Dreadlocks grow just as fast as loose hair does, but due to the nature of the dreadocking process, you may not notice your dreads growing at all for the first year or two.
During the first months of your dreadlock journey, your hair is likely to shrink significantly since your hair is adjusting to the knots of your locs. After the shrinkage phase is complete, you should begin to notice your dreads getting longer.
In this blog, I will explain this process and how you can make your dreads grow faster naturally.
One of the most important lessons that the dread journey teaches people is how to wait. Beautiful dreadlocks require A LOT of patience. No one gets perfect locs overnight and there’s not much you can do about that. No matter what product labels say, or what rumor you’ve heard, anyone who has them will tell you that you have to allow them a great deal of time to form and mature.
On the hard days when your hair looks like a disaster, think about this: Babies are not conceived and born right away. A baby needs 9 months in the womb to become formed perfectly. The same thing goes for your hair.
In this journey, your hair will go through several stages. In the beginning, your hair will start to adapt to the changes, but it’s not until the first six to twelve months that your hair will really start dreading. Give it the time it needs and nurture it during the process.
Bottom line: It’s a long-term commitment so let it be.
Do dreads grow faster or slower than normal hair?
There’s a lot of discussion on whether dreadlocked hair grows any differently than normal hair. I wondered the same thing because I heard rumors of people saying their mature dreads were growing really fast. From a logical perspective, it makes sense that no matter what hairstyle you’re sporting, your hair will grow at about the same rate (under normal health circumstances). On the other hand, it’s common that people whose locs have reached the point of maturity will notice their hair gaining length more rapidly and I’ll explain why.
The average person gains around 6 inches of hair every year. When your hair is not dreaded you tend to wash and brush it daily. Chemical and drying treatments are also commonly used and every several months you find yourself at the hairdresser getting a trim. In dreadlocked hair, the new growth is essentially protected and bound to the dread that it’s forming into. Not only are you not trimming dead ends, but you’re also not treating nor messing with it constantly. In other words, you get to keep all 6 inches of growth!
The hair we shed every day also gets trapped into the dreads, giving the appearance that you have more hair than before. (If you were to brush out your dreads, you’ll think you’re shedding a lot, but it’s just the dead hairs that were trapped in there.)
The amount your length your hair grows in a given year will highly depend on the type of hair you have, how your sectioned your dreads, and your health.
– Your type of hair
Hair texture is unique to every person but there are certain qualities that have been observed in different ethnic groups. African American hair is typically coarse and tightly coiled, which is an advantage to the matting process. African American dreadlocks can become mature within the first six to twelve months.
On the other hand, Caucasian or Asian hair textures are commonly thinner and straight/curly. With this hair texture, you can expect dreads to mature sometime between a year to two years.
This is a generalization of course since there are several influencing factors.
– How you sectioned your scalp
Dreads will shrink during the first year. How much they shrink depends on how you started your dreads and how thick the separations are at the root.
Thinner dreads will start showing length faster because the hair has a smaller strand to knot itself through. The opposite goes for thick dreads of course. If you formed them extra tight in the beginning, they may shrink less than if you started with loose freeform dreads.
In my case, I dreaded my hair using the crochet method and lost about 40% of my original length in the first year. My hair started at around my waist and ended up around my shoulders.
Once the dreads are mature, the shrinking will stop altogether (except at the roots) and you should only notice them getting longer.
Tip: If you don’t want the shrinkage to look so obvious, leave the tips undreaded instead of blunted.
– Your health
Your hair quality, strength, and growth tell a lot about your health.
Long periods of stress can cause your hair follicles to temporarily stop producing the cells responsible for hair growth. Hormonal imbalances can also cause such interruptions. If you feel this may be an issue you’re experiencing, talk to your health practitioner for a correct diagnosis and treatment.
When you’re in good health, your hair will grow strong, shiny, and quickly. Continue reading to learn which foods you should be eating more of.
How long will your dreads be in the first year?
During the first year, you can expect your dreads to shrink (oftentimes a significant amount). Your hair strands go through constant back and forth movements to achieve their mature matted stage. The looping, irregular knots, and shrinkage are part of the process your hair needs to form properly. After the initial months, they will start thickening and shaping up.
In the meantime, your hair is still growing at the same rate but it’s just going through the motions of knotting so you won’t see them getting longer.
From the first year (or second) on, you will start to gain length. People will say that during this stage, their hair starts growing at “super-speed.”
I should note that all your locs won’t shrink nor grow evenly. You will probably have a select few that are much longer or shorter than the rest.
There’s no accurate way to say how much your dreads will shrink since everyone’s process is different, but don’t get discouraged in the beginning and get excited for the growth that is yet to come. It’s a long-term commitment, remember?
How to make your short dreads grow faster naturally
There are several things you can do to manipulate the speed at which your hair grows. (If you want an overnight miracle though, your best bet is to get extensions.)
1. Eat the right foods
Your hair needs vitamins to be healthy. These are the main nutrients you should be going after.
- VITAMIN A: Vitamin A is required for cells to grow. When you’re deficient, you may experience hair loss. Food alone can provide enough of this vitamin that your body needs. I don’t recommend taking supplements because you risk toxicity which can lead to numerous side effects. Vitamin A is found in dark green veggies (kale, spinach, broccoli), yellow/ orange fruits & veggies (squash, cantaloupe, pumpkin, carrots, sweet potatoes), eggs & dairy products (milk, yogurt), liver, fish, and cod liver oils.
- VITAMIN B COMPLEX: Biotin is the most popular B vitamin with respect to hair growth. The results are more evident when your body is already deficient in biotin, but there’s no evidence to prove that taking in a greater dose than your body requires is actually effective. B vitamins can be found in many foods, such as dark green veggies (spinach, broccoli), fruit (bananas, avocado, citrus), cauliflower (raw), mushrooms, meats & seafood (poultry, red meat, salmon and fish), nuts & seeds (peanuts, almonds, sunflower seeds), whole grains (brown rice, millet), dairy products (blue cheese, camembert, cheddar, milk), and legumes (lentils, beans). Vitamin B12 is only found in animal products so vegans and vegetarians should be taking a supplement.
- VITAMIN C: Vitamin C is important for collagen to be produced in your body and healthy hair needs collagen. You can find vitamin C in peppers, broccoli, citrus (oranges, lemons, limes), tomatoes, guava, kiwi, berries, and sprouts.
- VITAMIN D: While it’s not yet known what role vitamin D has in relation to hair growth, alopecia (hair loss) has been linked to deficiencies of vitamin D. It’s important to include it in your diet for preventative purposes. Your body produces Vitamin D when it comes into contact with the sun, but it can also be found in food such as mushrooms, cod liver oil, fatty fish (tuna, salmon, mackerel), cheese and eggs.
- VITAMIN E: Studies have determined a link between Vitamin E and a boost in hair growth. Vitamin E is found in nuts (almonds, pine nuts, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, peanuts), vegetable oils (flaxseed, sunflower, corn, soybean, wheat germ), dark green veggies (broccoli, spinach), salmon, avocado, sweet red pepper, kiwi, mango and turnips (raw).
- OTHER MINERALS: Protein, Iron, Silica (found in horsetail herb) and Zinc are linked to hair growth as well.
There are numerous benefits to eating a fully raw or vegan diet. One main benefit includes obtaining a higher dose of these essential vitamins through your food when compared to the typical processed diet most people are used to eating. I encourage you to try it out if you’re willing, but you don’t have to go that extreme to see results.
Start by increasing the number of fresh fruits and vegetables in your meals. Raw is usually the best since cooking veggies can remove some minerals and vitamins. Try to eat clean when you eat out. As tempting as it is to get a side of French fries, opt for a side salad instead.
Juicing is another great way to take in a large number of raw fruits and veggies. This option is a bit of an investment since juicers are pricey and lots of produce is needed to fill one glass of juice- a lot of pulp will be wasted (unless you compost). If you choose to go this route, I recommend buying a slow masticating juicer (also known as cold press juicers). These juicers process the food much slower, extracting the maximum amount of liquid (especially in dark leafy greens). Centrifugal juicers process the food much faster, leaving a lot of moisture in the remaining pulp. Also, the blade generates heat which oxidizes the juice.
These vitamins are available in supplement form as well. Make sure you talk to your doctor before choosing a supplement you think is right for you, especially if you’re already taking other medications or prenatal supplements.
2. Stimulate your scalp
A great way to increase the blood flow to your hair follicles is by stimulating your scalp. Gentle finger massages or “brushing” your scalp with a dreadlock pick for 5 to 10 minutes every day will encourage hair growth and stronger hair follicles.
3. Nurture your hair
Dryness over long periods of time will cause your hair to become weak and brittle. Many people have experienced thinning dreads and in extreme cases, they can break off. Check out this blog to get my favorite moisturizing recipe and learn the best practices to nourish your hair.
Excessive maintenance can also hinder the growth process. Allow your dreads the time they need to take their shape. Force tightening them constantly, especially at the roots, can cause permanent hair loss. Give your hair and scalp a break between re-twists. The consensus here is to wait about 6 weeks. Also, don’t tighten your hair too much when you style it. Constant tugging and pulling can weaken your roots. As your dreads get longer, they’ll get heavier so you want to be doing whatever you can to maximize your hair’s strength in preparation for longer hair.
4. Relax and sleep
You need a minimum of 7 hours of sleep each night to allow your body the chance to repair itself. (It would be ideal if you could get 9 hours of sleep, but ‘ain’t nobody got time for that’ in this day and age!)
Stress, as mentioned earlier, can slow down your hair growth dramatically or cause it to stop growing altogether. Take some time to take care of yourself and reduce your stress through exercise or calming breathing practices.
I hope these tips help and encourage you wherever you are in your journey. Don’t be upset if your locs aren’t as long as you want them to be yet.
The beauty of having dreads is learning to enjoy every step of the process, even if they’re messy.
Isn’t it a great reminder of how we should live our lives? Day by day. 🙂