It really bothers me…
When I click through the dread and dreadlocks tags and I see bad advice.
What dreads do not need:— Wax
— Crochet Hooks (EVER)
— Root Rubbing
— Palm Rolling
— Tip Rubbing
— Any rubbing of any kind really
— Special and expensive shampoos
What dreads do need:— Time
— To be a bit messy
— To get all loopy
Dreads are easy, don’t stress out about them, let them show you all that they can be.
Very nicely stated ♥
I would consider palm-rolling & root-rubbing in the “optional” bit, personally- not because they are needed (they aren’t- I don’t do it!) but because they won’t hurt anything like other things on the “do not need” list will. Also, I would add washing to the “need” list :p
Otherwise though, take note, new adventurers on the dread journey!
Yes, you wash your dreads. Dirty/greasy hair is slippery & doesn’t lock well, & is also gross. However, you don’t do it as often. Even with loose hair, it’s actually bad for your scalp/hair to wash daily. The added thing with dreads is that it is bad to let them stay wet for extended amounts of time. Like laundry sitting in the wash, they can get funky. I’m talking mildew growth. Gnarly, yeah? Always let them dry properly, & it’s no issue.
It’s a good idea to let your scalp adjust to less frequent washings before you start your dreads. Within a few weeks, you can easily get down to one or two washings a week without your hair getting greasy in between (If you plan on keeping loose bangs/fringe, expect to have to wash said loose hair every day or every other day in the sink. They usually get greasy when the rest of your hair doesn’t because they are on your forehead or being touched by your hands all day).
You can still shower like normal, just keep your dreads out of the shower spray, or wear a shower cap on the days that you do not wash your hair.
Towel/air drying is usually enough in a warm climate, but if it’s cold where you are, blow dry them gently. Use the low setting if your dreadlings are still babies.
Now, what can you use to wash?
You’ve probably heard a lot of talk about only using “residue-free” products. In theory, this is great. In practice, it’s more or less non-existent. So don’t stress it that much. For one thing, there’s basically nothing completely residue-free (baking soda probably comes the closest), and for another, it isn’t that big of a deal as long as your dreads are being allowed to dry completely, & you periodically do deep cleans (mentioned in detail below).
- Dreadlock shampoo by KnottyBoy or DreadheadHQ: It isn’t any better than anything else, there is no added benefits for using it on dreadlocks, & it costs a LOT more. But it won’t hurt anything (it is the only thing besides their overpriced flea combs that isn’t harmful) & it will clean your hair. So if you’re into that, go for it.
- Doctor Bronner’s All-One Castile Soap (bars or liquid, any variety): Some people swear by this stuff. I am one of them- for absolutely everything EXCEPT my hair. While it is touted as one of the most residue-free things you can use, even heavily diluted this left my dreads feeling really gross & does not lather well. I do not recommend it in the slightest as a shampoo.
- Liquid Dishsoap: Cheap, high lather, rinses clean. It can be rather harsh on the scalp (it’s very drying), so it doesn’t make the best regular shampoo. But if you’re in a pinch- say, for example, you ran out of shampoo, incidentally blew the bulk of your paycheck on some random thing & are living off of ramen noodles for the week- it works great & a bottle lasts for a while.
- Baking soda/Apple Cider Vinegar (“no-poo”): Probably the least expensive option. Dissolve 1 tablespoon of baking soda in one cup of warm/hot water. Keep this ratio, but you can double the recipe as needed if you have a lot of hair. Put it in a bottle & pour/squirt/spray it on. Most people seem to leave it sit for a few minutes, then rinse. Some like to add to this by using an ACV “rinse” every few washes, which more or less consists of roughly 2 tablespoons ACV in one cup of water. Apply it & rinse it. The “no-poo” method doesn’t work for everyone. Some people swear by it, some people stop when they get dreadlocks, some people hate it. Personally, I dislike it. I don’t like the way it makes my hair feel, & it makes my scalp itchy. But that’s just me- plenty of people love this method & it won’t do any harm, so experiment! See if it works for you.
- Any basic daily clarifying shampoo of any brand: Designed for regular use, gentle, lathers well, & rinses clean. Price range varying from dirt cheap ($1/bottle) to pricey salon brands. Personally, I prefer Herbal Essences Drama Clean. Around here, it costs around $5/24oz bottle & lasts me several weeks. When money is a little tighter, I scrimp where I can & pick up Suave Daily Clarifying for around $1-2/bottle. The difference? Well…H.E. smells pretty when I wash (neither leaves any scent on my hair dry). That’s basically it.
As long as you are avoiding shampoos with detangling/conditioning/extra moisturizing for regular use, you’re probably just fine. Try to avoid things that leave strong scents in your hair, too. The occasional brush with these things won’t hurt mature dreads- I’ve even been known to snag a splash of my sister’s lovely-smelling slightly conditioning shampoo in a pinch with no ill effects. Just don’t make it a habit & don’t risk it with baby dreadlings. No matter what you use, always rinse your hair out completely.
It should go without saying that conditioner is no longer part of your regular hair routine :)
Specifics on HOW to wash
The first few weeks
The first week you have your dreads, I wouldn’t wash them. The only reason for this is because they are very delicate, & the knots can fall out easily if handled too roughly or put under harsh water pressure from a shower head. After several days, wash them in a sink, bathtub, or large bowl of still water with shampoo dissolved in it. Just swish them around a bit, rub your scalp (but not the dreads) & then empty it out & repeat with fresh water until the soap is out.
Regular washing on mature dreads
Once your dreads begin tightening up & can handle a good wash & shower pressure & such without falling out, you can ditch the still water method. On days you wash your hair, just hop in the shower, let your head get thoroughly wet (I usually wash my hair last), scrub your scalp with your fingertips & shampoo, & rinse. There is no need to scrub at the dreads themselves, just let the soapy water run through them. Make sure you are always rinsing really well- there should never be any left over in your hair. Try squeezing or wringing dreads gently to see and/or listen for soap bubbles if you aren’t sure. When in doubt, more rinsing. I wash my hair once or twice a week, & that’s about the average. Some people can go a little longer. In the summer, when I am in the ocean, I almost never wash my hair more than once a week.
Every six months to a year, do a deep clean. You can also do it on mature dreads as needed- for example, to remove a really persistent bonfire odor, or if you accidentally got something gross in your hair. This strips out build up from shampoo, hair dye, smoke, & whatever else has come in contact with your head. My deep clean water usually turns an odd shade of cloudy reddish, & the bottom of the bowl is full of sand & glitter. Such is life.
Anyway. Just what the hell is a deep clean? Simple! Take a large bowl, or sink, or even bathtub, & fill it with the hottest water you can stand. I usually use a large mixing bowl, it fits in my sink & holds about 2-3 gallons of water. The following measurement are based on that, so just alter accordingly. You can play around with this a bit, too, it isn’t an exact science. The most basic ingredient is baking soda. I usually dissolve something akin to 2 cups of it in my hot water & stir until it is all gone & the water is clear. Then a splash of lemon juice (I just use bottled), & a couple teaspoons of sea salt. You can add a few drops of essential oils, too, if it pleases you. Tea Tree can be soothing for your scalp, lavender smells lovely, etc.
Once your brew is all mixed together, put your head in. Soak your dreads in it for as long as you can comfortably. Squish them around, periodically squeeze them out, then soak them again, etc. I try to keep my head in there for at least ten minutes, thirty if I am feeling patient. Then wrap your hair (still sopping wet) in a towel, then wrap a plastic bag around that. Leave this in your hair for another thirty minutes-ish to soak in really well. I usually dump out my bowl at this point & refill it with fresh, hot mix. Unwrap your head & soak it again. You’ll probably notice the water discolouring. Soak it for another ten minutes or so, Then wring it out & hop in the shower. Rinse really well. I usually shampoo as usual, because baking soda (for me, personally) dries the fuck out of my scalp & makes it itchy.
When your dreads are dry, they should be soft, probably fuzzy-looking, & smell…like nothing. Just good, clean hair. Hooray!
So, as requested! Everything I could think of in reference to washing your hair. It really isn’t as complicated as this block of text makes it seem, haha ♥
The second rule of dreadlocks is… be patient!
The third rule of dreadlocks is… BE. PATIENT.
I promise, if you have baby dreadlings, you’re probably stressing way too hard. They’ll be fine. Just let them do their thing, don’t try & control them so much. Sure, your head is fuzzy now. Sure, it seems like there’s too much loose hair. In a few months, a year maybe, you too will have a tight, sexy mane. It just takes time!
(I kind of feel bad that this is now the THIRD repost of this, but yknow. Whatever. Still needs to be said, so…)
Stop being a fucking consumer whore & buying that Knotty boy/Dreadhead HQ shit. They make money off of you being uneducated & listening to stereotypes & wanting a quick-fix (spoiler alert: there isn’t one).
If your hair needed anything to make it knot, you wouldn’t have needed a hairbrush & conditioner all these years with loose hair. YOU DON’T NEED ANYTHING BUT PATIENCE. Wax gives you sticky, hard, mildewy disgusting dreads that give us clean dreadheads a bad rep. And it actually prevents & delays them from knotting properly, as it restricts the movement of your hair (on that note, throw away those rubber bands, too). The friction of individual hairs is it what makes it knot. It takes time.
There is no such thing as instant dreadlocks. You don’t “just get them for the summer” because you think it’s some cute bohemian fashion statement & you saw some bitch in an American Eagle ad had her hair twisted in sections. You have to commit to them. Yes, you will look fuzzy for the first several weeks, probably even months. Stop putting all this nasty stuff in your hair to try and make it look a certain way. They take care of themselves. Your dreads will never look exactly like someone else’s. They will look like yours, & they will be beautiful. Wait & see.
I looked like sideshow bob for six months. And then they started shrinking & growing loops. And then they stood straight up in random places. And then they settled down, and then they freaked out again. And then they got long enough to get in the way when I brushed my teeth. And then looped again. And then got long enough to get stuck in my bra straps, friend’s facial piercings, velcro (the enemy!), my food, and stucco walls. And then they looped again. And then got long enough to get stuck in car doors. And then got loopy again. And now? Quite frankly, I have a fucking gorgeous mane of wild, tight, knotty hair. I’ve palmrolled them maybe 5 times, ever. They have not been crocheted, twisted, waxed, gelled. The only thing I have done is wash them, & separate the roots when they try to eat each other.
You have to be willing to commit to a style that takes time, patience, and high hopes for the future when they will be awesome. You have to wake up everyday so fucking stoked to see what new crazy ass thing your head is doing. You have to realize there will be days that you shove a hat on because you can’t bear to be seen in public looking like a mop. You have to persevere through the storm. Everyone has a moment or two of “man, can I keep this up?”. It’s worth the wait. Don’t fuck up your dreads early on with over-maintenance & wax & gels & shit trying to make them neat & tidy. Let them mature naturally. It always works out fine. I promise.
If you can’t handle having messy hair, dreads probably aren’t the style for you.
Want to read up on doing it right? Browse the GuDu memories. It is a collective archive of more than 10 years & 5000 dreadhead’s tips, support, and experience. http://tinyurl.com/gudumems
Originally posted as the answer to a question asked on my personal blog.
Original post can be seen here.
I’ve been starting dreadlocks for people for several years, & my favourite method for caucasian/asian hair types (both straight & curly) is backcombing. It is easy, efficient, looks natural, blends with the new growth seamlessly, & does very little damage beyond roughing up the cuticle. It is also reversible (with a lot of conditioner, time, & elbow grease) unlike many other methods, so you don’t necessarily have to shave your head if you ever decide it is time to end your journey.
Just run out to the nearest pet supply store & buy a good sturdy fleacomb with metal teeth that are very close together. It should cost you anywhere from $3-10. Get some small rubberbands designed for hair from your local beauty supply store, too (note: bands are only used for sectioning hair, never on your dreads).
You can do this 100% on your own, but if you have a friend who loves you dearly, recruit them for the backcombing process. Rent a shitton of movies, buy them dinner, & get ready to spend several hours & sore thumbs having a dreadlock creation party.
Your hair needs to be very clean & 100% dry. I like to use dish soap to wash (its drying & leaves your hair super squeaky clean), then towel/blow dry your hair a few hours before you start.
Section your hair fairly evenly, but don’t follow a distinct grid pattern or part (these tend to look wonky as your dreads grow- keep it a little more random or let them overlap like brickwork). Most people make fairly rounded sections approx 1/2 - 1 1/2 inches wide. Use your best judgement for your own hair type. Remember that when your hair naturally sheds, it doesn’t fall out in dreadlocks, so they will usually end up thicker than they are initially. My sections were about 3/4-1” in very thick, bone-straight, somewhat bleach damaged hair.
After sectioning, pick a dread to start with (I always start at the back/nape & work my way forward), & remove the rubber band from the section. Hold the comb in your dominate hand & the hair section in the other, & start combing the hair backwards towards the scalp. With each pull of the comb, twist the hair slightly in a different direction. I usually do this loosely several times, then use the comb to slide the loose knots up tight to the root. Keep this up until you’ve reached the ends. If it isn’t standing straight out from the scalp, it probably isn’t tight enough & will likely unravel quickly. Just use the comb to slide the knots up the scalp again until the whole thing feels solid. Repeat with the whole head. It is rather brutal on your thumbs after a while, & expect some pulling/tugging/accidentally slipping with the comb. These things happen :p
If you want, you can palmroll them at this point. This literally just means you roll them one at a time between your palms. Palm rolling can be done a couple of times a week if you want to, but I wouldn’t do it constantly. It’s helpful if you notice odd flat sections (like from sleeping) to palmroll fresh out of the shower, when the hair is still wet. This makes them more round again. Never use wax, gel, aloe, or any other foreign gunk on your dreads. They don’t need it & that stuff makes them gross. More on wax in a different article.
Note on showering: Yes, you wash your dreads. Dirty/greasy hair is slippery & doesn’t lock well, & is also gross. However, you don’t do it as often. Even with loose hair, it’s actually bad for your scalp/hair to wash daily. The added thing with dreads is that it is bad to let them stay wet for extended amounts of time. Like laundry sitting in the wash, they can get funky.
It’s a good idea to let your scalp adjust to less frequent washings before you start your dreads. Within a few weeks, you can easily get down to one or two washings a week without your hair getting greasy in between (If you plan on keeping loose bangs/fringe, expect to have to wash them every day or every other day in the sink. They usually get greasy when the rest of your hair doesn’t because they are on your forehead or being touched by your hands all day).
The first week you have your dreads, I wouldn’t wash them. The only reason for this is because they are very delicate, & the knots can fall out easily if handled too roughly or put under harsh water pressure from a showerhead. After several days, I would wash them in a sink, bathtub, or large bowl of still water with shampoo dissolved in it. Just swish them around a bit, rub your scalp (but not the dreads) & then empty it out & repeat with fresh water until the soap is out. Towel/air drying is usually enough in a warm climate, but if it’s cold where you are, blow dry them gently on low.
Depending on how quickly your dreads lock up, I would probably wash them that way for the first several weeks. You can still shower like normal, just keep them out of the spray or wear a shower cap. As for shampoo, you don’t need anything special. It just has to be non-moisturizing. Special dread shampoos won’t hurt, but they cost a fortune & are unnecessary. Dr Bronners is another one you hear a lot about, but I personally think it leaves a lot of residue, even diluted properly. I only use it as body wash. My favourites are basic clarifying shampoos. I love Herbal Essences Drama Clean, or Suave Daily Clarifying, or just dishsoap, depending on how broke I am at the moment. Remember, you don’t need tons of shampoo, because you’re only washing your scalp & letting the soapy water run through your dreads. You don’t need to apply shampoo directly to them or scrub them. Do make sure you rinse them very, very well. There should never be soap or bubbles left.
So…that’s the super detailed version of Backcombed Dreads 101: Starting & Care for the First Several Weeks.