Dreadlocks 101, an Overview

Love this? Share it!

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the most natural of them all?

The resurgence of natural hair is delightful. It’s nice for black women to really get to know their hair—what it can do and how long it can grow, etc. But the entree into the natural hair world comes with a large amount of maintenance—3-4 hour wash days, braid outs, pree-pooing, detangling, deep conditioning. It seems natural hair requires an unnatural amount of maintenance. So what would happen if we did absolutely nothing to our hair? If we decided that tomorrow we’d wash our hair and then do nothing, no brushing or anything, just regularly washing. Well, a year or so from that day we’d find ourselves with a head full of free-formed dreadlocks.

Dreadlocks, or dreads or locks, can be thought of as hair in its utmost natural state, which is why several cultural groups use them to express deep religious or spiritual beliefs, particularly the unimportance of appearance. Many people, however, choose dreads as a fashion preference. Dreads, like pretty much everything ;0), originated in Africa but have been sported by several cultural groups from the Spartans of ancient Greece to the Maori people of New Zealand.

Here we look at some of the basics of this truly natural form of hair.

Fast Facts

  • You absolutely DO have to wash dreads. Most people think you don’t. They’re wrong. You do.
  • The look is most commonly associated with a bohemian or hippie lifestyle. But there are several ways to wear dreads. This week we’re compiling our favorite dreaded looks.
  • HSW says: “If you want to get rid of dreadlocks without cutting them, there are heavy duty conditioners on the market that can help you loosen the locks so you can individually pick out the tangles. Your hair will be undamaged afterward, but removal without cutting takes a lot of work.”
  • A large amount of the white community have fully embraced locks. Just check out what happens when you search for dreadlocks on Tumblr.

Types of Dreads

The type of dread usually is determined by how it’s formed. The one thing you can vary no matter the method (accept for free form) is the size of each lock.

Free Formed


These locks are achieved by doing nothing to your hair. The upside to this form is anyone can do them, no need for a salon visit. The downside is, it will take at least a year, depending on your hair texture, to form real lock-looking locks. Also, the locks that form are really out of your control. They might be un-even or untidy looking.


Traditional locks can be achieved through back combing, finger curls or comb curls. It takes a few hours to “set these up” but you can control the shape and size of the dreads and your dreads usually reach maturity faster. The video to the left is a quick how-to on back-combing.



Per Sisterlocks.com, sisterlocks are tiny uniform locks that are the result of a precision parting grid and the use of a specialized tool that places the hair into its locking formation. These typically require a loctician but they generally allow for more versatility when styling and can be curled with a curling iron.



Bradelocz are formed by putting clean hair into box braids, then twisting the roots to maintain them. Over time the braids disappear forming locks. These types of locks are great for DIYers with a little help from a site like, Bradelocz.com.


The twist method is another method that also gives you more control over how the dreads form. It works best on really kinky hair.

General Maintenance

Product Must Have’s

  • Wax: holds the hair together and facilitates the locking process; good for starting dreads in straight hair textures
  • Dread Cream: good for highly textured hair; keeps hair moisturized and provides nutrients
  • A residue free shampoo: it’s best to choose a shampoo that meets your specific scalp and hair needs, but in general when washing dreads, it’s important to look for a shampoo that won’t leave any residue in your hair.


  • Wash as often as you want, most recommend every two weeks.
  • Roll regularly to keep your dreads from fusing together.
  • HSW suggests: “Every few days, you can use a technique called palm rolling to encourage the hair to grow into the spiral pattern of dreadlocks. Using your flattened palms, take each lock and roll it in a clockwise direction.”
Photos spotted on VissaStudio, Tumblr, Tumblr, HummingBirdLoveGorilla, Tumblr
Love this? Share it!
Team Unruly
Team Unruly
Articles: 868


  1. I dislike when people call my locks, dreads or dreadlocks… Nothing dreadful about my hair or me…

  2. lol yeah i understand what you mean. DREAD are those scary ones. The Bob Marley’s bongos and those. i know one man has three DREADLOCKS. Scary stuff lol

  3. one of my pictures is on here under twisting and i had synthetic dreads. you should do some better research. especially before stealing peoples photos.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *