Dreadlocks Removal

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So you’re set to comb out your dreads and go back to your natural hair?

Admittedly, removing dreadlocks is a daunting task and can be quite damaging. But with this guide, you’ll learn how to get freed of dreadlocks with minimal damage to your beautiful locks and go back to your natural hair!

Understanding the Locking Process

Dreadlocks have a spiritual and personality connection to most people who carry them. That is despite looking like a huge heap of knots. Therefore, to remove dreadlocks, they should be handled similarly to brushing out knots in natural hair.

The idea is the same, it just takes far more energy because there are thousands of knots in dreadlocks than your normal “un-dreaded” hair.

To comb out dreads, you’ll be required to wet the hair and smother it with a lubricating conditioner to get started. Then you’ll work with a pick or metal comb to very patiently begin picking out the hair from the tip of the dreadlock to the scalp.

Reason for Removing Dreadlocks

Removing your dreadlocks is an incredibly tiresome process. So much so that it can test your endurance and patience. That said, we will walk you through how to properly remove your dreads, depending on your hair situation.

Messy Dreads

One of the more typical reasons why people comb out their dreadlocks is because they don’t like how messy it appears. The messy appearance is most commonly linked with free-form dreadlocks, where the person leaves the dreads to form on their own. Other arrangements may also lead to the messy phase if done poorly or not taken care of.

Change of Job or Lifestyle

Some people need to look presentable when applying for a job. Hence, they feel compelled to remove their dreadlocks.

Too Old, Long, Heavy

Old dreadlocks, particularly ones that are past the waistline, tend to get pretty bothersome and heavy. Some people are just exhausted from dealing with their dreadlocks being too long and constantly getting in the way. Other people encounter headaches or neck problems because of the weight of the dreadlocks.

In some cases, weight may be a hint of product or wax accumulation over the years. If you haven’t performed a deep cleanse recently, then it is highly recommended to follow a dread cleanse guide to remove any buildup. Doing so can help take some of the weight out of your dreadlocks.

Common Asked Questions

How Long Will it Take to Get Rid of Dreadlocks?

The dreadlock removal procedure can take between a few hours to a couple of weeks, depending on the length and the volume of your dreads.

The amount of time ranges dramatically depending on many different factors. For example, one head can take up to 5 hours for two people to comb out the single large mass of knots. A client must be quite patient and helpful in the procedure.

Usually, it will take 3 hours to comb out a single lock that was about 8-inch with the help of a dreadlock removal kit.

How Painful is the Process?

Most of the procedure won’t be painful at all. But as you get closer to your scalp, the more painful it can be. Nonetheless, you can work at your own pace and stop when things get too uncomfortable for you.

How Much Hair Will I Lose?

The volume of hair you’ll lose in the removal procedure will vary considerably. It’s undeniable that you will surely lose hair, and it will look like a lot of hair! But despite how much hair falls off, you should still be left with plenty of healthy hair in the end.

What to Expect When Removing Dreadlocks

Removing Dreadlocks is normally a wet, messy, and slippery process. The removal method requires the dreadlocks to be very wet and should be pretty lubricated with plenty of conditioners.

Some people prefer to use a Dreadlock Removal Kit or Removal Cream to assist with the process. These kits can further simplify the dreadlock removal method. However, you can usually get by with loads of conditioners.

Also, you will lose hair along the process and it will take a very long time to finish based on the following factors:

Based on Age

Young Dreads – Under 6 Months

Dreadlock removal in young dreadlocks can be pretty easy.

Young dreadlocks manage to produce healthier hair to work with while also having less time for knots to tighten and mature. Combing out young dreadlocks is the most suitable procedure.

You should expect to keep more healthy hair after combing out dreads within the first 6 months.

Intermediate Dreads – 6 to 18 Months

As time goes, your locks will get tighter and produce more densely formed knots. This can be challenging to comb out.

You can still easily get rid of dreadlocks in this age range, but it often needs more work and more patience. You will likely lose more hair in the removal procedure if you have intermediate dreads.

Mature Dreads – Over 18 Months

The older your dreadlocks are, the more difficult it is to comb out.Mature dreadlocks removal can still be completed but it will surely require the most time and patience. You should also expect a lot of hair to fall out.

Based on Installation

Free-Form or Neglect Form

Removal of free-formed dreadlocks will range significantly based on the ethnicity and shampoos being applied. Overall, free-formed dreads demand a lengthy time to mature. But if you remove it while the dreads are still young, hair loss should be at a minimum. Older free-form dreadlocks will become more challenging to remove and will result in greater hair loss.

Interlocking or Latch Hooking

Removing dreadlocks that have interlocked from root to tip is almost always the easiest to comb out. The reason is that interlocking doesn’t create knots in the hair, it produces more of a braid.

In some cases, all you have to do is to cut the last inch of the dreadlock and the rest will come out easily. If this is your case then you are in luck because you are likely to spend the least amount of hair fall.

Some dreadlocks are made with other methods and then kept via interlocking. If this is the case for you, then you will have a harder time removing your dreadlocks. 

Twisting or Palm Twist

Undoing locks in twisted afro hair will essentially depend on the age of the dreadlocks.

Young dreadlocks that have been twisted should be nearly easy to remove. Although, it can be damaging. Whereas, older dreadlocks that have been twisted will result in more mature and tightened knots and will cause more damage.

Removing dreads in twisted straight hair is usually quite easy and produces less hair loss. More so if you have young dreads.

Crochet Method

There are two main types of the crochet method.

The first variation is performed by backcombing then wrapping hair around the backcombed hair to contain it underneath. This version will be almost easy to remove if done when the dreadlocks are still young. However, it becomes complex and can lead to more hair loss as it matures.

The second type, which is commonly used, is done by backcombing then pulling a few strands of hair through the backcombed segment. This produces a ton of tiny knots throughout the shaft of each dreadlock.

This process is often very challenging to remove at any age range due to the structure of instantly tight knots. You might struggle to remove the dreads done in this method and you are likely to lose more hair.

Backcombing or Twist and Rip

Removing dreadlocks that have been backcombed or twist and ripped will be pretty easy to remove when they’re still young. The more time that passes with this procedure, the more difficult it will be and a greater volume of hair will surely fall off.

Towel Rubbing Method

The towel rubbing method is apparently the most challenging type of dreadlock method to undone. The reason is that rubbed dreadlocks tend to get very solid and compact within a short amount of time. When knots are made this tight, it will surely require much more effort, patience, and a lot of products just to loosen up those dense dreads!

Based on Shampoos, Hair Products, and Other Natural Elements

Sea Salt Sprays and the Ocean

Tightening sprays produced from sea salt or swimming in the ocean can drastically tighten and mature dreadlocks, making dread removal far more complicated. 

Sea salt water is capable of absorbing and overcoming oils from the scalp. As a result, the knots in your dreadlocks will get tighter quickly. The only exception to this is the twisting process, where the twist will easily come undone in the ocean due to the products that are applied to hold the twist in place.

Lubricating Products

We’ve seen lots of “Locking Gels” that lubricate and have knots loose. There are also lots of shampoos and even “Dreadlock Shampoos” that are disastrous for dreadlocks and don’t even clean very effectively. 

Any shampoo that doesn’t clean well leaves the scalp some oils to form in your dreadlocks. This can lead to a waxy semi-lubricated situation that leaves the knots to come out easier.

Tightening and Effective Shampoos

The shampoo you apply to your dreadlocks plays an extremely significant role in your dreadlock journey.

Any shampoo that aids to tighten your dreadlocks can make the dread removal challenging. 

When removing dreadlocks you might want to totally skip using a shampoo for various reasons. First, most shampoos carry a high pH level. Second, shampoos are intended to clean the hair and, therefore, will support tightening knots.

Conditioners and Oils

Conditioners and oils lead to loosening knots and are great for removing dreadlocks. It is highly recommended not to use these products with dreadlocks for these reasons. However, they’re excellent for getting rid of dreadlocks.

Not all conditioners will get the job done properly, so it is highly advised to look for one that is designed for extreme detangling. On the other hand, oils (e.g., olive oil) should only be used on completely dry hair that is product-free for the removal process.

Just like magnets, water and oil repel. So the hair must be free from moisture for the oil to enter the knots and lubricate them.

Bleach and Hair Dye

Bleaches and any dying products that lighten the color of the hair will surely weaken it. 

To lighten hair, the external sheathing of the strand is removed showing the lighter part underneath. This external sheathing is the protective armor that shields each hair strand. Once extracted, your hair will now be exposed and the structure of the hair strand is now compromised resulting in much weaker, dryer, and damaged hair.

That said, you may end up splitting and losing a lot more hair strands particularly if you have dreadlocks. In some cases, you may still be capable of removing dreadlocks that have been bleached. But if your locks have been harshly bleached for a while, you might experience a significant volume of damaged hair that comes out when combing out dreads.

pH Levels and Hard Water

Hard water and pH are some of the factors that seem to be overlooked by everyone, yet it’s so necessary for the health of your hair and scalp. 

The pH of hard water is normally above 8, and when pH levels are over 7, the dermis of the hair remains open. This can lead to tighter knot formation.

This may sound like a good thing to form dreadlocks, but it’s quite damaging. Open hair dermis may rub against each other, creating friction that can lead to damage and breakage.

Therefore, you’ll want to maintain the pH under 7 and ideally, about 4.5-5.5 to lessen breaking hair when combing out dreads.

Based on Ethnicity

Afro Dreads

Afro Hair is the most fragile and the most damage-prone hair across all ethnicities. As a result, the products and procedures used on afro hair are necessary to keep the hair strong and healthy.

If your products or procedures have resulted in weak and damaged hair, then you may encounter a significant amount of hair loss during the dreadlock removal process.

Even with the best products and the most gentle procedure, afro hair may still be too fragile. So, proceed with caution.

Caucasians and Hispanic Hairs

Dreaded Caucasian and Hispanic hair has varying results. Some hair is extremely fine and already thin whereas other hair is very rough, strong, and full.

Italian hair tends to be more like Asian hair with a dense, rough texture. This hair type should be easier to remove, unlike any other Caucasian hair. You should also expect to lose less hair with this type of hair.

Other varieties of hair that are very fine can easily be removed but you may encounter more hair loss during the process. Some very fine hair types lack the outermost layer to the shaft of hair ending in a weaker strand of hair.

Asian Dreads

Asian dreadlocks are the easiest to remove by far. The strands of hair with Asian ethnicities are normally large in diameter and very round, making it the strongest among all ethnicities.

Mixed-Race Dreads

Mixed races that involve African ethnicities are often easier to undo. That’s because most African American salons twist or interlock mixed hair varieties. 

These two approaches and the products linked with them usually don’t lock up very effectively, especially in hair that isn’t very frizzy. Therefore, combing out dreads with this mixed-race hair is usually easier compared to other styles and ethnicities.

To get a good idea of what to expect,try comparing your hair type to other ethnicities listed above.

Dreadlock Removal Guidelines

Consider Dreadlock Removal Services

Though we don’t promote any Dreadlock Removal Services, we still encourage people to try this approach due to the amount of time required. 

Most people don’t want to spend an hourly rate of $20 – $40. But if you manage to remove most of your dreadlocks and still need some help with the dreads in the back, then the dreadlock removal service can help you with that.

You might also find some luck with other salons, but most of them won’t be amenable to spending the time to do this. That’s because most salons are focused on making money and will rush through these procedures.

Keep the pH-Level of Your Hair Under 5.5

As stated earlier, maintaining the pH level of your hair under 5.5 is a very significant aspect of removing dreadlocks. In most cases, the most manageable way to do this is by avoiding shampoos and only using conditioners.

Keeping your hair’s pH level under 5.5 will keep the dermis of your strands closed, allowing for safer and slightly more comfortable removal.

Have Towels Close By

Removing dreadlocks tend to be messy. You’ll be dealing with wet, slippery products and hair fall. Keeping a few towels nearby will be very essential.

Dreadlock Removal Procedure

Select Your Removal Products

It is necessary to understand the difference between conditioners, detanglers, and oils.


Conditioners will aid in balancing pH and lubricate the hair. If you are using a conditioner to remove dreadlocks, you must keep the hair thoroughly wet and conditioned.

It’s a good way to keep your conditioner and a water spray bottle on hand. That way, you can keep the hair wet and fully immersed with the conditioner as you work through each dreadlock.

Detanglers and Dreadlock Removal Kits

These products are likely to be a more suitable option compared to your typical conditioner. 

Detanglers are created to be highly effective at removing knots, which should give you more reliable results when combing out dreads. Be sure to read the directions for every product as some tend to be used on dry hair.

Here are some detanglers you might want to check out::

Oils such as Olive Oil

Not all oils were created equal. Some oils are for drying (e.g., tea tree oil) while some other oils are very lubricating (e.g., olive oil or vitamin E oil). 

For dreadlock removal, you’ll want the most lubricating oil your hands could get. Another very critical point when using oils is to make sure that your hair is completely dry and free from moisture before application..

Oil and water repel each other. So the hair must be dry when applying oil, lubricating the knots.

NOTE: Different oils have different pH levels. Therefore, ensure that your hair has a pH level between 4.5 to 5.5. As said earlier, a pH level above 7 will result in more harm when removing dreadlocks.

To keep your hair’s pH level to 5.5 or lower, you can use an Apple Cider Vinegar soak. Just combine the two ingredients and soak your dreadlocks for at least 5 minutes, but no longer than 10 minutes.

It’s essential to let your dreadlocks dry 100% after the soak, which normally takes 24-48 hours. Once dry, apply oils gradually to penetrate each dreadlock and move on with the dreadlock removal process.

Prepare The Right Tool

Many people prefer using a comb or brush to comb out dreadlocks, but it is highly recommended to use some sort of pick or needle for several reasons. 

First and foremost, combs or brushes may only work for basic knots in normal hair. But with dreadlocks, you’re trailing a much bigger task. Second, the teeth of combs will surely break or bend. Third, combs like to grab too many knots at once, resulting in a more stressful removal process and hair loss.

That said, we recommend using any of the following:

Crochet hook with ergonomic grip 

When things get slippery, you’ll want to use the most ergonomic handle you can get. We also recommend wrapping your tool with rubber bands very tightly to help give you more to grip.

Pin Tail Combs – 3 pack on Amazon 

These are inexpensive and durable alternatives but may be difficult to hold because of its length. You’ll want to apply the pick end of the comb instead of the teeth of the actual comb.

Steel tooth dreadlock comb 

Sometimes you can apply the end of this comb when grabbing a few knots at a time. It is highly advisable to try to use the first two options over this tool, but this can serve as a decent backup.

Proper Dread Removal

Begin from the tip and work toward the scalp

When you start to undo your dreadlocks, you’ll want to start at the very tip of the dreadlock. And then pick just a few strands at a time. 

As you pick out one tiny knot at a time, you’ll start to recognize that you’re getting some progress. Don’t be dismayed if it feels like you’re not getting anywhere. It usually takes an hour or two until you can start to notice a difference.

As you create some progress, you’ll continue this method until you get closer and closer to the scalp. Eventually, you’ll undo the entire dreadlock!

It is highly recommended to start with one of your dreadlocks in the back or side from underneath. You’ll earn a lot of experience from that first dreadlock and it will empower you to perform a better job removing the important segments of your dreadlocks.

You’ll have a small pile of hair

Don’t be shocked if it seems like you have a small animal worth of hair combed out. It may seem like a lot, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have a bald patch.

Always keep hair saturated

It’s very essential to keep your hair saturated with whichever product you chose to use for your dread removal. The lubricating quality of these products will help to remove the dreads easily, leading to less damage.

Final Thoughts

Many people believe that the only technique to get rid of dreadlocks is to shave your head.

Even though cutting them off is the fastest and easiest choice, it is not the only way. With time, patience, and a few tools, you can comb out your dreadlocks and keep most of your hair. This is despite having mature dreadlocks.

Get the right fix if you are suffering from any of these?