Natural Dreadlocks FAQ

What are natural dreadlocks?

Natural dreadlocks are made with your own natural hair, and they can be created manually or naturally as explained in our Dreadlocks Creation Guide. They can cover your whole head or just be “partial” dreadlocks.

a womans head looking to the left on a summers day with dreadlocks in her hair

An example of partial dreads. Photo by Israel Gil on Unsplash 


How long does my hair need to be to create dreadlocks?


  1. If you’re creating your dreadlocks manually, you’re looking to have at least 15cm of length, otherwise it gets too tricky to make dreadlocks. 
  2. If you’re trying to get freeform locs you can start at any length. Simply stop combing your hair and over the months/years they will naturally form dreadlocks.


What are the essential products for my dreadlocks journey?


The essential dreadlocks items we recommend are: 

  1. Dreadlocks shampoo, 
  2. Dreadlocks detox, 
  3. A nightcap, 
  4. Crochet hooks for maintenance, 
  5. Refreshing sprays to soothe the scalp,
  6. Tightening products to speed up the process. 

To know more about these essential items please refer to the guide titled “Top 6 Dreadlocks Must Haves”.


Why do dreadlocks need a special shampoo?


Dreadlocks tend to trap product residue when using a shampoo that is not specifically “residue free” or for dreads. Product residue causes several issues in the long run, including the risk of developing mold inside your dreadlocks.

a man facing away stretching him arms up with dreadlocks in his hair

Photo by Seyi Ariyo

Why do they thicken up and/or shrink? 


Dreadlocks tend to naturally thicken while growing, which often causes them to shrink in length. This is why dreadlocks often grow very slowly compared to loose hair. It’s completely normal although some dreadheads experience thickening and shrinking while others don’t experience it much. It depends on several factors, including: 


  1. Your hair type: caucasian/asian hair tends to shrink more than afro hair.
  2. How they were created: while freeform locs are quite unpredictable and can thicken up a lot, dreadlocks created manually offer more chance to control the thickness.
  3. How they are maintained: a lot of palm rolling helps prevent thickening and promotes hair length.
  4. How large the sections are. It is believed that if your sections are very big but your hair is not voluminous, your dreadlocks will thicken up quite a bit. On the other hand side, people with voluminous hair can have very small sections and will therefore maintain thin dreads. This is why afro hair can be dreaded in “micro locs”, extremely thin dreads that are nearly impossible to make with less-voluminous types of hair.


How long does it take for them to mature?


A “mature” dreadlock doesn’t come undone, and feels compact but still bendy. How long it will take to get there depends mostly on your hair type: 

  1. Thick, strong and straight hair, like mediterranean, middle-eastern or asian hair, will dread slow, taking up to two or three years before the dreads are mature. 
  2. Fine and dry hair such as blond or bleached hair, or very curly afro hair, will take much shorter to make a mature dread. 

You can always speed up the process by using tightening products. They come in sprays or gels in several different scent choices.


What to do if I have dandruff?


Dandruff is quite common with dreadlocks, because the scalp gets less accessible. We speak about this in detail in the Itchy Dreads Guide, a step by step tutorial to tackle scalp issues.


The products that will help you the most are: 

  1. Conditioning oils: ideal in case your skin is itchy, irritated, dry and flaky.
  2. Cleansing sprays:  ideal for when you have real dandruff, which is caused by an excess of sebum (the skin’s naturally occurring oil).
  3. Last but not least you’ll need a good quality dreadlocks shampoo, whether liquid or solid.
Greyscale image of the bottom half of a mans face with dreadlocks tied up in a bun

Photo by Karsten Winegeart 

Can I swim with dreads?


Of course you can, but keep in mind that:

  1. Dreadlocks take a long time to dry. It’s better to swim in the morning if you’re getting them all wet.
  2. They can be heavy when wet, slowing you down and potentially straining your neck.
  3. Especially if you swim in lakes or in the ocean, they could pick up unwanted dirt from the water.

Good news: to avoid all three of these issues at once, you just need a comfy dreadlocks swim cap, which will minimize the amount of water that reaches your dreads and will protect them from debris.


How can I dry my dreads?


Dreadlocks are famous for staying wet for a long time. There are a few things you can do to speed up the drying process:

  1. Squeeze out as much water as you can after your shower or bath
  2. Use a microfiber towel and wrap your dreads with it for about 10-20 minutes to absorb as much excess water as possible
  3. Use a hair dryer bonnet. You can attach it to your hair drier to noticeably reduce the drying time. Remember to keep the temperature low so you don’t dry your scalp too much.
  4. If you don’t have a hair dryer bonnet, use a normal hairdryer, or let your dreads air dry (keeping them open so they don’t trap moisture)
Girl with dreadlocks laid on her back with a hat covering her face

Photo by Linda Russ

Can I dye or bleach my dreads?


Sure you can, however it’s not recommended. Hair dye and bleach are hard to wash away and will keep ruining your dreads from the inside. In the long run your dreads will look damaged and weak and might even break. The best choice is to dye/bleach your hair before dreading it. 

However, if you want to add colour without damaging your dreadlocks, why not try some synthetic hair? We created the Synthetic Dreadlocks Guide for how to use synthetic dreadlocks as additional dreads or as dreadlocks extensions. And you can also make your own synthetic dreads, following the instructions on the Jumbo Braid Hair Guide.


Do I have to shave my head to remove my dreads?


No, you don’t. To remove natural dreadlocks you just need to patiently comb them out. You might want to chop some of the more compact lengths off, but there’s no need to shave your head completely. Lazydreads, Elise Buch and many other dreadheads on YT combed their dreadlocks successfully!

EXTRA TIP: soaking your dreads in a solution of conditioner and water will make it easier to comb them out.

About the author

Margherita Orso Pletti - Italian dread maker, youtuber and blogger living in the UK. Creator of, website in Italian about dreadlocks.
girl with dreadlocks looking up and walking through trees