Making the decision to have dreadlocks is a big commitment, and can be a little intimidating at first. Dreads will go through multiple stages and phases before becoming the strong and luscious locs you have been dreaming of. The beginning stages, otherwise known as starter locs, will set the tone for the rest of your loc journey.
The entire dreadlock process typically takes up to 24 months, or potentially even longer, and there are typically 5 stages. But what about the first stage, starter locs? How long does it take in the beginning to really see the dreads forming, and to see progress developing? Well, a lot of factors go into that answer, and it’s never the same for everyone.
Starter locs are the first type of locs you will encounter at the start of your journey; it’s important to be educated as much as possible to know what to expect, and what to do next. There are proper techniques and things to be aware of that will help your dreads lock and form over time, even in the first couple of months.
How long before starters begin to lock?
Starter locs, or “baby-locs” as they are often referred to, are the first stage when you initiate to establish and form your precious locs. Here, you are developing a parting or forming system, and waiting for locs to start ”budding,” or locking. Some characteristics of starter locs are:
- Small in size: Most dreadlocks will be small in the beginning and become larger and thinker over time.
- Neat: Dreads are very clean and neat looking, as they are newly developed and freshly formed.
- Cleanly parted: Frizzyness and matting have yet to begin, and dreads are cleanly parted and separated from one another.
On average, you will be in the starter lock phase for 3-6 months. While that may seem like a long time, be patient, dreadlocks are a slow process. The amount of time it will take before starter locs really begin to lock can be dependent on serval different factors.
- Hair type: Thicker and fuller hair will often lock a lot faster than thin and untextured hair. Curly hair also tends to develop locks a lot sooner than straight hair.
- Hair growth: The faster your hair grows, the faster the loc will become fuller and start to lock and form buds. If you have hair that typically grows at a slower rate, the knotting process may be the same.
- Original insertion: Depending on the original way your dreads were inserted, will dictate how fast they lock. For example, thick curly hair with dreads inserted from backcombing and palm rolling will lock very quickly if taken care of properly.
How do you know when they are starting to lock?
After the first 3-6 months, you will start to notice a difference in your dreads. They may seem stronger or become thicker and matted. This means they are now starting to move beyond the starter loc phase, into the budding phase.
More often than not, your dreads will start to become very frizzy and messy looking; don’t’ panic, this is a good sign! This is when they are really starting the locking process. At this point, it is very critical to make parts and placements of your dreads, as it will set the stage for how they lay over time. Another option would be to let them lay naturally and let freeform dreads take over.
Once dreadlocks are in this stage, they will typically continue to mat, lock, and become thicker over the next 12 months.
Can you do anything to make them loc faster?
Since dreadlocks are a drawn-out and slow process, you might be wondering if there is any way to speed things up. Getting your dreads to lock faster mostly comes down to maintenance and hygiene; keeping your dreads happy and healthy is most important.
To make your dreadlocks become tighter and stronger a lot faster, some useful techniques are as follows:
- Wash your dreads often: While it is a common stereotype that people with dreadlocks don’t wash their hair, this is far from the case. Washing your dreads 2-3 times a week will keep them clean, stay in shape, and speed up the knotting process.
It is best to use shampoo or products that are residue-free and have no added preservatives, coloring, or additives. Washing frequently will not only lock the dreads but keep them moistured as well.
- Back-combing: Back-combing your dreads frequently, especially at the root, will continue to keep new growth matted and tied in with the already existing loc. This can be done with a thin metal comb or the use of a crochet hook; this is especially good for flyaways and root maintenance.
- Palm rolling: The act of twisting and palm rolling help keep dreads firm and matted, and speed up the knotting process if done on a regular basis. Try to get into the habit of twisting or palm rolling your dreads a little bit every day.
- Personal daily hygiene: Most importantly, personal hygiene is what will keep dreadlocks long, tight, and healthy over time. Proper maintenance and hygiene rituals are crucial for long-lasting locs.
How do I keep my starter locs from unraveling?
Starter locs are still in the beginning stages, meaning it is the easiest time for them potentially unravel. This is the last thing that anyone in the first few months of their dreadlock journey wants to deal with. While this doesn’t always happen, they may unravel for various different reasons.
Depending on how dreads were initially inserted. The technique used to start your dreads may not have been the best technique for your hairstyle in the first place. Another reason is the texture; thin and straight hair will take longer to form and lock, and may initially start to unravel naturally. Additionally, if your locs aren’t fully dry after maintenance or taken care of properly, unraveling and the loss of thickness is likely to happen.
Before calling it quits on your dreads or beginning to panic, assess the problem. It is very likely to be a problem that can be easily resolved over time. If you begin to notice your dreadlocks starting to unravel or becoming thinner, try these techniques:
- Sleep with a satin bonnet or dread wrap. This will help keep your dreads protected from pulling and unwanted natural atmospheric particles and residue at night. However, be sure that your locs are fully dry before wrapping or covering them, to protect them from potential mold, smells, and damage.
- Be gentle with your dreads. The best way to keep dreads healthy is to let them be natural. Avoid a lot of up-do hairstyles or ones that require a lot of pulling and pressure. Additionally, be gentle while washing and performing frequent maintenance techniques at home.
- Healthy washing and care routine. Washing your hair regularly and with the correct products will help lock your dreads, not unravel them. Avoid using waxes and gels and other unnatural styling products, as this causes long-term unwanted residue and damage to the dreads.
While deciding to unleash the dreadlock hairstyle can be scary, stressful, and a little intimidating at first, the journey is the best part. Watching your dreads lock and change over time is one of the coolest parts of the process. Dreadlocks are a great example of what can be achieved with long-term commitment.
Starter dreads will set the tone for the start of your journey, so do your research! Be sure you are educated on how to maintain and care for your dreads properly, and your journey will be much smoother. If you are still unsure about caring for your starter lock on your own, seek advice from a loctition, or refer here for some helpful advice.