What I Wish People Would Have Told Me About Locking My Hair

November 30, 2012  |  
2 of 11


Earlier this week this woman at Noodles and Company, (if you’ve never tried it, you better ask somebody!) complimented my locs. Before I could even say thank you she went into her story, telling me how she too had tried the lock thing but couldn’t make it past the rough patch. I nodded my head in solemnity and agreement. *Moment of silence for the rough period* It was a lot. And I can’t say I was exactly prepared for it. With that in mind, I thought about all of the things I wish (Cedric the Entertainer voice) somebody would have told me about the lock journey. So in an attempt to help another sistah, who’s considering taking this step, here the things you need to know before you lock it down.

That Starting Phase is no joke

As I alluded to earlier, the starting phase, the time before you hair has formed into locs is the most shocking, most unpleasant part of the experience. If someone had told me how… unbecoming this initial phase was going to be, I certainly would have waited longer to lock my hair and might not have done it at all. Now, everybody’s experience is different; but when I decided to lock my hair, I had just cut it so when my beautician spun me around after she had carefully coiled my hair, into what’s known as “starter locs” (aka two strand twists), the shrinkage was so real. I still thought I was cute…just a cute little boy. By the time I got used to the shrinkage, “the fuzzies” started to appear. Since my hair had not locked properly yet, the twists were constantly slipping and I’m sure several people thought I was just too lazy to retwist. (It took almost a full year before people realized I was locking my hair.) And that sad part about it was, for the first couple of months, I really couldn’t do anything about it. I had to wait for the beautician to even wash my hair, let alone retwist it. Sigh Thank God I got past that phase. Now, whenever a woman tells me she’s thinking about getting locs, I warn her by saying it’s not going to be easy; but if you can get through this phase, you’ll love it.

I still have to oil my hair

If there’s one thing you learn being natural, it’s that you have to oil your hair, you have to oil your hair and oil your hair some more. Moisture is absolutely key. But for some reason, maybe I’m just slow, I was under the impression that with locs, since I wasn’t really doing much to my hair anymore, I could slow up on the moisturization process. Once I started retwisting my own hair, I would moisturize the roots and assume that my scalp would be good. It wasn’t long before my hair started breaking in protest. Silly me, I guess I just thought that if my hair was locked, breakage would be next to impossible. Not so. Oil was still vital and that coveted shiny look, I wanted so bad, wasn’t going to be achieved with sprays alone, I had to hit the scalp and the locs themselves.

The less “chemicals” in a product, the better

The whole going natural movement is more than just about the hair. It’s about what you eat– (still working on that part, I love my processed foods) and what you put on and in your body in general. With that being said, the more natural ingredients in a product, the better it will be for your hair. And more power to you, if you get to the point where your “products” aren’t products at all and are completely natural, (i.e. coconut oil, castor oil, peppermint oil etc.)

Everybody’s process is different

You would think this was a lesson we learned long ago in kindergarten. But alas, it is not the case. When we find someone’s hair we admire, that valuable lesson flies out of the window and instantly, we’re on a quest to look, though we might not admit it, like someone else. Well, that’s not the way of the world, love. One thing this process taught me is that while there’s nothing wrong with admiring another woman’s locs, trying to achieve the same, exact look will most likely end in disappointment.

People will assume I smoke weed

It used to be I’d only get the weed question when I told someone about my Jamaican heritage. Now, with my locs, I’m always surprised at the amount of folks who one call me “Rasta” and two, assume that I light up.

The styles are unlimited

As my beautician was installing my starter locs, she told me that her clients treat their locked as if it were relaxed, meaning they style it in the same ways they styled with straightened hair. Though, I didn’t quite understand what she meant at the time, the more I experiment with my hair, the more I recognize just how right she was. At this point, you can’t convince me that there are styles I can’t do.

I will do length checks

I used to always wonder, why girls would take those obnoxious pictures of themselves in the bathroom mirror, hair draping down their necks. Even when my hair was long and straight, I never felt the need to do that. (Probably because my cell phone camera wasn’t that great back then.) But now, honey… I’m so…fascinated at the rate which my hair grows, that I’m no longer “above” snapping a quick shot…and posting it on Instagram.

YouTube tutorials are my friends

Major shouts out to Franchesca Ramsey for showing me exactly what my beautician meant when she said the styles are unlimited. In addition to her, there are numerous other dreaded bloggers who have innovative styles, healthy hair tips and product recommendations. Nothing like good resources.


Energy is important

Now I’ve felt this way for a long time but having locs reaffirmed the belief that you just can’t let anybody touch your hair. I’ve always believed that people can transfer their energy; and if someone has bad vibes, you certainly don’t want that energy in, on or around your hair…close to your head. Call me crazy if you want to, it’s not something I’m willing to risk.


Is it locs or dreadlocks?

Recently, there’s been some discussion about whether we, black people, should refer to dreadlocks as locs or… well, dreadlocks. The discussion came about when people started claiming that “dread” came from the British who thought the way the Rastafarians wore their hair was “dreadful.” So folks decided to stop calling them dreadlocks. But I did my own research and found that the word dread might have come from the dread or fear of God. I kind of like the latter definition, so I use the terms locs and dreadlocks interchangeably, without feeling any type of way.


Second Best Hair Decision Ever

If you look through the tome that is my hair chronicles, you would see a variety of styles. I’ve had a relaxer since I was 5 and had more than my fair share of styles from bobs, to braids, from mohawks to mullets, weaves to t.w.as I’ve done a lot of it. But after the decision to go natural in the first place, locking my hair has been my best hair decision to date.

Images via Shutterstock, Corbis, Shea Moisture, and author’s personal collection.

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  • Nessha

    ok so Im thinking of getting locs, should I grow my hair out first or start them while my hair is short?

  • lilrockdiva

    I’m starting to think that we just don’t know how to care for our hair.

  • Jade

    I went natural after I graduated from high school. 3 days after graduation, i cut my hair. a few days before i left for university, i cut that rest of the relaxer off. I’m a junior in university now and my natural hair is a little longer than my shoulder (when stretched). I love my natural hair, but recently, i’ve been thinking about locs. when i brought the idea to my mother, she seemed kind of disgusted and said “wait until after you get a stable job. locs just don’t seem professional.”

    my two questions are:
    1) since my hair is long already, is it possible to still loc my hair?
    2) is there something i can do to make the “ugly stage” look more professional?

  • Maheen

    I have a question for everyone here. What do you guys think of white people having locs? When you’re a person of color, there’s all this stigma that can and often comes with it. Where as white people who get locs get nothing. I’ve heard the stigmas of people with locs being dirty and unclean. But whenever I have seen people of color with locks, it’s always looked neat and clean and well taken care of. And then it’s the white people who have the locs that look unkept and are sloppy.

  • Ossie Richards

    When I got sister locs, in 2001 they told me everything. When I cut off all the the perm and they finished (took over two days) I looked like a plucked chicken but not once did I think I was ugly or what I was going through an ugly phase. In fact I got to see the face of my father and my son. The concept of going through an ugly phase is the result of eurocentric programming. Many have never been shown how beautiful they are naturally.

  • Pingback: DreadLocks: What I've Learned from my Lock Journey()

  • Ella

    I wanna start my loc journey. Any suggestions for locticians in the Houston area?

  • Mrs A.

    Oh my! too true, I really despise being called Dread, Rasta, Firewoman. I’ve been contemplating taking them out already cause it’s just too much. Mine are for a season but I do enjoy the convenience. It’s been 4 months now and thank God my hair was already quite long in it’s natural state so i jumped the annoying height

  • Lex

    Dreadlocs are the traditional usually thick naturally grown locs in symbolism to Rastafarianism (no vanity, just letting the hair grow as will to start, no sections or manipulation just as it grows is as it grows etc) . Locs are the slimmer more uniformed version not in symbolism to Rastafarianism but just as nice natural fashion style started with manipulation i.e sections, coils, twists to achieve a specific style/look.
    That is the difference. That British calling them dreadful hence the name is nonsense, that’s not why they are called dreadlocs. I did love the article though bar the last page lol

  • TheOutSider

    Forgive me folks, but I have never liked how they looked.

  • Christan-Joy Demeritt

    I always say locing was the 2nd best hair decision I’ve ever made (going natural being 1st). However, I was so creative when I first started out with my short locs that I never had an ugly phase.

  • Ilka Missb

    Twisting my hair right now… Thanks for your input, I’ve been thinking about it for years but I was scared. I’ve been doing my ex’s for about 2 years now so I have a bit of experience. Thanks again for inspiring me!

  • Mary Aries White

    I love wearing my Lady Loc’s I wear them very Professional where you can see the parts in my hair. My hair is wash and condition and Palm twisted every three week and I keep my Loc’s oil and they give off a beautiful sheen they looks so alive . I also wear a silk scarf bag on my head every night to bed.I enjoy the compliments from all races of men. I will not trade my Black Power for nothing in the world. I thanks God that he showed be I can be black and beautiful without straight hair!!! Loving being me a Black woman wearing what God Bless me with!!!

  • Donnay

    I went natural in 2010 due to a series of bad hair tragedies. Any who best decision yet To go natural. And yes. In a few decades (I’m 27 in Nov) I plan to lock up my hair. I love the way the older women wear their gray locks. Locks are the essence of black. I love the idea of the endless possibilities

  • mainstreamisoverrated

    I wanted to lock my hair,but for the time it takes,I didn’t want to regret it. My fam was like…do it…do it…I decided just to do the natural thing without them. I like watching the yt videos anyway. I like watching the retwisting process and the different methods. I have sees some who were about to go crazy because the their scalp developing conditions. Good luck to the folks trying.

  • Dana

    One day I had my hand on the door knob about to go buy a perm. Cooler heads and a conversation with myself prevailed and I stuck through it. People compliment my locs now and I appreciate that commitment I made. I advise others when they ask about how involved it can be but if its really what you want go for it!!!

  • Jules

    I think locs are beautiful, but it kind of freaks me out the way people talk about it. It is like it is a cult…one that I have no desire to join. Wearers use phrases like “the process” and describe how it is a “mental” thing. Sheesh…it is hair. I’m not really sure what spiritual journey I want to go through on the outside, but it all just seems like a bit much. Let the comments commences in 5…4….3….2….

    • Choxlox

      Lol…I have had my locs for 5 years (natural for about 13). But it was not a spiritual thing. I just wanted to be me! No more perms or weaves, fake nail (I do miss those), and I never really did the makeup thing. I just wanted to be me…in my natural, God-given beauty; and it was the best hair decision for ME.

    • NewYorkBunny

      It’s because it literally is a process. Hair doesn’t lock overnight. It takes anywhere from 3 months to 2 years for hair to lock. That type of commitment does challenge the mind. During that time, the locer is learning a lot about caring for themselves the way they are naturally. Something a lot of people go their entire lifetime not knowing how to do. Self-discovery is a powerful thing. That’s why a lot of people feel so connected to their locs because it’s been somewhat of a gateway for them to understanding, accepting and loving themselves. For someone like me, I happened to already be on a spiritual journey, and I look back now and know that my journey led me to locs. But for others, it’s vice versa. Their locs were jus the beginning of a journey they didn’t expect to even embark on it. Of course, it’s not spiritual for everyone. For a lot of people, its just hair. But what I’ve noticed about those people is that they tend to miss out on a lot. Always waiting on the extraordinary. Don’t find beauty and knowledge in the little things in life.

  • Kelli

    I love my locs and sometimes look at the little ‘fro’s with envy, remembering the luxury of the fro, big or tiny. Thanks for the article! People need to remember that not everyones locs take the same upkeep. Experiment and get to know your hair. I get compliments often but rarely moisturize outside of retwisting, though I do co-wash every other wash. I love Black Castor Oil, and I refuse to use anything that becomes a solid at room temperature. I find that my hair can take on a dusty look that I associate with product build-up with solid oils/products. But I believe in doing my own hair and seeing my loctitian once a year; if that! Nine years this October, and loving it. Oh and Chesalocs is the truth, lol.

  • Minda

    I had locs for many years and now I don’t. Remember, locs are “dead” hair and that is why it is growing long. I didn’t like it after a while. To each his own. For some people, it is nice break from chemicals and processing though.

    • justhere

      All hair is dead…

    • Miss K

      Locs are “shed” hair follicles. Justhere is correct, all hair is “dead.” My locs are mid-back and I love how thick and healthy they are. Yes, “dead” hair can be healthy.

    • Mary Aries White

      I keep my Loc’s oil so my hair is very alive because I am not combing, pulling and putting chemical in it. In other words there is no wear and tears!!! Your hair is dead when you crack fry it with chemical to have white people straight hair!!! LOL

  • TeamMe

    The energy tip is so true!!! After I started getting my locs done by my current loctitian, my hair has grown ridiculously fast. My hair responds so well to her.

  • Natasha

    Love this post! I’ve been a loc wearer for almost 2.5 years (relaxer free for 5 years), and I do realize that this is the best decision that I’ve done not only for my hair, but also for my health. I like that one of the points that is TRUTH when doing your locs: make sure you have a stylist/loctitian who gets along with YOU and YOUR GOALS! That cannot be emphasized enough! And yes, Youtube definitely helped me to learn how to really deep clean my locs (baking soda and ACV, or ACV rinses…check it out!), and check out some really cool styles (shout out to Chescalocs!).

  • wow.. i better start moisturizing.. whats good to use out there?

    • Natasha

      I’ve gone through a lot of moisturizers and found myself mixing jojoba/olive oil and water, and spraying on both scalp and locs. Another one I’ve used is Coconut oil with Giovanni Direct Leave-In conditioner, after I wash my hair (the coconut oil helps seal in the conditioner). I tried to use oils with mineral oil, and all I ended up having was dry locs before the day was over. I hope this helps!

  • sweets

    I think everyone who has dreadlocks should research the “history of dreadlocks” there is an abundance information. Dreadlocks are not are definitely not dreadful

  • I loved this post! My transition wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I had the 2 strand twist and because my hair is so fine people didn’t realize I was growing locs for a good minute. A year later and lots of growth to the point I’m getting it styled and people still think its just “twists”. I’m in love with my locs and I think it is the best hair decision I’ve made!

  • Ce1999

    I do definitely agree that it depends on the person as far as treating your locs with products. I don’t use much in my hair outside of when twisting it and I don’t see a lot of breakage. I moisturize every now and then, but my primary concern is being buildup-free and not making my scalp all itchy. To each his or her own though. I also consider locking my best hair decision. 🙂

    • Tamz

      I use Taliah Waajid products on my hair and there is another line that I use that has mango and lime to moisturize my locs. My locs can get incredibly dry.

  • Denise

    I learned that you can wash your hair as often as you like and you don’t have to retwist every time you wash. I didn’t retwist for about a month and found styles that made my hair look neat and professional

    • ona2684

      HOW?!? I find myself washing and retwisting at least once a week and it takes me 3-4 hours each time. My scalp has also been pretty itchy as of late as well…

      • sweetdea

        Apple cider vinegar. Rub it on your scalp before you wash your hair.

        • michael

          What does that do

          • Sasha

            works magic by restoring the ph balance of the hair. helps with dandruff treatments too

  • Tamz

    Yaaaaaassss!! Thank you so much for this article!! I am a loc head also and I started my locs with comb twists. I went through that ugly phase that I thought was going to last FOREVER. 2.5 years later, best decision I’ve ever made. YouTube is my best friend also!! #LocsRock