woman with long dreadlocks

Locs is short for dreadlocks and replaces the word since many feel that the term dreadlocks carries a negative connotation. Locs are matted hair that can be organic or manicured and maintenance regularly. One of the biggest misconceptions of locs is that they are neglected and never cleaned, but they must be cleansed weekly and there is a lot of work that goes into them. They can be free forming where they freely loc or they can be formed through various methods that allow the wearer to control the shape and thickness.  

While others think locs are simple to master, others know that there is real work to be made for maintaining healthy locs. There are do’s and don’ts just like any other hairstyle and then there are serious nevers that need to be instilled in the loc-wearer if they plan on having a positive loc hair journey. I sat down with Laurence (Fly Guy Locs), a loctician in Atlanta to get the 411 on the top five things to not do with your locs.

Never Use Petroleum Products

Petroleum is your locs' worst enemy! The whole purpose of locs is for them to lock and petroleum has the very opposite effect. It is very greasy and causes your locs to fall apart and to slow down the locking processing. It is the worst for forming locs and beware of some products that are so-called dread or loc waxes because they may be using petroleum as the main ingredient.

Petroleum leaves a residue behind and that is not welcome because locs like to hold stuff. With unlocked hair you can brush out or comb out the debris or dirt, but with locs you cannot remove it easily. That causes the residue to build up and potentially mold. The residue will also lubricate the locs, so the knots will not tighten as much as they could without the residue. This is why using a good shampoo that will remove all residue, which is crucial in keeping locs clean and healthy.

Never Style Locs Too Tight

Laurence is adamant about this, as many loc wearers love the intricate styles that can be created with locs that could potentially put undue added tension on the hair and cause thinning and traction alopecia, especially on the edges. Laurence says, “Edges are the weakest point of the scalp. If you pull those locs too tightly, the edges are the first to go.” That is why you see many loc wearers with deep receding hairlines or bald edges.

This is a tidbit for all naturals, as those tight styles will result in the same outcome, especially for braids, sew-in weaves, or lace-front wigs. Tighter styles may allow it to last longer but your edges may end up suffering as a result.

Never Sleep on Anything but Silk or Satin

Laurence says sleeping on cotton sheets or pillowcases is detrimental to the hair. “Just look under a microscope at a cotton sheet. It looks like a cheese grater and will slice your locs up!” It will also rob your locs of moisture. Protect your locs under hats with a silk or stain lining or a satin or silk bonnet or scarf. Wearing a silk or satin bonnet or scarf at night or sleeping on a silk or satin pillowcase is the best way to sleep with your locs and keep them protected.

Never Color Your Hair Yourself

That means using a professional. If you are a professional stylist, then by all means do it yourself, but Laurence warns of the dangers of coloring your locs when you do not have the training. He discusses how many loc wearers end up over processing their hair trying to get blonder blondes or redder reds by keeping the developer on longer than required. Another problem many face doing their own color is a lack of an even color distribution, because by the time they get to the last part of their hair with the color the first part has probably processed longer than necessary.

He also warns of box colors and the expectation of the consumer. First off, the hair color of the model on the box did not come from a box color…period. She had a professional using professional grade dye in a salon for her shoot.

Stop being so cheap!

I know many of us try to pinch a few pennies here and there, but if you plan on getting locs or maintaining your locs then get them done correctly and professionally. Laurence services too many people whose work he has to fix. “You cannot expect professional results sitting between your Auntie’s legs.” Laurence is tired of seeing people who go to great lengths for the cheapest loc installations and retwisting by family members or friends who have no training but offer lower rates. They eventually end up in his chair and he has to fix it.

He mostly sees this occurring when people are first starting and want cheaper locs but then end up collectively paying more because of the corrections. Look, it is your hair and your head, so if you want it done right then go to the professional to assure you start with a good foundation.

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What are some of your loc maintenance tips?