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 thickness 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 hair 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 measuring your parts 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 will give you an approximate idea of the ratio between the number of a full head of dreaded hair to the thickness they may achieve in their matured state.
- UNDER 20 DREADS: Anything under 20 locs in a full head of hair is a bad idea because you’re 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 40 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.
- 46 TO 60 DREADS: This amount will give you medium-thin dreads, 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 an acceptable amount of dreads for those with thin hair, 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 60, 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 dread 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!