Let’s begin by clarifying that there’s no such thing as the perfect amount of dreadlocks.
There is no set amount that will give you the best dreads like the ones you pinned on Pinterest. Every head of hair is unique in the same way that art is unique. Be confident that your dreads will look amazing if you do your part to take good care of them.
With that said, I think that before jumping into the dreadlock journey most people already have an idea of what they want their hair to look like. And since it’s a long-term commitment, I think it’s smart to plan it out. It beats having to brush out your locs and starting all over!
At the same time though, I don’t think you should set your heart on a specific number.
With your preferred dreadlock-look in mind, ask yourself three questions:
1. What kind of hair do you have?
Hair density and the texture of your hair play a major role in determining how many dreads you could end up with.
People who have coarse and thick hair can have up to 200 dreads without a problem. Someone with thin hair like me, on the other hand, will end up with much less. Coarse hair not only gives you thicker locs in the mature stage but also provides a stronger root for the rest of the hair to hold onto.
If you have thin hair and want super thin dreads, you’re at a higher risk of losing locs if there’s not enough hair holding it at the root. Not only do we lose approximately 100 hairs a day, but also an occasional tug or pull of the dreads can cause more hairs to fall out.
2. Do you want a full set of locs?
I love the partial dreads style where half of the hair is dreaded and the other half is loose. I wish I could pull it off without the loose hairs becoming tangled within the existing dreads. It looks amazing for those who do it, though!
Another cool style I’ve seen is where the top part of the hair is dreaded and the sides are shaved. In both of these cases, you’ll have half the amount of dreads as you would normally (obviously) but it’s a good option if you’re not ready to commit to a full head of dreads.
3. How thick do you want your dreads to be?
How you section your head at the root is WAY more important than overthinking the number of dreads you have or want to have. A good way to figure out the thickness that you want your mature dreads to be is by the section size at the scalp. The size of the part will give you a slightly smaller dreadlock. If you want pen or marker-thin locs, part your hair so that your roots reflect a similar thickness.
Over the course of your dread journey, you will experience your hair going through the motions of locking and the sizes will always be different. It’s nearly impossible for all the dreads to be the exact same thickness and length unless they’re synthetic extensions.
One quick tip: Section your hair in one-inch blocks in a brick lay pattern so they fall over each other nicely.
How many dreads do you need for a full head?
This is really dependent on you. The following list of dreadlock sizes will give you an approximate idea of the ratio between the number of a full head of dreaded hair to the thickness the locs may achieve in their matured state.
- UNDER 20 DREADS: Twenty or fewer locs in a full head of hair is a bad idea because you’ll end up with large locs which puts you at a much higher risk of developing mold. Dreads are like sponges. After a shower, it can take them up to 24 hours to dry completely. The thicker your dread is, the more water it will absorb when wet and the longer they will take to dry. Not to mention that you’re more prone to buildup and residue, especially if you’ve used a lot of product or wax in your hair.
- 20 TO 29 DREADS: They will be thick and may take a long time to dry out but if you’re careful you can manage it.
- 30 TO 45 DREADS: With this amount, you will have medium-thick dreads, about the thickness of a sharpie marker. To give you an example, I currently have 36 dreads. I have a lot of loose flyaways in between the dreads which help to cover the parts in my scalp but otherwise, it looks like a full head of hair with plenty of volume—it’s just a bit messy at the root. I feel like this might be the average number of dreadlocks for people with my hair type (type 1).
- 46 TO 60 DREADS: This amount will give you medium locs, about the thickness of a Number 2 pencil.
- 61 TO 80 DREADS: This amount will give you thin dreads if you have thin hair but somewhat thick dreads if you have thick hair.
- 81 TO 100 DREADS: This seems to be a good number of dreads for those who have thinner hair textures and want thinner locs, although I personally wouldn’t go much higher than 100. If you have thick hair, this amount of locs will give you medium-thin dreads.
- 101 TO 200 DREADS: There’s a huge discrepancy between someone who has around 101 dreads versus someone with 200 but generally speaking, you’ll end up with thin to very thin locs. This is an ideal amount for people with thick, coarse hair.
- 200+ DREADS: These locs will be micro-sized. More than 250 dreads are most likely sisterlocks and they will be extremely thin.
Why do my locs keep changing in numbers?
Dreadlocks are always changing!
You might start with 40, then a year later you might end up with 50, and months later count only 48. As the dreads mature, some baby dreads will grow out of loose undreaded flyaways and others will congo.
It’s fun to count them during different stages of your loc journey to see if you’ve had new ones grow in or some come together at the top. I love seeing how they evolve and morph in their own time. Dreads are constantly transforming- whether that’s in shape, size or numbers.
You will very possibly lose a lot of hair on your first dreadlock session as well as during routine maintenance sessions if you go any route other than the 100% neglect method.
I remember the day I got my dreads. [I don’t think anyone can forget their dread-installation day… the long hours of sitting in a chair and getting your hair ripped and pulled in all directions. It’s more painful than it sounds. They say fashion comes at a price, haha!] I lost SO much hair that day. I was honestly worried that it wouldn’t grow back in some places.
Over time thankfully, the new hair started growing and by the first year, I had nearly six inches of loose hair all over my head. Either through maintenance or neglect, these loose ends grow into a dreadlock or form their own loc in due time.
If you have more locs than you started with, this is the reason why. New locs that form with less hair will obviously be more skinny and less mature than the rest. This doesn’t bother most people but if it bothers you, you can crochet them into one of the mature locs closest to it.
Dreads have a mind of their own. That’s one of the things that makes them so much fun. Sometimes you just have to let them do what they want or they rebel anyway, haha.
When two (or more) of your dreads want to buddy up at the root, they will knot together and become one, also known as a congo.
If you count more tips than roots, it means you have some congo babies! Those make for some of the coolest dreads. If you don’t like them, you can either pull them apart (ouch!) or you can learn to appreciate them and keep up with maintenance to prevent any other locs from marrying each other without your consent. 😉
General maintenance (about once a month) will help keep your locs from congo-ing at the root, however constant maintenance can do more harm than good. If your roots are always being pulled or tugged on, you risk alopecia (or permanent hair loss).
It’s always easier, less painful, and less damaging to congo dreads if they seem to be too thin, rather than having to tear them apart because they’re too thick.
If you ask any dread head how many locs they have, the number will almost always be different. The average ranges between 40 and 75 but don’t get your heart set on a number.
I understand there are people who have great volume, neat locs, and long hair. I think it’s okay to have inspiration and goals to look forward to but know that your hair will take a style of its own. You will have funky locs living amongst the neat ones. Perfect locs are achieved when you take care of the health of your hair long before they reach their mature state. If you don’t know to care for them properly, check out this blog where I discuss a simple guide to my daily, monthly, and yearly routine. Dreads are a low maintenance hairstyle but neglecting them completely is not a good idea.
During the first year or two, don’t expect them to look amazing. The beginning stages are always messy until they become mature. Learn to love and enjoy them in whatever stage they’re in!
Frequently asked questions:
Can you just have a few dreadlocks?
Of course it is! You can have as few dreadlocks as you would like. The number and placement of dreadlocks can be personalized to suit an individual’s preference. Some people choose to have only one loc, whereas others prefer partial dreadlocks, rather than a full head of them. This can be achieved by leaving some sections of hair un-dreaded while having dreadlocks in other sections.
Do dreadlocks change in numbers over time?
Yes, in some cases the number of individual locs can change over time for a few reasons.
- Natural locs: Some of the new growth at the scalp won’t grow into the loc directly. If that hair is not regularly maintained, it can form its own skinny loc. I have a couple of these on my head.
- Congos: Some people may choose to combine their dreadlocks or merge them together to create fewer, thicker dreadlocks. Those who don’t separate their locs at the roots frequently, may come to find that the locs merged at the root and became one. While in some cases they can be separated, it will damage the hair and can hurt a lot.
- Loc removal: Some people, myself included, may look for a change of style and therefore brush out a few locs. In my case, I started with 40 and brushed out 4. Since locs can become really heavy once they’ve gotten long, some people choose to shave off the bottom section to relive some of the pressure on the neck.
- Loc extensions: Those who have started with a partial set of locs may eventually choose to dread their entire head or add extensions, thereby increasing the number of locs they have.
Do dreadlocks work for any type of hair?
Yes, absolutely! Dreadlocks can be created on all types of hair, but the process and final look will vary depending on the texture, length, and thickness of the hair.
Straight hair: People with straight hair may find it more difficult to form and maintain dreadlocks, as the hair does not naturally hold together in sections. In this case, the hair will need to be twisted, backcombed, and/or crocheted to form and maintain the dreadlocks.
Curly or kinky hair: People with naturally curly or kinky hair may find it easier to form and maintain dreadlocks, as the hair naturally coils and can hold together in sections. However, the texture of the hair can make it more prone to frizz and puffiness.
It’s important to keep in mind that the process of getting dreadlocks can be different for each person, as hair textures and types can vary greatly, and what works for one person may not work for another. In this article, we discuss the various methods of getting dreadlocks, and which works best for each hair type.
Why do dreads start off skinny?
Starter locs can be skinny for a few reasons:
- The hair is sectioned off into small parts: When creating dreadlocks, the hair is typically divided into small sections, which can make the dreadlocks appear thin when they are first formed. Their original size will morph and transform over time, but you should expect them to get a little thicker.
- The hair is not compacted enough: During the early stages, the dreads will appear thin until they mature and thicken up.
- The hair is fine or thin: People with thin or fine hair may find that their dreadlocks appear skinny when they are first formed, as the hair is not as dense as thicker hair.
- The hair is not mature: It takes time for dreadlocks to mature, and the process can take several months to a year or more, depending on the hair type and maintenance.
With proper maintenance, care and patience, dreadlocks will thicken up over time, and will become more defined as they mature.
How much hair should you have to start dreads?
The amount of hair needed to start dreadlocks depends on a few factors such as your hair texture, the current length of your hair, and the desired thickness and size of your locs.
Your natural hair should be a minimum of 6 inches long in order to hold the dreadlock in place.
As for the thickness of the locs, the rule of thumb is to section your scalp about the size of the dreads you would like to have in the future.
If you’re having a hard time deciding how much hair you need to start your locs, I recommend talking to a professional loctician.
Do locs get thicker over time?
Yes, with proper maintenance and care, dreadlocks should get thicker over time. As the hair continues to grow, the locs will become longer and thicker. This process can take several months to a year or more, depending on the hair type and maintenance.
However, it is important to note that not all hair types will experience the same thickening process. People with fine or thin hair may find that their locs do not thicken up as much as those with thicker hair.
Do locs damage hair?
Dreadlocks alone do not cause damage to your hair, however the process of creating and maintaining potentially can.
When the hair is first twisted or crocheted to form dreadlocks, it can result in some breakage, particularly if the hair is not in good condition or if the twisting process is too tight.
If the locs are maintained too often or if the hair is not healthy enough to support the locs, it may lead to hair loss and damage.
This article was originally published on March 7, 2019. It has since been improved and updated.