A Guide To Washing Dreadlocks, Keeping Them Clean And Healthy

Published: 18th October 2010
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It is a common misconception that dreadlocks do not need to be washed. The fact is that dreadlocks thrive in clean healthy hair when cleaned with the correct shampoo and dried thoroughly after. Here we look at techniques for keeping your locks clean and healthy regardless of hair type.

To keep them smelling tasty and looking good, cleaning your locks is essential since grease is especially detrimental to the development of your dreads. Locked or otherwise, it’s always important to maintain clean healthy hair, particularly considering the misconceptions that are commonly held about this distinctive hairstyle.

Washing dreadlocks is just like washing unlocked hair, apart from the use of a specific kind of soap formulated to encourage growth by keeping the hair grease free and in prime knotting condition. The majority of highstreet soaps are unsuitable for use with dreadlocks because they leave your hair too soft and conditioned; this can damage even the most mature of dreadlocks. Most also contain harsh chemicals which would do your dreads no favours at all.

The best soaps for dreadlocks are made with entirely natural ingredients and contain specific natural oils to aid the locking process, encourage growth to lock and prevent dandruff.

Having tried many kinds of Dreadlock soap from around the world I have had the best success with Dread Fusion’s soap product. Available in either liquid or bar form, these soaps gently cleanse, exfoliate and ‘rough up’ the hair using lemon grass among other essential oils – all of this greatly aids the locking process. The liquid soap is particularly pleasant to use because of its natural olive oil base and it degreases your hair without completely stripping It of all goodness. The soap bar offers particularly good value for money over other soaps that I have used, being both bigger than other brands and non sweating so it doesn’t dissolve away in the shower as quickly as some soaps do!

Washing Your Dreadlocks: from Baby Locks to Mature Dreads

When you first have your dreadlocks put in by either yourself or a loctician they’re going to be very soft and fragile. Great care must be taken in these early stages to minimise any damage to the locks.

It’s best if possible to try and wait up to two weeks after the initial locking process before you attempt to wash your baby dreads, but only if your scalp and hair remain grease free over this period. If within these first two weeks your locks start to feel greasy it is important to wash them right away to prevent your dreads from unlocking themselves.

When you do wash your dreads for the first time the best thing to do is take an old pair of tights or a stocking, and put them over your head, feeding the dreadlocks down one of the legs as required. Jump in the shower (safely in an orderly fashion, of course) and give your stockinged locks a good soaking. Take your soap; gently work it all over the area of your dreads and into your scalp. Leave the lather to soak in for a couple of minutes before rinsing thoroughly. It is essential that you wash all the soap out of the hair at this point; to leave any soap behind is highly detrimental to the locking process.

Once you are sure you have got all the soap out you need to make sure you have thoroughly dried your locks. The first step to doing this is wringing them out. So take your locks and give them a good squeeze to get any excess water out of them before wrapping them up in a large towel for fifteen minutes in order to absorb further moisture.

If you are fortunate enough to live in warmer climates you can then let your locks dry in the sunshine, which will make them look and feel fantastic. For those in colder climates it is essential that you then take a hair dryer to your locks to finish the drying process. It is important to ensure your dreads are damp for no longer than a maximum of two hours (to prevent them smelling like wet dog and…) prevent the growth of mildew and mould.

You need to repeat this process whenever you feel your hair getting greasy, this will depend on your routine and time of year. Regular gym-goers for example might find they need to rinse off daily whether it’s summer or winter, because working up a sweat gets dreads greasy just like unlocked hair. If you’re not so active, once a week might easily suffice in the winter; it’s a case of gauging what works for you by how quickly your dreads dirty up.

After a few weeks of washing with the tights on your head you can bid them a heartfelt farewell and start washing your dreads as you used to wash your unlocked hair, just ensuring you are gentle with them till they’re fully mature. This is a state that can take up to12 months to achieve, depending upon hair type.

At maturity you can be as rough as you want with your locks when washing them, just as long as you clean them well and dry them out thoroughly afterwards to avoid that oh-so-attractive scent of wet dog.

Keep ‘em clean, nurture them in the early stages and you will have healthy attractive, dreads for many a moon to come.

Edd Smith on behalf of Dread Fusion
Ed. Chloe Marshall

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