Most people would agree that those who have loose hairstyles need to cut their ends periodically so that their hair can grow strong and healthy- at least that’s what was instilled in me by every hairdresser I’ve ever been to.
Once you upgrade to the dreadlock lifestyle, however, this rule no longer applies!
Luckily for us dread-heads, having split ends doesn’t matter so trimming is not required nor necessary.
Now, let me clear one thing up. When I refer to split ends, I’m only talking about the lower two-ish inches of your natural hair and not your entire head.
A couple of inches of split ends is no problem and does not alter the quality of your locs. On the other extreme, if your hair is completely fried or otherwise damaged- either because of hair dye or constant use of heating treatments like curling/ straightening irons- then do not trust that it’s strong enough to form a healthy set of dreads. Brittle and broken hair is a recipe for future disaster, and therefore not a recommended way to start your locs. The reason being that your locs can end up with many weak spots which makes them more susceptible to breaking off a few months (or years) down the line.
If you have split ends, you should strive to improve your hair health so that your dreads can grow strong at the root. The key to keeping your locs growing healthy and long is found in your scalp health and personal diet- we’ll discuss this more in a minute.
Do you have to trim your split ends before getting dreads?
No, you don’t.
Right before I got dreadlocks, I debated whether or not to trim my hair because I had at least 2 inches worth of split ends. I chose not to do it and I feel that I made the right decision.
Having split ends doesn’t really matter, in fact, some insist that it might actually help your hair knot up faster. I can’t prove that that claim is entirely correct, but I did come up with two reasons that may support it.
1. For one, keeping those few inches of split-ended hair will give your hair enough length to retain the knots. The longer your hair is when you start your locs, the greater the probability that they will hold together. Let me give you an illustration to make my point. Say you have straight silky hair and you started your dreads with an initial length of 6 inches*. Until your dreads reach maturity, you can expect them to detangle, re-tangle, form loops, and shrink. If you started with 6 inches, you can be sure that the 4 inches closest to the scalp will be going through all the up and down motions. The two remaining inches of hair will give it some leeway so that they can adjust without unraveling completely. In a situation like this, split ends benefit your locs by helping them to stay in shape during their shuffling process.
Side note: If you started your locs with split ends, it’s not recommended to trim the ends until your locs are mature- depending on your hair type, this can take between 1 and 3 years.
* All hair types and textures lock differently so the initial length that is necessary to start them is relative to the type of hair you have. Generally, I would recommend an average of 6 inches of length before starting your locs, but I’ve already discussed that in detail here so I won’t get off-topic in this post.
2. Damaged hair forms knots easier than non-damaged hair. This might explain why detangling the ends of loose hair is always harder than the upper section around the root and scalp. When you look at a split end under a microscope you will see that it looks like a bunch of loose wires. In loose hair, those ends grip onto each other and cause knots. In dreadlocked hair, it can contribute to (and possibly speed up) the locking process.
The only complaint I would have with regard to starting my locs with split ends is that some of my paintbrush-like tips are frizzy, so rather than having a soft look, they’re frayed. I only have this problem with select locs, so it doesn’t really bother me, but if I had that problem with all of my tips I wouldn’t like it.
If you have blunt tips, the damaged ends shouldn’t even be noticeable.
Can split ends be fixed?
Unfortunately no. Once you have split ends, you can’t undo the damage. When your hair is dreadlocked, it’s a lot less common to get split ends because you don’t mess with it as much.
If your split ends are bothering you, there are two things you can do to “fix them”.
1. Use a crochet hook to pull those hairs gently into the dread. Then, palm roll the dread to reinforce the knots. If possible, do this while your hair is still wet (after a shower) because your hair strands are a lot more flexible than when they’re dry. This may prevent further damage.
2. If your locs are in their mature stage (beyond their third year*) then you can trim the ends. There are plenty of YouTube videos to teach you the proper trimming techniques, but it’s not difficult to do. If you cut your ends before your locs are mature, you can expect roughly 2 inches of the bottom to detangle and become loose. Mature locs should maintain most of their hold but there’s a chance that they can also come undone slightly.
How to protect your dreads from getting split ends
Like beforementioned, you should strive to protect your hair so that it can grow and remain healthy from now on. There are several things you can do to ensure that split ends become a thing of the past!
1. Stay hydrated! Yes, you read that right. 😉 Drinking plenty of water every day is essential for your hair to receive the moisture that it needs to stay flexible. Dry hair is susceptible to split ends and breakage because it loses flexibility if it doesn’t have enough moisture.
2. Eat well. There’s a big correlation between your diet and hair health. If you eat the proper nutrients (found in fruits, veggies, legumes, etc), you will notice your hair not only growing faster but stronger too. Look here for the list of foods that promote healthy hair.
3. Moisturize your scalp often. During the fall and winter seasons, it’s common for your hair and skin to become dry because of the changing climate. If you feel that your hair is losing elasticity, shine, and feeling rougher than velcro, it’s your cue to crank up your moisturizing routine. Target your scalp, not the dreadlocks themselves. Spray your scalp with water (and essential oils if you’d like) and allow it to absorb for a few minutes. Then, massage a pea-sized amount of oil over your scalp. Water is effective in moisturizing and strengthening the hair follicle at the root, while oil works to retain and trap the moisture in. Too much oil can cause build-up in the locs later on, so limit yourself to a pea-sized amount.
4. Only wash your hair once a week. Say goodbye to the days of washing your hair daily- this hairstyle is not meant to be washed excessively. As tough as it is (and believe me, IT IS!) to hold back from washing your hair when it feels dirty or your scalp itches beyond belief, it’s a discipline you have to keep to when you decide to get dreads. Every time you wash your hair, you are stripping away the natural oils responsible for keeping your hair healthy. An ideal routine would be to moisturize it daily and wash it weekly. Look here for some amazing DIY moisturizer recipes!
5. Wear a silk cap at night. While I’m sure you won’t be winning a fashion contest wearing one of these while you sleep, your locs will love you for putting through with it. I cannot imagine what my locs would look like today had I not prioritized the use of this cap every night. Not only does the cap protect your hair from attracting lint from your bedsheets, but it also traps in your natural oils and moisture that would otherwise be absorbed by your pillow. Also, as you toss and turn in your sleep, your hair is being protected from the friction, thereby reducing frizz and split ends. Trust me, you will notice a difference!
6. Stop using sea salt spray. Dreadlocks take a lot of time to form, I get it! And many people want to speed up the process by spraying saltwater to make their hair tangle faster. While this is true, I have to say that salt makes your hair very dry and if used too often, it’s bound to damage your hair. I’ve been there and I have to say- it’s not worth it! Which would you rather pick- a spray that can cause your dreads to become brittle and weak, or just being patient for your dreads to grow healthy and strong. The first option might only speed up the process by 6 months (if that) while the second option will give you the locs you’ve dreamed of in due time. I don’t know about you, but I would choose the latter any day!
7. Do not dye your hair. Hair dye is extremely damaging to your hair. If you want to see proof, look at this post that shows what your hair looks like if it has been damaged by heat or dye. Refer to the picture labeled (c) and compare it to (a) which is a healthy hair strand. The difference is unbelievable. This visual example helps to give understanding as to why dyes and heat are such a bad idea.
8. Blow-dry your locs on low heat. While I often prefer to air-dry my locs, on occasion I have to blow dry them. If you blow-dry yours, make sure to set it to low to medium heat. High heat is very damaging and you can expect to see that damage after some time.
Well, that’s all for now. I hope this blog cleared up all your splitting questions! Let me know if I left anything unanswered in the comments. 🙂