The alarm clock goes off. I decide to close my eyes again briefly. Very briefly. Then suddenly it’s ten to "Oh shit, I should be on my way by now." Must be a mistake in the space-time continuum. I rush into the bathroom. Head down, head up. The hair is now in place - yeah!
I love my dreadlocks. Not just when I'm having a time problem, but just always. There are so many rumors about this kind of hair. Don't they stink with time? Aren't there problems when washing it? Don't they get moldy with time?
The answer to these questions is a bit complex: Nope.
In this report I tell you briefly and honestly about my first year with dreadlocks, clear up myths and strange Youtube videos, and write about practically tested and personally experienced pros and cons.
By the way, I got my dreads put in for my 30th birthday. Because I'm absolutely convinced that it's never too late to do anything in life and that you only get old if you keep telling yourself "I’m too old to do that".
I've done almost everything to my hair. Mohawk, undercut, red, blond, black, dark blue. At 16, that pleased my parents at least as much as my grandparents enjoyed my dad's long hair in the '70s. Oh well, hair.
I just never dared to wear dreadlocks. That is just so fucking final. Much more than dyeing—which washes out. Or cutting it off—that grows back. If you want to unravel dreads, you must either comb and pray for a very long time or reach for the razor. But sometimes, in a world of a thousand options and doubts, making a final decision is a good thing.
So a year ago I went to a dread stylist that I found through the German website: DreadFactory. I found that doing it yourself is almost impossible if you have no previous knowledge and no octopus arms for the back of the head. If you have thin European hair, try also to avoid an Afro store because they work more frequently with African hair (surprise, no?). The structure of the two hair types is very different and they need a different approach to dreading.
Since dreadlocks are such a big and rather final thing, I wanted to have it done professionally and not just some half-ass cheap job. The gals and guys listed on the DreadFactory website usually work freelance and you can check out their location, experience, and reviews right away. Very transparent and easy.
When you twist hair, it gets shorter by about half. Yeah, that sucks. But don't panic—my hair was barely shoulder length and very thin to boot. It kept breaking and never got any longer. It was the absolute worst hair condition for dreads. But luckily there are extensions. Cheap ones made of plastic and expensive ones made of human hair (all available at the DreadFactory--that's where I got my human hair extensions).
My stylist, Anne, was very honest with me and told me that it was possible the extensions would fall out with the fiddley disaster on my head. So, she braided a single test dread into my hair for a few months. When that held, she installed the rest. Since that time, the dreads have held perfectly now for over a year. So don't be discouraged if you have short, thin, or even very little hair! However, the minimum length for extensions to braided in is about three inches.
Good dreadlocks are expensive. I have 35 dreads on my dome. It took eight hours for Anne to put them together. Yes, that long. And you will be paying by the hour for the hard-working stylists. Good human hair extensions are also costly—but are worth every penny. In the end, a finished dreadhead can cost somewhere between $450 and $900. Even if you now feel as if your ice cream just fell into the dirt: Don't try to skimp in the wrong places with dubious hairdressers or weird plastic extensions. Instead, save up—and do it right.
Having dreadlocks placed in your hair hurts. It’s in the same league as tattoos and piercings. For the dreading process, the normal hair is pulled way back—hard. That tears at the scalp. Every single second. The first two to three nights afterwards is no picnic. On the first evening I popped an Ibuprofen. After that, the dreads are scratchy for a few months because the real "felting"—or natural softening—doesn't happen for about six months. My dreads are still changing even today.
Dreads are not for fussy curmudgeons. There's always a stray hair sticking out. Or a hundred. You can mesh them back in with a crochet hook, but sometimes you just have to suck it up or you'll be crocheting non-stop. Dreads simply have a life of their own and seem to do their own thing.
FYI: Once your hair is dreaded, old hairs can't fall out of the dread, so as they fall out of your head naturally, they get stuck in the dread, and you see white specks. That is not dandruff, but simply the roots of your own hair which has come out of your scalp but is still captured by the dread.
Washing is easy: you wash them like normal hair. Wet, shampoo in (there are tons of tips for special shampoos on the Internet, I use a German soap called Duschbrocken), rinse properly, wring out and air dry properly.
The magic word is "properly". Because the stories about musty smell or mildew come from soap not rinsing out well and dreads staying damp forever after washing.
What I do: I wash my dreads in the morning. Then I let them dry in the air all day. It's best to do
this when you're sitting in a warm room for the day, or work where the sun is shining, or you may just want to go for a walk. I have very thin dreads, less than a quarter inch in diameter, so
they don't take long to dry (about 3-6 hours).
Important: Don't wear a hat that day, dammit. And don't go to bed in the evening with wet dreads. That way, nothing will start to rot. It's as simple as that.
In the beginning I washed my dreads every two weeks and now I only do it every four weeks. By washing less, the scalp produces less oil, so there's less to wash. Convenient. Even after four weeks, the dreads have not developed an odor.
After a year of dreads, I can tell you: don't let weird reports and videos discourage you but be aware that dreadlocks are more than a fun party gag. I haven't regretted my decision one single day.
If you have any more questions about dreadlocks or would like to share your own experiences, feel free to drop me a comment or message via Facebook, Instagram or email.