One of the biggest questions for many people with dreadlocks: Should they be soft or hard?
Everybody’s hair is different, and there are no two dreadlocks the same. Depending on the type of hair you naturally have, will help to determine the answer to this question.
But overall, healthy dreadlocks are soft and will move when you move.
Should your dreads feel hard or soft?
Perfect locs should feel almost like pillows. Real and natural dreadlocks are soft, bouncy and lively. There will always be a little roughness due to the knots that form the dreads themselves. However, there is a big difference between dreads being rough (but soft), and hard and stiff.
It’s okay for your dreads to be firm to maintain their shape and form, but over time, a lot of damage can be caused from locs that are too hard or stiff. Harder locs become very heavy the longer they get. This can cause pulling and damage to your scalp, even neck and back problems, and they will become more of a hassle. Additionally, if the day ever comes where you want to remove your locs, that process can become next to impossible.
Soft locs are a sign of happy and healthy locs. The more TLC that your locs receive, the less likely they are to become stiff. Additionally, softer locs become easier to maintain, and aren’t going to be as heavy and damaging over time. Knowing the proper maintenance methods, and practicing correct treatment methods, will keep you locs soft and flexible.
What causes dreads to be hard & stiff?
Even healthy dreads tend to get rigid because of the knots. That’s part of what makes dreadlocks the hairstyle that they are. However, the knots should still be on the softer side of the spectrum. Dreadlocks are historically known as being very strong, or unbreakable. This is commonly mistaken for hard and stiff, and people unaware of this can cause damage to their hair over time.
There can be various reasons as to why some dreadlocks are harder than others, and vice versa. Some reasons can be prevented, but there are some things you can’t avoid; but you can prevent or change. Here are some of the most common examples of reasons for locs to become hard:
- Natural thick or dry hair- Natural hair that is thick or dry will cause dreadlocks to get hard or rough over time just because of the texture of the hair. This is something hard to avoid, but doing correct treatments and care can still give them some flow.
- Improper care- It is important not to neglect your dreads and give them the care that they need. Using incorrect maintenance methods and not caring for them properly when it comes to washing and moisturizing, will cause locs to get stiff after a while. Neglecting and avoiding treatments for long periods of time can cause all kinds of damage to your hair.
- Installment methods- Certain installment methods in the beginning can cause harder locs, depending on the method that was used. Crochet installment is an example of an installment method that can lead to harder locs. If using the crochet method when first starting your dreads, or during maintenance, it is important to do hair treatments more often, at least washing.
- Too much wax or locking product- Using too much wax or locking product, especially in the beginning, will cause dreadlocks to become very hard and stiff over time. Using excessive amounts of wax in the beginning is a common mistake people make when trying to get their dreads to fully loc. However, these products build up over time, causing dreads to become very coarse and stiff.
- Build up and debris- Build up and debris is one of the leading causes of hard and stiff dreads. There are various factors that cause build up such as too much product or wax, too much time between washes, lack of moisturizer or oils, and improper care in general. Debris is mainly caused from environmental factors and the atmosphere, and improper or no protection when sleeping.
- Too many accessories- Wearing too many accessories, beads and rubber bands in particular, can cause rough and stiff patches throughout your dreads. Even if the bead is removed, the stiff patch may become permanent, and can even produce mold if not dried properly. Remember, that part of your dreadlock was covered for a long time, and missed out on a lot of treatments and much needed oils.
How do you soften your dreads?
Soft dreadlocks can easily be formed naturally with the proper care, treatments, and maintenance throughout the whole journey. Once dreads become hard, it will take a lot of time and effort to soften them up; if it’s even possible.
Make sure that you are washing your hair regularly. Wash your dreads on a weekly basis with residue free shampoo to prevent build up and rid them of any debris. There is no need to use conditioner, as this can sometimes make the locs too soft, especially around the roots at the scalp.
Additionally washing your hair too often will start to de-knot the dreads, defeating the purpose of the knots in the first place.
Instead, try using natural moisturizer and oils on the ends of your dreads, and continue to do this on a regular basis (ex. 2-3 times a month). Even a few drops of essential oils at the scalp has been known to keep dreads healthy. Also, avoid excessive heat, such as hair dryers, and let your locs dry naturally on their own.
Products & methods for soft locs
There are a diverse amount of methods and products that can be used when trying to achieve soft dreadlocks. Practicing these methods from the very beginning of your dreadlock journey will be the most effective. Trying to soften dreads that have already become hard and stiff, is going to be a lot more difficult, and takes a lot of patience.
It is good to know the proper care methods you should use when first installing your dreads, so make sure to educate yourself. Treatments will vary depending on what type of hair you have, but overall the methods are going to be similar; the main factor is time.
- Aloe Vera Gel and Coconut Oil will help your scalp stay moisturized and keep your locs from getting too dry, while still keeping them strong.
- Essential Oils, especially tea tree oil will help clean hair with different nutrients and minerals. This helps specifically with prevention of fungus and mold as well.
- Vegetable Oil has been known to keep hair from getting dry and reduce environmental debris. It can also be used as a partial method to remove wax build up.
- Deep Cleansing your dreads with baking soda and essential oils will help if you have dreads that are excessively dirty or sticky, which can lead to matting and stiffness.
- Dreadlock butter, when used properly, is like lotion for your dreads. However, using excessive amounts can turn to build up in the hair like wax, instead of cleansing.
- Water & Protein. A healthy diet will help keep your dreads soft and bouncy. Drinking a lot of water, as well as eating the correct amount of protein, will help the production of chemicals in your hair, and not offset the pH balance.
- Vitamins. Taking vitamins regularly, such as kreatin, or hair, skin and nails, will keep your hair healthy and naturally softer and stronger, by adding even more nutrients than what is already being produced by your body.
Keep in mind, all of these methods and products can be very beneficial and helpful, but only when used properly. Too much or too little defeats the purpose of the maintenance method in the first place. Don’t overdo it, especially with oils and butter, and also try and wash your hair about once a week.
Like we said before, soft dreads are happy dreads, and they will have a life of their own. Be sure to be consistent with care, and lock down a regime that works best for you, and will keep them healthy.
The softer and healthy your locs become, the stronger and longer then will be over time. Always remember, dreadlocks are a journey and there is a lot that goes into achieving the perfect dreadlocks. Fall in love with the bounce and flexibility that comes with soft dreadlocks.