How to Moisturize Your Scalp With Dreads

How to Moisturize Your Scalp With Dreads
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One of the first things I experienced when I got dreads was learning how to deal with an itchy scalp.

Oh. My. Goodness. 

For months my scalp was sore, inflamed and covered in red spots. I was constantly distracted by the itchiness and vigorously scratched certain “hot spots” until they turned into abrasions.

Can you relate?

Back when I had straight hair, I used to wash my hair every day and brush it multiple times a day. I went from that to washing it once a week and never brushing it (duh). I guess my scalp didn’t know how to deal with these drastic changes. 

I quickly realized the importance of keeping my scalp and dreads moisturized and after searching for natural remedies, I was surprised by how many other people were in the same boat as me. 

I learned a lot and found several solutions that are very effective! 

In order for our scalp and locs to stay healthy, they need to have plenty of moisture (water) and elasticity. But how do you know if your locs are not hydrated enough?

These are the signs your scalp and locs need to be moisturized

Around my first week of having locs, my scalp started begging me for a moisturizing treatment but I didn’t understand my body enough to give it what it needed. Maybe your body has been sending you some signals too. Are you experiencing any of the following common symptoms?

1. Your scalp is itchy (and possibly inflamed)

I’m almost certain that every person with dreads has experienced an itchy scalp at some point or another in their dreadlock journey. I had an idea that it was something to be expected as the hair and scalp becomes adjusted to a new routine. It’s not normal, however, for your head to itch uncontrollably for weeks or months. Itchiness is a not-so-subtle reminder that we need to hydrate our bodies a lot more. 

2. You have a significant amount of dandruff

A flaky scalp is another hint that your skin is becoming too dry.

3. Your hair is lacking luster

If your hair is dull or losing its sheen, it’s an indication that you’re losing vital nutrients and natural oils in your hair.

4. Your dreads are loosening up or thinning out

Dreadlocks that are not moisturized will become brittle and can break easily. Imagine what a plant looks like if you haven’t given it water for several days or weeks. They will start to wither and die if they’re not given water. Dreadlocks are somewhat the same. If you don’t moisturize your locs often, they may start to get weak.

5. It’s winter!

Depending on where you live, the climate can have a huge impact on your dreads. Your hair regimen may need to be changed to reflect the climate you’re in. In the winter months, your hair may require extra moisture since the weather is typically much drier than it is in the summer.

How to Moisturize Scalp With Dreads

12 Simple ways to moisturize your scalp (and dreads)

…yes, you have to nurture both.

1. Drink more water!

The single most important thing that has helped reduce the itchiness was to drink more water! I hate water…I’m the last person to willfully drink it but hydrating your body will in turn hydrate your skin. Even if you drink a couple of extra glasses of water a day, you will certainly feel the difference. [Tip: Drinking water through a straw is much easier.] 

2. Maintain a good diet

You are what you eat, they say. Eat foods that provide you with nutrients that promote healthy hair, such as spinach, nuts, seeds, fish, eggs, lentils, and sweet potatoes. Taking supplements (like vitamins, fish oil, and flaxseed oil) can also help but consult with your doctor first about which supplements and doses are right for you.

3. Wash your hair once a week

Keeping your hair and scalp free from excess oils, dirt, dandruff, and buildup is key to maintaining a healthy scalp. Use a clarifying or residue-free shampoo only. Every other week, rinse your scalp with an Apple Cider Vinegar rinse (2 tablespoons ACV diluted in 8 oz of water). ACV helps to neutralize the pH in your scalp and reduces itchiness. Whenever possible, rinse your hair with cold water. Make sure your hair completely dries out after every wash.

4. Don’t use a shower cap when you shower

On the days that you’re not washing your hair, put your dreads in a bun and allow the shower mist to sprinkle your locs. If they accidentally soak up too much water, make sure they’re fully dry by the time you go to sleep.

5. Make a moisturizing spritzer and use it every day

I usually spray my dreads once a day, but occasionally twice. How often you spray them should depend on how dry your locs are but don’t go crazy with it either. There are a lot of moisturizing spray options online, but it’s always more fun to make your own (plus, you know what ingredients are going in it!) A simple moisturizer can be made from mixing distilled water and essential oils. Check out the best essential oils for dreads here.

6. Make a soothing scalp gel for the itchy spots

Aloe vera is one of the best things you can apply to an itchy dry scalp. Aloe vera is made up of 80% water and it’s a great way to rehydrate your hair at the root. I recommend you make your own gel by mixing 100% aloe vera (make sure there are no additives), distilled water and essential oils. Read about the benefits of using aloe vera in your dreads and try my favorite gel recipe here.

7. Cover your head when going to sleep

Our bedsheets and pillowcase absorb the natural moisture present in our scalp. Also, the friction between our head and sheets throughout the night can cause breakage and lint to become stuck in the locs. Protect your hair by covering it with a satin headscarf and/or by using a satin pillowcase. [Tip: Apply a few drops of jojoba oil to your scalp before bedtime and then wrap your hair or put it in a bonnet.]

8. Cover your head when you’re outside for too long

We know that the sun and air/wind causes water to evaporate. If you’re planning a trip to the mountains or beach, make sure to keep your head covered so the elements are not depleting your scalp of its moisture. [Tip: Use a headscarf or hat if you’re going to be in the sun right after getting your dreads re-twisted. All the exposed skin on your head can get sunburned easily which is not only very painful but will also cause dandruff when it starts healing.]

9. Add oil to your scalp

When we apply oil to our scalp, it seals in the moisture that is already present. Water is what keeps your scalp hydrated, while the oil helps to retain the water. Coconut oil, olive oil, and avocado oil are moisturizing oils, which means that they are more effective when mixed with a little bit of water first and then applied to the scalp. Sealing oils, like grapeseed oil, jojoba oil, and Jamaican Black castor oil are lightweight oils that help seal the hair’s natural moisture. Whichever oil you prefer to use, make sure it’s only a few drops. Too much oil can lead to build-up. [On occasion, you can make a deep conditioning treatment by warming up a little bit of coconut oil or olive oil and massaging your scalp with it for a couple of minutes. Cover your head with a warm towel for one hour and then wash it off.] Read my complete guide on the best scalp oils and how to use them properly.

10. Quit coloring your hair

Using chemical dyes strip the hair of its natural oils and moisture.

11. Stop using salt and baking soda in your locs

Everyone looks forward to reaching the mature dreadlock stage but it really comes at a price: patience and time. If your hair is very dry, avoid drying it out more with any locking sprays that contain salt. It’s better to have healthy hair and allow it to dread properly, than ruining it in the early stages by trying to accelerate the locking process. Also, avoid mixing baking soda into your shampoo. Baking soda is too harsh for your scalp when used excessively. It’s okay for deep cleanses only (about once every six months). [Tip: Anytime you use salt or baking soda, follow up with an ACV rinse to neutralize the pH in your scalp, as mentioned in step # 3.]

12. Take care of yourself

Stress, anxiety, and other emotions can wreak havoc on our physical well-being. Releasing this tension in a healthy way, whether through exercise, music or meditation, can help restore our body’s chemical balance. Studies have found that meditation helps clear up psoriasis, eczema, and itchiness of the skin.

How often should you be moisturizing your locs?

Even though dreadlocks are a fairly low maintenance hairstyle, it doesn’t mean they should be neglected completely. You should be moisturizing them every day, although not excessively. I wrote a blog about my maintenance routine to give you an idea of how I take care of my locs every day, week, month, and so on. You can check out my maintenance guide here

You might also be wondering…

Can coconut oil be used on dreads?

Yes, you can use coconut oil in your hair. Many people with dreads rave about the benefits of using it in their locs. Coconut oil is very moisturizing and nourishing for your hair.

I don’t like putting it in my hair (I’ll explain why in a minute) but I won’t discourage you from using it entirely. Because of differing hair types, some people might love the benefits of coconut oil in their dreads versus others (like myself) who don’t.

Speaking from personal experience, I never had a positive result when using coconut oil in my hair- even before I got dreads. Even though the benefits can be amazing, it’s not worth it in my opinion. I will explain this from the perspective of someone with very thin hair.

1. Before I had dreads, I tried giving my hair a coconut oil treatment. Even though I used a “pea-size” for my entire head, it made my scalp so greasy that my roots looked wet all day. I could only stand to have my hair look this awful for a day and when I woke up the following morning, my hair looked worse than the day before. The oil doesn’t evaporate or fully absorb as some people claim. Thankfully I learned this lesson BEFORE I even considered getting dreads.

2. Everything sticks to coconut oil. Dirt, lint…you name it! Try using coconut oil as a lotion on your legs and go jogging on a dirt path. Everything is going to attract itself to your legs. Now imagine this on your scalp. No, thank you!

3. Another downside is that coconut oil has a potent smell, whether it’s fresh or rancid. Coconut expires and if you’re only washing your scalp once a week, your coconutty scalp might start smelling rancid at some point. Avoid putting potentially yucky-smelling things on your head!  

4. Coconut oil is heavy. While it might maintain the moisturize in your scalp temporarily, it might weigh down your hair. 

Now if you must use coconut oil (there’s no harm in trying it), I recommend you get Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil and if possible, dilute it in a moisturizing spray so that you’re getting just a little bit of it. Too much oil on your dreads can lead to unwanted build-up.

As an alternative to coconut oil, I prefer to use Jojoba Oil or Grapeseed Oil. These oils are much lighter and they absorb into the skin better. If you’re interested, this is my guide on the best oils for your skin.

Like any product though, use them in moderation!

I hope these tips help you restore any dry hair back into beautiful, elastic, and shiny locs. If you practice the steps outlined above, you’ll start to feel and see the amazing results in no time! 

What has been your experience moisturizing your locs and what method has worked best for you? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

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  1. So glad I found this! I have been struggling with dandruff, so I finally shaved off most of my locs. Now I’m trying to learn to deal with all of my skin issues before I install another set. This gives me a great place to start. Thank you!

    1. You’re welcome CoCo! 🙂 I’m sorry you had to shave some of your locs though 🙁 Hopefully you won’t have to wait too long before installing the next set. Dandruff is awful but there are several natural remedies that can make a significant difference. My dandruff and itchiness improved a lot once I started using aloe vera gel with essential oils.

  2. Thank you so much for this! My scalp is finally calming down 🙂

    It seems everyone on the net encourages the use of salt water or hard soap to speed up the dreading process. Really glad I stumbled upon your blog in time – My locks are loving their daily spray and the non-dreaded hair does, too!

  3. thank you so much for this. My son’s celebrating his 7th year with locks, he’s 13 and so his image is everything to him… this year he is suffering a lot with an itchy scalp, theres lots here for us to try. have a great day

  4. Thank you! This helped a lot. I started my loc journey 3/12/21 and lately my scalp has been itching uncontrollably- To the point where I was ready to cut these out! This is the best article Ive read about Locs since starting my journey and Im grateful I came across it. The part that stuck out the most was your comparison with Locs and plants. Ive also been on a journey of nurturing plants- a hobby I started during the pandemic. Ultimately this article helped me realize that my scalp is so dry and my Locs have been looking so lifeless lately because I haven’t been taking care of myself as a whole as I should. Thank you for this.

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