How to Get Dreads: All You Need to Know

black man with dreads

Dreadlocks are fashionable, a point of ethnic pride, and not nearly as challenging to get as you might initially think! If you’ve been wondering how to get dreads, then you’ve come to the right place. With this guide, you can learn what dreadlocks are, how to prepare for them, and finally, how to get them!

There are several different kinds of dreads you could choose to grow, and each one requires a different technique to achieve. Also, it’s important to remember that nearly all people start with thin dreadlocks, as it takes time for dreads to grow, thicken, and mature.

What Are Dreadlocks?

What Are Dreadlocks?

No matter what your hair type, the hair on your head grows outward strand by strand. Most common hairstyles rely on the separation of these strands, but dreadlocks do not. Instead, dreadlocks form with the strands band together to form small “ropes” of hair.

A Brief History of Dreads

Ancient peoples wore their hair in dreadlocks for many reasons, and it’s thought that some of the earliest peoples naturally developed dreads as a response to harsh, dry environments. Still, religious and spiritual beliefs soon began to form around the hairstyle, with some people believing that dreadlocks could imbue the wearer with supernatural abilities and powers.

As humanity transitioned from a classical, ancient society to a modern, technologically advanced one, dreadlocks remained popular in African nations, but not many other places. When Rastafarianism was born in Jamaica, many of its followers wore dreads, and so the style started to be associated with Rastafarianism

Nowadays, people wear dreads to represent their culture, because they like the look, or because it’s a style that works well with their hair type. And while there are still some negative mainstream conceptions regarding dreadlocks and those who choose to wear them, this is quickly changing as more people learn about the style and try it.

Different Types of Dreads

There are dozens of dread types and styles, but they can be initially divided into two categories.

Thin Dreadlocks

Thin dreadlocks are only a centimeter or two thick at the most. They are easily malleable so that they can be worked into lots of different hairstyles. Thin dreadlocks can be more challenging to maintain than thicker ones, especially for beginners, as there are many dreads to maintain and care for. However, everyone starts with thin dreadlocks before working up to thicker ones.

If you’re interested in giving yourself very thin dreadlocks, you’ll want to set aside an entire day for the process, as you’ll be creating far more individual dreads than someone who is rolling and placing thicker dreadlocks.

Thick Dreadlocks

When dreadlocks occur naturally, they tend to be compressed, matted patches that aren’t very attractive. It isn’t easy to start off with thick dreadlocks, which is why they’re worn as a badge of honor by those who have them.

Most people with thick dreadlocks started with thin strands before allowing those strands to merge and mature. Very thick dreadlocks can take several years to develop, so have patience!

Curly Vs. Straight Hair

Dreadlocks will look different if you have naturally curly hair, and most people who attempt basic dreads start with straight hair. However, this doesn’t mean that individuals with curly hair can’t get dreadlocks. It only means that they’ll need to work a little harder the first time they set them.

Preparing for Dreads

Different Types of Dreads

While you may be eager to begin your dread process, there are a few things you may want to do beforehand. Gathering the supplies you’ll need, washing all residue and body oil from your hair, and knowing exactly what you’re going for are all fantastic places to start.

Be Familiar With Your Supplies

Before you can dread your hair, you’ll need a few supplies. Fortunately, dreadlocks don’t require nearly as many supplies as dyed, over-stylized hair. You can make your own dreads by using three simple items.

Metal Comb

You’ll want to start things off with a small metal comb for brushing and teasing your hair. While plastic is an option, it doesn’t seem to grasp onto the hairs as well as metal. Brand and exact size don’t matter here. As long as you find something that fits nicely in your hand and is capable of making it all the way through your hair, you’re solid.

Tiny Rubber Bands 

Tiny rubber bands or hair ties are a must for those with thinner, straighter hair types and can be massively helpful to those with kinky, wavy hair as well. While sectioning off different parts of your hair to make individual dreads, you’ll want to use these tiny bands to secure the dread in place and prevent it from unraveling as you work.

Crochet Hook

Smooth, nicely defined dreads do take work and time, but a great way to keep unwanted stray hairs from making your dreadlocks fuzzy and unkempt is to employ a crochet hook. These tiny devices are so helpful for dreads that they’re often sold in beauty supply stores.

When you’re first getting your dreads, you can do yourself a massive favor by immediately tucking loose strands back into the main body of the dread with a crochet hook. Not only will this help to keep your dreads looking neat, but you’ll also be making your dreads thicker, stronger, and healthier.

Get Your Hair Ready

Before you can get dreads, you must wash your hair with a clarifying shampoo. You want your hair to be as dry, clean, and easy-to-handle as possible, and oils and slippery conditioners can make that impossible.

You’ll want to wait until your hair has completely dried before beginning the sectioning process, and you can choose to blow-dry your hair if you’d like to speed things up.

Be Prepared to Make Mistakes

If you’re human, chances are, you’ve made at least one mistake in your life. When it comes to getting dreadlocks — especially if you’re doing them at home by yourself, for the first time — mistakes will happen. That’s ok, though.

The best thing you can do is try to remain focused and attentive while making your dreads, and to learn from any mistakes you might happen to commit. But whatever you do, don’t get upset with yourself if you do something incorrectly or have to go back to re-do an area. Getting dreads should be a joyful and relaxed process!

Have a Friend Handy

If you’re unsure about trying to dread your hair at home, it might be helpful to have a friend come by to sit with you while you begin the process. Even better, you could ask for the help of a friend or family member who already has dreads!

Either way, it can be fantastically helpful to have someone around to share your experience with, and to help guide you through it.

Browse Different Styles for Inspiration

If you’re unsure about what kind of dreadlocks you’d like to have, there are tons of resources available to you that can help. Be sure to browse through the many styles to find something that speaks to you!

Getting Dreads: Step-By-Step

Getting Dreads: Step-By-Step

Are you ready to get your dreads? Make sure you have your supplies handy and a clear image of what you’re going for in your mind. Now, let’s get started!

Gather Your Materials

The very first thing you’ll need to do before getting dreads is to gather your supplies. Your hairbrush, your hair ties or rubber bands, a crochet needle, and maybe even a snack and something to drink are all things to have nearby.

Depending on the size of your preferred dreads, and if you’re attempting to accomplish the entire scalp in one sitting, you’ll want to prepare for an all-day dread session. When you’re first getting your dreads, you’re going to want to spend the extra time and care in crafting them and securing them, so don’t skimp on this step!

One of the positives about spending the better part of a day working on your hair is that you can make a tiny celebration out of it! Why not order some pizza, treat yourself to a bath, or go out with friends when you’re done? It’s a great way to begin celebrating your new life with dreadlocks.

Wash and Dry Your Hair

Once your supplies are handy and your schedule for the day is set, you’ll want to wash your hair with a clarifying shampoo. Be sure to use lukewarm water to prevent dry skin issues. Once your hair is free of oils, residues, or perfumes, you can either wait for it to dry or blow-dry it.

Those with treated, sensitive hair may want to simply wait for their hair to dry, as using a high-temperature blow dryer could cause the strands to become brittle. Once your hair is completely dry and easy to handle, it’s time to start creating your sections.

Create Sections

You’ll want to grab that metal comb and get to work! The sides of the head are a great place to begin. Gently divide your hair into 1in by 1in square sections, starting from the top and working your way down. 

It’s best to layer these squares so that they do not perfectly align in rows. If you alternate your pattern, you can achieve a waterfall effect that looks natural-yet-maintained. You can make these squares slightly larger or much smaller if you like. 

The size of the square will determine the size of the dread, though, so be mindful of the continued maintenance you will need to provide down the road. The smaller the dread, the more work you’re going to need to put into your daily hair care routine — at least initially.

Each square should be secured with a small rubber band or hair tie, but don’t tie it too tightly, or you may cut off blood supply to that area! Once you have your hair divided out in a way you like, it’s time to tease, twist, and pull your hair into new, baby-soft dreads.

Pull, Twist, Pull Method

One of the easiest and tool-free ways to get dreads quickly, especially if you have straight or sleek hair, is the pull-twist method. You begin by gently pulling the strands of section outward from the scalp, twisting as you go. 

You then pull the strands apart, pulling until you reach the base of the skull or the dread, before twisting and pulling again. This method is time-consuming but effective and relatively easy to do, making it a go-to method for those with longer hairstyles or straighter hair types.

Crochet It Together

Now that you have your first little dreadlocks, it’s time to clean them up! There’s likely plenty of wayward hair and kinky bits sticking out of the main body of your dreads. That’s fine. The easiest way to handle these crazy strands is to use a crochet hook to tuck them back into the dread.

You can put something on TV or listen to some music while you enjoy this process. With every tiny strand that you join to the larger dread, you’re creating a more robust, sleeker, and healthier lock. That’s something to feel proud of.

Get Ready to Maintain

Now that you have your very first dreads, it’s time to prepare for daily, weekly, and monthly maintenance. The price of beautiful dreadlocks is only a few minutes of self-care a day, and chances are, you’ll love taking care of your dreads.

Maintaining Your Dreads

Maintaining Your Dreads

Once you’ve got your dreads, you’re going to need to maintain them. Ensuring that your dreads are clean and that they look good isn’t nearly as difficult as getting them started. However, consistency is key!

Just Keep Rolling

To ensure that your dreads retain their shape and continue to grow stronger, thicker, and healthier, it’s crucial that you spend time rolling them. When you’ve first gotten your dreadlocks, you’ll need to roll each dread for several seconds each day. That’s why having hundreds of very thin, fine dreads can require so much maintenance!

Wax Can Help

If you’d rather not spend so much time rolling your dreads, you can employ wax to help you get the job done. Many people choose to avoid dread wax, as it may inhibit the natural growth of the dreads. However, your personal preference and set of beliefs are more important than following the trend, so use dread wax if you want to.

Weekly Washing

At the most, you can let your dreads go for a whole week between washes. However, it may be better to wash them every other day or so if you’re in a dirty or greasy environment. Dreads have a way of trapping the things that touch them, like oils and bits of dust, so regular washing with a fragrance-free, clarifying shampoo is vital.

Can You Undo Dreadlocks?

Can You Undo Dreadlocks?

The short answer is always yes. However, if you’ve had dreadlocks for several years, you’re probably going to have to cut your hair to a relatively short length.

Some people have reported moderate success in unwinding their dreadlocks, but these individuals typically only had dreads for a few weeks or months at the maximum. Also, it takes just about as long to get rid of dreadlocks by combing them out, as it does to make them!

Unless you have plenty of time, patience, and conditioner, you may simply want to cut your hair when you’re tired of dreads. However, if you’re like most people who’ve tried dreadlocks, you may never want to be rid of them once you’ve got them.

Crucial Tips and Tricks to Remember

Crucial Tips and Tricks to Remember

There’s a lot of history behind dreadlocks, and a lot of techniques that have developed around getting them and maintaining them. Personal testimonials help us to understand what pitfalls to expect or avoid, and what heights of success we can look forward to attaining.

Quite simply, there’s a ton of information out there. To make things a bit easier, here are a few of the most crucial tips and tricks to keep in mind when getting dreads.

Dreadlock Shampoos

While you don’t have to go for a shampoo that is specifically targeted toward dreads, it may help relieve any itching and skin dryness you experience in the early — or later — stages. The most important aspects to consider when choosing a dreadlock shampoo are clarifying potential, residue, fragrance, and conditioning effects.

The best shampoos for dreads remove dense oils without leaving any residue or fragrance. Conditioners should be avoided for the first several weeks, and possibly months, as it could cause the dreads to unwind and relax.

Don’t Go Too Tight

When you’re sectioning your hair, it can be easy to start wrapping those hair ties or rubber bands a little too tightly. This is especially true of those attempting several hundred thin dreads. However, you’ll want to be careful about wrapping these bands too tightly and too closely to your scalp.

If you restrict the hair too firmly, you could damage the hair roots. When blood has a difficult time flowing toward a part of your scalp, hair loss is a natural consequence. So be smart and don’t go too tight when you’re sectioning your hair into dreads.

Feel Proud of Yourself!

Anyone with dreads can tell you that they are often stopped and asked about their hair, or occasionally insulted for it. Part of the magic of dreadlocks is the confidence they represent, so don’t forget to feel proud of your hard work — no matter what people say!

If you’ve put in the effort, devotion, and love to get dreads and you’re caring for them and for yourself, there’s nothing in this world that can bring you down. So keep being yourself and enjoying your style.

A Few Final Words

Dreads can be thin and wiry or large and puffy. They can be long, short, straight, or styled. One of the most considerable early challenges that people with dreadlocks face is proper dread hygiene. However, with the right soap, this shouldn’t be an issue for anyone.

If you’d like to try dreads, the only thing holding you back is yourself. You can give yourself dreadlocks in very little time, and rock out the new look for as long as you’d like. So, what are you waiting for? Use this information today and start a journey you’ll never forget!

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