How to Dread Hair?

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

If you’ve decided to dread your hair then you’re probably aware that it is a commitment. For one, the process itself demands a lot of patience.

There are also specific products that you have to apply to maintain your dreads. Otherwise, it can damage your hair and make your scalp itchy.

If you’re considering taking the plunge a la Willow Smith, keep reading to find out everything you need to know how to have dreadlocks.

Ways to Dread

There are four different types of dreadlocks:

  1. Freeform or “natural” dreadlocks are formed when you just simply let your hair lock up on its own.
  2. Twists are commonly better for coarser, kinkier hair and are formed by twisting strands around each other.
  3. Rip and twists are formed by twisting the hair to be dreaded, grouping the twists, and then re-twisting in the reverse direction, forming knots and ultimately dreads.
  4. Interlocking dreads are formed when the end of the lock is pulled through the root to stiffen the new growth to the scalp.

Listed below are the common methods on how you can make your dreads:


Begin with clean, dry hair. Apply a clarifying shampoo but don’t condition your hair in the weeks leading up to dreading your hair.

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

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

  • One-inch squares form medium-sized dreads. Go a little bigger for big dreads or smaller for many little dreads. The smaller the dreads, the more time it needs to form them.
  • If you don’t want to end up like you have even rows of dreadlocks, form a zig-zag or brick lay pattern of squares instead. When the dreads form, these patterns will appear more natural than checkerboard rows.

Backcomb each hair section. Grab a section of hair and set a dread comb or another fine-tooth comb about an inch above your scalp. Comb the hair down toward your scalp, teasing it until all hairs get stuffed around the roots.

Continue this process until the hair is tightly stuffed, then place the comb an inch higher, and backcomb them again. Keep doing this process until the whole section of hair has been backcombed.

  • Use your free hand to twist each section of the hair as you backcomb it.
  • Keep on backcombing every section until your entire head of hair has been backcombed. It can be very tiring so ask for someone else’s help.

Secure the dreads. Put a small rubber band at the root and the end of every dread. Make sure that the rubber bands are tightly secured since they are required to stay in your dreads until they are “mature,” which takes about 3 months.

Apply gel on the dreads. Apply a gel consisting of natural ingredients, such as aloe vera, to tame frizz and loose hair strands. Apply it onto each section until all your hair has been covered by gel.

Take care of your dreads. For three months, the dreads will start to lock into place. Support the process in the following ways:

  • Apply shampoo to your dreads regularly. Use a clarifying shampoo and skip the conditioner.
  • Apply some moisturizer to your hair with essential oil, such as lavender. Don’t apply food-based oils, which can cause your hair to smell bad.
  • Tuck in the loose hairs. Use a crochet hook or tweezers to keep your dreads look neat.


Alter the way you wash your hair. Applying a clarifying shampoo and skipping the conditioner produces the right conditions for dreads to form. If you have oily hair, it is less likely to form into dreads.

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

Stop straightening your hair. If you apply chemical straighteners or another straightening method, it will be much more difficult for your hair to start dreading. Let your hair be as natural as possible so it can knot. 

Stop combing your hair. Dreadlocks are just hair that has knotted together into bundles. Each time you comb your hair, you stop this from happening by detangling it. When you’re set to dread your hair, set aside the combs, brushes, and other tools you use to untangle your hair.

Divide your hair into sections. You can promote the formation of neater dreads by dividing your hair into even sections. The sections don’t have to be perfectly even, since the beauty of the freeform method is that it demands little effort.

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

Maintain the dreads. Once the dreads have formed, keep on shampooing your hair regularly for maintenance. If you intend to go camping or engage 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. Form a small section for every dread you want. The size of the section will define the size of the dread. Put a small rubber band to keep the sections apart.

Twist a section and split it. Raise a section from your head and twist it, then use your hands to divide the end into two. Take one end in each hand then pull them in opposite directions. This process causes hair to ride up the shaft and get tangled and knotted.

  • As you pull the hair separately, the knots will shift toward the roots and begin to pack there. Keep on twisting the section, dividing it, pulling it, and twisting it again until the whole section of hair has become tangled and knotted.
  • Do this process until all sections of your hair have undergone the twisting, splitting, and pulling from tip to root.

Secure the dreads. Put a rubber band at the root and the end of each dread. Hold these rubber bands in place for a couple of months while the dreads mature. Take the rubber bands out after three months. The dreads should be tight enough and smooth, and they will no longer need to be kept secure.

Maintain the dreads. Apply clarifying shampoo and an essential oil spray to keep your dreads healthy and in-shape. If you intend 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.

How to Give Yourself Dreadlocks

Having dreadlocks doesn’t demand much more than dreadlock wax and a lot of patience. You can have dreadlocks with the help of people at the salon, although you can also do it yourself.

Backcombing your hair is the most practical way to create dreads, whether you have straight or curly hair. Once you’re done, keep them by “locking” into place with daily care. After about 3-6 months, your hair will have surely set.

Making the Dreads

Wash your hair with a residue-free clarifying shampoo. You have to ensure that your hair is clean and residue-free to make the process go faster. The natural oils that are building up in your hair will make it slippery, making it tricky to form dreads.

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

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

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

Grab the bottom left squares apart from each other, then tie each section with a small rubber band. Each section of your hair will be processed into a dreadlock. 

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

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

If your hair is straight, grab a section of hair straight up away from your scalp. Starting about 1 inch from your scalp, tease your hair down toward the scalp with a metal fine-toothed comb. Repeat this process a couple of times until it begins to puff and pack up at the roots.

Keep on backcombing the same section of hair in an inch-by-inch increments until you reach the bottom of the hair. 

  • As you backcomb one section with one hand, use the other hand to lightly twist the section you’re working on. This will keep it in shape and help with the backcombing process.
  • Keep on backcombing each section of hair using the same process until all are backcombed. Asking a friend to help out speeds the process along.
  • Apply the same patience and care with each dread. If you rush through the last part of your hair, it might end up with uneven-looking dreads.

Secure the dreads by putting rubber bands or elastic hair bands. Every dread should have a tiny rubber band securing the end. Then put another rubber band on each dread right next to the scalp. The two rubber bands will continue holding the dread in place as it matures

This may be needed for people with straight or wavy hair, but you may not be required to do it if you have African-textured hair.

Put a dread wax. Apply a natural dread wax, a beeswax molding gel, locking gel, or tightening gel to prevent your dreads from fraying or frizzing. Apply the wax or gel to the whole length of the dread, then cover the whole strand. However, do it every two to four weeks only.

Moreover, using dread wax is optional.

Roll the dreads between your palms if you don’t want to apply some wax. If you choose a more natural method of obtaining dreadlocks, skip the wax. Instead, roll each of them with your palms.

Do this process up and down the length of the whole dread. This will cause the dread to be tighter and more secure.

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

Helping the Dreads Lock

Roll the dreads once a day. To keep your dreadlocks’ smooth shape, roll them between your palms regularly.

Begin at the scalp and work all your way down. Make the ends seem rounded by crushing them against the palm of your hand to stimulate the hairs to roll up into the dread.

Just remember to not overdo it, as too much palm rolling can disengage your dreadlocks.

Moisturize the dreads regularly to prevent breakage. Combine 3 parts of aloe vera juice with 1 part of natural oil (like coconut oil or sweet almond oil). Then add 5 drops of essential oil, like tea tree oil or lavender oil, if you want to give it a good scent. Pour the mixture into a spray bottle and lightly spritz it on your dreads daily.

  • Spray your dreads in the morning with a scented moisturizer to help hydrate them after sleeping. If you don’t want to make your own moisturizing spray, special dread moisturizers are ready to be purchased online or at some beauty stores.

Wash your hair with shampoo once a week. Wait at least 2-3 weeks before you wash your dreads. This will help prevent them from unraveling. Then, apply shampoo to your scalp. When you rinse your scalp, just let the water run down to clean the dreads without causing them to fray.

You can also use a dread bar or a residue-free shampoo for washing your dreads, as it does not have perfume or conditioner that can cause the dreads to smell. tWash 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 and culture mildew and mold.

Tuck in the loose hairs. As your hair grows and locks, some hair may grow loose, particularly those that are close to your scalp. Use a crochet hook or tweezers to 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 tucking them in.

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

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

Maintaining the Dreads

Take out the rubber bands once your dreads have locked. As your dreads completely lock, there is no longer a need to hold them in place with rubber bands. Take the rubber bands out from the roots and the tips of the dreads after about 3 months.

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

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

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

Wrap your hair with a silk cap or scarf while you sleep. This will protect the dreadlocks from unwanted breakage and help them keep moisturized. You can purchase silk nightcaps at beauty stores or online. Alternatively, set 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 spray your dreads with a moisturizing spray.

Final Thoughts

Patience is imperative when dreading your hair, especially when you possess fine, straight hair.

Like any procedure, dreading your hair, keeping the dreads, and waiting for them to grow call for a lot of patience. But all of the time, energy, and maintenance will be worth it once you see your locks flourish.

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