The Love Vitamin’s Guide to Getting Dreadlocks

I know this has nada to do with acne, but I get emails all the time asking me questions about my dreadlocks, how I made my dreadlocks, should they get dreadlocks, can they see my dreadlocks down.

So it is finally here: The Ultimate Guide to Dreads (with lots of pics!)

When and Why Did You Decide to Get Dreads?

My dreadies were born in February 2008, a good four years ago now. Why did I get them? Well I guess the real answer is that I’m just a hippie at heart, but at the time I was simply a regular person who was sick of her hair and needed a change. My normal hair was straight… sometimes a bit wavy because I used to perm it… but mostly limp and not much going on. I yearned for more volume.

My hair immediately before getting the dreads put in. I used to perm my hair to try and make it more exciting, so the top is my natural hair and the bottom is my growing out perm.

One weekend, I was having brunch with some friends at a funky breakfast joint in Victoria, BC, and our waitress had really cool dreadlocks. Once I get an idea planted in my head, I usually won’t rest until I’ve made a decision on it. I went home to my computer and researched fervently until I had it all worked out that I was going to do it and how it was going to get done. I commissioned a couple friends to put them in for me and a couple weeks later, I was a dreadhead!

And I don’t regret it for a second. I have all the volume I’ll ever need!

How Do You Make Dreadlocks?

There are actually a lot of different ways to make dreadlocks, including common methods such as backcombing, twist and rip, and neglect. It’s too much to go over each method here in detail, but this website can give you a good little overview if you’re interested. 

The method that I used was backcombing, so I will be talking about that since it’s the one I know the most about.

Step 1:

Wash your hair with a residue free shampoo (and NO conditioner) in order to prep your hair and remove any past residues from commercial shampoos and products. While you have dreadlocks, I’d recommend baking soda be your shampoo of choice followed by a little bit of an apple cider vinegar rinse (I’d recommend these even if you have normal hair!)

Step 2:

Get a friend to divide your hair into a kind of grid pattern all over your head and hold each chunk of hair with a rubber elastic at the base. Each bunch of hair represents one future dreadlock, so if you want skinny dreadlocks, make them thin. If you want thick dreadlocks, make them thicker.

Step 3:

Get a couple of steel tooth combs that won’t break easily, and a couple of friends who love you very much. I wouldn’t recommend getting a salon to do your hair. Considering how long it takes, it will cost you a fortune, and from my understanding, they usually don’t do it properly. I actually had numerous friends do a dread or two on my head during their creation because it’s very easy for them to get the hang of. It doesn’t need to be done by a professional.

Step 4:

Put on some movies and get to work! Backcombing works like this: you take one bunch of sectioned off hair (keep the elastic on for now) and hold it in your left hand, while you quickly comb the hair toward the scalp so that it begins to create knots. It’s a bit hard to describe, so here is a video that shows you how to do it (Note: While you may be tempted to, I don’t recommend you buy anything from this company, Dreadhead HQ, or the other big dreadlock company, Knotty Boy, but I’ll talk about that later).

To warn you, this whole process is super time consuming, very monotonous for your friends, and quite painful for you as it is continuously yanking on your scalp (get yourself a stress ball).

Clutching my stress ball.

My hair took about ten hours to complete, with at least two friends working on it for the majority of the time. The actual process of doing the backcombing is really boring, and as times goes on, your friends will be tempted to start doing a shoddy job, but try to keep them on track. When it’s finally done, take the elastics off and have a look at your new ‘do!

Immediately after they were done. Yay, it’s over.

What Next?

What happens next is a unique adventure. No two sets of dreads are alike and they will grow and change and become as wild as the forest, or just stay as nice as can be – you never know.

One thing that many people don’t really understand is what dreads really are. A true dreadlock is tight and hard – the little barbs on the hair have opened up and rubbed together with their neighbouring hairs so much that they have become like one entity, and they certainly are not coming apart.

When you first backcomb your dreads, they are not real dreads. They look kind of like real dreads, but they are just knotted up hair. Over the next few months, the hair goes through many changes as the hair rubs together and “locks” (that’s where the name comes from).

You should expect to not have very attractive hair in the first year of having dreads. The first 6 months are the weirdest. Things started to work themselves after that, but the dreads usually aren’t fully mature until a year old.

What do I mean by weird?

Well, for one, the dreads will probably be a bit fluffy and fuzzy – definitely not as smooth as they will be later on. Another is that your hair tends to get shorter as the dreads tighten and shrink up. Another is that sometimes one side of the dread locks up faster than the other side, and it forces these weird loops out of the dread (these go away and smooth out later). Another is that the knots at the tips can fall out leaving too much straight hair at the ends, and they can also curl up on themselves once they really begin locking.

Your head might also get pretty itchy in the first month or so – this isn’t dandruff or anything, I think it’s to do with the dreads suddenly pulling all the hair in directions that your scalp isn’t used to. Either way, it does go away once your scalp gets used to it.

All of this happened to my hair. But it worked out really well in the end. People tend to obsess over their dreads in the beginning – “is this right?” “Is this how it should be?” “Are they ever going to smooth out?”. Just don’t worry about it. Like your skin, just let it go… busy yourself with something else, and your dreads will be fat and tight before you know it.

My hair at 2 months. Apparently I had pretty abnormally loopy dreads.

Dreads at 3 months. Beginning to tighten and shrink up significantly in a funky, curly kind of way.

A close up at 6 months. Still trying to work out its loopy issues – not cool and curly anymore, but not quite smooth. Awkward puberty stage. I also began trimming the tips at this point because they began curling up on themselves and looking very strange. Between that and the shrinking, the dreads ended up very short around the 7 month mark. Began as chest length and ended up chin length.

My dreadlocks at one year. Still some little lumps, but they are mostly tight and straight at this point. They’re done shrinking and are beginning to grow.

Washing Your Dreadlocks

The myth that you have to stop washing your hair to get dreadlocks is completely and utterly false – in fact, it’s the complete opposite. Think about it – does your hair hold knots when it’s greasy? No, it’s a lot more likely to get tangled when you have just stepped out of the shower, especially if you used shampoo and no conditioner.

The friction on the clean hair makes it easy to knot and lock up, so it is very important to wash your hair quite often when your dreads are new (two or three times a week is a good average to aim for), although you may want to be extra gentle with them in the first week or so when the knots are brand new.

You can’t wash your hair with just any shampoo though, like I said above, it must be something that does not leave any residue behind. This is because the residue gets trapped on the inside of the dreadlocks and can begin to rot. Almost all soaps and shampoos, even natural ones, have scents that leave residue in your hair, so they can’t be used. Baking soda followed by a wee bit of apple cider vinegar will do really well.

This being said – don’t put any other junk in your hair either – no gel, no mousse, no hair spray, and NO dread wax (I’ll talk about that later!)

Another thing to remember with washing your hair or getting it wet is that you MUST let it dry completely after (no fancy hair styles until it’s dry). If you don’t let it dry itself out in good time, or you keep getting it wet again before it is completely dry, mould can form inside the dreads and that’s when you get people with stinky locks. It’s kind of like if you leave wet towels in the washer too long – they begin to stink.

Once your dreads are mature, it’s not necessary to wash your hair so much. The tighter and longer they are, the longer they take to dry, and I just find it a huge pain. I also think mine look really .. um… ugly (like the swamp girl) when they are wet, so I just prefer to forego it most of the time. They don’t smell, itch, or anything else, so I don’t see a problem with it. I just wear a big shower cap when I shower.

Dreadlock Maintenance and Products

If you do any research on dreads online, the first websites you will come across are those of the big dreadlock companies – DreadHead HQ and Knotty Boy. They have a lot of great information – but they also just want to sell you a bunch of useless products for your dreads, some which may seriously harm them.

Their biggest thing is dread wax. These companies tell you that you need to put wax on your newly backcombed hair in order to control fuzzies and keep the knots together so they can dread. This is all a big lie. Wax easily gets stuck in the centres of your dreads, causes rotting, and can also prevent your hair from locking properly. Wax doesn’t wreck everyone’s hair, but many people’s dreads have been ruined by the use of wax.

These companies will also tell you that you need to palm roll, root rub, and do all this other time consuming stuff in order to get your hair to lock faster.

The truth is that you do not have to do anything to your dreads to get them to lock up, except washing them and be patient and giving them time. I fell for all this stuff in the beginning, bought all their products, and spent hours putting wax in my hair and palm rolling them. I was spending way more time on my hair than I did before dreads, and all it did was make my hair sticky and look like candles.

Me happily waxing my new dreads like a sucker. I know I sound bitter about this wax scam – maybe it reminds me of jerky companies trying to sell us useless acne products?

I thought “this just doesn’t seem right”, so I began reading deeper online and found out how damaging wax is. I quit doing anything to my hair, and I was so much happier, and luckily I stopped using the wax before it hurt my locks.

One thing that I can recommend to help your hair lock up a bit faster is to make a solution of salty water and spritz it on your head after washing (DreadheadHQ has something called ‘Locking Accelerator’ that they will sell you for ten bucks, when it’s really just salt and water). Salt water (swimming in the ocean!) helps create friction, which helps it lock up quickly. I used to do this all the time and I think it really helped things along – but it may have also been why my hair got so loopy.

Later on in your dreads’ life, everything will be good and locked and no maintenance will be required, except that there will eventually be loose hair growing out of your head that can sometimes make things look a little unkempt. You can just trim these off, or if you can gather enough hair that’s long enough, you can backcomb them into a new dread.

Oh yeah, one other thing – soon after you get your dreads, you’ll notice that they begin to want to stick to each other like velcro (this is particularly prevalent after you wash your hair). After you wash your hair, or whenever you notice your dreads trying to grow together, gently rip them apart to keep them separated (absolutely do not cut them apart). If you don’t rip them apart, they will eventually become one dread with two tails (they call these congos). I admit, it does kind of hurt to rip them apart, but you’re strong – you can do it. The need to rip them apart does go down as the dreads get older, but the need never fully goes away (probably another reason I don’t wash my hair much).

What About the Roots? Wouldn’t the Dreads Just Grow Out?

No. Somehow the new growth just ends up becoming dreadlocked automatically. Don’t ask me how this happens – I don’t see how hair held taught at both ends could tangle and dread, but it just does it like magic.

However, DreadHead HQ will certainly tell you you have to sit there and rub your dreads in circles on your head all the time with their product called ‘Locking Peppa’ to get your roots to lock up, but you don’t. I find that simply rubbing and massaging your scalp in the shower as you wash your hair is more than enough.

On that note, your dreads also appear to grow at a snail’s pace compared to what it used to when you had normal hair because the new growth is twisting and shrinking, instead of growing straight out.

Do You Have to Shave Your Head When You Want to Get Rid of Them?

Ah, the classic question. Not in the beginning – if you backcomb your dreads and decide they aren’t for you, you can comb them out. Your friends who did them might hate you for it, but it’s fairly simple to throw some conditioner in your hair to make it slick and then comb out the knots.

Once they lock up and become real dreads, it’s verging on impossible to comb them out if they’re long. I’ve seen it done, but it’s not pretty and your hair is an absolute wreck after. I also can’t imagine how painful it probably was for that person’s head. I seriously cannot imagine combing mine out.

Anyway, with mature dreads, you don’t actually have to shave your head, but you do need to cut them pretty short, throw some industrial strength conditioner on there, grit your teeth, and comb the little shorties out. I am not looking forward to this day, and I have no idea when or what will make me decide to cut mine off – so I just don’t think about it.

What If You Get Lice?

I got an email from someone thinking about dreads and this fear seemed to be her biggest obstacle with getting them – but I can’t say it’s something that ever worries me, maybe just because I’ve never had lice. She obviously had.

Having dreadlocks does not make you more likely to get lice than a normal haired person, but if you did get lice, it’s way harder to get rid of it. You can try and irradiate them with a few different methods, but most people end up having to cut their dreads off. That would suck, but why live in fear?

What Does Your Hair Look Like Completely Down?

I know I don’t ever wear my hair completely down, but I just don’t like it as much that way, so I don’t do it. It feels too much like a mop.

I actually just cut my hair though because it was just getting to be way too long and unruly to handle (just too much hair for my small frame, and it was getting heavy), but here is what it looked like all down before I cut it. Pretty wild, hey?

My hair at the height of its glory

And here’s a video I made for youtube showing you what my hair looks like down currently:

How Do You Do that Up-do Thingy You Always Do?

That up-do thingy I always do

I just tie all my hair into knots at random until they look cool and are secure enough not to move. Then over the next few days and nights, some will fall out, but I just tie them back in until everything that can fall out does, and then it’s secure like that for ages. Practically zero maintenance!

What Are Those Colourful Things in Your Hair?

The fun thing about dreads is that you can do so many cool things with them. Lots of people like to put beads in their dreads. I have a couple of those, but I like the wraps – you can just wrap each one in a piece of coloured wool to make it funky (it should be a natural fibre not synthetic. Wool is best). I did those myself, but it’s probably easier to have someone help you.

What Should I Consider Before Getting Dreadlocks?

Well, frankly, if you don’t want people to think you’re a hippie, then you shouldn’t get dreadlocks. That’s just stereotyping, but it’s true (you can also expect everyone to just assume you are a vegetarian. I get asked that about a thousand times more than when I had straight hair. So maybe if you are a vegetarian, dreadlocks will be quite helpful!).

To me and people who consider themselves hippies, we use the term lovingly. I mean, of course there are all breeds of hippie including the lazy, shady, dirtbag kind, but to me, the general “hippie” movement is synonymous with creative, conscious, open minded people who are respectful of nature, our planet, and each other. They also aren’t so wrapped up in made up societal pressures and expectations, which I think is amazing.

However, it is unfortunate, but the mainstream still equates hippies with being lazy and dirty, so if you really want an office job or something, you might want to reconsider your dreadlock plans. This isn’t universally true if you keep them tidy and inconspicuous, but it can definitely make things harder.

I actually think my dreadlocks have really helped shape who I am and forced me to be more true to myself.

I don’t think I was too much of a hippie when I got my dreadlocks, but I know the hippie spirit was definitely sparking inside me, and something subconsciously pushed me to just go ahead and get them (even though I was actually taking an office administration program at the time).

Afterward, I was too scared to go for any office jobs because I figured that they’d take one look at my dreads and turn me away. Of course I didn’t know that for sure and I was just creating a self fulfilling prophecy for myself, but in the end – why did I want an office job anyway?

My dreads kept me off the corporate path and subconsciously led me to explore my hippie roots, interact with like minded people, and grow into the person I am today. I LOVE being a hippie and I love my dreads, so I don’t really care what anyone thinks about my hair. But it is definitely something you should think long and hard about before you get them.

Alright. Any more questions about dreadlocks? Gonna get yourself a set?

photo by intedinmama

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  1. Stacey says

    That is really cool. I had no idea so much went into it! I have a unrealted acne question but skin related. I am getting crazy dry winter skin with itchiness and dry patches. I already take a lot of omega 3, use natural lotion and aloe. Do you have or know of any other tips. IT IS DRIVING ME CRAZY! Thanks!

    • Tracy says

      Hi Stacey… mmm I don’t know what the answer is to stubborn dry patches. I know they definitely get exacerbated by dry indoor heating, but there’s not much you can do about that. Have you tried using oils to moisturize? like jojoba or olive oil?

    • Joanne says

      I get dry skin too and I use Eucerin Lotion with 5% Urea. I don’t think you can use it with acne, but if all you have is dry skin, it works miracles. (burns a bit the first time you put it on, but after that the skin is fine!). x

      • Tamy says

        Stacey,I know this is a bit late, but if youre still having problems, try buying a humidifier for your bedroom. It worked for me :)

    • Fe says

      Those flaky patches sound like mild eczema. mine showed up in adulthood. i used dr bronners baby mild soap for hair and body and organic lotion or oil shea butter for moisturizers. it took a few months but this was the only thing that worked and cheaper and more natural alternative to broad spectrum topical steriods they give @ dermatologist

  2. Laura says

    I love your dreads, so pretty. I would add that if I were to get them I’d do the crochet method because as far as I know they don’t shrink. I first learned about it from Boho Girl ( She didn’t seem to have any of the ackward stages like so many describe. Just fyi for you readers really. Love your dreads, blog and hope for my skin….my daugher and I are following your info….thank you!!!!

    • Tracy says

      Hi Laura!
      Is the crochet method the same as the “twist and rip”? I’ve also heard they don’t shrink with those methods, but I don’t know enough about them. I’m curious as to why they wouldn’t shrink and get awkward, since the hair still needs to tighten and lock together….. I think I had particularly weird, loopy, crazy dreads though.. some people’s hair even with backcombing doesn’t do anything and just stays straight and smooth while it tightens.

      Anyway! Good luck with you and your daughter’s journey to clear skin! :D

      • Laura says

        Now that I think about it, she did describe times of “weirdness” with her dreads, so I’m not sure on that, but I do know that they didn’t shrink. I love the little loops tho, they are my favorite :)

        It is different than the rip method. She describes it in this post:

        I suppose it doesn’t shrink because the knots are created with the crochet needle and more horizontal than vertical, like it is with backcombing only….but I’m no expert lol.


  3. Kim says

    Your skin looks great in all these pictures to me. Even the one from 4 years ago and isn’t that when you had ” bad acne” ?

    • Tracy says

      No it wasn’t, this was back before the bad acne (about two years prior). It was when I had more mild acne that wouldn’t have shown up on camera (and I would have certainly been wearing some makeup on them if I was ever around people!). I did have a flare up of acne all over my chin about…. 6 months prior to these pictures… but a candida cleanse cleared it right up, so my skin is good in all these photos. A couple years later was when it started to deteriorate into the bad acne.

      Oh, also, my forehead used to behave itself really well. Now it doesn’t. Grr.

      • Gillian says

        This has recently happened to me as well. I’ve had acne for ten years, but my cheeks were always clear. I now have two pustules and tons of clogged pores on my cheeks. My forehead and upper lip/chin are clear, and those are the places that were really destroyed by moderate acne in high school.

        • Tracy says

          I guess that wasn’t totally accurate… it’s actually my cheeks that are my “safe” area… they’ve never ever been acne prone whatsoever and the skin on them is perfect and always has been (I’m praying they never turn the tide and end up acne prone! I’m sorry that happened to you!)

          My forehead was always a bit on the acne prone side, but the acne just wasn’t that stubborn there so it used to respond really easily to acne medications and topical stuff, so it was generally super clear, until later years (but even now I find that my forehead is less stubborn and responds better to my manuka honey/jojoba oil etc). It’s the acne around my mouth and chin that just seems like it has a frustrating, stubborn mind of its own.

  4. Khristina says

    Yeah, we get to see them down!!! I think they look great down. I started with the tnr method and had major shrinkage, from mid back to barely shoulder length. I like to keep my hair out of my face too or it feels like a wool sweater. My bangs are dreaded so they just flip over the top of my head and stay pretty well, keeping my hair out of my face.

    • Tracy says

      So you used twist and rip? And they still shrunk! The theory is debunked haha. Unless it’s the crochet thing that doesn’t shrink….. I think it’s just an individual thing I guess! How long have you had your dreads?

      • Khristina says

        Yes, I personally think it just depends on your hair type. Its been about 15 months now, much more calm not, hardly any zig zag loops but still not straight round “perfect” dreads, most of my ends are loose, just letting them do their thing. Finally, starting to grow, I long for when they will be long enough to tie back.

        I found this to be a good site for anyone interested

        • Tracy says

          Yep even after four years, mine aren’t perfect and still have little lumps! And yeah it’s fun once your hair gets long enough to tie up and do cool stuff with :) Sometimes I think I want to cut it back to chin length as it was fun then too and very easy to manage, but I’d miss all my cool hair styles!

    • Tracy says

      Hi Sophie!

      I don’t know for sure, but I believe itchy acne is likely acne based in some kind of allergic reaction, probably to something you’re eating. I think it’s like the histamine reaction on the skin from the allergy. So your acne only JUST got itchy? Has the appearance or severity of it changed at all? or it’s just the same old acne that’s now itchy? (btw I don’t know why you’d suddenly become itchy if you haven’t been in the past and it’s the same old stuff)

      • says

        Strange right? It just got itchy a couple days ago, it didn’t really change but it did move a bit to my jawline, which I think is probably hormone related. Thanks for helping out :)

  5. Ericka says

    Yeah! Thanks for sharing. So fascinating. Also thanks for your tips on how to choose a naturopath. I had my first appointment today and she’s fabulous! I’m excited for the changes in my skin to come. I don’t know why I waited so long to make an appointment but it’s seriously the first step everyone should make. I thank you for providing current, on point advice and encouragement for how to live healthy physically and spiritually. You have seriously found your calling and inspire me to follow mine. :)

    • Tracy says

      Yay! That’s great to hear Ericka! :) I agree, it’s really nice to talk to a naturopath… it’s like they actually listen to you, unlike medical doctors who always seem impatient. I hope everything goes well!

  6. magda says

    hey there!! well, i can see you’ve always been gorgeous!!i want your skin so badly! tracy, i really need your advice.i had a massive sudden breakout all over my chin area right before my diet was not good lately but its also due to hormones.what do you think i should do? i need to get rid of this quickly.its badly inflammed and i am sure its going to scar me.i am going to cut out gluten,dairy and sugar.but i want it to go away quickly.i feel so embarassed.i dont want my boyfriend to see me like that. i ve done some research on amalgam fillings.they seem to affect hormones a lot and i think i have to remove them but i am afraid of the mercury might trigger my acne even skin is dull, dry, wrinkled and full of acne and i am only 25.i suspect i have a lot of deficiences but i dont know what these you have any tips on quick acne relief?i dont want a quick fix as i realise it will only be temporary.i just need to do something to prevent the further inflammation and scaring of this breakout.e.g something antioxidant or inflammatory or whatever you think its going to help..

  7. Camille says

    Your dreads are so gorgeous! I think they look beautiful down! I loved the pic with your long dreads. You should grow your dreads out again and keep them long (they’re still pretty when they’re short tho). My friend Amanda is a hippie and she really wants dreads, so my friends Monica and Ella and I are thinking about doing them for her. We need to make sure we’re gonna do it right tho (hehehe…cuz i guess they’re kinda permanent), so this article is definetely gonna help. ;)

    • Tracy says

      Cool! Let me know how it goes if you decide to give her a set! Research some of the other methods too before you do it… notably the crochet method and the twist and rip method. I don’t know enough about these methods to say too much, but a lot of my friends with dreads had them done that way and I heard they don’t shrink up as much as the backcombing

  8. Tiana says

    Have you ever heard of needle felting? It’s something I learned in a fibers class a few years ago that you use to essentially “dread” wool/felt together. I was talking to a friend of mine who has the most gorgeous, perfect, and long dreads. They are hardly frizzy and pretty tight. I found out that he uses the felting needles on his hair. You should look into it.

    • Tracy says

      Hi Tiana,
      I’ve heard of needle felting… I’ve done it actually, on felt lol. I once went through a phase trying to make felt hats hahah. Anyway, I didn’t know you could do that on dreads, or ever thought of it… however I just did a quick google search and the first thing I found was someone saying it destroys the dread because you punch holes in it and it shreds up the hair, making it kind of weak…. which makes sense when I think about it.

  9. Cali says

    Hey Love :)

    I just wanted to let you know that I’ve decided to dread my hair, soon, and also that I love your dreads! And I can totally see what you’re saying by your dreads ‘shaping you’ to who you are today, I’m totally stoked for this to happen :D:D:D

    Have a Grateful day ;)

  10. Andrey says

    Hi Tracy,

    I really enjoyed reading about your dreads and am seriously considering getting them in the future–perhaps when I’m in college.

    I had a few questions I was hoping you could answer:

    How long does your hair have to be when your friends begin combing it towards your scalp? I’m a guy and my hair usually reaches over the ears at its longest, so I was wondering how long I would have to grow it out. Does it make a difference? Is curly hair easier or harder to work with?

    Also, unfortunately, I don’t have too many friends who are hippies, despite living in Los Angeles, California close to the beach. Did you have a lot of hippie friends prior to getting dreads or did you suddenly see an influx in hippie companions after getting dreads?

    Thanks so much! You are amazingly beautiful, by the way, especially at the two-month-stage where you had your “loopy dreads”.

    • Tracy says

      Hi Andrey,

      Your hair doesn’t have to be that long… apparently it will work on hair 3 inches or longer. I don’t know whether curly hair is easier or harder, I would imagine it doesn’t really matter.

      I didn’t really have a lot of hippie friends before getting dreads…. there was a definite increase afterward. Mostly because there was this funky music and arts hippie cafe in my town that I had a job at, and I have a sneaking suspicion the owner hired me because I had dreadlocks so he knew I was the right type that would fit in there. Maybe not, but I’m pretty sure that’s how it went down. Through that cafe, I met all kinds of like minded people and my connections keep growing.

  11. says

    Hi there,
    I just watched your video and I noticed you said that you “cut” your dreadlocks. I am just wondering how you did that. I have a small frame like you and I don’t want to have them too long, and I actually like the length you have now in your video.

    • Tracy says

      Hi Kristin – I just took a scissor to them… some people do weird stuff to the ends to ensure they don’t unravel or whatever, but mine don’t seem to, so I just cut them without any additional prep. And then over the next while after I cut my hair, I tend to go back and chop off little pieces here and there to even everything out and get it exactly as I want it (as i notice that it needs it)

  12. Kristi says

    Hi Tracy,
    I’ve been thinking about dreading my hair recently. I don’t think I am going to fully dread my hair until I am out of my house, as my parents are very narrow minded and dread locks would not be the best choice for my hair. I was thinking about just dreading a few strands and I would like to know how you would go about it and what you would do, or if you would suggest against it. I have 3 layers if that makes a difference. Your feedback would mean a lot to me. Thanks!

  13. Bindi says

    Hi Tracy,
    Your dreads look great. Have you counted how many you have. Also I was wandering how long into the process did you stop maintaining and waxing them everyday?

    • Tracy says

      Hi Bindi – I’d say it was a couple of months. Also, I don’t know the exact number, but I think it’s somewhere in the 70s

  14. Veerle says

    Wow I´ve just discovered your blog and I´m already absolutely obsessed with it. This might seem a bit weird but you actually are my number one role model, it that makes sense. I am totally going to think about getting dreads. I just love them at around 1.10 min, when you hold them back with your hands. Thank you for putting all this hard work into helping us.

    greetings all the way from the Netherlands

      • Veerle says

        You’re welcome! :)
        I’ve actually gotten my dreads for 5 months now! Yay!
        And I love your blog because it’s one of the FEW which actually don’t have a massive bias towards one side or another but just gives a nice, validated view on dreads. Which kinda matches mine, which also helps, lol! :)
        I hope my dreadies will become as awesome as yours!! :D

  15. says

    oh my god thankyou for this awsome page i have dreads for 8 months now an everything you described or went trew iam going trew ,lol!!! i have learned so much reading this , so now i see iam not the only one feeling like this, yes i lost 8 inc in length my hair was down to my boobs now hits my chin , iam so happy to read this i feel so much better i didnt like my dreads for the last 6 months i to was doing everything to them too , more work then my straight hair too ,but know i have just stopped it all an there amazing i love them , there also growing an they have never ever looked so good , !!thanks for this wonderful article it helps tons !!!an if my dreads will ever look anything like yrs i will be more than happier ,your dreads are beautiful!!! well thanxs again an you ROCK GIRL!!!! PEACE,LOVE DREADS,LENORE,,,,

    • Tracy says

      Hi Lenore!! That’s great, I’m so glad I inspired you to just let your dreads be… it feels so much free-er to just leave them alone :)

  16. Eva says

    first things first: I’m really glad I found your website! I’m not really having a problem with acne, but I’m going for a healthy, close-to-nature lifestyle and you inspired me a lot on getting rid of shampoo, understanding how our skin “works” and how it wants to be treated, eating healthier and stuff like that.
    I personally would love to go for the “water only” method to wash my hair, since baking soda is actually basic and neutralizes your acid mantle. Besides, I think baking soda doesn’t really have much of a fat removing effect, so it probably doesn’t make much of a difference.
    From what I’ve read (and it makes sense to me), you’re supposed to really massage your skalp under the shower thoroughly (with only water), this removes the excess grease and after a transition period, you’re hair won’t look greasy anymore. This would explain why it didn’t work for your boyfriend, because I think you said he just rinsed his hair?
    But since I’m gonna have dreadlocks soon, water only unfortunately isn’t for me.
    Now finally, here is my question: How do you do that other hairstyle of yours, when your hair is down, but still somehow knotted?
    (Like in the 2nd video about the no shampoo method)


      • Tracy says

        Hi Eva :)
        I did tell him to massage his scalp when he was using water only but it didn’t seem to work for him. Also, yeah I would recommend using baking soda and then rinsing with a touch of apple cider vinegar in order to bring your head back to the right PH, instead of straight baking soda. I got him to start doing that recently and his hair looks quite glorious.

        As for my dread style you’re referring to, I just tie my hair in knots until it all stays put (like in the photo above of “that up-do thingy I always do”), except just leave half of them down

        • Victoria says

          Hello Tracy, I am now considering dreads..I to am a hippie at heart. About 6 months ago I have change my life completely…This has been a very drastic and dramatic change:) Now we are very aware as to the kinds of chemicals we ingest and use on our skin…We have stopped using certin kinds of plastic Completely , due to the effects of phalites that are released….Anyway i am going to get dreads and i now use Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Soap…This soap is residue free as it is pure castile soap and contains no extra chemicals… Well this soap be acceptable for washing hair with dreads? I also plan on using the rinse of the appropriate salt and vinegar. Also I am have a little trouble deciding the position in which i will place my dreads on my head…Do you have any suggestions? When you are completing the backcomb is it necessarily to pull the bottom of the dread to keep it from unraveling?
          Love you blog….
          Oh and where can i find scraps of organic wool? I don’t want to have to buy large pieces of fabric if i only need a small

          thank you soo much:) I am sure i will have more questions when the birth of my dreads is nearer…

  17. Shanae says

    Ive been on the dreadlock debate for years, wondering if ishould or not. And well this year iam deffinatley dreading all my hair. So far ihave just one dread (icombed one out and kept one), sort’ve like a test to see how my hair will lock up since ihave very very straight hair that cant even be curled.
    Since ionly have one dread istill continue to use my regular shampoo but no conidtioner anymore. Which might be my problem.
    My dread is is okay at the top and the bottom of the dread but the space inbetween that isnt locking, seems like my normal straight hair held their with some frizzy loose hair aroundd it. Any suggestions?

    Also, not to diss on your method for dreads but ihave heard that back combing is more hair damaging and less likely to be combed out rather than twist&rip. And Crochet hooks are damaging, but not terrible! They are good for fixing the loose hairs.

  18. Tara says

    Hey Tracy, Can you please make a video about taking your dreads out- why, how you did it, and the state of your hair? I’m on the fence!! <3

    • Tracy says

      Hi Tara – I still have them, I just cut them a lot shorter. I almost cut them off but then decided I didn’t want to! haha. I did comb out a few of my dreads in the front of my head though to create more bangs, and I was surprised that it wasn’t that difficult (once the dreads were about chin length), and the hair wasn’t that damaged. A bit frizzy at first, but by the next day, it was alright!

  19. Natae says

    I’m going on week 3 of dreads, backcomb method. There is a lot of conflicting advice on the internet on maintaining (continue to backcomb as needed, do not backcomb after the first week, palmroll daily, blah blah…). I have been re-backcoming some and palmrolling daily- no products at all and a residue-free shampoo. My hair is SUPER straight and the ends tend to come loose very easily. I have a lot of loose hairs at the root, too- I’m trying to work those in with the palmrolling. Any suggestions here? Yes, I realize that I am still young on this path. Oh, and another thing, when you mentioned washing with baking soda and AC vinegar- how much do you use? Any particular method here?

    Any advice is appreciated! Enjoying your blog! < Natae

    • Bella says

      I can give you some advice… throw away your mirror, and never look back! ;)

      They might become crazy, wonky, weird, and totally messed up, but in the end your hair sorts itself out, I guarantee you that!
      There’s no need in rebackcombing, as your hair isn’t actually locked at all. You might have the kind of hair that wants to do its own thing, well let it! Just don’t think your hair won’t lock, since it will!!

      Palmrolling is OK, but don’t overdo it. Mostly it’s kinda useless, really…! Tough I like to do it after washing.


  20. Bella says

    Hey, I haven’t finished reading yet, but I just want to say that I think this is a very good explanation on dreads, personally I would have done it no different :)
    This really is one of the few “guides” on dreads that don’t claim ANY false thing such as “wax = good”, etc.
    Very nice :)

  21. Valdemar says

    I was wondering if could give more details about washing your dreads with baking soda and acv. How to apply it? how much to use?
    Thank you

    • Tracy says

      Hi there, I just put about a tablespoon of baking soda in a cup, fill it with water, then pour that over my head. Rinse, put a tablespoon of ACV in a cup, fill with water, pour over my head, rinse. Voila :)

  22. Julia says

    i knew waxes were never good for you! most people really can’t see through the advertising scams and how people just want to make money. I am going to start my dread journey soon and I am so nervous. Thanks for the post, now I kind of have a guide to how to maintain my hair. Much love <3

  23. says

    Your blog is AWESOME! I have dreads that are about a year old. Sometimes i love my dreads and sometimes i want to cut them off..when I started my dreads i dreaded them the way my hair laid and not with a grid pattern. If i could re-do it i defiantly would have.. BUT your pictures and advice and care-free attitude really made me have a better outlook on my dreads, and on just giving them tiiiimmeee to grow haha thank you! :)

  24. Garrett says

    Hi Tracy I stumbled across your video on Youtube trying to figure out the best way to keep up on my dreds. I have only had them for 2 months now and I done everything that u said not do are my dred doomed. I cant wait for my dred to look like yours. I was worried that they were not improving fast enough but reading your blog really helped me. When I had my dreds done they put small rubber bands at the root line and at the end of my dreds to help they stay together is this necessary? I dont want them in anymore but I dont want to hurt my dreds.

    Hoping to hear from you soon. Thanks

    • Tracy says

      Hi Garrett!
      I can’t say if they are doomed or not.. just stop all the wax and whatever else you said I said not to do, and take out the rubber bands and just let them do their thing! Hopefully it’ll all work out! It’s hard to hurt dreads just by leaving them alone, it’s much easier to hurt dreads by doing too many things to them

  25. Tiffany says

    heey Tracy, I was wondering what other product you would suggest instead of honey because they don’t sell it where I live and I have acne so…. yeah


  26. violetmoon says

    Tracy, I am an old hippie 60 years old and I want dreads sooo bad. My hair isnt as thick as it once was. I also have fne hair with some natural wave. Can I pull it off?

    • Tracy says

      Hi there Violet Moon – that is a good question that I don’t know enough about… but from a quick google search it sounds like the chances are promising!

  27. Felicia says

    I have a question. How long till your bumps and zig zags really started to go away? I have had dreads for about 9 months and have sooooo many really bad ones. My hair was really long (past my butt) before it was started and very straight. Do you think that has an effect on it? I don’t use any products and I really just let them do their own thing but it’s getting frustrating that the zigzags have taken over.

    • Tracy says

      Hi Felicia,
      It depends… usually it takes about a year or so for the dreads to be fully mature and tight. However, if your hair was really loopy and it still is you may never have the ultra smooth, no bumps at all kind of dreads. Mine still have plenty of bumps, and a few crazy zig zag ones too. Can you compare your bumps and zig zags to any of my progress pictures? Is your hair like my “2 month” pic kind of loopy, or 6 month pic, or one year pic?

  28. Luke says

    Thank you for this dread story you have me confidence in mine. First of all is in gonna take all the wax out of mine lol. So I have one question , is the only thing you did to your dreads is wash them ? And nothing else (exempt from making loose hairs mini dreads) ? Just literally wash them, dry them and leave them ? Please reply :)

    • Tracy says

      Hi Luke – yep that’s pretty much it! Sometimes in order to keep everything looking neat, I cut off lose hairs that grow from my scalp, because I can’t be bothered going to see someone to get them crocheted in. But yes. That is all.

  29. Luke says

    Legand! My hair is basically the Same type as yours (wavy and kind of straight) an they look exactly the same as yours in the pic as soon as they are done. This is the only info I’ve found that cuts the shit and gets to the point thanks a lot !

    • Tracy says

      Oh wait, I forgot – one more thing that I did when they were forming was that I would spray a homemade solution of salty water in my hair after I had washed them, which helped to speed up the locking process, but I stopped that after a few months since it’s not needed forever. And you don’t have to do that in the beginning if you don’t want to, either

  30. Luke says

    I shall follow your steps and hopefully have the same result because your dreads look to awesome the only difference will be I ain’t going to cut mine lol, thanks again :)

  31. Luke says

    Haha I found it wired how when they where done they were pretty long and then after like 2 months in your pic it like honey I shrunk the dreads lol

  32. Luke says

    Oh dude one more thing did any of your dreads seperate in the middle during like the first week or so ? If so what did you do ?

  33. Luke says

    Basically on a few of them I can pull the dread into 2 , like not all the way to the root but a little bit lol is this ok , should I just leave it ?

  34. andy says

    Hi! thanks for sharing your dreadlock story! I was wondering if I could take a shower everyday with the backcombing method? cause i like to skateboard and surf and stuff ? or would that be a bad idea? haha thanks!

    • Tracy says

      Yep, you can shower as much as you want, as long as you make sure your locks get completely dry between showers, otherwise they could start to mould and smell. That’s very important. Personally, I probably wouldn’t bother washing my hair in the shower every day though… I say three times a week is good in the beginning. Washing actually helps the hair to lock up and get knotty.

  35. says

    I just cut my hair the other day, but I’m really tempted to try this when my hair grows out! And I haven’t seen other gingers with dreads (‘cept Google). I have a beard because of doing the caveman method, and my skin is getting much better! Also, the vegetarian aspect sounds especially helpful, lol.

  36. says

    This was great to read!!
    I was wondering if you had a recipe food the wash u
    You use? Like how much baking soda and vinegar?
    I have been using knotty boy bar shampoo but lately my 6 month old lovely s feel limp and lifeless :(

    • Tracy says

      I just use like a tablespoon of baking soda dissolved in a cup of water, and then like a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, dissolved in a cup of water. It’s not exact measurements, but it’s something like that

      • indiglow says

        thanks for the info about the baking soda and the apple vinegar.I just wanted to ask the same question.
        love your views on commercial shampoos ! it is so true.most people just wash & wash their hair and don’t understand that this is the exact problem.

  37. wowzaa says

    Interesting story about my dreads AND acne: I never suffered from much acne as a teenager. Occasional stuff, and it all went away when I was around 18. In college, I made the leap to dreadlocks and had them for almost 2 years. In those two years a lot of emotionally stressful things happened to me and seriously affected my mental health. For the last 6 months, I was breaking out like crazy. I had cystic acne all over my forehead, and I even had acne beginning to spread on my chest and back which had NEVER happened to me before, not even in my teens.
    I tried everything. I had always been a healthy eater, but I took it overboard. Finally, I cut all my dreads in half, saw a white-ish growth at the core, and combed the rest of my hair out. They were disgusting. But surprisingly enough… two days after I cut my dreads off, my skin improved drastically. It was like I was allergic to all the dead hair and gunk my hair had picked up. I don’t even know. It’s insane. I really did love dreads, but I love feeling fresh, clean, and healthy.
    P.S. I did wash my dreads with Dr. Bronner’s every once in a while, but I think the way my dreads formed made them collect so much at the core.

    • Tracy says

      Woah. Crazy. Glad you found the problem! I had adult acne long before my dreadlocks, so I doubt they have anything to do with it… very interesting experience you had though.

  38. Edd says

    Hey there! great info about dreads, I’ve book marked it for future reference :)

    I’ve been consciously thinking about getting dreads for about 2 months now and my question is this. (apologies if this has been asked before)

    I’m a guy and my hair is half way down my back. As it’s so long I normally use a hair dryer to save me 3 hours of wet, damp hair. When I eventually dreadlock my hair is it sensible to use a hairdryer or can this damage them?

    Cheers! :)

    • Tracy says

      Hi Edd,

      I used to blowdry my dreadlocks with a blowdryer… I felt like blowdryer use is slightly frowned upon amongst some fellow dreadies… I don’t know why though. I think they just have a stick up their ass! :) I can’t imagine not giving them a bit of boost, they take so damn long to dry as it is!! Never caused me any problems.

  39. Kelly says

    I can really relate to your story here, because I too was born a straight up hippie who, until recently, has had to disguise/ work around/ ignore a lot of what society frowns upon in regards to “hippiness”. My turnaround came when my son, Jude, was born this last November. I realized that life isn’t about doing what other people want you to do, because they can do that ‘ish in their OWN lives. Tough financial times opened my eyes to how absolutely ridiculous consumerism is, and how gross stuff like beauty products and pre-packaged foods are. I’ve stopped damaging my hair with chemicals/ heat tools/ dyes (aside from my shampoo, which I’m whittling down simply because my adorable boyfriend had just gotten me a new bottle and I hate wasting things) , and have moved into completely natural skin care. This journey into realizing my own capabilities, with cooking and concocting, discovering my complete and total intolerance for the ignorance that so many have now in regard to serious issues, and tapping into this completely nurturing and beautiful relationship with my son has kind of naturally led me to the decision of getting dreads. I’ve always loves them, but wasn’t allowed to have them before due to school/parents/work/bullshit, but now that I’m becoming who I am, I feel that this step is necessary in fully exposing my confidence in who I am as well as my independence in my decision making.

    That’s a bit of backstory, just so you know I’m not full of crap when I say that I feel as though I can relate to your story.

    My question is that since I’m planning on transitioning into no-poo ((BS&ACV)), and I’m aware that there’s a crazy super-dry-grease-ball phase that comes along with that, should I make that transition before I start dreads, or just do both at the same time?

    I’m totally ready for crazy looking hair, and don’t have to worry about impressing anyone, since I stay at home with my chipmunk and I’m more than positive he’ll love me no matter what. Haha.

    Sorry for all of the jabber, I’m pretty excited about this journey. :)

    • Tracy says

      Hey Kelly, that’s awesome – thank you for sharing your story! It’s wonderful to go through the transformation of totally becoming yourself. Good luck on your dreadie journey! As for going no poo before or after… hmm… maybe.. I don’t know. Not sure if it matters! I wasn’t no poo before having dreads. It naturally just happened while I had dreads because you generally don’t have to wash your hair as much with dreads, as time goes on. I washed them more in the beginning, as washing them helps them knot up.

  40. Adriana714 says

    Hi there! I love your dreads! I am as well ready to commit with love and get dreads… Only problem is that I can’t seem to find someone who can do them. Would you know of someone is the Los Angeles or Orange County areas in California?

  41. Lucy says

    Hi Tracy, I’m so glad I found you. Its when I come across people like you that I feel I’m not alone. At the end of your article you talk about being true to yourself and not caring what others think, and I just wondered If you find it easy being yourself. I ask because personally I struggle to accept myself. In a way i do love who I am and what i stand for and I want to embrace myself more fully, but because I’m not like everyone else I literally have no friends, people just don’t like me because I’m a hippy, that makes me weird. They don’t understand anything about me, and now I’ve got dreads I’m even more of an outsider. There’s no one around here that’s like me or can just accept me even if they don’t get me. I often dress “normal” just so I appear more approachable. But I feel out of place. Thanks to internet i know there are thousands out there who share my interests and values, but they are not here with me, not real life friends. We are unique individuals and they should change not me, and reading your last paragraph or two made me feel empowered. Have you ever felt lonely and unaccepted. I hope not, but any words of wisdom you have on the subject would be wholly appreciated. Woops, this is a bit of an essay! Peace to you X

    • Tracy says

      Hi Lucy,
      I’m so sorry to hear that you don’t feel like you fit in at all! Every town and city has a pulse to it – a vibration – a general mindset. In many places, that mindset is seriously close minded and anyone who is different will just never feel at home there. I guess I am very lucky that where I live on the west coast of Canada very much matches me and I feel at home here. There are so many close minded people, but luckily there are lots of open minded ones (usually in each place there is a mix, but that is not always true. Also, I have no idea if you are, but if you are in high school and basing your acquaintance base entirely on people you go to school with, that’s a whole ‘nother story – people are soooo close minded in high school, it’s ridiculous… in which case, don’t worry, high school sucks, and there’s a whole nother world waiting for you afterwards). I mean, I really don’t know your situation – how old you are, where you are located, if you live in a small town or a city, if it is possible at all to relocate – but if it is in your power now or soon, I would in all actuality encourage you to move somewhere that contains more of the type of people whom you are a match for, and get involved with the type of activities that light you up and make you feel passionate, and through that you will find like minded people. Be true to yourself, you will find what you’re looking for.

  42. Kelly Coghill says


    Just wondering if anyone knows how to treat excess dandruff that seams to have embedded inside the first inch of my dreadlocks closest to my scalp. It’s very pasty and yello-ish. I first noticed it when I would massage and scratch my scalp in the shower, then had to clear that gunk out from under my nails…it feels like lard or oil. I just started my dreads, and am on my 4th month of the dreadlock journey. I currently use apple-cider vinegar diluted in water from a spray bottle, 3 times a week. Any suggestions? I was thinking of trying Nizoral shampoo, should I? Thanks for any advice :)!

    • Samm says

      I sort of posted something similar below.

      First go to you doc, and make sure it’s nothing super serious. This is just my experience with acne, scalp challenges, and dreads, but depending on if there is an underlying condition (I have psoriasis on my scalp) they can offer steroid creams, or special shampoos. I’m all go-natural except when it comes to my hair falling out because I had developed psoriasis and didn’t know. I hate steroids, and I don’t use it because it’s itchy, but because it can get bad.

      Also, acne and scalp issues can SOMETIMES be related to liver issues – I never knew mine was affected by my liver until I developed acute liver failure. When my liver started to fail is when I started developing psoriasis after never having it before. Not to get super technical, but when you’re liver struggles to filter toxins out of your body, it resorts to the biggest organ we have – our skin. This may totally be unrelated for you, but I now keep an eye on how my liver is doing by my skin and scalp, and when those starting acting up, I get a simple blood test to check liver enzyme levels.

      So first just go to the doctor and rule everything out. Then TEA TREE OIL! It’s an awesome lock accelerator when combined with sea salt spray, and using it in shampoos helps dandruff and psoriasis. I use it for my scalp and it’s awesome. The tea tree and salt combo can be a bit drying so aloe vera on the scalp and into the dreads is amazing. It’s been used by Rastafarians forever because it also locks dreads. Using these two tools I barely need the steroid cream – I really delay using that, lol.

      Hope this helps a bit!

  43. Rachel says

    Hey, I love this article. You are my dread hero. I have only one question for you. You picture that you posted in this article where your dreads are the longest. How long had you had your dreads in. They are so beautiful there and I can’t wait to get mine that length and I was wondering how long it took them to get that long. Thanks so much. Your website is awesome. Keep on girl!

    • Tracy says

      Hi Rachel :) My dreads took about… maybe 3.5 or 4 years to grow to that length. But the I cut them shorter, and then eventually decided to cut them off. I loved my dreads, but I love having straight hair again too! Just different phases of life :)

  44. Samm says

    I know that this is an old post, but a note on the “lice” concern for anyone who has those concerns – tea tree oil.

    Tea tree oil can offer moisture to prevent brittle dreads from breaking, but without actually making them oily. It can offer great help for dandruff, and psoriasis (which is why I started using it!). It can help lock up the dreads (most lock accelerators use some essential oils). It is amazing for acne – great toner in fact.

    It is also a natural lice treatment. When my psoriasis started I had a fluke flea infestation (treated indoor cats, just a bad apartment!) at the same time. With the scales of my scalp psoriasis I became terrified of getting lice in case I couldn’t realize I had it right away. I had tea trea oil for my acne and looked into it more for scalp issues (doseage etc). I found that you can use it to kill a lice infestation, and prevent one too. I combine it with my sea salt spray for my roots, and spritz the rest of my dreads LIGHTLY before bed which also helps my acne.

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