10 Different Ways to Start Dreads

How to Dread Hair

There are several ways in which you can start your locs- each of them has pros and cons so we’ll talk about those and you can determine which method will work best for you.

One main misconception about locs is that only certain hair types will dread. That is false.

Can you dread any type of hair?

How to Dread Hair

Yes! Contrary to popular belief, all hair types are dreadlock-friendly. 

Dreadlocks are nothing more than strands of knotted hair. There is no science or technicality behind them. 

Untouched and unmanipulated hair will naturally dread on its own. Don’t believe me? Try not brushing your hair for a week and tell me how many knots you’re able to form in such a short amount of time.

The varying factor for mature dreadlocks is hair texture. All hair textures knot at different speeds so the process and timeline will not be the same for everybody. When it comes to dreads, your set will be 100% unique. In fact, even your own locs will be somewhat different from each other. While you shouldn’t expect them to be perfect or all the same, I’m positive that you will love them regardless because they’re yours.

10 ways to start dreads

Different methods of dreading hair 

1. Freeform

This dreadlocking method is also known as the natural or neglect method. With freeform locs, you basically wash your hair and leave it alone. Many people prefer to go the freeform route because they believe it to be the most authentic way to start them. 

PROS

  • It’s free! 
  • It doesn’t take much effort to maintain. Your only priority is to keep your hair clean by shampooing it once a week.

CONS:

  • It takes much longer for dreads to form. In straight hair, it might take a minimum of a year for the locs to start to come together. 
  • The beginning stages (which could last for up to two years) will look very messy and unprofessional.
  • You will not be able to control the shape or size of your locs as you would with other methods. You are more than likely to have uneven dreads and possibly some flat ones.

BEST FOR

  • Freeform locs work well for all types of hair.
  • This method works well for those who don’t mind having extremely messy hair for more than a year.
  • Freeform locs are perfect for those who are happy with varying part-sizes and loc thicknesses.

2. Twist and Rip

The twist and rip method is when you take a section of hair, twist it a couple of times, then separate the tips and pull them apart. You have to pull the ends far enough so that a knot forms a knot close to the scalp. Repeat the process until the entire strand is knotted completely.

PROS

  • This method is easy if you’re making your own dreads. T&R doesn’t require the use of any tools (other than your hands) and you can get friends to help you do the parts that are difficult to reach.
  • You have full control over the sectioning of your hair. 
  • T&R doesn’t cause too much damage to your hair (when compared to most other methods). 
  • Not much length is lost during the installation process. The locs will shrink over the next three to twelve months.

CONS:

  • Those with short hair may have locs that loosen up quickly because the installation process doesn’t give you knots that are too firm or tight. The less hair you have, the easier that it is for it to unravel.
  • Starting your locs with the twist & rip method will give you a frizzy and messy look for a long time. You can try to palm roll to tame the frizz but it’s going to look wild for some time.
  • The process to start your locs with T&R can be very time consuming and painful on your scalp. 

BEST FOR

  • This method works best for those who have long, straight, and thin hair. Oftentimes, White, Hispanic, and Asians use this method because it works really well with their hair texture.
  • Medium sections are ideal for T&R. With very small or very large sections it might be difficult for the hair to hold the knots.

3. Backcomb

The backcombing method is when you take a strand of hair and a comb and brush the hair backward towards the scalp (starting as close to the root as possible). As the knots start to form, continue forming them until you reach the end of the hair. It the end, palm roll the dreads to give them a round shape and tame some of the frizz.

PROS

  • Like T&R, it’s easy to make your own dreads using the backcombing method. You will need someone’s help for the sections in the back.
  • The backcombing method holds the lock well for those who have short hair.
  • You have complete control over the size of the dreads and can make them as big or little as you want. Your parts at the scalp should reflect the size of the dread that you want once they’re mature. 

CONS:

  • This method is very time consuming and can leave you with a sore scalp because of all the constant hair-pulling. 
  • Sleeping on newly-formed backcombed dreads will be uncomfortable for the first few days, especially if your scalp hurts.
  • Backcombed locs turn out stiff and will poke in any direction they choose. They may look crazy for the first few months until the hair starts to settle into shape.
  • This method gives you locs that may feel itchy, like velcro.
  • With the backcombing method, you may notice more initial shrinkage than the other methods.
  • Like T&R, backcombing will cause a lot of frizz and will look messy. Just remember this is only a starting method and they will look very different when they’re fully mature. 

BEST FOR

  • This method works well for those with straight and wavy hair who want small to medium-sized dreads.
  • A metal comb is recommended for backcombing locs, however plastic combs should work too if you’re gentle enough.

4. Crochet

The crocheting method is when the hair is sectioned and then a crochet needle is used to form knots around the locs. Sectioned medium to large pieces of hair. Pass the crochet needle in and out of the locs. 

PROS

  • This method gives you the appearance of dreadlocks instantly.
  • Your locs may shrink a little less if you started them this way.
  • Maintaining your dreads with a crochet hook helps to tame the frizz and incorporate hair that has unraveled. 
  • If you want blunt tips, it’s possible to do so with a crochet needle. 

CONS:

  • The process of crocheting your hair is very time-consuming. I got my locs started this way- the installation took more than 8 hours and the maintenance took more than 5 hours. 
  • If you’re getting them installed by a loctician, it can become very expensive because many professionals charge by the hour.
  • Crocheting can damage the hair if it’s not done carefully. Breaking the hair will cause the loc to become weak as it matures. 
  • The initial process can cause a lot of hair to be pulled off from your scalp, which can lead to irritation and other scalp conditions.
  • Crocheting your hair is very painful so it’s not the best option for those with sensitive scalps. 

BEST FOR

  • This method works well for those who want the appearance of dreads instantly.
  • It’s best to part the hair in medium to large pieces. It doesn’t work as well with smaller parts.

5. Dread Perm

The beginning of the process starts with coils being wrapped around sectioned strands of hair. A chemical relaxer is then applied. This will break down the bonds of the hair. After the relaxer has worked its way throughout the hair, it will be rinsed out and then neutralized.  

PROS

  • It promotes tighter locks in silky hair.
  • It will give you a very polished, neat, and professional look instantly.
  • Those who have started their loc journey this way seem to be very happy with the way their hair turned out.
  • This method allows you to control the parting and sizing of your locs.

CONS:

  • Dread perms are very expensive.
  • It’s one of the least natural ways to start your dreads.
  • Applying chemicals can be damaging to your hair.  
  • It has to be done professionally but it’s difficult to find someone who is able to do it. The Hair Police in Minneapolis, Minnesota is the one who originated this method. 

BEST FOR

  • This method works well for coarse hair types who want to smooth out their hair texture. 
  • This method is ideal for those whose hair is difficult to knot on its own, such as silky and soft hair textures.
  • It’s better if the hair length you start with is longer than 8 inches.

6. Sisterlocks / Brotherlocks

Sisterlocks and brotherlocks are miniature locs that are interwoven together with the difference that sisterlocks are usually a little smaller than brotherlocks. 

These types of locs are sectioned on a grid system in the scalp.  

PROS

  • Maintenance can be done every other month. In fact, you should wait a while to get them professionally maintained because the roots become a little more fragile than other methods. 
  • It’s a style that is less time consuming to care for than other hairstyles. 
  • These locs are miniature, so if you want 200 plus dreads, this is the method for you.
  • Moisturizing sisterlocks and brother locks is easy because the sections in your scalp are so small. 

CONS:

  • It has to be done professionally and will be very time-consuming.
  • It’s common for those with sister locks to lose several locs during their journey because the is a lot less hair attached to the root. 
  • Thinning and balding is likely if the locs are styled too tight.

BEST FOR

  • This method works well for coarse afro hair types only.
  • You can start sister locks with hair as short as 2 to 3 inches. 

7. Two and Three-Strand Twists

This dreadlocking method is also known as double and triple-strand twists.

The way you make these locs is by taking two strands of hair and twisting them together. Basically you would layer one on top of the other, over and over again. 

PROS

  • With this method, you can make the size of the locs as big or as little as you want.
  • If you choose to start your locs with strand twists, your hair can be as short as 3 inches.
  • The two and three-strand twists are a beautiful style on their own, so the awkward dreadlock stages are not as obvious as they are with other dreading methods. 
  • This method causes the dreads to mature in a smooth pattern, leaving you with even ‘adult’ locs in the long run.
  • Once the dread becomes mature, you don’t need to cut off the ends. 

CONS:

  • This method does not hold well for a long period of time. Frequent maintenance may be necessary so that they don’t come apart as the dreads are beginning to form. At the same time, maintenance that is too frequent can cause loss of hair and other scalp problems. You have to find a happy medium where your scalp doesn’t feel overly tense yet holds the twist. 

BEST FOR

  • This method works best for those who have natural afro hair because thin and straight hair won’t hold the twist at all.
  • The best way to maintain dreads that were formed using strand twists is by rubbing the loose hairs at the scalp in a clockwise motion.

8. Comb Coils

This method requires you to twirl small pieces of hair into coils with a comb. For maintenance, you should always twist them in the same direction and over time they will form into locs. 

PROS

  • This method allows you to section your scalp evenly and part your hair to your desired dreadlock size. 
  • With comb coils, you can make very thin dreads but you have to be gentle with your hair so that there isn’t too much tension on your scalp.

CONS:

  • This method is very time consuming and may leave you with a sore scalp due to the constant hair-pulling.  
  • You will need someone to help you do it because it would be nearly impossible to reach the back of your head if you were doing it on your own. 

BEST FOR

  • This method works best on afro and coarse hair.

9. Braids

Braids are usually made by attaching extensions over the natural hair. If you leave the box braids un-manipulated, they will eventually turn into dreadlocks. 

PROS

  • This is a great way to start the loc journey without experiencing too much of the messy and frizzy stages- especially not during the beginning. 

CONS:

  • The locs might not turn out completely smooth. The braid pattern may take a little longer to disappear than if you started your locs using other methods. 
  • The dread will start to form out of the new growth, so any hair that remains under the braid may have to be cut off. Once your hair grows out significantly, you will have to cut off the braid extensions, which will give you shorter locs instantly.

BEST FOR

  • This method works well for afro and coarse hair.

10. Faux Locs

Dread extensions are the ideal way to go for those who want to rock the temporary dreadlock style without waiting months or years for them to mature. 

PROS

  • They’re temporary. 
  • They look neat as soon as they’re installed. You won’t have to wait through the maturing process until they look good.
  • They can be attached to pre-existing dreads to gain length instantly.
  • You can get extensions made from real hair, synthetic materials, and even yarn.

CONS:

  • They have to be maintained a bit differently than regular dreadlocks. 
  • They’re very expensive. 

BEST FOR

  • This method works well for all hair types, including those with short hair.

Bonus: Popular maintenance methods  

How to Dread Hair

1. Interlocking

Interlocking is commonly used by loctitians once they have finished forming a dread (regardless of the method they used to start them). 

This method requires you to pass the complete dread through the root, thereby creating a ‘knot,’ so to speak, at the scalp. This will hold and tightly secure the dread at the top of the scalp. There’s a technique you need to learn in order to do it right, but once you get it down, you’re good to go! 

Interlocking is also known as latching when a crochet needle with a latch hook is used to pull the loc through the root.

PROS

  • Interlocking is a good way to hold the lock together and in place, especially if you want to keep your sections neat. 
  • Interlocking is commonly used during maintenance and typically helps to incorporate loose hairs that have previously unraveled. 

CONS:

  • Incorrect interlocking can cause holes throughout your locs, thinning, and in extreme cases balding. 
  • Frequent interlocking will cause damage to your scalp and dreads, as well as scalp soreness and irritation. It’s recommended that you wait a minimum of two to three months before interlocking again. 

BEST FOR

  • This method works well for any hair type.
  • Learn how to do it right so that you avoid putting too much tension on your scalp and possibly causing holes in your locs.

2. Palm Rolling

Palm rolling is not a dreading method per se but is a technique used for maintaining dreads during the phases before they reach maturity.

PROS

  • Palm rolling helps to keep the dreads from unraveling and maintains their round shape. If you’re experiencing a lot of loops (which is absolutely normal and expected), you can gently palm roll those spots to knot those hairs into the loc.
  • It encourages new growth at the root to dread.
  • You can palm roll your locs every other day if you want. 

CONS:

  • Palm rolling should be gentle. If it’s done in a way that puts a lot of tension on your scalp, you’re doing it wrong and you could be causing damage to your hairline and possible future baldness. 

BEST FOR

  • Palm rolling works well for anyone who has gotten their dreads installed, by T&R, crochet, backcombing, coils, etc. 
  • It won’t work as well on freeform locs, especially during the first year when the hair hasn’t separated itself into sections yet.

The five stages of dreadlock maturity

How to Dread Hair

No matter which method you use to start your dreads, they will all go through the same stages of maturity. The main difference with respect to hair types is the time it takes them to mature completely- this can range from as little as 1 year in kinky, curly, or coarse hair to 3 years in straight, silky, or wavy hair. I’ll explain these stages briefly.

STAGE 1 – The baby phase

The baby stage, also known as the starter stage, is the period of time when you first start your dreads. If you got your hair locked professionally, your hair will be parted evenly. For the first few months, the parts will be obvious. You should take advantage of this stage This stage lasts a minimum of three months with many hair types but can last up to nine months or more. The hair is much more fragile. Re-twisting should be limited to once every 6 to 8 weeks.

STAGE 2 – The budding phase

Once the baby stage is over, you’ll notice a lot of interesting and exciting changes. The hair will start to knot in parts- it will be thicker in some places, and loose in others. Some locs will puff up and others won’t. Some will look perfect while others will look weird and oddly shaped. The new growth near the roots will look messy. Perhaps you will experience a lot of frizz all over. This, unfortunately, is not something that you can control. It’s an uncomfortable (and ugly) stage for everybody, so remember that you’re not alone. This is the beginning of what is known as the budding stage. My advice is to be consistent in moisturizing and separating your locs. Let them be and don’t mess with them too much.

STAGE 3 – The teen phase

As the name suggests, the teen stage is going to be the wild stage of your locs. During this time you can expect them to be a bit rebellious and messy. They might be difficult, or even downright impossible, to contain but this process will only last a few months and then it’ll be over for good. One of the best ways to tame them is with headbands, scarves, and occasionally ponytails (not too tight). Hair will be going in all directions. They cannot be controlled.

STAGE 4 – The mature phase

Many hair types will reach the mature phase during their 12th or 18th month.  During this phase, you’ll notice that your locs are tamer than ever before. They will be thicker and feel stronger than the initial stages where the hairs may have been unraveling or loosening up. Hair looks like dreadlocks. There is no risk that the locs will untangle.

STAGE 5 – The adult phase

Hair will show signs (positive or negative) consequences. Too much stress on the roots will show side-effects in the form of thinning, breakage, etc. This won’t happen right away but you’ll see it months into your loc journey. Same goes for healthy hair. Locs that have been well taken care of will show signs of strength, shine, etc. Your health is important and can improve your hair quality, growth, and shine. Check out which foods you should be eating for strong and healthy locs.


You might also be wondering…

What is the best product for locking hair?

Clean hair knots well…dirty hair doesn’t. No matter what myth you heard out there or what your hair texture is, your hair HAS TO be clean in order for it to lock up.

Think about it this way. You want to use anything that will help to keep your hair clean and moisturized, such as shampoos and natural vegetable and essential oils. Anything that coats your hair to make it silky, shiny, sticky, or soft is a big no-no. Conditioners, leave-in hair treatments, and waxes are on the no-no list. 

With that in mind, there are three main products I recommend that anyone with dreads should use.

1. A good shampoo

Residue-free shampoos will remove any dirt that has accumulated from the environment without leaving a soapy film behind. Most shampoos that contain sulfates and other chemicals leave behind a residue film that will eventually build up in your hair. It’s nearly impossible to remove it. Once in a while (about once or twice a month) I will use a clarifying shampoo that does an even deeper cleaning of the hair. I don’t use clarifying shampoos too often because it can be harsh for your scalp if used in excess. It almost works too well. My favorite residue-free shampoo is Trader Joe’s Tea Tree Shampoo. I like to add a few extra drops of essential oils to it so my scalp can absorb extra beneficial properties.

2. A daily moisturizing spray

Your loc journey is one of time, patience, and TLC. What I mean by TLC is that you have to give your hair the Tender Love and Care it needs in order to stay and grow healthy. Spraying your hair daily with a blend of distilled water and a few drops of essential oils will boost your hair’s health dramatically. It’s refreshing and you will instantly see improvements in your hair’s softness and flexibility. A lack of moisture will cause breakage and thinning locs in the long run, so make sure to nourish them before it’s beyond repair. Also drinking a lot of water will help your hair grow faster and stronger. 

3. A silk or satin cap

Sleeping with a silk cap has made a huge difference in the appearance of my locs. We move around a lot in our sleep. Keeping your hair contained in a silk cap does a couple of things. First, it helps to maintain the round shape of the dreads while preventing breakage and thinning. Second, it prevents any lint from attaching to the locs while you sleep. If a silk cap is uncomfortable or embarrassing for you, use a silk pillowcase instead. 


I hope you found this post helpful!

Which method of dreading do you like the most? If you already have dreads, which method did you use to start them and how long have you had them? Leave me your feedback in the comments. 🙂

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6 comments

  1. I have been researching dreadlocks extensively for the last few weeks, and I am so glad I FINALLY came across this post! This was everything I needed to know, all it one neat and tidy post! Thank you so much for sharing this, you’ve answered many of my questions and given me many solutions.

  2. Hi, I’m 15 and just starting two stand twist locs. There’s a lot of speculation about if my hair stylist is going about it right because she says I can’t wash my hair for three weeks and then I should come back and get a wash and re-twist. I’m about at week 2 and my scalp is itchy with a lot of dandruff, and to be honest I’m on the edge about the whole journey anyway. Just interested in knowing your take and what YOU think I should invest in or change.

    1. Hi Drew!

      Three weeks between washes sounds like too much time, in my opinion. If your loctician is worried that your twists will become undone, you can protect them by covering your hair with a stocking cap (a stretched pantyhose will work perfectly!) and wash as you normally would, just with the cap/sock on. This prevents the twists from potentially unraveling while allowing the soap to reach your scalp. Since your hair needs to be clean to dread properly, I highly recommend washing once every 7 days.

      For itchiness, I recommend using a spray with pure aloe vera. I prefer to make my own! (Here’s my recipe: https://dreadlockulture.com/aloe-vera-for-scalp/) Products that can be bought commercially may have ingredients that contribute to buildup, which can make your itchiness even worse.

      Let me know if you have any other questions! 🙂
      Nadia

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