How to Make Dreadlocks

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Dreadlocks – never has a hairstyle been at once so popular and so commonly misunderstood. As numerous rumors circulate in regard to the care and maintenance of your dreads, it is often difficult to glean truth from fallacy. But in reality, creating and caring for dreads is a lot easier than one would think; despite popular myths about dirty hair and the use of food products such as peanut butter in the quest for the perfect dread, rest assured. There is no need for odd styling methods or strange hygienic behavior; read on for a comprehensive guide on the art of dreadlocking hair.

First of all, let’s dispel with the rumor that hair must be dirty to dread. Not only does unwashed hair smell, but clean hair will actually lock up faster than greasy hair because residues found in conditioners and styling products, along with the hair’s natural oils, will only create a barrier that prevents hair from locking up. Dreadlocks work equally well on both Caucasian and African hair as long as you are willing to pay attention to and care for your individual hair type. Creating dreads will require a certain amount of time and effort, and the first month is bound to be the most annoying. But soon thereafter the dreads start to mature and tighten up, and maintenance will be reduced to simply keeping your hair clean.

Now, there are a couple of methods that can used to create dreadlocks, depending on your hair type, the result you are after, and how much time and effort you are willing to commit. Before starting any method, make sure hair is clean and dry; wash your hair with a clarifying shampoo that will not leave any residue on the strands. The most popular procedure to create dreads is called backcombing, which can take a few hours and may require a second or third set of hands. But hair will appear fully dreadlocked that same day, and will lock up faster than other methods. All that is needed is some elbow grease, a dread comb and some dread wax that does not contain petroleum, a greasy substance that will only hinder the locking process.

To begin, make sure hair is at least three inches long. Remember, you can make the dreads whatever size or shape you want, just be sure to take your time and make the dreads as smooth and tight as possible. Section hair into one and two-inch portions, securing sections with rubber bands until you are ready to deal with them. Now take the dread comb (a strong, small toothed comb that will not break) and start to backcomb the section of hair nearest the scalp. Comb hair about an inch away from the scalp, and comb repeatedly until the hair starts to bunch. Roll the hair between your fingers as you backcomb, being sure to make the dread as tight as possible. Continue combing all the way to the end of the hair section. Secure with another rubber band. Add another rubber band to the root, and wax the dread with a good dread wax to help control loose strands and frizz. Remove rubber bands only after dreads have matured, after about a month.

Another method used by some is the wool rubbing method. Take a wool hat or sweater and rub it in circles on your scalp – please note, hair must be pretty long in order for notes to form, otherwise you will simply end up with a hair full of snarls. Run your head for about 15 minutes and then knots and snarls will start to form in your hair. Rip apart the clumps of hair and section into dreads. Continue this process until all your hair has snarled together and you can spend time separating and defining each dread. Unfortunately, this process usually results in a lot of fuzziness and ill- defined dreadlocks. Dreads are also less controlled and of all shapes and sizes. However, it is possible to perform this method entirely by yourself.

Another all natural way to get dreaded is the neglect method, which is the easiest and yet takes the longest. Hair needs to be long, about 10 inches, for knots to form, and must not be combed for at least three years. This method works best on African hair, which will dread almost naturally if left alone. Curly Caucasian hair shows the best results. The downside is that, again, the dreads will not be uniform, and matted hair is always a risk. You can always rip apart the mats and separate them into individual dreads, but that’s not true neglect now, is it.

If DIY isn’t for you, there is always dread perming, a chemical process where a stylist will use a solution to lock your hair into dreadlocks. However, it’s expensive, costing up to $400. Finally, hair can be twisted into dreads. Salons will often offer this as a solution for African hair, where it will show the best results. Section hair into one and two-inch sections and twist the entire dread clockwise, securing the end with a rubber band. Another rubber band can also be placed at the root. Then dread wax is worked in to help the dread "lock up." This is usually not the best method for Caucasian hair.

As for the care immediately following the creation of your dreadlocks, make sure to keep your hair clean. Dreadlocked hair needs to be cleaned regularly just like un-dreaded hair. Dreads can be washed just as you would clean a sponge, by carefully massaging in the soap and then rinsing by squeezing water through the dreads repeatedly to get all the suds out. Do NOT scrub or rub, as this will only fray your dreads.

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