How to Maintain Your Dreadlocks as They Grow
Maintaining dreadlocks is very different from maintaining other natural hair styles. Dreadlocks don’t need to be brushed and don’t require regular trimming. Like other natural hair styles dreadlocks need to be kept clean. Contrary to popular belief clean dreads lock up and tighten faster than dirty dreads. While other natural hair styles require combing to put stray hairs back in place, dreadlocks need to have stray hairs tucked back into the dread so they can dread up and lock with the rest of the hair. You'll also notice that dreadlocks look better and better over time. As they continue to mature they become tighter and smoother and they require less maintenance. Your maintenance routine will vary depending on the age of your dreads and the method you used to start them. The two most popular methods for starting and maintaining dreadlocks in natural black hair are twisting/palmrolling and latching. (See Dreadlock Journey and Maintenance for Straight and/or Non-Afro Hair post)
How to Maintain Dreadlocks Started with Palmrolling or Twisting
Dreadlocks started by Palmrolling / Twisting are delicate. The biggest concern is that the hair will un-twist before it really begins to lock. This can make the palmrolling / twisting method pretty tedious and nerve racking. Because it's difficult to wash the twists without them un-twisting many people avoid washing their hair and scalp for a month or even more. This leads to other complications like itching or unusual head odors. This may be the cause of many dreadlocks rumors related to washing or rather not washing dreadlocks. Two weeks or so between washings is more common. If your scalp is already comfortable with infrequent washing, maybe because it tends to be dry, and your hair is fine and highly textured, the ideal dreadlock texture, you may find that your twists hold up pretty well, especially if you are careful with them.
Maintaining the twists is pretty easy, especially in-between washings. Your job is to keep them twisted. While you are driving or watching tv your hand will go exploring your head looking for dreads that are in need of twisting. Twist them at little as you notice them. You usually begin by twisting the dread around until it us under very slight tension from the twist. Then, hold it so it can not un-twist you roll it back and forth between your fingers or palms. This helps the "spirals" of the hair slide in against each other and helps the lock compress further. In textured hair types it is not difficult to over twist and damage the hair. Avoid twisting the same locks repeatedly. It's better to leave them be than to over do it.
After each washing you'll notice the twists will feel looser. Some people completely re-twist their dreads after each washing. It is not usually necessary to re-twist after every washing. Strong healthy hair ( eat as many raw fruits and veggies as possible) can withstand more re-twisting but if it doesn't need to be done there is no reason to spend the time to do it. Re-twisting after every other washing is usually fine, especially if you are able to wash them carefully and not disturb the twists. One tip is to wash them while wearing a nylon stocking cap. This helps to protect the dreadlocks during washing. If you try this method take care to rinse the dreadlocks extra well since the stocking will tend to make getting all of the soap out of the dread more difficult.