There are several methods that can be used to start dreadlocks. We will attempt to give you as much information as possible about using each method to start dreads as well as the advantages and disadvantages of each one so you can decide which method is right for you.
Advantages: Hair looks like dreads the same day and reaches maturity faster than other methods. You can control the size and shape of the dreads, anywhere from thick and smooth to thin and sexy. It is an all natural method. Backcombing will work on all hair lengths 3" and longer.
Disadvantages: The initial dreading takes a few hours and is pretty labor intensive, nothing a good friend or two can't handle. The best way to back comb is to take your time and make the dreads as smooth and tight as possible.
First section the hair into squares. Square sections make round dreads. Between 1" and 2" squares works well for most people. Smaller sections make thinner dreads. The sections can be secured temporarily with rubberbands. After the hair is sectioned use a dread comb to comb the hair backwards. Start close to the scalp, not more than an inch away. Comb repeatedly towards the scalp. Eventually hair will start to pack up at the roots. It is not necessary to twist the hair. It is helpful however to roll the hair you are holding between your fingers a little while you are backcombing. Continue backcombing, slowly working towards the ends of the hair, making the dread as tight as possible as you go. When you reach the ends you can secure the dread with a rubberband. Another rubberband on the roots will help the dread stay tight at its base. The rubberbands can be removed after the dread has a chance to mature. After the rubberbands are applied to each dread the dreads should be waxed with a dread wax that does not contain petroleum. A good dread wax will tame loose hairs and help the hair dread much faster.
Dreads formed by backcombing look very much like dreads right after you do them, however they will tighten and smooth out a great deal as they mature. Using a good soap and wax is key to the development of the dreads. Well maintained dreads can reach maturity in as little as 3 to 4 months! The hair continues to dread as it grows in some cases by itself but in most cases it will need a little help. You can wear a rubberband on the root of stubborn dreads to help them lock up. Rubbing the root of the dread clockwise against the scalp also helps.
Tips: Starting with clean, residue free hair makes the process go much faster. Any residue in the hair tends to help the hair slip out of knots as you backcomb. Also be sure that the hair is completely dry when you back comb it.
If you do not have any friends that feel comfortable doing this for you most salons have at least one adventurous stylist who will be willing to help you for about $20-$30 per hour, which isn't that bad considering you won't ever have to pay for another hair cut! It is a very good idea to bring with you the products you want to use and the instructions for backcombing. Many unfortunate white children have had dreads started with the twist method and were more than a little disappointed. We have several all natural dread products that we recommend for starting dreads listed in our Products and Accessories section.
Wool Sweater or Wool Hat rubbing
Advantages: The main advantage to the rubbing method is that if you happen to own something wool you can get started right away. It is an all natural method. You can do it yourself.
Disadvantages: It hurts like hell and the dreads that it makes vary greatly in size and do not look very good. Hair will usually need to be cut after trying this method so you will have to grow out your hair again before trying another method.
Instructions: Take a wool sweater or hat and rub it in circles on your head. After about 15 min, if your hair is long enough, knots will start to form. As the hair knots together you rip it apart and try to separate it into dreads. After you rip it apart you resume rubbing for another 15 min. or so. Repeat this process over and over and over until all your hair is knotted. Lots of loose hair is common with this method and the neglect method, just try to stick them into the nearest dread.
Advantages: You can do it without assistance. It is the easiest method. No special tools or products are needed, just time.
Disadvantages: It takes at least 3 years to start looking like dreads in most hair types. You need to have about 10" of hair for the knots to start forming. The dreads form unevenly, some dreads will be huge and flat, others skinny. People usually get sick of having nasty hair and cut it off long before they get dreads.
Instructions: The neglect method is pretty much just that. You do nothing but keep the hair clean. (Some people don't even do that but not washing your hair is unsanitary and it slows down the dreading process) Just let it grow and in a year or so it may start to knot up or it may take 3 years Hair texture and hair length has a lot to do with how long it takes. You can rip it into dreads and try to combine dreads that are too small with rubberbands if you like, but in the spirit of true neglect most people don't. I don't really think that people that use this method are really after dreads, I think they are just pissed off at their hair and decided to let it do what it wants. When I meet someone that has dreads obviously formed by neglect I always complement their dreads anyway and I don't usually offer advice, because they do not really want it.
Advantages: It's like instant dreads.
Disadvantages: It is a chemical process. Dreads formed by perming often require professional maintenance. Cost, $200-$400!
Instructions: Save your money. Find a salon that does dread perms.
Advantages: It is all natural. You have control over the size of the dreads and how they form. Many salons are familiar with this method and the cost is usually much lower than a dread perm.
Disadvantages: It only works in African textured hair but that doesn't mean salons won't try it on Caucasian hair!
Instructions: Hair should be sectioned into squares. Square sections make round dreads. Between 1" and 2" squares works well for most people. Smaller sections make thinner dreads. As you section the hair you can secure each section with a rubberband. When the whole head is sectioned twist each section clockwise using a comb to snag the hair at the ends and twist. As each section is twisted dread wax should be worked in to hold the twists. Thick waxes without petroleum hold the hair much better when starting the dreads. After the dreads mature thinner waxes can be used to add fragrance and sheen. Rubberbands can also be used at the roots and tips to hold the hair for the first couple of weeks. Be sure not to attach the rubberbands too tightly, nice and snug will do the job just as well and should not break any hairs. Hair should be twisted by hand regularly to help it lock up.
Dreads can also be started in short black hair without sectioning by hand. The hair can actually section itself. To do this you need short curly African textured hair about 1/2" thick. Take a soft bristled brush and rub it gently in clockwise circles on the surface of the hair. As you rub the hair will magically form little nubs or balls of hair. These little nubs can be twisted by hand into dreads. Twisting and working in a little bit of thick dread wax will help them hold together and mature much faster. The nice thing about these sections is that they are chosen naturally by the hair and for this reason they dread nicely by themselves as they continue to grow..
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