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How To Keep Dreads Healthy And Growing

It takes patience and persistence when you’re learning how to keep dreads healthy and growing. Your hair might not seem like it’s gaining length as quickly because it’s wound so tightly. But in the long-run, you’ll notice how attractive your mature locs look when you know how to take care of them.

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How To Keep Dreads Healthy And Growing

Guys who are best at caring for dreads know how to stick to a routine. Your locs require frequent care, even more so than when your hair wasn’t locked. 

Here are a few things you’ll need to add to your routine:

DO Wash Your Scalp At Least Weekly

The only time you shouldn’t wash dreads weekly is when they’re still forming. Ask your stylist how soon you can wash your locs. Or, rule of thumb is to wait a month before washing new baby locs.

Once you have mature dreadlocks, plan to wash your hair at least weekly. You can wash your dreadlocks naturally at home with a dreadlock shampoo. 

Focus on scrubbing the shampoo into your roots, then let the suds run down the length of your locs when you wash it out. Be sure to finish with an apple cider vinegar rinse so that your hair stays hydrated without unwinding. You can’t use conditioner on dreads.

DO Use Dreadlock Shampoos & Natural Products 

The word of the day is residue-free. When you use all-natural products and the best shampoo for dreadlocks, ideally you don’t want anything you put in your hair to leave any residue whatsoever.

Residue is what causes bad smells and dread rot – mold can grow in your locs if you don’t thoroughly wash out every product that goes into your locs.

The best way to avoid residue is to use all-natural products specifically made for dreads.  

DO Dry Your Locs Thoroughly

Dread rot isn’t only caused by residue. It’s also caused by water buildup in your locs.

Whenever you wash your dreads, you need to dry them thoroughly within 12 hours. Use microfiber towels to soak up the water when you’re fresh out of the shower, then monitor your locs while they air-dry, or use a blow dryer on its lowest heat setting.

DO Moisturize Your Scalp

Most guys moisturize their scalp with a combination of apple cider vinegar rinses and hair oil treatments. You can’t use conditioner on dreads because it will unwind your locs, so you’ll have to be more creative than your friends without dreads.

DO Sleep With A Scarf Or Satin Pillowcase

Traditional pillowcases are notorious for tangling and tugging at hair. Over time, all those split ends and flyaways that your pillowcase tugs off can make your dreads look thinner and limp.

Wear a durag, bonnet, or scarf when you’re in bed – not only will it protect your locs from breakage, but it’ll trap moisture near your roots to keep your scalp and locs hydrated. If you don’t like the feeling of wearing a head covering in bed at night, try a silk or satin pillowcase instead. It has similar benefits.

DO Give Your Head A Massage – You Deserve It

Well, more than just deserving it, a nice scalp massage stimulates blood flow. In turn, you’ll strengthen the roots of your hair and ensure that the new growth is healthy and ready to be wound into your locs.

DO Deep-Clean Your Dreads Quarterly

On top of your weekly washing and moisturizing routine, you’ll want to carve out a day every 3-4 months to deep-clean your dreadlocks. Most guys use a baking soda rinse to do this – just combine ¼ of a box of baking soda with a basin of water, and let your dreads sit in the mixture for several minutes.

The baking soda helps draw out stubborn debris that has gotten caught in your locs. Just don’t use baking soda too frequently – it’s drying, so you’ll want to shampoo, rinse with apple cider vinegar and moisturize thoroughly afterwards.

If you don’t have much confidence in baking soda, use a dreadlock deep cleansing solution instead. Follow the instructions on the bottle for those. They’re all different. Some even look like bath bombs!

How NOT To Keep Dreads Healthy And Growing

You can find a lot of bad advice online when it comes to dreadlock care. Avoid these practices:

DON’T Use Wax

Wax is awesome for keeping your locs wound tight, but it’s terrible when it comes to attracting dirt, lint, and other debris.

When your locs are coated in wax, stuff will…stick. And wax is really difficult to wash out of dreadlocks. It’s a huge source of the “dreadlocks smell bad” misconception – dreadlocks that are coated in wax smell bad.

DON’T Cut Stray Hairs

Lots of guys end up cutting little fly-away hairs off of their locs for aesthetic reasons. Of course, you want your locs looking clean and tightly wound. But here’s the thing: if you cut off those little stray hairs too frequently, it’ll start to thin your locks.

Instead, try to re-wind those flyaway pieces into your dreads, or leave them be. It might not be your favorite look at first, but in the long-run, you’ll be happier with your thick dreads.

DON’T Use Products That Leave Residue

We talked about the dangers of residue earlier. If water and product gets stuck in the shaft of your dreadlock, it can create mold that smells bad and ultimately causes dread rot.

Too many guys end up losing their locs to low-quality products that aren’t made to care for dreadlocks. Stick with all-natural dreadlock hair products so that you can keep your hair healthy.

DON’T Use Chemical Treatments On Your Dreads

I know, bleached locs look super cool. But chemical treatments weaken your hair, especially bleach. Your locs can get brittle, and they’ll be more prone to breakage.

Caring for damaged hair is so much more difficult than caring for healthy, natural hair. You’ll extend the lifespan of your locs by avoiding chemicals.

Frank Edwards is a men's grooming & style expert who is "internet famous" for being able to simplify complicated grooming routines into easy, yet effective rituals any man can do. As a professional analyst, he has spent years researching the biggest brands, products, experts, best practices, and breaking news in the space. He takes this analysis, tests it out on himself, and then documents everything in his writing. As a result, his experience-based articles are considered by some to be the gold standard in men's grooming and men's style.