You may have noticed that dreadlocks require a completely different product-line than you were used to when you had loose hair.
I knew a lot of people with dreads long before I decided to dread my own hair. I remember hearing that “dreadlock shampoo” was a thing but I had no real insight into proper dread-care until I had to take care of my own.
I have been into natural health and wellness for a good part of my life so when I transitioned to dreadlocks, I immediately knew that certain products would be off my list.
I’m really shocked (and disappointed tbh) by the dishonesty I have seen in the dreadlock community. Not the community of dread-heads themselves but the companies out there that are misleading people by advertising their so-called “dreadlock-friendly” products which are anything but that.
If you don’t believe me, take a look at the list of ingredients of any product and then decide if you actually want those things lingering in your hair long-term.
Without bashing any one company in particular, I want to bring awareness to the fact that not all the products that are advertised for dreads are actually made to benefit our hairstyle. Sorry!
I understand that we live in a world where technology is advancing rapidly and even though grocery stores carry thousands of hair products there’s nothing suitable in there for us- I find that ironic too. But don’t be discouraged.
By the end of this article, you’ll have enough information to make wiser decisions when buying products for your hair and even the confidence to create your own products at home!
Why do you need to put natural products in your hair?
Let me re-word that question. Why are un-natural products unacceptable in your hair? Simply because they were never made to be there in the first place.
I believe nature has everything we need to live and thrive. Our bodies experience adverse reactions (even subtle ones) to chemically-made products.
The more I research the ingredients used in chemically-based products (such as hair products, lotions, baby oil, etc) the more shocked I am that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hasn’t banned them yet.
I wish the United States government would step in for the sake of our health, as the European Union did for their region, and ban these hazardous products. But unfortunately, there’s a huge demand and market for them. [End of rant.]
Unnatural products are chemically manufactured to mimic what nature provides for us. But if nature is still available to us, why don’t we go straight to the original thing? I’m in awe of the diverse healing properties of plants, roots, and herbs—many of which are available to us in the form of pure essential oils, teas, and herbal extracts.
Dreadlocks are not a 21st-century hairstyle. They have been around for ages. How do you think our loc’d ancestors survived without creams, waxes, and all the other junk people are putting in their hair nowadays? I’m willing to bet that they survived just fine and I’m sure you’ll be better off without all those things too.
I’ve heard plenty of false rumors about the products that people need to use in order for their hair to lock up. In reality, there are a lot of myths and many of them cause irreversible damage. If you’re curious, I’ve listed them here.
So to get back on topic, which products, or natural ingredients rather, should you be using in your dreads? Let’s get into it!
P.S. I recently launched a book where I feature 39 of my favorite all-natural dreadlock recipes. Check it out here!
Best products for starting dreads
I don’t recommend adding any products to your new dreads. In fact, before you dread your hair, it would be a good idea to wash it a few times with a clarifying shampoo (or residue-free shampoo) to get it as clean as possible.
I disagree with the use of wax one hundred percent. It’s counter-productive, a waste of money, and contains too many harmful ingredients in my opinion. Learn why I’m so opposed to it here.
Beautiful locs don’t require anything more than clean hair and time (in other words, lots of patience). No product whatsoever is needed.
One of the first things you will likely experience with new locs is an itchy scalp. As your head is adjusting to excess oil on the scalp and less frequent washing, there’s going to be natural oils building up on your scalp.
If you’re prone to dandruff, or you’re dehydrated, your scalp will be dry and in desperate need of something to moisturize it. The first few months will be the worst but you can remedy that by making an all-natural soothing scalp spray.
- ANTI-ITCH SPRAY:
You will need 100% pure aloe vera gel or organic aloe vera juice, distilled water, essential oils, and a blender. I recommend buying an aloe leaf because that’s the best way to make sure that your spray won’t contain any additives. Detailed instructions on how to make this spray can be found here.
If used excessively, aloe vera can soften the locks and knots, especially in younger dreads so make sure you’re only using it on the spots that itch the most. It’s amazing and provides many benefits for your hair.
Best products for maintaining dreads
When people think of dreadlocks, they immediately assume that it’s a hairstyle that can be neglected completely. All hairstyles require some sort of maintenance and locs are no exception.
The younger your dreads are, the more you have to care for them. It’ll get easier with time, but you have to put some effort if you want them to mature nicely. Check out this post to see my complete maintenance guide.
Since you’re washing your hair less frequently than usual, you’re prone to having dry locs that almost feel like velcro. Dry hair can cause breakage and thinning locs, which no one wants.
I recommend moisturizing your hair once or twice a day (morning and evening), depending on how dry they are. The basic recipe I make consists of mixing two cups of distilled water with a few drops of essential oils.
The times I have overly oily hair, I’ll add a tablespoon of witch hazel because it’s an astringent. In the summer months, I sometimes use chamomile tea in place of water, or a splash of lemon juice, to lighten my hair naturally. A few more moisturizing tips can be found here.
Your hair will only knot properly if it’s clean. Make sure to wash it once every seven to ten days. I recommend washing it in the morning because it takes them a very long time to dry thoroughly, plus air drying them is better than using a blow dryer. Having wet dreads for more than a day increases your risk of mildew.
Once a month, I like to condition my hair with an apple cider vinegar rinse after shampooing. ACV restores the scalp’s pH balance and dramatically reduces itchiness. ACV can loosen up the locs if it’s used too often, so that’s why I prefer to use it just once a month.
The vinegar is too strong to use on its own so I recommend diluting it in water: 8 ounces of water mixed with 2 tablespoons of ACV.
Your hair will naturally accumulate a lot of dirt from the environment. Twice a year I do a deep cleanse where I soak my locs for thirty minutes in a baking soda, ACV, and essential oil solution.
It’s amazing how clean they get! Just like ACV, a deep cleanse will loosen up your locs a bit, so unless your hair is really dirty, stick to your normal washing routine and only deep clean them two times a year.
Best wax substitute for dreads
Like I mentioned earlier, wax and twist gel are not your dreadlock buddies. Most dreadlock waxes are made with petroleum-byproducts or beeswax (typically disguised as mineral oil) or beeswax- all of which cause major product build-up, stickiness, and hinder the dreading process.
Neither of those are water-soluble, meaning that water will not wash them out, no matter what the labels say. It’s false advertisement. Don’t use them, period.
Not only will you have a very hard time trying to remove the wax, but you’ll actually be saving yourself from a lot of trouble (and money).
There are two things that can half-substitute wax, although neither of them is similar in terms of texture.
If your heart was set on using wax because you wanted your hair to lock up faster, I recommend using a loc-accelerator spray instead. Although too much salt can dry out your hair, it’s a million times better than using wax.
Wax adds weight to your locs, attracts lint, and coats the hair strands so that they will never have a chance to lock properly. You can find my favorite sea salt loc-accelerator recipe here. I guarantee you this is a much better substitute. You can thank me later.
- LOCKING GEL:
Commercial locking gels are on the no-no list because, like wax, they hold your hair in place rather than allow it to move freely to form a proper knot, which is exactly what dreadlocks need.
Also, most locking gels contain toxic chemicals that should never be lathered onto your skin. If you were looking to use gels because your frizzes are untamable, then continue reading for some of the best natural substitutes.
Best gel for dreads
Some stages of dreads will have your head looking like a frizzy mess. Normally I would suggest that you let your hair be since manipulating it too much can slow down the matting process. However, if you need to look sharp for a special event there are several ways to tame the mane.
- ALOE VERA:
My all-time favorite gel is aloe vera. You can read all about its incredible properties here. Make sure you’re only using 100% aloe vera gel or juice — I prefer to use the real leaf and blend the pulp to make my gel.
You can add a few drops of essential oils if you wish. Then, apply it (in moderation) directly to the frizzy areas. Your hair will dry after a few minutes without showing signs of greasiness or residue. Find my anti-itch aloe recipe here.
Make a homemade gel that not only keeps your frizzy hair in place but also provides nutrients and antioxidants to your scalp and dreads.
In a small saucepan, mix 1 cup of water with 2 tablespoons of whole flaxseeds. Bring it to a boil, and then simmer for 10 minutes. Strain the liquid into a jar, allow it to cool down, and use it as you would normally with gel. This should last you a little over a week.
- UNFLAVORED GELATIN:
This is not exactly jello but it’s similar. If you’re into grass-fed beef, this is a good brand. If not, you can use the traditional Knox brand too.
To make this gel, mix 1 teaspoon of gelatin with one cup distilled water (warm) until the powder is fully dissolved. You can add a little more gelatin for extra hold. If you want to add a scent, use about 15 drops of the essential oil of your choice.
Pour it into a jar with a lid and put it in the fridge for one to two hours to allow it to thicken up. This should last you about two weeks if you keep it refrigerated. I recommend that for each use, you scoop it out with a spoon rather than your fingers so that it can retain a longer “shelf-life”.
- AGAR AGAR:
Agar agar is the vegan version of gelatin. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, try this recipe instead of the previous one.
In a bowl, pour 1/2 a cup of boiled water and 1/2 teaspoon of agar agar flakes. Whisk until the flakes have dissolved completely, then put the bowl in the fridge for a couple of hours to harden. Once the gel has set, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of 100% pure aloe vera gel (preferably straight from the leaf) and a few drops of essential oils if you wish.
Whisk until there are no more clumps left. Pour this mixture into a jar and use it when necessary. It should last you for about two weeks.
- APRICOT OIL:
If you read my blog on carrier oils, you probably noticed this oil was at the top of the list. Apricot kernel oil is amazing for your scalp as it contributes to healthy hair growth. For this hair-taming recipe, you will need 1 1/2 cups of distilled water and 5 tablespoons of cold-pressed apricot kernel oil.
Pour those two ingredients in a spray bottle, shake well before use, and spray wherever taming is needed.
Best oils for dreads
Some of my preferred essential oil options include tea tree oil, rosemary oil, lavender oil, For the complete essential oils guide, click here!
A lightweight oil is essential for retaining the moisture in your scalp. My preferred carrier oils are grapeseed oil, olive oil, jojoba oil, sweet almond oil, and vitamin e oil. For an in-depth guide on carrier oils, click here!
Whenever possible, opt for organic ingredients when making your own dreadlock products.
Best products for different hair types
Hair needs to be moisturized in order for it to grow long, strong, and healthy. Oils play a huge role in retaining moisture so it’s a vital ingredient to hair-care recipes. Where it can get complicated is in deciding which one works best for your hair texture.
There is no cookie-cutter recipe that will work on everyone, even if all the ingredients are natural ones. It’s important to find the products that are compatible with your hair before choosing any random combination of oils.
- THICK HAIR:
The oils that work best for thick hair are jojoba, coconut, and Jamaican black castor oil.
- TEXTURED / CURLY HAIR:
The oils that work best for textured and curly hair are jojoba and coconut oil.
- FINE HAIR:
The oil that works best for fine hair is grapeseed oil. Also, aloe vera juice works as a great oil substitute. It unclogs the hair follicles and cleanses the scalp of dead skin cells.
The oils that are not recommended for fine hair are castor oil, coconut, olive, and argan oil. Those oils are too heavy and will leave your scalp overly greasy and add weight to your locs.
- ALL HAIR TYPES:
Make sure to use products in moderation because excessive use of anything can cause buildup and/or loosening of dreadlocks. Take a “less is more” approach. Also, avoid synthetic alcohol-based products because they will strip your hair from moisture.
Caring for your dreadlocks takes time but is fairly cheap when compared to traditional hair-care.
After thoroughly researching the popular ingredients used by the cosmetic industry, my eyes were opened to the reality that we’re putting a lot of junk in our bodies every day.
I learned that just because there’s a popular product or even a popular brand, it does not mean that it’s a great product. Because of all the added chemical ingredients, most store-bought products are known to cause product buildup.
Not just that, but the skin, our body’s largest organ, is porous and absorbs just about anything that we put on it. This can be a good or a bad thing.
A great benefit to natural products, as in products sourced from nature, is that they contain vital nutrients and properties that are necessary for maintaining healthy dreadlocks.
As long as your skin is coming into contact with quality products, you’re good. If you’re putting products that are known to cause major side-effects, like cancer, then please discontinue using them immediately.
Nature has absolutely everything we need for our well-being, even when it comes to our hair. Let’s learn to make good use of it!
In my book “39 Recipes to Revitalize your Locs” I unveil 39 of my favorite recipes for loc care. You’ll find that I only use natural ingredients that can be purchased at a reasonable price at many local shops or on Amazon. Click here to download your own copy of my book!