Complete Guide to Starter Locs

Are you dreaming of dreadlocks, otherwise known as “locs”? Then you should know that there are five stages, and it begins with what is known as “start locs.” Start locs are exactly how they sound …

Are you dreaming of dreadlocks, otherwise known as “locs”? Then you should know that there are five stages, and it begins with what is known as “start locs.” Start locs are exactly how they sound – they’re the initial three to six months of your loc adventure, and they come with their own benefits and challenges.

If this is your first time hearing the term “starter locs,” don’t panic. This article outlines everything you’ve ever wanted to know about starter locs, from what they are to how they’re applied to the hair – plus so much more imperative information you won’t want to miss.

Ready to dive into the grand world of starter locs?

What Are Starter Locs?

Before we discuss how starter locs are applied, cared for, and other pertinent information, it’s essential to know what they are. Well, starter locs – also referred to as “baby locs” – are the name for your initial dreadlocks. The starter loc phase typically lasts anywhere between three and six months, depending on how fast your hair grows and what type of hair you have.

Starter locs can be formed in many different methods, such as two-strand twists and braids (which will be discussed in detail later in this article). Regardless of the method you choose, now is the right time to select a parting pattern or lack thereof. Some people prefer the “freeform” look, so no parting design is necessary.

Are Start Locs Permanent?

Starting locs are not permanent, although they can lead to a lifelong commitment. Remember that starter locs are not the end-all. Your locs will go through five stages:

  1. Starter (3-6 months) – The “birth” of your locs. Here, specific methods are used to begin your dreadlocks.
  2. Budding (6-12 months) – Locs begin to form at the roots, sticking or “matting” to the top of the starter locs.
  3. Teen (12-15 months) – During this phase, your locs will start to form while also being a bit unmanageable. You might have certain areas sticking up and others laying uniformly.
  4. Mature (15-18 months) – Matured dreadlocks lie down entirely.
  5. Rooted (18-21 months) – The final stage of your dreadlocks, where the hair hangs down “normally,” and you can style it or cut it as you please.

Now, keep in mind that dreadlocks can be brushed out at any point. It doesn’t matter if it’s been three months, three years, or 13 years. There is a common misconception that dreadlocks are “permanent” and must be cut to get rid of. This simply isn’t the case. While it’s easiest before the five-year mark, it’s still possible 15, 20, or 50 years down the line.

That said, no, starter locs (or any locs for that matter) are not permanent – although they certainly can be if you so desire.

Starter Loc Methods

Now that you’re familiar with what starter locs are, it’s time to dig into the different methods of creating these beginner locs. There is an impressive seven options for starting locs. Which one you decide on depends on several factors, such as hair length and type.

Two-Strand Twist

The two-strand twist is one of the most popular ways to begin starter locs. This method involves sectioning hair and splitting each section into two. From there, the strands are wrapped around each other to create a rope-like texture and appearance.

Hair Lenght Requirement: The two-strand twist is highly favored because it can work on hair as short as four inches. However, those with longer hair also tend to lean towards this style.

Best for This Type of Hair: This method works well with all hair types, but it is often the go-to for highly texture tresses.

Pros: The most significant benefit to the two-strand twist is it creates durability and stability. You can customize your final look easier, too, by opting for a thinner or thicker twist.

Cons: The rope-like appearance often takes up to two years to disappear, which means you won’t have the typical “dreadlock” look for quite some time. There is also the issue of unraveling at the ends. It is best to use palm rolling to avoid this.


Braids and/or plaits used for dreadlocks are often called “braidlocs.” This type of braiding is typically done on hair that does not twist or coil easily. Braidlocs tend to be visibly smaller than other types of braids.

Hair Lenght Requirement: Those who want to go the braidloc route should have at least five inches of hair.

Best for This Type of Hair: All hair types will work with braidlocs. However, those with hair that does not twist or coil easily will find that braidlocs are superior. They are also better suited for those who struggle with excessive scalp sweat.

Pros: Braidlocs are versatile and great for anyone wanting dreadlocks. You can interlock braids to reduce the chance of unraveling, which isn’t available with all starter loc methods.

Cons: Using the braidloc method, you may end up with flatter dreadlocks in the future. There is also the issue of the braid pattern being visible for up to a year (or longer).

Comb Coil Locs

The comb coil method is an excellent and relatively simple way to get starter locs. It’s faster than some other methods as it utilizes a comb to design consistent coils throughout the hair. You also have full customization with comb coils, going as thin or thick as you’d prefer.

Hair Lenght Requirement: The comb coil method is ideal for those with incredibly short hair, only requiring two inches. Comb coils can be used on longer tresses, but it will take immensely longer to lock, and there may be an issue of unraveling.

Best for This Type of Hair: All hair types can use the comb coil method.

Pros: This is the fastest method for starter locs. It also creates the “loc” look swifter than any other method, which is why it’s so desirable. Depending on your desired final result, you can opt for thinner or fullest coils.

Cons: Comb coils don’t play well with water, so you will want to keep shampooing to a minimum to avoid unraveling.


Backcombing – also referred to as teasing or ratting – is a popular method for those with thin, straight, or fine hair that isn’t easily twisted, braided, coiled, etc. Backcombing uses a comb underneath the hair strands going back towards the scalp. This creates a “matting” that is then palm rolled to create instant dreads.

Hair Lenght Requirement: Backcombing can be done on extremely short hair, including two or three inches.

Best for This Type of Hair: Thin, delicate, and straight hair will respond best to backcombing, but all hair types can give this starter loc method a try.

Pros: Backcombing is the only starter loc method to produce an “instant” loc appearance. As long as the teasing and palm rolling is done correctly, you can have “locs” within a few minutes.

Cons: Backcombing must be continuously performed as the hair grows out. Otherwise, the dreads won’t form properly. This can be somewhat painful over time.


Interlocking is a method used to begin starter locs, and they’re almost always paired with sisterlocks. Sisterlocks are essentially micro-sized locs that won’t unravel, unlike other options. Interlocking sisterlocks requires ultimate precision using a crochet latch hook and can take several hours to complete.

Hair Lenght Requirement: Interlocking sisterlocks is best suited for those with at least a few inches of hair. The hair needs to be long enough to “interlock” itself and create a knotted network.

Best for This Type of Hair: Interlocking can be done on all hair types.

Pros: Interlocking sisterlocks won’t be susceptible to unraveling and provide a uniform and clean-cut look that some individuals may desire. Appearance-wise, they are also far smaller than traditional locs, which may be a personal preference for some.

Cons: This method for starter locs takes a decent chunk of time and requires professional installation using a specific tool.


For those that don’t want to go through the struggle of “real” locs, there is the option of wearing loc extensions. Loc extensions can be natural human hair or synthetic material. Regardless, they are installed by wrapping or attaching to the hair. You will need to loc the roots of your hair to create a uniform look.

Hair Lenght Requirement: Enough to hide the attachment or wrap, ideally at least a few inches of hair.

Best for This Type of Hair: Any hair can work with loc extensions.

Pros: With loc extensions, you can instantly achieve cultivated locs. You also don’t have to go through the struggle of twisting, comb coiling, or to use any other method to start your locs. The only thing you have to worry about is your roots.

Cons: Synthetic loc extensions are heavy and damaging, although cheaper. Human loc extensions are preferred by are highly expensive and may require professional attachment or wrapping. You also won’t have “real” locs, which may hinder your ability to understand the loc community entirely.

Starter Loc Care

Whether you opted for the two-strand twist, braid, or any other starter loc method, there is one thing that every process requires: care. Below are some top care tips you won’t want to dismiss.

Leave Them Be

The worst thing you can do is mess with your locks. It really doesn’t matter what method you used. Even the simplest “backcombing” form shouldn’t be played with. Leaving your locs alone and allowing your hair to grow naturally will ensure no unraveling or other mishaps that will ruin your starter locs.

Oil Up

Nobody wants to struggle with a dried-out scalp or dry hair. This can cause itchiness, flaking, and a lackluster mane. To avoid this, add natural essential oils to your scalp and roots. Some of the best options for oils include tea tree oil, hemp seed oil, Jamaican black castor oil, jojoba oil, olive oil, coconut oil, and sweet almond oil.

Wash Your Locs

There is a theory that you should never wash your dreadlocks or wash them as little as every three months or more. I’m here to tell you that is incorrect. Dreadlocks – even baby ones – should be cleaned. The key is to know when and with what.

With starter locs, you want to wait at least three weeks after your initial appointment before washing. This will give your hair the time it needs to set up the “lock” and reduce the risk of unraveling or other mishaps.

Once the three weeks are up, you can switch to a regular schedule. For starter locs, it’s recommended to wash once a month. However, some people might have excessive grease or buildup and opt for every ten days. It’s important to note that washing too often can lead to the destruction of your starter locs, so you want to go as long as possible (up to a month if you can).

When you’re ready to wash your baby locs, opt for a shampoo that’s dreadlock-friendly such as Dr. Bronners – Pure-Castile Liquid Soap or Dollylocks 8oz Nag Champa Liquid Dreadlock Shampoo. Focus on the scalp rather than the dreadlocks. Use a stocking cap if you need to for added security.

Skip the Conditioner

When it comes to starter locs, it’s best to say “no” to any conditioners. These will only increase the chances of your twists, braids, or spirals unraveling. There is also the issue of conditioners causing immense buildup, damaging your locks, hindering the growth, and causing an undesirable appearance and texture.

It’s best to way until your hair has fully “locked,” which is at the one-year mark in most cases.


Still have some questions about starter locs? No worries! Below are some of the most important frequently asked questions about this topic.

Can starter locks be taken out?

Yes, starter locs can be taken out. All you need to do is brush them. It’s relatively easy to brush our starter locs because they are in the initial stages and haven’t truly formed “locks” yet. To take our stater locs, wash your hair and condition it heavily. The more hydrated your locs are, the easiest it will be to take them out. Consider leaving a deep conditioner in for a few hours before using a rat tail comb to remove the starter locs.

Can you dye starter locs?

It is not recommended to dye starter locs. You need to give your locks the right amount of time to “mature” before dying them to avoid mishaps. Most people should wait at least a year before attempting to dye their locs.

When do starter locs thicken?

This depends on many factors, and you have to keep in mind that dreads will become thicker and thinner during their first year of maturing. That’s because your dreadlocks will go through different stages. However, you can expect thickening to level out and become more permanent once they’ve reached the “mature” stage about a year to a year and a half after starter locks.

Are starter locs supposed to itch?

It is entirely normal for start locks to be itchy. There are a couple of ways to combat the itchiness, though. The best way is to use essential oil such as tea tree oil or peppermint oil. You can massage these into the scalp or find a convenient spray. You can also opt for a hair pick to scratch that itch without ruining your starter locks.

Whatever you decide to take care of the itchiness, avoid using conditioners to solve the problem. Conditioner in the initial lock stages will cause nothing but trouble.

Are starter locs supposed to be frizzy?

Frizzines is part of the process of achieving dreadlocks. So, don’t be surprised when you see a fair amount of frizziness, especially during the budding phase (although it begins to arrive in the starter loc phase). Frizziness will eventually become matted into the dreadlocks, which increases structure and thickness.

How much do starter locs cost?

Price will depend on several factors, such as the method you’re using and where you’re getting your hair done. However, the “average” cost of starter locs will be around $200.

Final Words

If you want dreadlocks, you will need to start the same way as everyone else: starter locs. Starter locs (baby locs) can be done using different methods, such as two-strand twists, comb coils, or backcombing. Regardless of the process, it’s imperative to take care of your starter locs as they’ll be fragile and prone to unraveling during the first few months.