks cause hair loss?

Just like dreads aren’t inherently bad for your hair, healthy dreadlocks themselves aren’t the cause of hair loss. 

With that said, there are several problems and bad habits associated with the dreadlock journey that may contribute to hair loss and bald spots. These are a few of those problems:

  • Your roots are being pulled too tight
  • You’re over-maintaining your locs
  • You’re excessively itching your scalp
  • Your locs are too heavy
  • You’re using chemical dyes on your hair

I’ll explain these issues in greater detail and how you can prevent further damage to your hair.

1. Your roots are being pulled too tight.

This can happen just in the beginning (as I experienced when I got my dreads installed) or for extended periods of time). This can be caused by over-styling your hair, pulling it back into ponytails or buns and from occasional maintenance that pulls the hair at the root. If you sever these hair follicles temporarily, it is likely that your hair will grow back. If the pulling is fairly constant, your hair may stop growing altogether in those places. You should be extra cautious if your roots have been suffering this way for a while.

HOW TO PREVENT AND REVERSE THIS: One of the best ways to cause less tension to your scalp is to wear your hair loosely. Stop styling your hair (for a while- not forever), especially the first few days after maintenance when your head is still sore. For those who need to keep their hair pulled back because of work or other reasons, you should use a headband or beanie instead. You can use anything that will not apply any pressure whatsoever to your roots. To reverse some of the hair loss damage, I recommend gently massaging the affected area with a few drops of jojoba oil mixed with lavender or cedarwood essential oil. Do this once or twice a week.

2. You’re over-maintaining your locs.

If you’re anything like me during the first few months of my dread journey, you’re probably touching your roots too much. I always wanted to tame the frizzies and make sure my head looked as neat as possible. Constantly twisting, rubbing, and fiddling with your hair can cause thinning and damage at the root.

Different dreadlocking methods (crochet, twist & rip, etc) can also have very damaging effects on the hair.

HOW TO PREVENT AND REVERSE THIS: The obvious way to prevent this is to quit the habit of touching your hair. If you are doing it unconsciously, tell someone to point it out to you. It’s so much easier said than done, but give your head some time to rest in between maintenance sessions and allow your scalp to grow hair normally. There’s really no way to reverse over-maintenance but you can start changing habits now to assure you have healthy roots in the future.

3. You’re excessively itching your scalp.

Itchy scalp is one of the better known “side-effects” of dreadlocks. Almost every person will have itchiness at some point in their journey but there are many ways to minimize it. Excessive itchiness can cause inflammation and scarring on the scalp. It can also lead to permanent balding in the areas that are more frequently scratched.

HOW TO PREVENT AND REVERSE THIS: For an itchy scalp, I recommend you start hydrating your body and hair immediately. Drinking a few more glasses of water will greatly minimize the itch. Also, 100% pure aloe vera applied to the scalp and an occasional apple cider vinegar rinse after washing your hair will help to reduce itchiness. Unfortunately, there’s no way to reverse permanent hair loss, so if you notice yourself scratching your scalp way too much, do something about it now! For more ideas, read my post on how to moisturize your scalp here.

4. Your locs are too heavy.

Heavy locs can cause your roots to pull at your scalp, causing gradual hair loss as well as headaches and neck pain. Your locs might be heavy because they’re too long or due to product build-up. If you don’t reduce some of this weight, you may end up with a receding hairline.

HOW TO PREVENT AND REVERSE THIS: If your locs are too long, you can reduce some of the weight by cutting them down a few inches. If you’re too attached to your locs, try brushing a few of them out- especially the ones around the frame of the face. If the weight is due to product build-up, you may have to go to a professional loctician to wash off all the build-up. Otherwise, do a deep cleanse on your dreads and start using a clarifying shampoo weekly. Once you have removed the majority of the build-up in your locs, discontinue using products that leave any residue.

5. You’re using chemical dyes.

I know several people who have dyed their dreads and instantly regretted it. Dying your hair not only adds chemicals to your locs but also strips your hair of its natural oils and moisture. In dreadlocks, some of the dye might not get washed off completely because you can’t really get to the core of the dread. In other words, it may continue to ruin your hair long after you have colored it. Bleaching your hair is a whole other problem because it’s harsher than regular color dye.

HOW TO PREVENT AND REVERSE THIS: The best way to prevent this is by steering clear from chemical dyes completely! If you want healthy locs, embrace your natural color, get dreadlock extensions in the color you desire, or use henna. Dyes are extremely damaging to your hair, it doesn’t matter who does it- you or a professional. There is no remedy or reversal to this type of damage. Most people who don’t like their post-dyed hair end up cutting it off.

As you can see, dreadlocks aren’t the root of the hair loss problem. Improper dread care, on the other hand, can significantly damage your hair. I hope these tips helped you pinpoint some of the most crucial aspects of caring for your locs. 

Have you overcome hair loss due to dreads? What are your favorite hair growth tips? Let me know in the comments!

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  1. Makes some sense your hair seems healthier with locks.If you had treated your hair before locks as gently as you do now, that hair would’ve been healthy too.

  2. I have a odd question I guess. Myself probably couldn’t even do dreads if I tried. But I have hormone issues that make fall out very easily. However I have known someone in my line of work that has them. I get curly and unruly hair. I understand the benefits from dreads but to me this is people who work normal jobs
    I work in the animal care field. Yes zookeeping. So during our day we are around a lot of dust. Dust from everything; hay, straw, Aspen shavings etc. But we are also around….a lot of poop. Duh I guess. But we are hosing and aerosolizing that fecal matter. This person works a lot with primates. So zoonotical diseases are a big thing at work and when it comes to our close relatives it’s even worse. I just can’t see having dreads and only washing all the stuff out of your hair once a week at most. You are sleeping on and letting all that your hair is collecting into your lungs your face and skin. I just do t see how this can be healthy for anyone in my field. I am just curious about outside options on this. I constantly want to learn and expand my thoughts. I can see this working for normal life just not in my career…thoughts?

    1. Hi Jessica,
      Dreads can collect dirt, environmental particles, sweat, etc over time.. In a situation like this, I recommend keeping them covered while working, washing them a couple of times a week if necessary, and doing two or three deep cleanses annually.

  3. Thanks for the info starting my lic journey now , I was worried about dreads potentially ruining your natural hair but it sounds quite the opposite as long as you take care of them properly , what products should I be using to wash my locs as well as what type of oil or moistures to use during the week to keep them healthy .

  4. I decided last December that I was gonna redo my dreads. I had them years ago and kept them for 5 years.Have been locked for 6 months now and I am not gonna cut them or take them down ever.

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