Dreadlocks, whether they’re thin or thick, are a beautiful hairstyle (when they’re properly cared for, I should say).
Way before I got the courage to get dreads, I already had an idea of what I wanted mine to look like. I still have the “dream photo” as inspiration, but there’s no way to know if my dreads are ever going to look like that.
During the locking process, I quickly realized that my dreads are particular to me. More important than worrying about the shape the dreads are taking, is making sure that the hair itself is healthy.
Throughout the stages in which dreads mature, they will get thicker AND thinner. The thickness and length will fluctuate a lot during the first year or two because the hair is becoming matted.
Healthy dreads should be a little bit thicker than when you started them once they’re fully mature.
How thick they get mostly depends on three things:
- The size of your parts
- Your hair density
- Your hair texture
There are some factors that can cause your dreads to get thinner over time. We will discuss this further as well as how you can prevent thinning and breakage.
Before I begin, I want to clarify that this blog is purely informational. In no way am I suggesting what your dreads should or shouldn’t look like (as far as thickness goes). Whatever you choose to do with your hair is completely up to you! With that said, let’s get into it!
Dreads go through a beautiful and constant transformation. As the hair begins to knot and tangle, each dread will adjust to the changes by shrinking while becoming puffy/ tight in some spots and loose/ thin in others. In this time, loops will appear all over and it’s likely that some hair will untangle and even come out of the dreadlocks entirely. Do not worry if this is what you’re dealing with. Also, each dread will go through this shrinking/tightening process individually, so don’t worry if some dreads are considerably shorter or longer than others.
Often times we freak out during the baby and teenage stages because we think our dreads need to look perfect by week two. Depending on your hair type and maintenance, your hair can take up to three years to fully mature, so be patient and wait the process out.
The changes your hair experiences are necessary for your dreads to mature! Healthy locs are all about time and patience, and they’re so worth the wait!
The method that you use to start your dreads, whether it’s twisting and ripping, crochet, interlocking, etc, does not determine the thickness of your locs.
If you’re wondering how thick your dreads will become, or are deciding how thick/ thin to make them, there are three indicators that will give you an idea.
Indicators of how thick your locs will get
1. How big or small your sections are
Whether you’re allowing your hair to naturally dread or you’re getting a professional to do it, I recommend you part your hair as evenly as possible. The more uneven the parts are, the more uneven your dreads will be. If you don’t care, you can let them do their thing.
For those of you who want all your dreads to be about the same thickness, have a friend or loctician separate your hair at the scalp. Eventually, the thickness will be a little bit smaller than the size of the section you make.
As a reference, my hair was divided into squares of 1”x1”. Most of my dreads are about pencil thickness, but some became thicker and others a bit thinner (the ones around the perimeter of my face), possibly due to the amount of hair I have in that part of my head.
I don’t recommend parting the scalp in triangles because as the dreads mature, the hair might pull too much on the corners of the roots and the constant tension can lead to permanent hair loss. If you part your head in rectangles, the dreads might end up growing into a flat shape rather than round.
As your hair begins to grow out, the section parts will disappear until you re-twist them again.
— Can you combine dreadlocks?
Yes! It’s much easier to join thin locs together to form a thicker one, than it is to separate a thick one into two. This process is also known as congo or conjoining dreads.
NOTE: Your dreadlocks will naturally congo at the root if you don’t separate them often. During the beginning stages of my journey, I didn’t touch my scalp at all and my
Many people who started out with thick dreads and didn’t like them had to start the process all over by brushing them out and forming thinner ones.
I read in a dreadlock forum that someone suggested cutting thick dreads in half as a way to make thinner ones. This is SO wrong!! Someone else suggested tearing the dreads apart down the middle. Not only does this sound extremely painful but it’s also very damaging, so it’s best to get it right from the start.
TIP: NEVER cut any hair (or frizzies) from your dreads. Some people have done this to make their hair look neater but ultimately this hinders the locking process because the hair strand is no longer complete. If frizziness is an issue for you, use a little bit of fresh aloe vera gel to tame it down.
Let’s move on to the second indicator of dread thickness.
2. How much hair you have (hair density)
Having a lot of hair will give you a fuller dread than having less hair.
The average person has approximately 2,200 hairs per square inch. A person with more than the average number of hairs will have a thicker dread. In the same way, a person with less than the average will have a thinner dread.
Since we lose an average of 50 to 100 hairs per day, those dead hairs stay knotted inside the loc so they contribute to the thickness of each dread.
I’m not suggesting you count the number of hairs on your scalp because that’s tedious and pointless, haha, but keep this in mind as it correlates with the third indicator: how thick your hair is.
3. The thickness of your hair (hair texture)
Hair thickness plays a major role in determining the future thickness of your locs. That’s why it’s an important factor to keep in mind when you’re sectioning your scalp.
Someone with thin straight hair, like myself, would have a difficult time successfully growing extra thin dreads. Why? Because any significant tension at the scalp can cause the hair to fall out so if more hairs are attached in the same loc, the tension is distributed among more hair follicles and therefore the loc is stronger at the root.
People with coarse hair might not have a problem with thin locs, however, extra-thick locs might weigh the hair down a bit, also causing quite a bit of tension on the scalp. If this happens, you may have to occasionally style your hair up in loose buns to relieve a bit of the tension on the roots.
What causes thinning dreadlocks?
There are a number of factors that can affect your locs to start thinning.
– Excessive maintenance
– Dryness and lack of moisture
Hair, just like the rest of our bodies, needs moisture/ water. The result of chronically dry locs is breakage and thinning.
– Excess buildup
Any product, both natural and unnatural, that you use on your locs has the potential to cause buildup. Too much buildup will disrupt the locking process and will create points of weakness along the dread. To prevent this, you should be doing a deep cleanse every six months.
– Not protecting your hair at night
We toss and turn a lot during our sleep. The constant friction between our head and the pillow can weaken our hair at the roots.
Stress affects every part of our body, whether we feel it or not. When we go through a significant period of stress, our hair follicles “freeze up” and stop working as they should. This can cause thinning or hair loss.
Some people have naturally thin hair or might start balding at an early age.
How to make your dreads thicker
If your hair is experiencing weak spots or thinning, make sure to follow the following suggestions.
– Let your scalp relax
Avoid causing unnecessary tension to your scalp, either by constant maintenance or styling. You should be re-twisting your dreads every 6 weeks and definitely no sooner than 4 weeks.
– Hydrate your hair
– Stimulate your scalp
Strengthening your hair follicles at the root is very important for future hair health. Gently rub in some jojoba oil directly onto your scalp before bed. If you don’t have jojoba oil, try Jamaican black castor oil or coconut oil. Make sure it’s only being applied to the scalp so that your hair doesn’t become greasy.
– Wear a silk or satin head wrap
– Eat a balanced diet
If you’re healthy on the inside, you will be healthy on the outside. Drink at least 8 cups of water a day and eat more nutritious foods like fruits, vegetables,
– Talk to a doctor
If you suspect that your hair thinning could be associated with genetics or another health condition, ask your doctor to recommend a solution.
Dreadlocks can become thick or thin over time, depending on the process they’re in or your physical well being. I hope this blog encouraged you, wherever you are in your journey.
Taking care of yourself and your hair is vital for the future of your healthy locs, so if you’re doing everything right and still are not seeing the results you want, I just want to remind you that you’re on track. This too shall pass!
Before you compare your dreads to someone else’s, remember your hair is unique to you so your process (and end result) will always look different than somebody else’s.
Learn to love the journey you’re in because there’s nothing like it!