New to dreadlocks and don’t know how to take care of them? Well, let me tell you one thing, dreadlock maintenance is a lot different than taking care of your natural hair. This guide will ensure you know how to maintain strong and healthy locs throughout your dreadlock journey.
Are Dreads High Maintenance?
The answer to this question is a bit tricky, but in short, yes and no. Taking care of anything will have its challenging and not so challenging aspects, and dreads are no exception. However, compared to upkeeping natural hair, dreadlocks are far less work.
They require regular washing to remove build-up, but anything else is just about optional. The longer you have dreadlocks, the less work they become to maintain. Some other dreadlock upkeeping includes regular retwists for neatness, occasional processes for frizz control, scalp-oiling for growth, and even tying up your dreads before laying down to keep them nice and neat.
Like I previously stated, those are all optional depending on the dread look you’re aiming for.
Dreadlocks Maintenance Schedule
When it comes to maintaining anything, you should have a set schedule for when you do certain things. A few aspects of dread upkeep should be done routinely, and this section of the guide will tell you what you should be doing daily, monthly, and yearly to keep your dreads in their best possible condition.
There are things you should be doing daily to maintain the strength and health of your dreads, such as…
No matter what hair type you have, you should be covering your hair every night before you lay down. By doing this, you will protect your hair from potential breakage, dryness, and frizziness. Protecting your hair while sleeping is especially important for dreadlock upkeep because your hair is already prone to excessive dryness since it’s harder for moisture to penetrate through your matted strands.
Also, if you don’t cover your dreadlocks before going to bed, lint can get trapped within your locs. I bet you didn’t know that!
Some people recommend not moisturizing dreads to avoid build-up and mold forming within your dreads. However, I heavily recommend moisturizing to avoid breakage and extreme damage from dryness. Don’t worry, there are ways to go about moisturizing that won’t leave your dreads molding or weighed down by product.
My number one way of moisturizing dreads is to just use oil and water. Get a regular spray bottle, fill it with water, dampen your dreads, and apply your favorite oil on top. This method is a quick and easy way to moisturize your dreads that won’t leave product residue (because the water and oil will eventually evaporate/absorb) or cause mold.
However, make sure that your hair is completely dry before covering or laying down as that can cause there to be a mildew odor when you reveal your dreads.
Another effective method to moisturize dreads is to use a specialized loc butter or shea butter in small amounts on your dreads. This method provides your hair with a little more moisture, and it works better on thicker textures of hair due to the thickness of the butter. I don’t recommend this method for finer or thinner hair textures as it can weigh your dreads down and make them appear oily.
If you don’t feel comfortable using those methods to moisturize your dreads, you can always moisturize from the inside out. By drinking lots of water and maintaining a healthy diet of fruits and vegetables, your dreads will gain a natural shine and your scalp will produce its own moisture.
As I stated before, going to bed with wet dreads can leave you waking up with a mildew smell in your hair. We in the dread community call this “dread rot”. This happens just because the moisture in your hair has nowhere to go after you tie it up and compress it by laying down, so it just sits in your dreads for hours at a time.
Once you have mildew and a stench within your dreads, it’s hard to remove it. Many people just end up cutting their dreads altogether because they are unable to rid their dreads of the smell.
As time goes on and your dreads start to mature, your locs become more and more susceptible to dread rot. However, there are a few ways to thoroughly dry your dreads. I always recommend first wringing out your dreads to remove as much initial water as possible. You can then air dry, which takes a few hours or more depending on the thickness of your hair, so I recommend setting a whole day aside for this process.
To make sure that your dreads have dried completely, squeeze a dread from the middle of your head. If no moisture or residue is left on your hand, your dreads have most likely fully dried.
You can also towel dry after wringing out your dreads. This method isn’t super thorough at drying your dreads, but it gives you a jumpstart on the air-drying process. Or, for a faster process, you can blow dry your dreads. I don’t recommend this if you’ve just moisturized your dreads seeing as this process can dry them out again, but it is very effective at thoroughly drying your locs.
Just because it takes so long for dreads to dry, keeping your hair dry at all times makes dread maintenance easier. As stated before, trapped moisture within dreads can lead to mildew, mold, and other scalp infections. Just by carrying an umbrella with you on rainy days, you can prevent this issue.
Having dreads can dry out your scalp, so it’s especially important to care for your scalp as a part of dreadlock maintenance. By oiling it daily or either a few times a week and cleansing it weekly, you protect your scalp from infections and extreme discomfort.
Avoid applying products other than oil to your scalp as it can clog your hair follicles and lead to build-up within your dreads. Also, if you already have a dry scalp before getting dreads, it’s recommended to switch to a moisturizing or specialized shampoo as this can worsen with dreads.
There aren’t too many things for monthly dread maintenance, but there are a few things that can have an impact on the long-term health of your dreads.
This isn’t necessary, but it is common within the dreadlock community to have your dreads retwisted or palm rolled every four to six weeks. This process just refreshes your dreads and keeps them looking nice and neat.
There are many methods to doing this, so I recommend going to a professional loctician so they can do the method best for your hair. However, there are plenty of tutorials online should you decide to do it yourself.
Depending on who you ask, the schedule for when you should shampoo your dreads can range anywhere from once a week to once every few months. Personally, once a month works best for me, my schedule, and the integrity of my hair. However, if you have finer/thinner hair or a looser curl pattern, once every 1-2 weeks may work better for you.
I do not recommend washing any more than once a week as that can leave your dreads extremely dry and your scalp very irritated.
There’s only one thing that I would say is necessary for yearly dreadlock maintenance, and that’s having your dreads deep cleaned.
Taking care of your dreads on your own can cause you to miss a few spots in your maintenance routine. Maybe you miss the fact that you have a scalp infection on a spot of your head. Or, maybe, throughout the year, you just kept missing a certain section when drying. Or, your methods of palm rolling are ineffective.
Going to a professional yearly to get your dreads thoroughly cleansed can shine a light on all of the things you’re missing in your dread routine, and hopefully, you can correct them before it’s too late.
Most issues that occur with dreadlocks are foundational issues. If installed or retwisted improperly, your dreads can form with holes and gaps in them which can lead to weak spots later on and can cause your dread to break off from there. Another common issue with dreadlocks is when your locs start locking together.
To prevent this, regular retwisting is recommended, or you can just run your fingers/large-tooth comb through your dreads at night to separate them. In some cases, cutting the locs apart might be necessary, but be careful when doing this so you don’t cause gaps or lumps within your dreadlock later down the line.
Now you have all the information you need for dreadlock maintenance either as a beginner or as a long-time dreader looking to establish a dread routine. Like I said before, as time goes on, the amount of maintenance required for your dreads will decrease.
However, starting your dread journey using the maintenance tips in this guide will certainly boost the strength and integrity of your hair later down the line.
Thank you for reading this guide to dreadlock maintenance, and good luck on your dread journey!