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What to Expect with New Dreadlocks

Updated: Feb 17

You did it. You survived the most difficult part of your dreadlock journey: creating them. Is it too cheesy to say congratulations?


Having new dreadlocks is kinda like bringing home a newborn for the first time; the questions are obvious but the answers are ambiguous.


  • What do I need expect?

  • How am I suppose to take care of them?

  • How often do you have to wash these things?


Unlike what we would advise for your new style of hair, we are going to unravel commonly asked questions for new dread-heads.


What to Expect With New Dreadlocks


The tight sectioning of new dreadlocks will make things a bit inflamed and a lot itchy. We recommend using essential oils such as tea tree, lavender, and frankincense to help reduce inevitable inflammation, the need to itch, and possible dandruff. We also caution spraying sunscreen or wearing a hat if you are in the sun, as your scalp will be exceptionally exposed!


They will drastically shrink. After creating your dreadlocks, they will naturally begin to shrink. Be prepared for your hair to shrink at least 4+ inches. It takes time for dreadlocks to matte and lock before they get to a stage of growth. This process and timeframe looks different for everyone, but you can surely expect shorter hair than you began with when you created the dreads! There are plenty of dreadlocks stylists who can install dread extensions, or you can look into creating your own!


Things are going to get worse before they get better. Depending on the type of dreadlocks you desire (neglected, maintained, or somewhere in between), the beginning stages of new dreadlocks take a lot of patience, upkeep, and attention (again, this depends on the style you want!) Every head of dreads is different, and can take anywhere from 8 weeks to an entire year for them to “lock up.” Until then, expect fuzz and frizz, as your hair tries to figure out what the heck is going on and which way to grow!


How To Take Care of New Dreadlocks

There are a few different ways to take care of new dreadlocks. Until you discover what works best for your hair type and the style of dreads you are wanting to achieve, we recommend keeping it as simple as possible. Here are a few things to try when taking care of new dreadlocks:


Roll them. Yes—roll. As much and as often as you can, take each dreadlock between your hands and/or fingers and image you to start a fire with the friction. This will advance the locking process, pull in loose hairs, and keep the dreads from lumpy edges.


Invest in a crochet hook. You can buy these at your nearest arts and crafts store. For most people, anywhere from 0.5mm-0.8mm is ideal for tightening and maintaining dreadlocks. There are plenty of YouTube videos for how to tighten dreadlocks at the root and in areas they want to fall out. If you can’t access your hairstyle right away, ask a friend to reach the dreads you can’t quite see!


Do not wash them! Unlike many of the dreadlocks myths out there, you actually can wash them. Just not for the first couple of weeks. Your new dreads need to get used to/begin locking. Washing them will only forge loose hair and make the process take longer/even stall it completely. You can begin washing your hair every 7-9 days once your dreads are capable of maintaining some structure and holding without wanting to revert back to old ways. Use your own judgment regarding your hair type and how well your locks are responding to their new life.


When it's time to see a professional: As weird as the following analogy may sound, it is a very accurate representation of what happens to dreadlocks over time if you do not get them maintenanced or “cleaned up.” You know how in the movie “Avatar,” they mate by interlocking the ends of their braids to form one? Well, this is kinda exactly what happens to dreadlocks that fail to seek attention! Unless you desire your dreads to appear neglected and are prepared for larger dreads to form, you may want to look into a professional who will provide their own method of maintencing. While it is possible to do it yourself, many times the most “interlocking” that takes form is in the back of the head where the eye can’t see. Sarah, a stylist at Fifth Element Hair Studio in Bend, Oregon, specializes in dreadlock maintenance and creation. Her rates are available to view online at www.fifthelementhairstudio.com


Like all good things, dreadlocks take time and patience to fully manifest. Utilizing the correct practices and resources, your dreadlocks will achieve a bold statement and one of a kind experience unlike any other hair journey before.


Enjoy the process!