There are very few drawbacks to dreadlocks. They’re eye-catching, healthy, and low-maintenance. Unfortunately, removing them can be daunting.
If your dreads have become big and heavy, or you’re just ready for something new, cutting your locs is the fastest solution. However, a shaved head or pixie cut may not appeal to everyone. If you’re wondering how to comb out dreads, you’ve come to the right place.
To comb out dreadlocks:
- Scrub out all of the buildup and wax.
- Trim the locs to achieve loose ends.
- Apply plenty of high-quality hair oil, water, and/or detangler product before (and during) the process.
- Starting at the bottom of the dreadlock, use a highlighter comb to pick out the knots. Work in 1” sections.
- Work your way upwards, inch by inch, all the way through the root.
Don’t jump in and start combing out your dreadlocks without doing your research. Let’s talk about your options for dreadlock removal, how long removal takes, what materials you need, and step-by-step instructions for combing out dreadlocks.
Is There a Way to Remove Dreads Without Cutting Them?
Too many people believe that dreadlocks are permanent. This isn’t completely true. Cutting your dreads off is the fastest and easiest solution, but many of us aren’t ready to part with all of our hair… and it IS possible to remove the dreads without cutting them.
The key is unlocking the dreadlocks. The magic ingredients? Time and patience. If you plan to comb out your dreads, you should know that it’s going to take more than a few minutes… or even a few hours. You might consider going to a professional or recruiting a few friends to assist you.
The other thing you should know if you decide not to cut your locs: When your locs are combed out, your hair will NOT be as long as your locs are. During the process, you’ll come across a lot of hair that shed or broke off a long time ago.
While your hair may not be picture-perfect after combing out the locks, you’ll still have more hair than you would after cutting or shaving them.
If you have a ready attitude and several days to spare, here’s how you can unlock your dreads without chopping them off completely.
Combing out Dreadlocks
If you feel ready to comb out your locs, just remember – this won’t be a quick or easy solution, but it will save some of your natural hair. There are two different approaches to consider if you plan to comb out your dreads: doing it yourself or going to a professional.
Yes, you can brush out your own locs, especially ones that have been properly cared for during their life. In fact, you can save a LOT of money by combing out your own dreads instead of having a professional do it.
The downsides to doing it yourself include tired arms and sacrificing hours or days of your time. But if you’re realistic with your expectations, and saving money is paramount, DIY loc-combing may be the right choice for you.
Go to a salon
It may be difficult to find a professional who offers loc removal services. Usually, only dreadlock specialists offer expert detangling, because it is a time-consuming process.
If you prefer to leave your hair in the hands of an expert, use a search engine to look for a specialty dreadlock salon in your area, or ask around for a recommendation.
Schedule your consultation and take your time meeting with the stylist before you commit. Allow them to assess your hair, and then ask yourself the following questions…
- Am I happy with the estimate?
- Do I enjoy being with the stylist?
- Do I trust this stylist?
You’ll be spending ample time with the expert, so make sure you like and trust them before you schedule your appointment. Most experts will set aside 2-4-hour appointment blocks. Some might recommend that you comb out as much as you can before and after each appointment.
Many stylists will cut the hair to about 6” before beginning the comb-out process. Consider getting multiple estimates, since this is a large investment of your time and money. Ultimately, going to a salon might keep your hair in better health than doing it yourself at home.
How much does it cost?
Every stylist is different, but professional loc removal may cost between $65 and $125 per hour. Considering that brushing out dreadlocks can take 10-50 hours (or even more, if you’ve had locs for years), the cost adds up fast.
If you’re committed to combing out your locs instead of cutting them, but don’t have thousands to spend, you might consider a combination of DIY and salon combing.
Alternatively, you could comb them out yourself and then visit a stylist for a deep conditioning treatment and style.
While leaving your hair in the hands of an experienced professional is the safest, it’s not possible for everyone. If you do choose the DIY route, be aware that you will lose a lot of hair in the process, but you shouldn’t be alarmed as long as you are being careful and patient. You lost most of that hair a long time ago, but it has been caught in the dreads all this time.
Read on to find out what tools and products you need to comb out your dreads on your own. You can also read a detailed step-by-step guide to combing out your own dreads.
What do I Need to Comb Out Dreadlocks?
Don’t start the removal process without these key ingredients!
- A metal-tipped highlight or tail comb
- A spray bottle
- A great detangler
- High-quality hair oil
- Deep conditioner
- A regular comb
- Rubber gloves
- Friends to help
Carefully handpick products that lubricate the hair and do not tighten it. Every product you choose will either loosen your locs or tighten them. Avoid sea salt sprays, locking gels, and dreadlock shampoos.
Knotty Boy Ultimate Detangler works to remove almost every kind of knot and tangle. It also provides:
- Light curl definition
- Leave-in shine
- Split end relief
- A light tropical scent
Other products to consider include dreadlock removal shampoo, dreadlock removal conditioner, Dollylocks Shampoos, and Jamaica Mango & Lime products.
How long does it take?
Like we mentioned, the dreadlock removal process can take as little as a few hours, or as long as a few weeks. The time of removal varies drastically from person to person. Your experience will depend on your hair type, how many dreads you have, and how long you have had dreadlocks.
It may take about 30 minutes to 2 hours to untangle each dreadlock. Some people claim it takes months to find the time to remove all of the dreadlocks. Others can do it in a day. In most cases, you should expect spending several full days or even weeks to work on loc removal.
Is it painful?
The good news is, dreadlock removal is painless for the majority of the process. As you get close to the roots, you may feel your eyes stinging. Those knots right next to the scalp can be tricky, but for most of the process, you’ll be combing knots out from the bottom of your dreads, and you’ll feel practically nothing.
Now that you know what it takes to remove dreadlocks, here’s how to do it.
- WASH: The first step is washing out all of the wax and buildup. Use a good shampoo, like a dreadlock removal shampoo or clarifying shampoo. Scrub thoroughly, and use very hot water. Soak the hair in a tub or bucket of hot water to get as much junk out as possible. The more buildup you can remove, the easier the combing process will be. You might also apply a loc pre-removal product at this point.
- CUT: Chances are, the ends of your locs will be damaged and split, and will need to be cut after you brush them out. It makes more sense to cut off as much as you can before you start the long combing process. As you trim your hair, keep in mind that it will not appear as long as your dreadlocks do when you’re finished. The goal is to give yourself a loose, “open end” dreadlock to work with.
- MOISTURIZE: Drench each dreadlock with a high-quality hair oil or detangler, working it into the dreadlock until it is well-saturated. This step is critical, because it keeps the hair pliable and prevents breakage.
- WET: Use a spray bottle full of water to spray the dreadlock as you go. You can also mix the water with a dreadlock removal product. Continue applying the detangler, oil, and water product throughout the process.
- PICK: Using your highlighting comb (AKA rat-tail comb), gently pick at the end of the loc, freeing the hair from the long-standing knots. Use the point of the comb to poke the center of the loc and untangle the hair. Work in 1” sections, picking it from the bottom upwards.
- COMB: Once you get a 1” section unlocked, gently comb it out with your regular comb. Apply more oil and move up to the next section.
Repeat steps 1-6 until you comb all the way through the roots. You can expect each dreadlock to take about 30-90 minutes to unlock, depending on how long it is.
- Tackle the big knots before the little ones in each section.
- Gently pull matted sections apart at the roots.
- If you’re having trouble with a knot, apply more pressure and move downwards. Spray a mixture of removal conditioner and warm water to get more slip.
- Some people prefer to pull the dreadlocks apart and snip a few hairs in the middle to open them up more, then gently pull them apart completely.
- BRAID: You might choose to oil and braid each unlocked section to keep it under control while you proceed with the rest of your locs over the coming days. Otherwise, the hair might re-tangle in your sleep.
- WASH: After all of the dreadlocks are unlocked, wash your hair with a gentle shampoo.
- CONDITION: A long, intensive deep condition is essential to restore softness to your hair.
- CUT: You’ll lose a lot of hair during the combing process, so you might cut and style your hair again when you’re done.
- PROTECT: Use leave-in conditioner or your removal conditioner/water spray bottle combo for continued repair, and to prevent the hair from re-tangling. It will take a few days for your hair to get back to the way it was before dreadlocks. In the meantime, use oil, deep conditioning, and/or low-temperature blow drying or flat ironing.
The Beginning of Your Quest for Free Hair
Remember, many people can lose up to ¾ of their hair length by combing dreadlocks, but on the upside, it’s better than cutting or shaving the dreads off completely. One of the most common mistakes is rushing the process and breaking the hair, so be sure to apply lots of water and plenty of patience.
Best of luck on your journey towards your new style.
Here’s a great video that will help walk you through the process of combing out your dreads: