There’s no place for traditional conditioner in your life if you have dreads.
Nope, none. I promise you don’t need it! You might as well donate the rest of that expensive conditioner bottle to someone who can make better use of it.
On a positive note, there are several ways to prevent dry and brittle locs, so while conditioner may not be the way to go about it, you can supplement with natural moisturizers and oil treatments.
In this article, we’ll discuss the reasoning behind why conditioner is bad as well as how to properly condition your dreads.
Should you use conditioner on dreadlocks?
NO. Using conditioner on your dreadlocks is not only counter-productive but in the long run, it may do more harm than good.
The whole point of dreads is for certain sections of your hair to knot together. Conditioner will do the very opposite of that because it leaves behind a thin film which reduces your hair’s ability to create friction.
Switching from loose hairstyles to dreads requires a new hair care routine and, for many, it will be a big adjustment! Whether you started with the twist & rip, backcomb, crochet, or freeform method, the maintenance aspect is essentially all the same. This routine, however, is completely different from what you may have been used to with loose natural hair.
Without locs, you would typically wash your hair several times a week.
With locs, this changes. Washing your hair should happen only once every seven days. You can find more info on that here.
Next, you would probably lather your hair in conditioner to make it soft and silky.
With locs, you want to avoid using any non-essential ingredients, especially the ones that purposefully detangle your hair.
But the purpose of conditioner is to moisturize hair, isn’t it?
Yes and no.
Ideally, conditioners should restore the moisture that was stripped off by the shampoo.
Realistically, however, (depending on the type of conditioner you use) you will likely be coating your hair with a layer of emollients, oils, silicones, and fragrances, among other ingredients that no one can pronounce. In the dreadlock world, most of those ingredients are not recommended and should be avoided at all costs, mostly because they cause buildup. If you’re curious, you can find the complete list of anti-dreadlock ingredients here.
NOTE: If you have been using conditioner on your locs, you should do a deep cleanse to remove all the buildup you may have accumulated up until now. Learn how to do that here.
The only time that conditioner would be acceptable, is if you have partially undreaded hair and/or loose paintbrush-like tips. A pea size is all you need for the ends— don’t go overboard.
With that said, retaining moisture throughout your hair and scalp is vital for healthy locs to grow and mature. So while you’re no longer using a conditioning treatment, you’ll need to implement a moisturizing routine instead. There are several ways to do this.
10 ways to condition your dreads
Conditioning your locs is necessary but traditional conditioners are not to be used. Try any of these ten different methods instead!
1. ACV rinse: Apple cider vinegar provides multiple benefits for dreads, including softening the hair, making it shiny, and reducing itchiness on the scalp. After you wash your hair, rinse it out with a mixture of ACV and water (1:4+ ratio of ACV to water). This may loosen up some of your locs, so only use it as needed or no more than once a month. Expect the strong vinegar smell to stay in your hair until it fully dries.
2. Scalp conditioning treatment: Condition your scalp with a carrier oil of your choice. Note that oils do not add moisture to the hair; they seal in the existing moisture. It’s recommended that you apply a minimal amount of carrier oils to your scalp after you wash your hair or while it’s still damp after spraying it with a water-based moisturizer. Find a list of dreadlock-friendly carrier oils here.
3. Aloe vera gel: Aloe vera has moisturizing and nourishing properties. It’s one of my top choices when conditioning my locs. I recommend mixing pure aloe vera gel (from the leaf is best!) with distilled water and essential oils. I spray this throughout my locs when they feel dry or itchy. Learn about the benefits of aloe vera and how to make your own spray here!
4. Aloe vera soak: If you want to soak your hair in aloe vera, you will also experience its amazing benefits. Mix equal parts pure aloe vera juice with distilled water, and soak your dreads for 30 minutes. Rinse them out thoroughly and allow them to dry.
5. Lion Locs Gel Moisturizer: Recently I tested out the Lion Locs Gel Moisturizer and I was surprised at how they helped my locs feel soft. The ingredients used are all-natural and should leave no residue. Check out my review here and learn how to apply it to your locs for best results.
6. Essential oil spray: Essential oils provide many benefits for your scalp and locs. I use a moisturizing spray daily to keep my locs hydrated. Read about the unique benefits of the different types of essential oils here, and get some ideas for making your own moisturizing spray here!
7. Bedtime spray: Giving your locs a splash of hydration before bed can help them become significantly softer over time. Note that I said “splash” and not “drench”— you don’t want your dreads to be dripping. My favorite bedtime blend includes a combination of chamomile essential oil, geranium essential oil, lavender essential oil, cypress essential oil, orange essential oil, bergamot essential oil, frankincense essential oil, and distilled water. Be sure to cover them with a silk cap to retain the moisture overnight.
8. Infused water spray: Just like water-based moisturizing spritzers, you can make tea-based sprays. These are amazing because they provide even more benefits for your hair. Here are a couple of options you can try:
- Rosewater: In a large teacup, pour boiling water over 1/2 cup of rose petals. Cover the cup with a lid (the base of the teapot works too!). Let the tea brew for at least 15 minutes. Then, separate the liquid and the petals using a fine mesh strainer. Pour the liquid into a spray container and add any essential oils of your choice. Spray liberally throughout your locs, but remember that they don’t need to be soaking wet. You should keep the spray in the refrigerator for up to a week.
- Horsetail water: In the same way that you would make the rosewater, you would make your horsetail tea. You can use fresh or dried horsetail. Mix the brewed tea with essential oils if you wish, and then store it for up to a week in the refrigerator.
- Eucalyptus water, chamomile water, and lavender water: Following the same instructions as described for the rosewater, you can make eucalyptus, chamomile, or lavender water. These provide amazing benefits and are especially useful when you don’t have essential oils on hand.
9. Witch hazel spray: Witch hazel helps to stabilize the oils in your hair while retaining the existing moisture. You can make an easy blend of 1 to 2 tablespoons alcohol-free witch hazel with 1 to 2 cups distilled water. Add essential oils to this mixture if you wish.
10. Soften hair tips: If you have loose dreadlock tips, you can lightly oil the ends of your hair with grapeseed oil. This may help to reduce the appearance of split ends and potentially prevent future breakage.
When should you condition your dreadlocks?
Just like any hair regimen, you don’t want to under-do it nor over-do it. So how do you find your happy medium?
Unfortunately, there’s no specific answer for this since there can be many factors that influence dry locs. Some of these variants include:
1. Your hair and skin type — We’re all different, so something that works for you may not work for someone else.
2. The season you’re in — During winter your hair tends to be drier than during the summer, so you may need to apply more moisture to it during certain times of the year.
3. The climate you’re in — Tropical or humid climates may require fewer moisturizing treatments than high elevation or mountainous climates.
4. Your diet — If you drink lots of water and eat plenty of fresh fruits and veggies, your body may naturally replenish your skin, scalp, and hair with the nutrients and hydration it needs. If you don’t take in enough nutrients or are dehydrated, you’ll eventually start to notice the side-effects in your hair. Your physical health is super important! Learn which nutrients contribute to healthy hair growth here.
I hope this article was helpful to you! As important as it is to keep our dreadlocks conditioned, it’s equally important to choose dreadlock-friendly ingredients. Unfortunately, traditional conditioners do not qualify.
Certainly, you’ll have to do some trial and error to determine which treatment gives you the best results and how often to use it. I encourage trying different methods so long that they don’t compromise the health of your locs.