Dreadlocks, which have their root in African and Caribbean cultures, have been around for centuries and have been worn for religious purposes as well as decorative purposes. Dreadlocks are more easily attainable for those who are black because of the coarseness and kinkiness of their hair. On caucasian hair types, however, a little more work and ingenuity is required to grow dreadlocks.
Since dreadlocks are essentially comprised of hundreds of strands of hair that are knotted together, hair that is smooth and silky in texture will be very hard to dreadlock. Hair that is naturally very straight is also hard to dreadlock. This is why you have never seen an Asian wearing dreads.
The first step is to make sure that the hair is the appropriate length. Hair that is too long will be almost impossible to work with. A good starting point is hair length between 4 and 6 inches. Next, you want to section the hair into several small squares, about one inch long and one inch wide. Use smaller sections for “skinnier” dreadlocks and wider sections for “fatter” dreadlocks.
Once the hair has been sectioned, take the hair from each square and tease or backcomb the hair until it is evenly knotted throughout the entire length. If your hair is naturally silky in texture it may be necessary to spray the hair with hairspray before teasing it or else the backcombing will not stay. Don’t worry about teasing the hair too much or too hard; after all, the whole idea of dreadlocks is to have the hair knotted and matted.
After each section is thoroughly teased, it will be necessary to form the shape of the dreadlock using a styling product. Traditionally, beeswax has been used for centuries, but there are several different types of stying products that will work. You want a product that is somewhat sticky and tacky, rather than something that is slippery. These types of products are marketed as paste, mud, taffy, waxes, and gums. If the name of the product implies that it is sticky and tacky, then it can probably be used for dreadlocking.
The final step is to let the hair grow so that it locks naturally. Once your starter dreads are formed, as your hair grows it should automatically begin knotting and locking into place.
One common myth is that you do not have to wash dreadlocks. Not only is neglecting to wash the hair unsanitary, it also makes the hair harder to lock because there will be an accumulation of oil on your scalp. Although shampooing a few times a week is a good idea, there’s really no point in conditioning dreadlocks.