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How To Moisturize Your Scalp With Dreads

Figuring out how to moisturize your scalp with dreads is a catch 22. Your scalp is probably suffering from discomfort and dryness, but if you over-moisturize, your locs will look greasy and limp. The trick is to not rely solely on scalp oil – it’ll take a few small hair care changes to get your scalp feeling hydrated again.

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Signs Your Scalp And Dreads Need To Be Moisturized

Aside from just feeling dry, some common symptoms that mean you need to learn how to moisturize your scalp with dreads.


That white, flaky dead skin is a sign that your scalp isn’t properly hydrated. You can switch to a dandruff shampoo for Black hair, but to supplement that, you’ll need to start moisturizing in between washes.

Itchiness Or Inflammation

Lots of guys suffer from irritation when they first start their loc journey. Your skin will need to adjust to your new hairstyle and wash schedule. Lots of guys enjoy how gentle and moisturizing a coconut oil shampoo feels. I recommend it for mature locs that won’t unwind.

Dull Or Brittle Hair

Your dreads might not necessarily look shiny, but they definitely shouldn’t look dull, and if you’re suffering from hair breakage, it’s a clear sign your scalp needs more moisture. 

Loose, Thin Locs

Once your hair passes the dull, brittle stage, all that breakage can lead to loose locs that will look thin. 

What Can I Put On My Scalp With Dreads?

Before you jump to scalp oil as a cure-all, try a combination of scalp-healthy practices. 

(You should use oil too, but not without other moisturizing techniques. We’ll talk about scalp oil in the next section.)

Put these on your scalp:

The Best Shampoos For Dreadlocks

If you’ve grown out new locs, but you’re still using your regular old shampoo, throw it out. The best shampoos for dreadlocks are specifically formulated to keep your scalp and hair clean without leaving residue. 

Normal shampoos that do leave residue can cause dread rot and scalp irritation.

Apple Cider Vinegar

You should apply an apple cider vinegar rinse every time you wash your hair. Because you can’t use conditioner on dreads, ACV is the perfect stand-in. It moisturizes your scalp, but won’t unwind your locs. It also helps give your locs shine and volume.

Incorporate ACV into your regular dreadlock washing routine.

A Durag, Scarf, Or Bonnet

Sleep is dehydrating, believe it or not. You lose a lot of water when you catch your Zzz’s. 

Even if you use a silk or satin pillowcase to protect your dreads, you should pair it with a head scarf, durag, or bonnet. Unlike the pillowcase, a head covering will help lock in your scalp’s natural moisture. 

You can also wear your head covering outdoors to prevent your dreads from being exposed to the elements. Sun, wind, and any debris your scalp touches can cause dryness.

DON’T Put Wax On Your Scalp

Hair wax is a tempting solution for getting tight, secure dreads. The problem is that wax attracts dirt and debris, so if your hair touches a dirty surface, it’ll attract fine particles. That debris can cause scalp irritation and dirty locs.

DON’T Overuse Baking Soda

A baking soda soak can be great for smelly or oily dreadlocks, but if you overuse baking soda, it’ll dry out your scalp.

DON’T Wash With Hot Water

Hot water may feel good, but it’s not good for your dreads or scalp. It can cause brittle locs that are prone to breaking (one of the symptoms of dryness that we talked about above). Turn down the temperature when you’re washing your dreadlocks.

How To Moisturize Your Scalp With Dreads

Most guys who know how to moisturize your scalp with dreads use oil. Hair and scalp oils are easy to come by, and they protect your scalp from dehydration. The hardest part is choosing the right oil for your skin type.

Thin oils are best if you want to avoid clogging your pores and causing more irritation. But thicker oils offer added protection from dryness.

Some popular options –

Thin hair oils:

• Argan Oil – very low chance that it will clog your pores.

• Jojoba Oil – closest in viscosity to the natural oils that our skin produces.

• Grapeseed Oil – good for acne-prone skin.

• Almond Oil – gentle for sensitive scalp.

To make the oil even thinner, combine it with some water when you rub it into your scalp.

Thick hair oils:

• Castor Oil – best for repairing damage.

• Olive Oil – softens and strengthens hair. Be careful, might unwind new locs.

• Avocado Oil – very thick for scalp that dries out quickly.

You can dilute thick oils with one of the thin hair oils and some water. I don’t recommend using straight thick oils on your scalp – they’ll clog your pores and cause more irritation. Though, they are good for extremely dry hair.

Best-smelling hair oils: 

• Tea Tree Oil – a fan favorite

• Hemp Seed Oil – unique nutty smell

• Coconut Oil – more popular among women, but gender-neutral enough for men.

Lots of guys end up choosing a scalp oil based on scent, and that’s not a bad idea! They’re often just as effective as other options.

Moisturizers without oil:

• Aloe Vera – great for soothing sunburns AND irritated scalp.

• Witch Hazel – mix it with water and soak it like you would with apple cider vinegar. Helps with itchiness.

You can combine a non-oil moisturizer with an oil. Start with the aloe vera or witch hazel, then put an oil on top so that the moisturizer doesn’t evaporate from your scalp.

How Often Should You Oil Your Scalp With Dreads?

There’s no right answer for how often your scalp and dreadlocks need oil. Some guys end up using oil every day because their scalp dries out so quickly. Others swear that you shouldn’t use it more than 2 times a week, or you’ll break out even worse.

My recommendation would be to start slow. Apply a few drops of hair oil and massage it into your scalp 2-3 times a week, and adjust your routine as needed. 

If you think I’m teasing about the “massage” part of that sentence, I’m not. Massaging your scalp can help stimulate blood flow, which will help with dryness. It’ll also ensure that the oil stays near the root of your hair rather than dripping down your locs. After all, you need it most near your scalp.

Should I Moisturize My Locs Everyday?

Most guys do not need to moisturize their locs everyday, but you should moisturize regularly. 

And don’t look at oil as the only solution – if you’re applying hair oil everyday, you probably need to take a close look at your shampoo and wash routine. Are you using apple cider vinegar? Are you covering your hair at night? Are you washing your hair with cool water? If not, you’re probably overusing oil and underusing other moisturizing solutions.

Dreadlocks require a lot of care and attention, and that includes creating a moisturizing routine that feels good for your scalp and hair. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for handsome locs.

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.