Dreads for Beginners: Anything You Need to Know

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

Unless you only want to make a couple of strands, no one can have a full head of dreadlocks overnight. Plus, there is a natural locking process that you should let happen.

It can take a few weeks to two years for your hair to lock naturally, depending on its texture and nature. Hence, you have to be patient.

Moreover, there are several techniques you can use to start your locks. The method depends on your choice. Some people are very particular and specific in their sizes of locks, others are not.

Basically, there are two types of dreadlocks. There are the freeform locs that are allowed to grow as nature wants them to (like dreadlocks). And, there are cultivated or manipulated locks that are led to loc in a certain manner.

With the cultivated type of locks, you divide your hair into sections to work with. The sizes of your segments depend on the size you want your locks to be. However, do not make your segments smaller than the size of a pencil. Locs that started off too small may eventually break off due to the weight of the hair after they grow long. 

Listed below are the different techniques you can make your reads.

Dreadlock Techniques


Start with clean, dry hair. Apply a clarifying shampoo but don’t condition your hair for weeks.

Section your hair into squares. Use a comb to separate your hair into even sections, and then keep them segregated with small rubber bands. Each section will become a dread.

You can make them small or as large as you want according to the completed look that you have in mind.

  • One-inch squares can form a medium-sized dread. Go a little bigger for big dreads or smaller for multiple little dreads. The smaller the dreads, the more time it requires to form them.
  • If you don’t want them to look like they have even rows of dreadlocks, form a zig-zag or brick lay pattern of squares instead. When the dreads are formed, these patterns will look more natural than checkerboard rows.

Backcomb all hair sections. Take a section of hair and set a dread comb or another fine-tooth comb about an inch over your scalp. Comb the hair down moving towards your scalp, teasing it until all hairs get packed around the roots.

Once the hair is tightly packed, set the comb an inch higher, and backcomb them again. Keep doing this method until the entire section of hair has been backcombed.

  • Use your free hand to twist all sections of the hair as you backcomb it.

Secure the dreads. Set a small rubber band at the root and the end of every dread. Make sure that the rubber bands are tightly settled since they are expected to stay in your dreads until they are mature (about three months).

Apply gel on the dreads. Apply a gel that is composed of natural ingredients, such as aloe vera. This is to tame frizz and loose hair strands. Apply it onto all sections until all your hair has been covered by gel.

Take care of your dreads. For three months, the dreads will begin to lock into place. Support this process by doing the following:

  • Apply shampoo to your dreads routinely. Apply a clarifying shampoo and skip the conditioner.
  • Apply some moisturizer to your hair with essential oil, like lavender. Don’t use food-based oils, which can make your hair smell bad.
  • Tuck in the loose hairs. Use a crochet hook or tweezers to keep your dreads look clean.


Modify the way you wash your hair. Applying a clarifying shampoo and skipping the conditioner allows for dreads to form. If you have oily hair, it is less likely to develop into dreads.

  • Avoid “moisturizing” shampoo and such shampoos carry conditioning agents that stay in the hair after rinsing.
  • Discontinue applying the conditioner for at least a few weeks before you start dreading your hair.

Stop straightening your hair. If you use chemical straighteners or another straightening process, it will be much more challenging for your hair to form dreads. Let your hair be as natural as possible so it can form a knot. 

Stop combing your hair. Dreadlocks are just hair that is knotted together into bunches. Every time you comb your hair, you prevent this from happening by detangling it. When you’re ready to dread your hair, set aside the combs, brushes, and other tools you normally use to untangle your hair.

Separate your hair into sections. You can help the formation of neater dreads by dividing your hair into even sections. It doesn’t need to be perfect even, since the beauty of the freeform method is that it demands less effort.

Roll the sections. If you fancy helping your dreads along, roll them between your palms to make them stay together. Rolling several times a week will help create neater, more uniform dreads. However, this method isn’t necessary if your goal is to go fully natural.

Maintain the dreads. Once the dreads have set, keep on shampooing your hair regularly for support. If you intend to go camping or join in an activity that could get the dreads dirty, wear a dread cap to keep them clean.

Twist and Rip

Divide your hair into sections. Make a small section for each dread you want. The size of the section you made will determine the size of the dread. Place a small rubber band to keep the sections apart.

Twist a section and split it. Raise a segment from your head and twist it, then use your hands to divide the end into two. Take one end per hand then pull them in opposing directions. This method makes the hair ride up the shaft and gets tangled and knotted.

  • As you pull the hair individually, the knots will turn toward the roots and begin to pack. Keep on twisting the segment, dividing it, pulling it, and twisting it again until the entire section of hair has become tangled and knotted.
  • Do this procedure until each section of your hair has experienced twisting, splitting, and pulling from tip to root.

Secure the dreads. Place a rubber band at the root and the end of every dread. Keep these rubber bands in place for a couple of months while the dreads mature. Remove the rubber bands after three months. The dreads should be strong and smooth enough, and they will no longer require to be kept secure.

Maintain the dreads. Use a clarifying shampoo and an essential oil spray to keep your dreads healthy and always in shape. If you plan to spend time outside or in a place where your dreads could get dirty, wear a dread cap to ensure that your hair is clean.

Dreadlock Starter Kit

Before you dread your hair, we strongly suggest getting your hands on a Dreadlock Starter Kit. It has everything you require to create beautiful, neat, and healthy dreads, as well as lots of products that you can use for maintenance.

Residue-free Dread Shampoo

Squeaky, clean hair makes dreading your hair straightforward. Deep cleansing your hair and clearing it of any residue build-up from regular styling products is your first step. Ongoing application of dread shampoo will help your dreadlocks to continue to mature, lock and knot up.

Dread Comb and Dreading Crochet Hook

The dread comb should have metal bristles so it won’t break when you pull it hard against the dreads. The bristles should also be closer together. 

The dreading crochet hook must be 0.6mm – 0.75mm in size. Alternating between backcombing and crocheting can produce a smooth, tight dreadlock.

Pro Elastics or Rubber Bands

The pro elastics included in the Dreadlock Starter Kit are small poly bands that hold up quite well through the first washings. They don’t pull your hair as much as normal rubber bands and they are nice and small.

Hair Clips

Use the hair clips to keep the sections of your dreads in place. Pretty much any clip will do as long as they take the hair out of your way.

Dread Accelerator and Dread Dust

There’s no uncertainty about it, dreadlocking is a labor of love, and the more help you have with accelerators the better. Accelerator and Dread Dust just make the whole process so much easier. The dreads will tighten and smoothen as they will form faster without generating a build-up of product.

Tightening Gel or Wax

After you have formed dreads using the backcombing and crocheting method, sealing the deal with the Tightening Gel or Wax will make them immediately neat and tidy. Moreso when you support it with the kick-starting of the maturing process. 

You can choose whether you want to include gel or wax in your starter kit. 

The Gel is very common given its light, wash-out formula, and easy application. It has an Aloe Vera base, aiding with maintaining the hair’s health. And thanks to the Rosemary and Lavender essential oils, it can make your hair fragrant.

On the other hand, the wax is most suited for thickening, coarse hair types like afro hair or hair which tends to be very dry. It has the best binding ability and staying power so we suggest it is used sparingly.

A Friend or Two

Last but not least, dreads are not challenging to do. Sure, they are labor-intensive and you may need to ask your friend for help.

How to Give Yourself Dreadlocks

Having dreadlocks only requires patience and not too much wax. Hence, you can seek help from a professional loctician, a friend, or do it yourself.

Backcombing your hair is the most efficient way to form dreads, whether you have straight or curly hair. Once you’re done, you need to do daily care to “lock them into place.” Your locs are likely to form in about three to six months.

Making the Dreads

Wash your hair with a residue-free clarifying shampoo. You have to assure that your hair is clean and residue-free to hasten the procedure. The natural oils that are mounting up in your hair will make it slippery, making it difficult to form dreads.

Brush out the hair once it is dry. Don’t use conditioner or any other hair products after shampooing.

  • Be sure that your hair is completely dry before you start the process.
  • Let your hair set for 4-8 hours before you start dreading.

Section your hair into squares. Use a wide-toothed comb to form a section of your hair into squares. For medium-sized dreads, you’ll require 1-inch by 1-inch squares.

Take the bottom left squares apart from each other, then tie every section with a small rubber band. Every section of your hair will be treated into a dreadlock. 

  • For a cleaner overall appearance, make each dread the same size.
  • Every section and row in between the squares can be seen in the finished dreads. To avoid a patterned appearance, try forming the squares in a zig-zag or alternating design so that the finished look will be more natural.

Backcomb the hair or try to wrap it around your finger in segments. If your hair is curly or textured, begin by wrapping your dreadlocks in 1-inch or 2.5 cm. segments around your finger or a rat tail comb to create a coil.

If your hair is straight, take a section straight up away from your scalp. Starting about an inch from your scalp, tease your hair down approaching the scalp with a metal fine-toothed comb. Repeat this procedure a couple of times until it starts to puff and pack up at the roots.

Continue backcombing the same section of hair in inch-by-inch increments until you touch the bottom of the hair. 

  • As you backcomb one section with one hand, use your other hand to gently twist the section you’re still working on. This will keep it in shape and help with the backcombing method.
  • Keep on backcombing every section of hair using the same procedure until all are backcombed. Requesting a friend to help out speeds the process along.
  • Employ the same patience and care with all dread. If you rush through the last part of your hair, it may result in uneven-looking dreads.

Secure the dreads by placing rubber bands or elastic hair bands. Each dread should have a tiny rubber band binding the end. Then place another rubber band on every dread right next to the scalp. The two rubber bands will keep on holding the dread in place as it matures

This procedure is necessary if you have straight or wavy hair. Otherwise, it’s optional.

Put a dread wax. Use a natural dread wax, a beeswax molding gel, locking gel, or tightening gel to stop your dreads from fraying or frizzing. Apply the wax or gel to the entire length of the dread.

This is optional. But if you choose to use dread wax, do this every two to four weeks only.

Roll the dreads between your palms if you don’t want to use some wax on it. If you prefer a more natural method of achieving dreadlocks, skip the wax. Instead, roll each dread with your palms.

Do this method up and down the length of the whole dread. This will help secure and tighten your dreads.

This method works fine for people with African-textured hair. If your hair is naturally straight or wavy, it will surely need a long time to dread your hair without using wax, and you may not get tight dreads.

Helping the Dreads Lock

Roll the dreads once a day. To retain your dreadlocks’ smooth shape, roll them between your palms routinely. Start at the scalp and work all your way downward.

Make the ends appear rounded by mashing them against the palm of your hand to excite the hairs to roll up into the dread. Just keep in mind to not overdo it, as too much palm rolling can release your dreadlocks.

Moisturize the dreads regularly to stop breakage. Fuse three parts of aloe vera juice with one part of natural oil (like coconut oil or sweet almond oil). Then combine five drops of essential oil, like tea tree oil or lavender oil, if you desire to give it a good scent. Pour the mixture into a spray bottle and slightly spritz it on your dreads every day.

Spray your dreads in the morning with a scented moisturizer to make them hydrated after sleeping. If you don’t fancy making your moisturizing spray, you can buy special dread moisturizers online or in some beauty stores.

Wash your hair with shampoo once a week. Wait at least 2-3 weeks before you start to wash your dreads. This will help you stop them from unraveling.

Then, use shampoo on your scalp. When you rinse your scalp, just let the water run down to wash the dreads without causing them to fray. You can also apply a dread bar or a residue-free shampoo for washing your dreads, as it does not have perfume or conditioner that can make the dreads smell bad.

Try to wash your hair as early as you can so your dreads have time to dry. Do not sleep with wet hair, unless you want to turn your dreads into a petri dish of cultured mildew and mold.

Tuck in the loose hairs. As your hair grows and locks, some hair may grow loose, especially those that are near the scalp. Use a crochet hook or tweezers so you can easily tuck those loose strands of hair back into the dreads.

For longer loose strands, twist them first and then wrap them around the dreads before you tuck them in.

Rub the roots to encourage new hair growth dread. As your dreads mature, the single hairs begin to naturally knot onto one another. After a while, your hair will also begin to grow into dreads.

Rub the new growth with your finger, section by section, to support it to knot up with the rest of the dreads. Just be cautious not to overwork the hair at your roots, as it may start to fall out.

Maintaining the Dreads

Remove the rubber bands out of your dreads once they are locked. As your dreads entirely lock, there is no longer a requirement to hold them in place with rubber bands. Remove the rubber bands out from the roots and the ends of the dreads after about 3 months.

Keep them shampooed once a week. Oils and residues that build upon the scalp may have the hair kept from locking properly, stopping it from knotting up with the rest of the dread. Keep the new growth clean and dry so it will simply become a part of the rest of the dread.

Condition your dreads with an apple cider vinegar rinse twice a month. Merge 8 ounces (230 grams) of apple cider vinegar with 16 ounces (450 grams) of water.

After you rinse the shampoo out from your dreads in the shower, pour the rinse over your scalp and massage it in. Let it sit in your head for a couple of minutes before rinsing it out.

Place a headwrap to your dreads with a silk cap or scarf while you sleep. This will defend the dreadlocks from unwanted breakage and help them stay moisturized.

You can buy silk nightcaps at beauty stores or online. Alternatively, arrange your dreads up in a bun and wrap them with a silk scarf.

In the morning, when you wake up, take out the cap and give your dreads a spray with a moisturizing spray.

Final Thoughts

Patience is required, especially when just starting your dreading journey.

Like any process, dreading your hair, maintaining them, and waiting for them to grow calls for resolute. But all of the time, energy, and maintenance will be worth it once you notice your locks start to flourish.