Gaining a Dred-ucation

If you’re giving some thought to having new dreadlocks, we have prepared some information and frequently asked questions, as dreads take a bit of care and patience while they become established.

There are lots of misunderstandings about dreadlocks, such as them needing to be cut off if you no longer want to sport the hairstyle - they can be removed by combing them out, it just takes time.

Dreadlocks go through stages before they settle into smooth looking, tubular dreads. They typically take between 6-12 months to mature depending on what you do to assist the process. Up until this occurs you can expect they will be a bit fuzzy and have moments when they get slightly lumpy, indicating they are starting to solidify.

Using some techniques, products suited to your hair type and some gentle crocheting sessions can hasten the process, while smoothing out bumps and taming some fuzz. As everyone’s hair type is different you can expect a bit of experimentation to determine what works best for your hair type.

Preparing For Dreadlocks

Q: In order to have dreadlocks, how long does my hair need to be?

While I have locked hair as short as 5cm, 15cm is really the minimum length you want to start your dreads with. This length also allows you to have extensions added if you’re wanting to get an immediate boost in length from the get go.

Q: What are the different methods used to create dreadlocks?

Dread Perm: this is a procedure involving having chemicals break the bonds of your hair and then having a neutralising chemical rearrange the bonds. Damaging the hair in this way leads to the dreadlocks breaking and being prone to falling out. It is often painful and unpleasant to be sitting for hours breathing in chemical smells. Often this treatment has to be done on a number of sittings before dreadlocks become permanent. This costly, time consuming and arguably toxic process is far from ideal. So why do some people offer it? Much of the training hairdressers receive does not cover dreadlocking, only the process of perming so it is the only process some people are familiar with. Perhaps more to the point, natural dreadlocking is a labour intensive process. Salons often opt for perming because they can spend less time working on clients by placing their hair in chemical baths instead of having to do the laborious work of crocheting.

Dread Twists: coily hair such as African hair responds to being twisted in conjunction with a product such as wax or gel. Product is put on a section of hair, then they are twisted into a tubular shape. Next they are pinned or clipped in place while they set, sometimes with the help of heat. This process slowly helps dreadlocks form over time and can require a number of twisting sessions. Again, it is a less labour intensive method but the downside involves having to pay for many sessions and also being left with residue from product and constantly having greasy hair. The twist method may be okay for kinky hair but if your hair type is straight, wavy or curly it requires more attention to begin and maintain dreadlocks.

Natural Dreads: this is the process we adopt. It involves using no chemicals and no product. The hair is sectioned appropriately depending on hair type and the style you are after, then it is backcombed and crotched. This results in a loc that is firm and would take many months to achieve with the alternative methods. It is a labour intensive process so they really are made with love. Hybrid Dreads: Some people adopt the natural methods of backcombing and crocheting but then add wax or other product to save having to do the demanding task of natural crocheting or because they wish to avoid the dreadlocks having the initial fuzziness that is a part of dreadlocks maturing naturally. While this method may look marginally neater when it is done, the use of wax and products can trap moisture in the dread and attract dirt, and can contribute to mildew and mould growing. It goes without saying that this is something you want to avoid. This is not a method we employ.

Dread Extensions: this is a method involving sewing hair extensions onto dreadlocked hair to give you extra length. We specialise in this process and employ the same natural methods as we do when dreading your hair.

Q: Will I lose much length when I have dreads done?

Having experimented with different approaching to dreadlocking I have found that the natural way of backcombing and crocheting leads to the least amount of shrinkage. Many of my client’s comment that they didn’t expect to retain so much length when they see their dreads finished.

As your locs start to mature you might notice shrinkage depending on how much love you give them. Your day to day activities results in hairs knotting tighter. The amount of shrinkage and the timing of it can be difficult to predict as hair does its own thing and is influenced by things such as your hair type and whether you have your dreads maintained.

A loose rule of thumb is that thick hair may shrink 5% while very fine hair can shrink as much as 20%. Having dreadlock extensions on short hair or fine hair is a way to rectify this.

Q: How many dreads for a full head?

How many dreads for full head of hair is a common question we get. It really depends on your hair type and what dreadlock style you’re going for. If you have thin hair then thin dreadlocks will suit you best. Depending on how much volume of hair you have you might end up with 60 or so dreads. For people with thicker hair, around 35-45 locs is about average.

Q: How many dread extensions for a full head?

Similar to the above question, how many dreadlock extensions full head of hair is dictated by the thickness of your hair and how much of it you have. If you’re having me prepare your dread extensions I tend to make extra, but around 35-50 can be expected. You might even want to mix different types of dreads such as having thin dreadlocks and thick ones randomly placed throughout your hair or have thin ones at the front and thicker ones at the back.

Caring For Your Dreads

Q: Are dreadlocks hard to maintain? Do I need to do anything to maintain my dreadlocks?

Not if you’re going for the natty look. Depending on your hair type you might get away with not doing anything with your locs at all. One client I worked with had his first maintenance session 9 years after his dreads were done when he was going to be the best man at a wedding. Not everyone endeavours to achieve the “ideal” dreads. Too much styling can look a tad artificial. Some folks prefer to have their dreads done professionally and then leave them to do their own thing.

The reality though is that most people like more of a groomed appearance. Dreads take time to completely lock and set in place. During our dreadlocking session, I will go through different techniques and tips you can use to aid the process and keep your locs in tip-top shape.

I recommend regular maintenance sessions during the maturity process where I tighten your dreads, separate any that have joined and sew in regrowth. Pulling regrowth or new hairs into the base of your dreads keeps them from thinning and potentially growing out. This is more relevant if you have straight, thin and soft hair.

After your dreads have matured it becomes a personal preference whether you get regular or more infrequent maintenance. Having your locs tidied every few months is still a lot less onerous than having to frequently go to a hairdresser for styling.

I respect all dreadlock styles so whether you’re going for natural or groomed locs I can help you determine what path is best for you and your hair type.

Q: How to keep dreads tight at the root?

For natural dreadlocks regularly crocheting them or palm rolling them keeps them tight but this is the most labour intensive way to go. Palm rolling works to compact and tighten up the knots in dreadlocks. Both crocheting and palm rolling assist in getting loose hair on the surface of a dread to lock in. With new dreadlocks, hair is going to inevitably pop out until they mature so these techniques speed up the locking over time.

If you’re wanting to do a little less work, having a dreadlock product designed to accelerate maturity is a good option. You can also combine this with the previous methods also. Working with your hair type I can help advise which hair care products would suit you best.

Lastly, there is the ‘no work at all option’ where you have me maintain your dreds every few months. The longer you have them the less frequently you need tidy ups.

Q: How do you keep your dreads healthy?

Dreadlocks love salt water as they like to be dry and nothing does this better than the ocean. Cleaning your locs every few days keeps them in good health and again salt water assists as it absorbs toxins and bacteria while infusing minerals such as magnesium, potassium and calcium. Sydney is a great part of the world to have dreadlocks with the abundance of great beaches and warm water.

There is always too much of a good thing though and your hair can get dehydrated if too much moisture is taken out. When I notice this with clients I recommend a conditioning balm.

Wax is to be avoided as it leaves residue and makes it harder for your hair to breath. Letting your locs clump and mat too much or going to sleep with them damp can lead to mildew and smell. Keep them separated and not always tied up or in a dread soc constantly. Sunlight, on the other hand, is something that your locs love.

The dreadlock products I recommend are organic, residue free and full of healthy ingredients such as aloe vera which cleans your scalp and nourishes your hair.

Q: What can I use to moisturize my locs? / How do you moisturize your scalp with dreads?

This is an area to consider for well established, mature dreads which can lead to breakage if they become very dry. New locs don’t have this issue and take quite a while to show any trace of brittleness.

To start with, here are some moisturising tips for those that are intent on totally natural dreadlocks:

Up your water intake.

It has been said that as many as 80% of Australians suffer the effects of dehydration. Water is not only critical for our survival but for maintaining health including hair.

Have a good steam now and again. Whether you give your head a rest from using a shower cap or keep the window closed in your bathroom on occasion, having some steam get into your dreads is one way to add some moisture naturally should they be overly dry.

Go for satin. Cotton is prone to producing lint which can become a residue in your dreadlocks. Sleeping on satin sheets or even just using a satin pillowcase will help avoid this.

Take a rest from colouring. Depending on what you use to colour your hair, these products often have colouring agents which strip your hair of moisture.

If you’re one for using dreadlock products then be sure that what you use is designed for locs and stay away from wax which can cause dirt, dust and odours to get trapped in your dreads and increase dryness. I recommend a conditioning spray or balm which doesn’t loosen mature dreads. And with it containing aloe vera, good proteins, amino acids, enzymes and other vitamins, it will moisturise your dred locks without leaving build up.

Q: Is there anything I should avoid doing with my dreadlocks?

My number one tip would be to avoid using wax. If you’ve ever spilt hot candle wax on a carpet then tried to clean it the next day with soap & water you will have found this doesn’t work.

Wax and other products can leave moisture in your dreads and form conditions where mildew can grow. Many shampoos and products which claim to be organic and residue free are not actually residue free. Dr Bronner’s natural soaps are wonderful & I use them regularly. While they are great for your body and shampooing normal hair they are not good for dreadlocks. Even some products advertised as dreadlock shampoos do not rinse out clean for many people. Having tried different products, I’ve settled for a stockist that has proven to give results at a good price.

Why all the fuss about residue, you ask? Oils and fragrances, that may not bother normal hair have a tendency to get trapped inside dreadlocks and build up over time. The more build up, the more likely your dreads will trap moisture and prevent your dreadlocks from drying completely. Stinky or mouldy dreads are not pleasant for anyone.

In order to maintain sweet smelling, healthy locs, avoid residue building products such as wax. We’ve sourced a conditioning balm designed for dreads which helps with softness and tempers any brittleness that mature brings can lead to. Typically the rule of thumb is the dryer the better for dreadlocks.

Do make sure your dreads have had plenty of time to dry before going to sleep. Use a blow dryer if you have to but whatever you do don’t go to bed with damp dreads!

Q: How long do dreads last for?

Dreadlocks are permanent in the sense that the section of hair you have dreads made from will remain locked unless you take steps to loosen them (be it neglecting to maintain them if they are thin dreads, causing them to unravel) or if you dowse them in conditioner or a product designed to unlock them.

Q: If I wanted to take out my dreadlocks is the only option to cut the dreaded part of my hair?

There are 3 options when it comes to removing dreadlocks.

1. Cutting them off is the fastest and most immediate way. This is not ideal if you don’t want to be left with a shaved head or really short hair.

2. You can grow the roots of your hair and simply not maintain your dreads, choosing not to sew in the new growth. Once you have an amount of new growth that you’re happy with you can then cut your dreads off but be left with enough hair to style.

3. Conditioner works to soften and loosen dreads. One way to undread your hair is to lather your dreads in conditioner and leaving them to soak. If you find this isn’t working or not working fast enough you can use a specially designed product to loosen your dreadlocks. Once your hair is unlocking you can then comb them out.

Q: Will I be able to wash my hair? If so, how frequently should I wash my dreads?

Your initiation into the loc community isn’t really official until you’ve been asked the dreadful (pardon the pun) question, ‘Do you wash your hair!?’

The good news is you most certainly can and should!

Clean dreads lock up more quickly than dirty or oily ones. Washing too much, however, can over-dry your scalp and cause irritation. You will find that balance that suits your hair.

Once your locs are firmly set, you can wash your hair about once a week. It is okay to wash your hair every day provided you use a dedicated dreadlock shampoo (which we sell) designed to keep your dreads tight and not unravel them or leave residue buildup like conventional shampoos will do.

I’m taking the plunge, what next?

Q: I’ve decided to get dreads, is there anything I need to do before I see you?

Indeed!

For starters, stop using conditioner and any other hair product that contains residue. Commercial products like hair conditioner, all-in-ones, and residue shampoos leave buildup on the hair, causing them to feel smoother and silkier. But silky & smooth is the exact opposite of what we need to create great dreads & keep them looking good.

Hair free of residue (including coconut oil, hair gel etc) will knit together and hold a dread easier, because the drier the hair, the more friction there will be between the strands and the more friction… the stronger is the dread.

Oh and please do come to your appointment with dry hair. Wash the night before but try to avoid washing on the morning you arrive, particularly during winter when it takes longer for you hair to dry.

For extra brownie points come without too much expectation of having perfect dreads from day one until oblivion. Rasta cultures considered the process of letting their hair dread as a symbol of letting go and flowing more with life. If you’re devoted to micromanaging every aspect of life including your hair then give a bit of thought as to whether or not dreads are the best style for you.

Q: Are you able to fix my hair? I tried getting it dreaded elsewhere and the results are disappointing.

We sure can.

Many clients have come to us in the hopes of us fixing an attempt at locs that turned into a dread disaster.

We have seen it all, from people coming in with one giant matted dread, more wax in their hair than you could possibly imagine, loops, string holding their locs together, dares gone wrong (including and not limited to the use of superglue) to barely dreads at all – a.k.a unraveling strands of hair with some knots.

The weird and wonderful things that unsuspecting clients have let friends, amateurs and other questionable characters do to their hair!

We have successfully fixed these and many more problems, leaving clients with functional, natural dreads.

Q: How do I book an appointment?

Simply click on the book appointment button below, or else phone up, text 0420 984 481 or email dreadlockssydney (at) gmail.com

Feel free to text or email photos of your hair as well as any questions you might have.

I look forward to working with you.

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