what are dreads
Beauty Tips

What are Dreads 2023? Learn History, Process, and Style

There is a lot of contradictory information online regarding how to properly care for and maintain dreadlocks, whether you’re thinking about obtaining locs or you already have them. Everything you need to know about dreadlocks is covered in this beginner’s tutorial, including:

The various kinds of locs their formation, proper upkeep and care, removal of locs and more.

Ever wished there was a brief course that covered everything you needed to know about dreadlocks? 

Think of this article as Dreadlocks 101. We examine this conventional hairdo in detail and discover what makes it special.

We have you covered on everything from the definition of dreadlocks to how to properly manage current locs.


How Do Dreadlocks Look?

Sections of hair that are matted and “locked” into place are known as dreadlocks, dreads, or locs. For a look like hanging braids, dreadlocks are often styled in small parts.

Dreads can take the form of cylinder, rope-like portions that are rounded and generally consistent, or irregular flat, matted pieces that are wide and thin (typical of freeform dreads) (typical of finger coil or similar-style locs). When hair is not brushed or detangled for a while, dreads develop naturally.

You’ll see matted, dreadlocked parts in your hair after a year of neglecting to brush it. However, the majority of people that get dreadlocks have them intentionally shaped and produced. There are a few techniques used to “jumpstart” the matting and create cylindrical loci that are consistently formed. We’ll talk about those next.


Why Do They Have the Name Dreadlocks?

Dreadlocked warrior from Kenya wearing traditional African attire, gazing up towards Mount Kilimanjaro

Although the term’s origins are unclear, experts believe they may have been coined by British soldiers who conveyed their awe and horror upon coming across the fearsome Mau Mau tribal warriors in Kenya, which was then under British administration.

The British soldiers had never seen long dreadlocks on a tribesman, and their clashes were brutal.

The soldiers could see how the hair strands were twisted and “locked” into place, and the warrior’s haircut came to be associated with dread. According to some scholars, this is where the phrase “dreadlocks” originated.


Dreadlock Varieties

Dreadlocks can develop spontaneously (freeform dreads), or they can be induced to develop more quickly by twisting, rubbing, or braiding. Let’s examine the five main categories of dreadlocks based on their formation.

You may find a detailed step-by-step tutorial for starting any of the following locs here if you’re interested: 4 Ways to Start Dreadlocks: How to Get Dreads.


Adaptive Locs


Freeform dreadlocks are matted locs of hair that develop on their own as a result of friction and tangling by not brushing or detangling the hair for extended periods of time. Uneven locs with different thicknesses, widths, forms, and sizes are the end result.

Freeform loc formation is also referred to as “the neglect approach.” This kind of dreadlock will develop naturally if you don’t do anything to your hair for roughly a year.

Because of the friction and rubbing that occurs there, the back of the head is typically where freeform dreads start to form (in bed, against the back of seats, etc.)

Although freeform dreads are the most authentic, they are less common than other dreadlock varieties due to their irregularity. Additionally, it takes some time for the hair to fully loc because you aren’t using any twisting or braiding techniques to speed up the process.


Finger Loc Coils

Finger coil dreadlocks are created by coiling and twisting the hair instead of waiting for it to grow naturally. The “base” of the dreads is created from the ensuing rounded finger coils.

Finger coils give the appearance of locs before the hair has really matted to form true locs because they produce hanging hair portions that resemble dreadlocks. If you can’t wait to see how your new dreads turn out, this is fantastic!

Clean hair is divided into pieces, and then each section is firmly wound into a coil and pinned until every section is dry. True dreadlocks take six to twelve months to form from the ensuing finger coils.


Locs for Three-Strand Braid

Simple braids are used as the foundation for three-strand braid locs. The braids are left in place after the hair has been divided into sections and braided for at least six months to allow the hair to tangle and mat into dreadlocks.

The benefit of this technique and type of loc is that it is quite simple and is doable by anyone who can braid three strands.

The locs created by 3-strand braids are flatter and less cylindrical than conventional locs, which is a drawback. Try the finger coil, three-strand twist, or wool rubbing techniques if you want rounded, rope-like dreads.


Twist Locs in Three Strands

Although the procedure and the resulting locs of this kind of dread sound similar to those of three-strand braid locs, they are actually extremely different. 3-strand twists are used as the foundation of the dreads for creating three-strand twist locs.

In essence, 3-strand twists entail twisting each part of braided hair as you go. The end result is circular, cylindrical twists that keep the hair twisted for several weeks to months. 3-strand twists might hasten the development of dreadlocks when left in for two to six months.

The twisted/coiled pattern in the twists will start to fade after about 6 months as the hair successfully mats up. The benefit of adopting this technique is that it yields beautiful, cylindrical locs that are fashioned to suit your preferences and resemble ropes.


Rubbed Wool Locs

By causing friction and knots in the hair with a piece of wool, wool rubbed locs are created (hat, sweater, etc.). Small locs start to form when the wool is rubbed against the hair in a circular motion. Two things to be aware of with this technique:

By directly stroking your hair with wool, you run the risk of damaging the cuticle layer of your hair. Some specialists advise employing this technique just once to accelerate loc development. Others advise omitting it completely.

Wool-rubbed dreads won’t be uniform in size and shape and will appear asymmetrical. There isn’t much control over the final appearance because the locs will develop in accordance with the motions you employ as you rub the wool against your head.

Even though wool rubbed locs are the most destructive treatment for hair, they are a quick way to get dreadlocks started. Before selecting this style of loc, take this into account!


Are Dreadlocks a Hair Ruin?

Will dreads destroy my hair? is one of the most often asked questions we get from those thinking about getting dreadlocks. Although it depends on the technique you use to create them and how you manage them, dreadlocks can certainly harm your hair.

Actually, dreadlocks are a type of protective hairdo. This means that dreadlocks maintain hair in a protective “shell” to shield it from daily, environmental, thermal, and chemical harm.

Your hair won’t be damaged by dreadlocks if you form and care for them properly. Dreadlocks can even be removed without harming or cutting your hair (more on that in a bit).

Retwisting or palm rolling your locs too frequently, as well as leaving them damp after a shower, might harm your hair. Your hair will be safeguarded from harm as long as you make sure to completely air-dry your dreadlocks and don’t overtwist them.

Concerned about your locs becoming misshaped, loose, dry, or musty? You can easily steer clear of these typical issues by being familiar with the fundamentals of dreadlock maintenance and care. One of the biggest myths about dreadlocks is that you can just “loc and go,” which isn’t true at all.

Dreads aren’t as maintenance-intensive as other hairstyles, but you still need to spend time caring for them if you want them to feel, look, and smell their best. Starting with having the proper tools, procedures, and care advice on hand will help.


Dreadlock Care and Maintenance Products

A few basic things make it easy to maintain gorgeous dreads. The items listed below are necessary for maintaining and caring for your dreads.

A excellent dread tightening spray, also known as a locking accelerator, is essential for creating and keeping attractive locs. By making the surface of your hair’s outermost cuticle layer rougher and forcing it to open up, these treatments speed up matting and locking by increasing friction.

Moisturizing dread creams are necessary to maintain dreadlocks’ hydration and suppleness and prevent breakage and frizz. These items cover the locs with a moisturizing cream that penetrates your dreads deeply to offer nutrition and hydration. Choose one without wax if possible.

Residue-free shampoo is essential for maintaining clean locs. Look for formulas without silicones, which can build up and leave a residue in the hair. A clarifying wash that leaves your hair spotless is required.


Is It Time to Wax Your Dreads?

It’s frequently advised to use dread wax to start and maintain dreadlocks. However, wax-based products are the enemy of creating neat, symmetrical, and light-weight locs. It is impossible to entirely eliminate the accumulation that wax leaves behind since it does not dissolve in water.

Additionally, it may draw dust and lint to your dreads.

Wax won’t dissolve in water, so it will eventually create a moisture barrier that stops water from evaporating from your dreads (read: stinky locs). Dreads may eventually get harder as a result of wax. Simply said, never ever use wax on your dreads.


Shampooing Dreadlocks

Do you have to wash dreads? is a common query we receive. The answer is a resounding YES. Dreads must be shampooed often to be clean and avoid collecting dirt, fungus, and bacteria.

Dreads should be shampooed at least twice every two weeks. Washing your dreads at least once a week is recommended if you are physically active and perspire a lot.

If you don’t sweat often or get your hair dirty, you can go up to 3 weeks between washing. When using a no-residue shampoo, focus on your scalp rather than your dreads.

The fungus, oil, filth, and bacteria on your scalp all thrive there. Your dreads will smell and look better if you keep all dirt and buildup off of the scalp. Make sure to thoroughly clean your scalp, using little shampoo and lots of water.

It can be difficult to completely remove shampoo from the locs, so try not to suds up your dreads too much. After shampooing, thoroughly drying your locs is the next step.


How to Dry Dreadlocks Correctly

It’s true that dreadlocks can smell bad if they aren’t dried completely and correctly. Smelly, stinky dreadlocks aren’t a myth. Your locs shouldn’t ever be dried with heat. Your hair will undoubtedly suffer heat damage because they will take so long to dry when heated.

Use air drying to ensure that all moisture has been removed. After shampooing, compress your dreads with an absorbent, completely dry cloth. Although they perform effectively, cotton towels might leave lint in your hair.

Instead, we advise using a high-quality microfiber lintless towel. Squeeze each loc as much as you can to get rid of the extra moisture. Once you’ve towel-wrung out your locs, try to keep them as distinct as you can.

Till they are completely dry, avoid pulling them up, donning a helmet, or applying any lotion. Depending on the length and thickness of your locs, this normally takes a day or two.

Wear a tight-fitting shower cap if you’re taking a shower between dread washings to keep your hair dry and healthy.

Using Palm Rolling to Keep Dreads

You should practice palm rolling to keep the form and shape of your dreadlocks. You should practice it frequently, at least a few times per week, as it is quite simple to accomplish. Simply grab one loc and quickly roll it back and forth in your palms to palm roll your dreads.

Any stray hairs will be “caught” by doing this and integrated back into the loc. The dreads maintain their shape and keep from merging together due to the friction of your palms on them.


How to Cut Dreadlocks Off

A woman carrying shampoo and a pair of scissors as she contemplates cutting off her dreadlocks for a piece named “Dreadlocks 101” Roman Samborskyi/Shutterstock

Dreadlock removal is a difficult task. Having said that, it is definitely possible to get rid of dreads without harming or cutting your hair. You might even be astonished to discover how much your hair has grown while being protected in the locs if you’ve left your dreads in for a few years.

But let’s be clear about expectations. The following effects are most likely to occur when you get rid of your dreadlocks:

Natural losing of hair that occurs over time in the locs

The texture of your hair is straw-like and frizzy.

Fragile, split ends that may require cutting off

In light of this, brushing out dreadlocks can be accomplished with a few items and a lot of perseverance. Your dreads will take longer to successfully brush out the longer they are. Cutting the dreads to a shorter, more manageable length is a common way to begin the brushing out process.

Use your preferred hair oil (coconut, argan, olive, etc.) to completely coat and soak each and every dreadlock in your locs. This works particularly well on chopped locs that have an open end. Use a little more oil if you don’t think you’ve used enough.

Spritz with water: After your dreads are completely covered in oil, spray the loc you’re working on right away with water from a spray bottle. Spray the loc frequently while you work to keep it moist.

To take out the loc, use a rattail comb: Start at the bottom of your dreads and poke the comb in to start separating the loc using the pointed end of a rattail comb. To start unraveling the loc, gently wriggle the center of the loc toward the end. Apply a bit more oil to the combed-out area and comb through with the comb end. Untangle the hair and work your way up to the roots. This process requires a lot of time; repeat for each dreadlock.

Braid the untangled hair. Your delocked, released hair will be simpler to handle as you work if you keep it in braids. When you’re done, it will also contribute to a more uniform hair texture.

Shampoo and deep condition: To revive your hair after combing out all of your dreads, use shampoo and deep conditioner. If you’ve had dreads for a while, this will be a significant moment for you! Your scalp will feel incredibly clean and free. To get rid of the extra oil used to comb out your dreads, you will need to shampoo your hair at least twice. To keep providing your strands with essential moisture, perform a deep conditioning treatment or use a leave-in conditioner.

Make a final cut: You’ll probably discover that some of the ends of your dreads are still straggly or split after combing them out. You may truly polish the look and get the healthy, vivid hair you want by getting the ends chopped off by an inch or more.

You can also get rid of dreads by cutting them off with clippers or scissors at the root if you have short hair or don’t mind starting again.


Would Dreadlocks Be a Good Idea?

A woman with these locks holds a child while having her hair wrapped up over her head for a feature about dreadlocks.

This Dreadlocks 101 class has covered a lot of ground. You are now well-informed on this customary hairdo, how to maintain it, and what makes it so distinctive, from defining and explaining what dreadlocks are to providing step-by-step instructions on removing them.

There are a few considerations you should examine if you’re debating getting dreadlocks to assist you decide.

Dreads involve a serious commitment. Dreads won’t disappear at the snap of your fingers. Sections of hair that are matted and “locked” are difficult to remove. If you’re used to being able to change your hairdo whenever you want, this is a significant commitment.

Low upkeep does not imply no upkeep. Dreads require less maintenance than long hair does, but there is still a significant amount of maintenance required. You must give them attention and time for everything, including shampooing, drying, and maintaining their appropriate form and lock in place. It’s crucial to be aware of this up front.

Be prepared for some criticism. Dreadlocks may get judgmental looks and eyes from onlookers, whether you’re trying to embrace your African ancestry or are just seeking for a cool hairdo you don’t have to style every day. Others might be more blunt, asking if you ever wash your hair or, if you don’t have African ancestry, accusing you of cultural appropriation. You might want to attempt a less divisive style if it worries you.

Dreads are painful and cumbersome. If you think long hair is heavy, wait until it is divided into tangled portions that trap buildup, water, and naturally lost hair. Dreads can also create headaches and discomfort by pulling at the roots of small patches of your scalp. You should think about this before getting dreads.

Perfection requires time. No matter which method you choose, you won’t achieve immaculate locs right away. The study of dreads is ongoing. To achieve the results you desire, you must carefully manage and shape your locs over time. Before you have actual dreadlocks, you should plan to wait at least six to twelve months.

Dreadlocks may very well be a terrific hairstyle option for you if this doesn’t deter you. Dreads can be removed, even though it’s difficult, so your choice isn’t always final. Just be honest with yourself and think about it.

We advise going for locs if you find them appealing and are prepared to devote the necessary time and attention to maintaining them.

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