You shouldn’t wash your dreads that often, but for those special occasions when you do, using the best shampoo for dreadlocks ensures that your scalp is clean while your locks stay tight. In fact, if you choose the right option for your hair, you can find a shampoo that helps your hair form locs at the roots as it grows.
Table of Contents
Dollylocks Shampoo (Our Top Pick)
Dollylocks is one of the safest shampoos you can trust on your dreads. Founder Alin Leslie was a cosmetologist in the 90s when she started the company. She specifically formulated all of her products for locs, and sells mainly to hair care specialists like herself who work with locs.
The brand consistently makes it to the top of “Best Shampoo for Locs” lists everywhere, including TCW Mag, The Idle Men, How to Get Dreads, and more. Better yet, it’s entirely residue-free and has a light texture that washes easily.
One small thing to be careful of: Dollylocks is meant to be used on mature dreadlocks. Most guys don’t wash their non-mature dreadlocks anyway, but it’s an avoidable mistake.
• Refreshing scent. Doesn’t linger, but smells good in the shower and keeps your locs fresh.
• No residue! Perfect for mature locs that need to watch out for mildew.
• Brand made specifically for locs, founded by a cosmetologist who works with locs.
• Not the best for new, still-forming dreads.
Some of the best shampoos for dreads encourage your hair to keep twisting at the roots. Taliah Waajid’s black earth shampoo does just that, helping your hair maintain tight curls and locs to keep every strand in place.
It’s worth noting, however, that it’s gotten mixed reviews from YouYubers with dreads. Tae Love said that he enjoys the cool, tingly feeling it gives his scalp, and it seems to work well. But YouTuber Zen Lioness said that she hated the texture and wouldn’t be willing to even try putting it anywhere near her dreads.
If you do buy it and agree with Lioness that it’s not the right choice for your dreads, the good news is that the shampoo doubles as a body wash, so you don’t have to let it go to waste. But it’s a safe bet for guys with short dreads who don’t mind a shampoo with a thicker texture.
• Encourages curling for tighter dreads
• Great for sensitive scalp (especially if your dreads are causing scalp sensitivity).
• Pioneered by a Black entrepreneur, made for Black hair.
• Sold with a conditioner that you probably won’t use.
• Contains ammonium lauryl sulfate, bad for dry or dandruff-prone scalp.
• Mixed reviews from users with dreads.
African black soap is so insanely versatile. It’s great on eczema, oily skin, dandruff, bacteria, and (you guessed it) dreadlocks. Alaffia lets the soap take center stage so that it can work its magic, adding in just a few oils and citruses to help hydrate and scent the shampoo.
Reddit users on r/Dreadlocks say African Black Soap in general is great for a root scrub or a dreadlock soak. It leaves behind very little residue (do be sure to blow dry afterwards), and the scent stays fresh for a while. Many say their locks actually feel lighter and tighter after an African Black Soap soak.
Alaffia is the right brand to trust if you think African Black Soap is right for your dreads. Their slogan is “clean, green & fair trade,” but better yet, they’re actually a nonprofit, and they use the proceeds from their products to sponsor “Empowerment Projects” primarily in West Africa.
• African Black Soap is *chef’s kiss* for dreadlocks. Great for a root scrub or loc soak.
• Approved by Reddit users on r/Dreadlocks.
• Best for sensitive, oily scalp.
• Nonprofit uses proceeds to sponsor projects in west Africa.
• The fact that it’s a 2-in-1 product is just slightly worrisome. Some ingredients that make it a good body wash might also leave behind just a little bit of residue that hurts in the long-run.
SheaMoisture makes the best shea butter products for Black skin and hair. They’re not exactly a dreadlock brand, but they do know how to cater to curls and kinks, so they’re a decent choice for locs. Their shampoo is incredibly thin, almost more liquid-y than shampoo-y, so if your main concern is washing it out, no worries on that end.
The real edge that Shea Moisture’s African Water Shampoo has over its competitors is its detoxifying properties. Sometimes, in an effort to minimize residue and wash out easily, dreadlock shampoos sacrifice cleansers. Your locs will smell good, but your scalp might not be getting all the cleaning power that it needs.
Shea Moisture’s charcoal and mint combo ensure that your locs smell good and your scalp is 100% clean, letting you go longer between washes.
• Thin, almost entirely liquid-y shampoo that washes easily.
• Nice lather, great smell, made for Black hair.
• Better cleaning properties than some other dreadlock shampoos.
• Not formulated for dreadlocks, but doesn’t leave behind residue.
Brickell Men’s is not specifically made for dreadlocks or Black hair, but it does meet all the requirements that lots of guys with dreads look for in their shampoo. It’s thin and washes easily, but still lathers nicely, and uses fresh tea tree and mint to kill bacteria that gather on your scalp.
I think of it as the right choice for the guy with mature dreads who wants to get back into men’s products, rather than dreadlock-specific products.
It’s also a great choice for guys who deal with issues like dandruff, oiliness, receding hair, and more. Brickell manages to tackle a lot of common scalp problems, but it doesn’t smell like that weird, thick medicated shampoo that you might get from a dermatologist.
• Thin shampoo that washes easily and still lathers nicely.
• Nice tea tree and peppermint smell. Kills scalp bacteria.
• Pretty good for common scalp issues like sensitivity and dandruff.
• Not specifically formulated for dreadlocks or Black hair.
Is Shampoo Bad For Locs?
Only some shampoos are bad for your locs. You’ll want to avoid anything that leaves behind residue. Those are the worst offenders – even if the shampoo feels clean while you’re using it, it’ll make your scalp smell fishy in the long run, or even unwind your dreads.
Shampoo is also bad for freshly-formed locs, as most guys who wear dreads already know. I wouldn’t recommend any of the shampoos on this list for fresh locs (or any shampoo at all).
But once you get to the point where it’s safe to semi-frequently wash your dreads, the trick is choosing the right shampoo. As we’ve pointed out, lots of the shampoos on this list enhance your dreads while cleaning your scalp.
Can I Use Any Shampoo To Wash My Dreads?
You shouldn’t use just any shampoo to wash your dreads. Regular grocery-store shampoos often leave behind synthetic silicones and waxes that coat your hair follicles. That residue can cause a dread rot, a condition where your dreads start to trap moisture and grow mildew.
Look for shampoo options without silicones, waxes, and unemulsified oils. As long as you watch out for those ingredients, you don’t necessarily need to buy a dreadlock-specific shampoo. You can even opt for a dandruff shampoo for African hair. They do a great job of curing itchy scalp while preserving curls and kinks.
Lastly, don’t stop washing your dreads. You don’t need to wash dreads as frequently as other hair styles, but you do need to shampoo semi-regularly to kill bacteria and dissolve natural oils that loosen dreadlocks. Scrub your scalp, and let the shampoo run down your locs as you wash it away.