25 Little Unknown Things About Having Dreadlocks
Everybody I know goes through this phase and depending on the hair type it can last anywhere from two months to two years. But this phase is bollocks to most! It's infuriating, frustrating, discouraging, and just a general pain in the donkey. But don't get demoralized, it's just a phase and it WILL calm down. Just be prepared for the fact that phases of fuzziness are just a part of the dreading cycle: it will come and it will go.
Oh, dreadful loops! Thou art the bane of mine existence! Yes, well... they happen. It usually occurs when some of the hair in the dread tightens up faster than the rest, leaving the others to get caught up and billow out into a nice ol' loop. Now some dread-heads I know love - and I mean LOVE - loops because the loops "add character" to the dreadlock itself. Now me, I'm not as free-spirited as those loop lovers - I admire them fiercely - because my OCD simply cannot (will not) stand for loops. I am far to much of a perfectionist to have a loop appear and not meddle with it. However, it's a part of dreaded life, you either embrace it or try to fix it, but either way loops WILL happen... especially if you're waiting for your dreads to mature. Have faith though, eventually those too will pass... and then cycle back around.
3. "Oh, is your hair real? Your hair is so cool! Can I touch it?"
Believe it or not this happens pretty much anywhere you go, be it disc golf, the grocery store, a gas station, the Renaissance Festival, a gathering of friends and family, or just out. If you're uncomfortable with random people asking you about your dreads or wanting to touch them, get over it quickly, it's just a part of having dreadlocks. Most dreadies I know are not uncomfortable when approached by total strangers but rather flattered at the attention. I myself, don't understand why they non-dreaded refer to my hair as "it" instead of "them." I suppose to me, having dreads is like having a lot of pets of sorts, it's a "them," after all, no two are alike.
All dread heads I know have at least one favorite dread. How can that be? Aren't all of them the same? Well, little Johnny, they're all different; some are fat and thick, others are fine and thin, some are loopy as a loon, some look like a constant squiggle, the possibilities are endless. But for one reason or another, one or more of these become a favorite. But favorites can change on a daily basis, one day you love that one special one that tightened up faster than all the others but the next day you notice it's a little flat and not so cool, but then you find one that looks like a peacock feather... new favorite! It can be on a daily basis. My point is: dreads are ever changing and ever shifting so don't feel bad about loving one on Monday and hating it by Wednesday.
OMG, really? Yes, really. It too, is also a phase. Remember your hair is not used to this routine. Some people get flakes and others do not. Some people get really gnarly flakes. Here's the thing about them: they aren't gross or from a lack of hygiene, flakes happen when the dry skin sloughs off your scalp (it happens all over the rest of your body, too... shocker, I know), but since so many hairs are clumped together in a small area, the flake usually has about 2 or three hairs holding it in place; the flakes can't simply be combed out and so they just sort of sit there and say hello until the next washing occurs. For some who get the big ol' flakes cause their scalp is angry should just use a baking soda wash with an apple cider vinegar rinse... gets dreads super clean and all tingly feeling, and bye bye flakes!
6. Stray Hairs
Oh, they do happen. One day your dreads are looking super smooth and the next you have a clump of strays sticking out like Alfalfa from the Little Rascals. It happens, some new hair grew in, it didn't grow into one of your dreads, and so now it's just sticking out all goofy like. There is a fix if you want to pull the stray hairs back in and it's simple: dread the strays into a little ball and gently pull that little ball into the base of the dread with a crochet hook (this is the only crocheting method I condone after causing havoc on mine by doing it all over). If you love stray hairs like you love loops, then just let them be, they'll find their way.
In the community we have what's known as a "congo." In laymen terms it means 2 or 3 or more dreads that have adhered to each other like velcro and keep growing together resulting in one massive dread with a bunch of tendrils. Some people LOVE congos. Others not so much, which is where separating comes into play. Every few days run your hands through your dreads and pull each one apart from the rest, it'll prevent dreaded congos that are hard to work through if you don't want them.
8. The Urge to Snip, Clip, or Trim
Yes, it happens, people like me can't stand the "sticky-outies" and get the urge to run a razor down the shaft of a dread and nick off those little pokies, but I insist that you do not. They'll just appear somewhere else. When I first started dreading I thought I was smart by clipping off strays that weren't part of a dread (because I had no idea how to fix them) thinking, "Oh, they'll grow into a dread when they grow out." I was wrong. Instead I got several Alfalfa spikes. Again, just let them go. And again, I strongly suggest not snipping, clipping, or trimming dreads, it'll manifest another problem entirely. Trimming the end when mature and you think they're too long, go for it. Gently.
9. Paintbrush Tips
Since my dreads are still in the maturation phase the tips are wispy and paintbrush like, which is my opinion is a great thing since this allows them to dry faster, but a lot of people want the "blunt" tips for that "mature" look. Sure it's a great look, but if your dreads aren't fully mature, the wispy tips will just come back (trust me, I tried "blunting" my own only to have them go paintbrush again). The only real way to obtain blunt tips is through time and dread maturity, it's like a badge of honor, you must wait to receive yours, my young Padawan. For now, be grateful that it doesn't take your dreads half a day (or one whole day) to dry after a shower.
10. Cut Up Fingertips
If you decide you're a maintenance sort of person and want to tame loops, strays, and etcetera, you might decide to do minimal crocheting on your dreads. BEWARE, if you do, at some point you WILL stab yourself with the hook, be it in the cuticle, in the pad of your finger, or in your knuckle, it will happen. If this doesn't sound bearable to you then I suggest to just "let it be."
11. The Itching
It does happen. You slept on a dread funny, your scalp is irritated, dry scalp, dandruff, and many more reasons, whatever your case may be, can cause itching. It's just a fact of dread life. If you can't tolerate it and you feel like you want to tear your scalp off from your head by your dreads, I suggest a warm baking soda rinse followed by an apple cider vinegar rinse; it's like toothpaste for your scalp... it gets all in there - even the tightest of dreads - tingles deliciously, calms the scalp, and makes your hair squeaky clean. Aside of that, do try tea tree oil or peppermint oil (take it easy with both) in a spray bottle (I really mean take it easy with the stuff, like 4 or 5 drops per pint when first starting) and spray your locks with the solution for instant itch relief (really, trust me on this one, a dreaded friend of mine used too much peppermint oil and 'burned' his scalp, which protested with dandruff and HUGE skin flakes for about 3 months afterwards) plus it makes your hair smell great!
12. Salt Water Spray
You'll hear a lot of dread babies say that to help tighten locks up faster to spritz them down with a sea salt and water solution, and while the salt water does help tighten the dreads, try not to get any on your scalp - salt is very basic, and when sprayed on the scalp it throws the PH off resulting in itching, dandruff, and flakes - a lot of dreadies combat this by adding a few drops of tea tree, lavender, or peppermint oil to the solution for a calming effect on the scalp, but still be careful! I would rather go swim in the ocean and do it the natural way. Even without the salt water, they will tighten up rather quickly on their own.
13. Dirty Hair Does Not Dread
This is a very, very true statement, but it's a commonly misheld (it's an irregular verb) belief that dreadlocks are dirty. Your hair MUST be clean to dread. Let me put it this way... ever made spaghetti and added butter to it? It's delicious right? Aside of deliciousness, the spaghetti does not stick together, it slips and slides all over itself. Ever rinsed spaghetti and then cooked it without adding any butter (lubricant)? It sticks all over itself! It's the same principal with hair: the oilier it is, the harder it is to dread... the cleaner it is, the quicker it dreads! Don't let people scare you out of not washing your dreads because "they'll come undone" if you do it too often or with the wrong product. It's true that you need a residue free shampoo, but why? So that your hair is squeaky clean with no left over "conditioning" products that act like butter and cause your hair to slip and slide all over itself. And believe you me, if you tried to comb out one of your dreads right now, you'd see how difficult it REALLY is, no shampoo can just automatically "rinse out" the knots. Wash as often as you did before, regardless of if your hair is one week or one year old. Clean = Knotty.
14. Beads Can Cause Weak Spots In Immature Dreads
Okay, not if they're the bead wraps or the cylindrical tube beads (well, they do to an extent) but beads that are too small for the diameter of your dread will compress the hair, the hair will find an easier way to knot, and when the bead comes off, you're left with a weak point in your dread. I made the mistake of getting too excited and throwing small beads on immature dreads; well, when the dreads bulked up (expect a 30% increase in mass and volume as the dread knots, or about at thick as the section of hair comprising the dread) the bead basically put a strangle-hold on the dreadlock and when I couldn't take the bead out because it wouldn't move up or down due to the dread tightening above and below the bead (it was dumb wooden craft bead - nothing spectacular) I had to break/crack it off with a few gentle taps with the hammer, and guess what was there... un-dreaded hair! My dread would bend in the most awkward of ways and I was afraid it was going to fall off at the weak point. I did what I could with my crochet hook (very gently) to get the hair to knot, and then I wrapped wool roving around it and felted it in to provide strength. Don't do what I did. Get your beads the right size and do try to have some patience. If you simple cannot wait to decorate your locks I suggest wraps of all kind, cylinder wraps/beads, tube beads, etc.
15. I Can Wear My Hair Two Ways: Up or Down
Wrong! There's lots of ways to wear dreads. You can wear it in a half ponytail and let the other half down. You can braid it into a french braid (or two for braid pigtails). You can wear pigtails. You can wrap it into a bun and stick all the loose ends in for a neat look. You can half-bun it and have all the spikeys in a lions mane around the bun. It's really about wearing your dreads the same exact way that you could or would wear your normal hair. I've seen awesome dread wraps and ponies. What you imagine, you can do.
16. I Have To Have All Of My Hair In Dreads
Wrong again! I know women who can't or won't rock the full dreadlock style due to work, social stuff, and I could go on and on... but there are plenty of women who have one or two dreads at the nape of their neck (they can hide them easily when worn down, or tuck them under normal hair when up: kind of like hair extensions) so that they too can experience having dreadlocks, reminding them of their more naturalistic or primal side, and hell, just to have them... and you know what? Those are some of the coolest people I know. It's not a requirement for you to have nothing but dreads; no one said, "You must dread ALL your hair." No, I know people with one, two, five, and 8, all interspersed throughout the hair, and it's an awesome look. I kind of wish I had done it that way, but I didn't understand that I could just have one or two at the time... I thought it was an "all or nothing" thing. It's definitely NOT an "all or nothing" thing when it comes to dreads. Fair warning, when you have only one or two they will try and consume the loose, non-dreaded hair around them.
17. Dreads Get Caught On Stuff
Yeah, they do. Earring, bracelet clasps, necklace chains, plants, each other, and random objects. Immature dreads are much like velcro, and it's just a part of dread life. Just untangle yourself and move on. If you get your wrist tangled in your dreads because of your bracelet, just ask a friend for help or go stare in a mirror, don't yank it out. Really this is a phase too, more mature dreads are less prone to catch on things because they become like soft cotton rope.
18. Dreads Are Permanent
Not at all. "What? I'll have to cut them off! I can't comb them out!" Calm down you nervous nelly. Sure you can comb them out - it just takes a lot of patience, a lot of time, and a lot of conditioner - but it IS possible because I, and many many others, have done it. If you're a guy, it's not so much of a big deal unless you love your long hair, but this is a big one for the ladies. A lot of women won't or don't get dreads because they believe dreads are permanent. Dreads are not permanent, just like anything else with hair (with the exception of cutting it off or bubble gum snips) it can be undone.
19. Dreadlocks Mean You're A Hippie
Why, thank you! But that's just me. Dreads do not a hippie make. Often times dreads are spiritual, cultural, or deeply intimate with personal meaning to the person. A lot of people do dreads to get back in touch with their animal side, their natural side, their warrior side, or their 'just because' side. A lot of people from biblical times had dreads; remember Samson? He had 7 locks of hair. Samson had dreads, and I like to think that maybe Jesus Christ did too. It was the accepted way of wearing hair back then, if you wanna go further back King Tut had dreads that are still intact to this day! Even if you have one or many, having dreads does not make you a hippie. Rest easy.
20. Dreadlocks Are Frustrating
Yes. And no. They're only as frustrating as you make them. If you obsess over them, then they become frustrating. If you just "let it be" and go with the flow, they are very easily manageable, comfortable, and natural. If you fret a lot over your dreads, you have fretlocks, not dreadlocks. If you fuss over them, you have fusslocks.
Your True Self
Yes, I could make a joke about dreading your hair and that's why they're called dreadlocks, and it's funny, because it is kind of a love/hate/love relationship, but I assure you the use of 'dread' means: "to inspire awe" as well as "a great fear." Although wearing dreadlocks is as old as humanity itself, the use of the word "dread" before "lock" was credited to the Rastafarian culture (and other cultures as well) in that: wearing dreads with pride of their natural selves (symbolized by hair growing eternally from the mind and soul) and the inspiration of a sublime spirituality and respect for one's true self with the dread some may feel when confronted with the true natural self.
Update: It's been brought to my attention that one thing I didn't address was the dreaded shrinkage! (Thank you Arrogant7!) So let's add to this list.
21. Shrinkage and Lost Length
Shrinkage is very normal, and yes, by varying degrees ranging from one inch to several! Believe it or not it takes anywhere from one to three years for dreads to achieve full maturity, depending on hair type, texture, care, etc. If you're currently experiencing shrinkage don't freak out and start fretting about your locks (they already have the word "dread" in them) - right now your dreadlocks are just knotting and tightening inside the core of the dread (what we can't see) so it seems as if nothing is happening! (Sort of like when a plant doesn't put off any new growth you can bet it's working in its root structure, just because we can't see it doesn't mean something isn't happening.) Don't turn your dreadlocks into "fretlocks." I started fussing over mine when I lost about 5 inches in between months 7 and 11; the good news is they're starting to lengthen back out. Consider it a lesson in patience. You'll get your length back, you may not get all of it back, but you'll get most of it back. Be patient. Good things come to those who wait. Remember that dreads also serve the purpose of teaching us different lessons. Besides, hair continually grows so really it's just a matter of "when" and not "if;" they won't stay shrunken forever. Have faith. <3
Update: It's been almost two years since I've had my dreads and I've thought of another little unknown thing pertaining to parts and bald spots. Let's add to the list again.
Most dreadheads I know encounter this phenomenon. You know how undreaded hair has a natural part somewhere up top on the crown of the head? Well, you can't fight nature on this part... pun slightly intended. The fact is we all have a natural part... and dreads, no matter where they may be, tend to follow the path of least resistance, i.e. the natural part. Well, if you're like me and have a cowlick at the back of your head, the part there can look awful funny... and noticeable. Like, I think the Google satellites can probably see my part from space. I have "part paranoia" and when my hair is down I feel like there's a Grand Flesh Canyon visible to all who look. This is simply just not the case. It's only noticable to you and if someone does notice your part, they're probably too entranced by your dreads to take stock of a tiny pink line running slightly crooked down the back of your head. Chill. Your part may be scary but an easy solution is to just lay a few surrounding locks on top of the part if you're really so concerned (like me).
23. "Bald Spots"
The wicked scary part is nothing compared with this irrational concern, so it's the perfect segue into the second part of this mountain which is only a molehill to others: "bald spots." We all have a favorite sleeping position, and we all have an insane position in the deepest sleep that we're not even aware of... but our dreadlocks are. Since dreads follow the path of least resistance, it's safe to say that if you sleep or lay for prolonged periods of time on the same area of your head, then your dreads are going to flatten and spread away from that spot (cowlicks are a great example of where this can happen). You may notice that your head lacks about a palm-sized area of scalp that doesn't have dreads layered over it. Whaaaat?! Yes. It's normal. In your mind's eye all you can see is a literal "bald spot" where there is no hair and you may be soon rocking that friar's hair-do. Not to worry. Your scalp isn't actually visible. Don't believe me? Go take a mirror and stand with your back to another mirror and check out your head... there's hair there, just maybe not dreads. No, you're not going bald, it's just the area of your scalp that dreads don't hang out. You can remedy this frightful situation by layering dreads over the blank area or you can just (let's say it together): "let it be."
24. Baby Dreads: "They Don't Look Good."
So, if you don't know I'll fill you in: I do install dreads for people on the side because I want to share the joy that we call "dreadlocks." I just spent last Sunday afternoon installing dreadlocks for a new client. Her hair type was exactly like mine: fine, straight on top then wavy at the ends, and not a whole lot of volume; she even knew she wanted to install them using the "rip and tear" method (sounds horrible but is actually the gentlest and most natural way to start dreads, in my opinion). She was ecstatic when we were finished 4 to 5 hours later with a full set of new baby dreads and was just over the moon about finally having them (she's wanted them since she was a teenager). I let a few days pass and then decided to ask her how she was enjoying her new locks. Her response was something along the lines of 'I had to take them out, they looked horrible, they were coming undone and [everyone] was saying how terrible they looked [...] so I took them out.' I had to reread that text about 3 times before I absorbed it. Wait... you WHAT? Holy tarnation, she took them out. Let me explain something about baby dreadlocks... they take time to mature. Did you run before you learned how to crawl? No (unless you're some weird mutant). Dreads have to grow up, too. Baby dreadedlocks always, almost always, look terrible... especially in their first few weeks.
Mistake #1: Don't listen to other people. Solution: It's YOUR hair, do what you want with it. Do you really care what other people think? (If you do then dreadlocks may not be the hairstyle of choice for you and I urge you to seriously reconsider your decision.) If you're like I am and don't give one hoot and a holler what other people think, then plunge right in. Don't let other's opinions sway how you think about your hair... it's what YOU want, what YOU decide, it's YOUR hair.
Mistake #2: Taking them out. Solution: Tell your Dread Technician that you're concerned about your locks and would like some advice. If my aforementioned client had texted or called me and said, 'Hey, I'm kind of worried, my dreadlocks look funny," I would have immediately had her come over or go to where she was - tools in hand - and assuage her fears. Now, she's wasted time and wasted money. What's worse is she never even gave them a chance.
Conclusion: Baby dreadlocks look like hell run over when they're in their first few moments of life... it's a phase. Everyone goes through it and it's completely normal. My hair looked terrible after I first installed my dreads. It's taken two years for them to finally start acting halfway right. Heck, it only took a few months for them to look like actual dreads instead of fine wisps of loosely matted hair with fuzzies everywhere; I seriously think I looked like those weird long-haired chihuahuas that get mange. It's no cakewalk but it is worth it in the end; you just have to push through and... LET IT BE. If you're frustrated, I feel you. I get it. It's discouraging. Especially when your closest friends are like, 'Hey, your hair kinda looks like crap.' Ouch. Thanks friend. Remind yourself why you decided you wanted dreads, focus on it, (I mean really soul search), now ask yourself a very hard question: Is it still worth it? If your answer is yes then hold tight to that thought and wear it like armor. If not: reconsider. The "Baby Dread Phase" is just that...only a phase and it will pass. Have faith, my friends.
Update 11/25/14: It's been brought to my attention that one thing I didn't address was how to comb out dreadlocks! (Thank you Danielle!) So let's once more add to this list.
25. You CAN Comb Dreadlocks Out.
This is completely true for most people with locks. Now some hair textures or salon treated locks may not comb out at all, but for most people the option of combing them out is completely viable. There's some kind of strange stigma in the "normal hair" folk's world and I've heard it at least 642 times, "What happens when you don't want them anymore? Do you have to shave your head?" Let me be the one to say ABSOLUTELY NOT! This is simply not true. You CAN comb them out. I had a huge dread on the crown of my head that, in retrospect, should have been two instead... there was just way too much hair, it was too fat and subsequently heavy, and it constantly fell in front of my face anytime I looked down. I almost cut the entire thing off just out of sheer frustration. Ha ha, "shear frustration", get it? Sheer. Shear. (I love homonyms.) But I digress! I did not cut off my "Big Fatty" dreadlock, I instead went about uncombing it... because no one ever said I couldn't at least try. It took a really heavy duty metal comb, about two tons of patience, and at least 500lbs of determination. I started at the tail (the paintbrush tip) of Big Fatty and started by inserting one tooth of the comb about 2mm into the dread and gently pulling the hair out of the dreadlock. It turned out to be easier if I started splitting the dreadlock with my fingertips and then pulling with the comb in small sections. As I would loosen more hair I would brush out the end and then start back where the knots resumed. It was like I was unraveling my dreadlock rather than uncombing it. Slowly but surely I started getting higher and higher up into the dreadlock until I finally reached my scalp and could comb that section out. Now it was frizzy as all get out and it looked kind of like a lion's mane, but it was undreaded hair! Prepare for a shocker. Remember I mentioned that all the hair you would normally lose on a daily basis gets caught up in your dreadlocks, which is why they thicken up? Well, guess what happened. I pulled out a humongous amount of already shed hair that was just "stuck" in my dreadlock; I mean it was at least two very large handfuls. Don't fret, don't stress, it's just like having baby dreads all over again. If your hair is really stubborn, and I mean REALLY stubborn, try a lubricant like coconut oil, argan oil, or even olive oil, to allow the hair to slide over itself easier. It took me about 2-3 hours to comb out Big Fatty, so if you're undoing your whole head, depending on the number of dreads you have, look at spending about a week or more to get them all out. But hey, it beats the alternative right? Remember: Metal comb, patience, determination, and oil. After your dreads are combed out just wash your hair and treat it as normal; you'll have frizzy hair for a few days up to a little over a week, but your hair WILL return to normal. Caution: if your dreadlocks have been chemically treated by anything such as hair dye, bleach, or any other harsh chemicals, you may encounter a lot more breakage and so I encourage gentleness when pursuing this action.
Until Next Time,
My Etsy Shop (Wings and Things by D&D Studios) is full of Handmade Dreadlock Beads and Cuffs! Made by a Dreadie for Dreadies. <3
See My Other Blog Posts About Dreadlocks:
- 20 Little Unknown Things About Having Dreadlocks