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.