How Long Does It Take for Dreads to Lock Up?

The locking process can take anywhere from a day to several years.

Photo: Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images

Dreadlocks make for an edgy hairstyle that requires special maintenance and care. The time it takes to form lovely locks can vary depending on how you create and care for them. The right dreadlocking method and basic maintenance tactics can shorten the length of time needed to grow a head full of tight, knotty dreads.


Dreadlocks are sections of tightly matted hair that form ropey strands by “locking” into themselves. They form when the hair tangles due to lack of combing, and stray hairs that would normally be shed collect in the dreads. Dreadlocks come in all shapes and sizes and can be worn by anyone with any hair texture. The hairstyle is popular in the Caribbean and has been sported by everyone from reggae singers to high-profile models and actors.


The dreadlocking process can vary based on a number of factors. Your hair texture, thickness and the method used to create dreadlocks all influence how long it takes for them to lock up. With a professionally-applied dread perm, you can have fully formed locks in a day, while the neglect method may take over a year. Each technique has its own benefits and drawbacks, and not all methods work for all hair types. The twisting method, which involves sectioning the hair and twisting it between your hands, only works on African-textured hair. Other popular methods like backcombing usually require about three to six months for locking to occur.

Basic Maintenance

Luckily, there are things you can do to speed up the locking process. Basic maintenance like rolling stray hairs into pre-formed dreads each morning can help, as can applying dread wax or similar products. Salons that specialize in dreadlock maintenance can also offer professional help for your newly-dreaded head. Covering your dreads at night is vital for keeping out lint and other nasties, while specialized tools like latch-hooks can be used to keep dreads looking tight all the way to the roots. Avoiding conditioner and other de-tangling products is usually a good idea in the beginning, as they can cause tresses to untangle.


Some people believe that dreadlocks are a dirty hairstyle, or that washing them regularly will interfere with the locking process. Not so. Neglecting basic hygiene does little more than make your hair smell funky -- and not in a good way. In fact, you should wash your dreads at least once a week with residue-free shampoo to avoid nasty buildup. Dreads are washed the same way you’d wash a sponge, by working the shampoo into a lather and squeezing it out. Just be sure to dry them thoroughly to prevent mold growth.

Related Videos


Add to this Article



Just for you

What type are you?

Choose your Body Type
or Register
Beauty School iPad App


How would you like to register?

Register with Facebook
  • It's fast, easy and hassle-free
  • One-click log-in and commenting
Register with
  • Use your email to create your account