So I’ve Got Locs… Now What?

For those who don’t know, locs, or dreadlocks, are a protective hairstyle originating in African cultures, and still popular today. For a full look at their history, impact on culture, and a general overview of the what, how, and why, you can check out our series on the five protective styles.

Of the protective styles, locs are the most popular, so it makes sense to do a follow-up zoning in straight on them. Because, while I touched on maintenance in that article, there just wasn’t enough time to go into detail. We’ve got a lot of requests from you guys to dive deeper, so that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

First, let’s talk about shampoo.

While you’ll have to wash less often, you do still need to shampoo from time to time to rid your hair of dirt and build-up of oils. Experts recommend washing once every two to three weeks, though you can wash a little more or less often depending on your lifestyle. If you wear hats a lot, you could get away with doing less. If you’re an athlete who’s working out for hours a day, you may want to wash a little more. However, you want to keep at least ten days between your washes no matter what, or you could shorten the lifespan of those locs.

Product-wise, you’ll want to use a light oil-based shampoo. Stay away from creams–they’ll build up in your hair and make a mess–and the hardcore stuff like dandruff shampoos–
they’ll start to fray your locs. Conditioners are also a no-go for the same reason as creamy shampoos. In general, look for a shampoo that focuses on moisturizing over volume, which will do the job as well as any conditioner. Remember, your hair is locked up anyway, so even the deepest conditioner isn’t going to make much of a difference.

Now, how to actually wash them!

First, soak your scalp and locs in lukewarm water. You’ll want it to be sopping wet. Next, use the smallest amount of shampoo possible to massage into the scalp. Start first with a dime-sized amount, then add a little more as needed. You’ll want to focus on the scalp, as that’s where the most residue build-up will be. A little can go into the locs themselves, but don’t rub as hard, or the shampoo could get trapped there. The inside of the locs won’t be dirty anyway–that’s what protective styles do.

After you’re good with the shampoo, rinse as thoroughly as humanly possible. Any excess shampoo will build up in the locs and make your hair greasy. To dry, squeeze your locs with a towel to wring out the hair. Then, when no extra water comes out when you squeeze, let the locs loose to air-dry. Make sure you’re careful to get all the water out–seriously. If you have too much water in too often, the locs will start getting mildew and begin to smell. And that’s no fun for anyone.

Direct heat (like a blowdryer) will damage your locs, so none of that!

But, what about regular maintenance?

One word: scalp oil. It’s the best way to moisturize your locs, which is critical if you want them to last. Once again, stay away from creams that will get trapped in your hair, so hair lotions are a no-go. Sprays, like leave-in conditioner, won’t do much but leave a residue, as the locs won’t let the spray past the outermost layer (and it’s not like you can use a fine-tooth comb to spread it out).

Also, each time you wet your hair, make sure to check your locs are properly twisted. While you can slack off as they mature, you’ve got to be diligent to keep them under tension when they’re new, or they aren’t going to grow in properly. But, err on the side of caution–if you’re unsure if they’re twisted, leave them alone. If you twist the same locs repeatedly when they don’t need it, they’re going to break.

Loc cream is an essential tool to help keep the tension you want when twisting. Apply it first, then twist your locs clockwise just enough for them to keep them slightly stiff. Hold them in place with a pin to lock in, then remove the pin once the locs are dry.

What are safe ways to style locs?

It’ll depend on your own sense of style, the maturity of your locs, and what tools you have at your disposal.

Did I miss anything? Let me know, and I’ll do a follow-up.

Come Through, Growth!

Source: A very knowledgeable hairdresser who’s a little sick of my emails now.

By:Melody Rose