A guide to some of the more common dreadlocking techniques used by locticians, and a few helpful tips about each.
How It’s Done: Lightly backcombed sections are split at the root, creating a hole for the end to be threaded through. As a maintenance technique for simply tightening roots it stops there; for creating new dreads, the splitting and threading is repeated down the length of the dread.
Pros: When done very softly, it’s a good jump starter for locking Afro-textured hair; the holes will lock up with regular palmrolling. Sections neatly to the scalp, and locks appear dread-like immediately.
Cons: Not generally effective for Caucasian or Asian hair types, unless a more braided, geometric and less-locked look is desired. Tightly coiled sections on the flipped sides will not properly lock in most hair textures, and the holes rarely fully dread. Interlocking can leave straighter hair prone to damage and breakage.
Backcomb & Wax
How It’s Done: Hair is sectioned, backcombed, rolled into shape and waxed to hold until dreads begin locking on their own.
Pros: If backcombed properly and not over-waxed, this technique will work to lock all hair types and textures with minimal damage and breakage over the lifetime of your locks.
Cons: Varying rates of maturity, depending on hair type. New locks can stay loose or fuzzy for up to a year. Due to backcombing, new locks may result in being shorter than your original hair length, up to 1/3. Daily backcombing and palm rolling may be required to keep locks looking tight.
How It’s Done: Hair is sectioned, twisted into shape and waxed hold until dreads begin locking on their own.
Pros: For Afro-textured hair, this method is a quick and easy way to start locks.
Cons: This technique rarely works for any hair type other than Afro-textured. Backcombing creates texture which allows straighter or coarser textures to form knots; with twisting only, there is nothing to hold knots in these hair types. For Afro hair, twists are a more time-consuming method in the long run, as they are prone to unwind, needing to be re-twisted fairly often in the beginning stages.
How It’s Done: Lightly backcombed sections are handwoven with small-gauge hooks from root to end.
Pros: Works to lock all hair types and textures. Locks appear mature and tight from installation, then soften and dread quickly with washing and palmrolling. Minimal maintenance required, wax optional. Woven dreads with wispy ends will generally keep most of their length.
Cons: Can be uncomfortable (and expensive) to have installed. If over-woven/installed too tight, locks won’t mature properly, remaining ropey and stiff.
How It’s Done: Backcombed sections are rolled into cigar-shapes, then treated with chemical perming solution as is, or wrapped around curlers and treated with chemical perming solution.
Pros: Will give “instant dreads” with curls or kinks to any hair type.
Cons: Chemical formulas aren’t as harsh as they used to be, but they still can cause trouble for hair with pre-existing damage, or if the solution is not washed out thoroughly. Bleach and perms do not mix – the chemicals are incompatible and can result in extreme damage, even if previously bleached hair has been colored over.