3 Tips for Hydrated Locs

One of the best things about locs is that they can be as high maintenance or as low maintenance as you want. One of the hardest things is finding the right product regimen to give you the results that you want, especially if your prefer a manicured look.

Hydration is a huge challenge for those of us with natural hair that is curly, coiled, and kinky. Without a nourishing hydration treatment for our locs, the results can be undesirable dryness, dullness, and stiffness.

I haven’t perfected my hair care regimen but below are some tried and true practices and products that have given me the best results.

Clean, Don’t Strip

Some loc wearers are obsessed with clarifying and chelating shampoos. The idea, I guess, is that you need a “stronger” shampoo if you’re going to skip and wash every now and then. While the occasional clarifying treatment can be helpful, using one regularly will result in dry, damaged hair and an irritated scalp.
It’s important to find a shampoo that cleanses without stripping your hair and scalp of the good oils that keep it healthy.

SheaMoisture Moisture Retention Shampoo does a great job of cleaning my locs and scalp without stripping them dry. It rinses clean without residue and it has a pleasant scent. The downside is that the bottles are small and the longer my locs get, the more shampoo I use. Secondly, it may be best the stagger this product with another; after using it for nearly a year, I stopped noticing the results. Lastly, the corresponding conditioner isn’t very impressive so I have to use another brand.

On her recent visit, my stylist here in Atlanta used One N Only Argan Oil Moisturize Repair Shampoo and Conditioner. With two washes, my locs and scalp felt thoroughly clean. We left the conditioner in for less than five minutes and my locs still felt very soft. (I usually leave my conditioner on longer than that.) Neither product left residue. My hair felt more supple and had a nice sheen (which is partially the conditioner and partially the leave-in oils).

One N Only products aren’t organic or biodegradable but neither product has sulfates, phosphates or parabens. If you want a truly eco-friendly and natural wash for your dreads, I’ll be writing a post on DIY recipes in the future!

best oils for dreadlocksUse Oils While Your Hair is Damp

I’ve tried olive, argan, jojoba, coconut, and tea tree oils on my hair. By far, my hair responds best to argan and olive oils. It will take trail and error to find what your hair needs. The needs may also change with the season.

When you apply the oil matters just as much as what you use. In the past, I would let my hair dry and then apply the oil, thinking that it would maintain shine longer. The oils would rub off on everything. After a while, I started applying a smaller quantity of oil on my hair while it was still damp; this really seemed to help lock in moisture and prevent the oil from rubbing off on my pillow, the couch, and the headrest of my car. Oil and water don’t mix, so I’m not sure why my hair seems more receptive to oils when it’s wet, but that’s just how it works for me. It’s worth a try if you’re having problems maintaining moisture.

Cover When Sleeping But Not in the Shower

It’s so helpful to cover your locs with a silk scarf before bed. The covering minimizes friction between your locs and the pillow, which minimizes frizz. The covering also keeps lint and pet fur at bay. I managed to find a satin “pocket scarf” made specifically for long braids and dreadlocks, so my hair can hang free in a little satin cocoon while I sleep. It’s much more comfortable than a bonnet or wrap.

I would also keep my hair covered when I took a shower if I didn’t plan to wash it. I figured the humidity would make my dreads frizzy. Truth: my hair likes the mist of water and humidity. When I skip the cap and just pull my hair into a bun, may hair feels so much softer. It’s like I’ve giving myself a mini steam treatment! The trick is to let your hair absorb a bit of mist and steam without letting it get damp.

Now that you’ve seen my tried and true regimen, let me know how you take care of your locs!

 

49 thoughts on “3 Tips for Hydrated Locs

  1. Hi there … you make a good point about skipping the shower cap and embracing the mini steam session when showering. I will have to try that and maybe just wrap something around my edges so they don’t get wet. I’m locked 4 years next month and usually have itchy scalp within 2-3 after being styled, any recommendations on oil brands or combos? I was using a grape seed and almond oil blend but most of the oil seems to remain on my hands after i massage it into my scalp (dry). I also use a tea tree spray that helps because I’m not a big fan of oils in general.

    1. Hi Angela–
      It could be the type of oils that you’re using. Many oils sold in stores are oil blends with lots of fillers in them. Those fillers fail to absorb into the skin. General rule: if the oil has more than one ingredient, there is too much extra stuff! Grapeseed and almond oils are great. Just be sure to get high-quality oils. Within the past few months I switched to Molivera Organics 100% Pure Cold Pressed Sweet Almond Oil + doTERRA melaleuca and lavender essential oils for my scalp. I’m on Fractionated Coconut Oil + Peppermint for my hair now and I love the way that it smells. Neither leaves a lot of oily residue on my hands, furniture, or car seat which is a plus!

    1. Hi Ava! Here are a few tips that I wish I had known (or things that happened during the process):
      1. Parts matter (unless you’re free forming). If your parts aren’t on point when the locs are first installed, have the stylist go back and fix it. It’s hard to fix parts later without throwing off the entire pattern of your hair.
      2. If you are active (run, bike, swim, sweat in any way) start with sisterlocs or interlocking. Your scalp will thank you. You can get maintenance once and it will last for weeks rather than putting tons of stress on your hair and scalp by retwisting each time that you sweat. Also, with interlocking, you can wash regularly and maintain a healthy scalp.
      3.Reconsider your relationship with water. If you’re transitioning from a relaxer, it’s hard to get use to products that are watery versus creamy but that’s exactly what locs love. Watery products would cause relaxed hair to revert to curls and kinks–so we avoided them. But creams cause buildup in locs so they aren’t the best products to use.
      4. ALWAYS sleep with a silk scarf to minimize frizz and lint in your locs.
      5…you know what? I’m going to turn this into a blog post lol. Check back this week for more 🙂

  2. Hi there, where can I find the ONE N ONLY ARGAN OIL MOISTURE REPAIR SHAMPOO AND CONDITIONER? I heard that COCONUT OIL is good for loc….is that true???
    Also I sweat alot and (IT STINKS) I have to wash my hair twice sometimes even three times a week. What can I do so that my hair doesn’t stink? so I don’t have to wash it that often. Thank you Cintra

    1. Hi Cintra,
      One n’ Only is available online, so that’s probably the easiest place to find it. I bought mine at a locally owned hair supply store in metro Atlanta so that might not help you much 🙂

      Yes, in general, coconut oil is good for hair but get fractionated coconut oil, the kind that is liquid rather than in solid form. The solid coconut oil will try to re-solidify in your hair, which can make your hair feel hard or crunchy. It also doesn’t absorb as well into the hair and scalp, in my opinion. doTERRA sells fractionated coconut oil and I can connect you to that but it’s also available online in various places.

      As for the smell, washing your hair regularly may be part of the problem. Are you letting it dry completely between washes? If not, you hair may begin to mold within the locs, which can cause an odor. If you are drying your hair completely between washes, then maybe try adding lavender essential oil or tea tree/ melaleuca essential oil to your regimen. Both can get rid of the odor while promoting healthy hair and scalp. Get pure, non-synthetic oils like doTERRA because the molecules are small enough to penetrate on a cellular level, whereas synthetics, though cheaper, just smell good.

      Love + Light
      Erica

      1. Wow, you are so knowledgeable. I have heard that many loc’ers were dissatisfied using coconut oil on their locs and this totally explains why!! Thank you for your site and the helpful information.

  3. Nice post. Can I say to Cintra I train 5x a week and therefore sweat. When I first loc’d my hair I’d use a water based spray with oils and yes it did smell. When I switched to using just pure oils (usually castor & carrot seed) – no smell. Also you’re probably washing your hair too often. When using just oils i can go weeks without washing. I agree too use pure oils not a mixture. One ingredient only. I can even use a sauna and put copious amounts of oil in my hair and not wash it. Never gresay nor smelly until I use a water based product. Good luck!

    1. Hi Gina–thanks for contributing! I started off using essential oils pretty early in my loc journey so I wasn’t aware of this happening with water-based products. Great insight!

    1. Hi Danni,

      My locs aren’t freeform. I got them started at a salon and they are maintained at a salon about every 3 months. I just do the maintenance myself in between visits 🙂

      If you meant generally, freeform dreads don’t need salon maintenance at all! Just let you hair grow out…maybe pull apart sections every know and then to encourage smaller sections…but the lack of interference is what makes freeform locs “free form.” Some people start from a short fro and use a brush or wool to make circles along their scalp. That causes clumping which may be a good base for freeforming–but I’m no expert! You will be better off consulting a blogger who has used this method 🙂

  4. Hi, next month will mark a year that i have been loc’ed! But unfortunately i dont have a good regimen base or prouducts that worked on my hair. I am 16 and really need a low maintenance regimen that will keep my hair moisturized and promote growth. Help 🙂

    1. Hi Kimberley!

      Your routine will depend on your hair type and activities. Without knowing that, I can only offer some general advice.

      Unlike relaxed hair, natural hair loves water! I recommend misting your locs and scalp with warm water every 2-3 days. (Or just let it get a little damp in the shower.) Warm water opens up the follicle. If you want to go the natural route, I recommend following up with aloe and rose oil on both hair and scalp. If you don’t mind conventional products, spray your slightly damp locs with Design Essentials Coconut and Monoi leave-in conditioner (hair only) and then follow up with rose, olive, or almond oil on the hair and scalp.

      Wash your hair AT LEAST once a week to remove sweat, dirt, and old products.

      It may seem like a lot since I offered so many options but really, it’s two products twice a week. Not that bad 🙂 Hope it works out for you!

  5. Hi, my hair dries out often. Maybe two days after I leave the salon. How often would u recommend oiling the scalp?

    1. Hi Tre,

      There seem to be two issues here:

      If your scalp is dry, then mist it with warm water every 2-3 days and follow up with your favorite oil. I enjoy almond oil and jojoba oil, which is a lot like our natural sebum. I add a drop of rosemary or tea tree essential oil to promote scalp health and ease any irritation.

      If your hair is drying out, that’s another thing. I’ve mentioned Design Essentials Coconut and Monoi products to other readers before and I still really enjoy them. I also like Rose oil and fractionated coconut oil to lock in the moisture. It’s not sexy or quick, but staying hydrated goes a long way towards moisturizing your hair naturally.

      Let me know if any of these work for you!

    1. Lawd, I have no idea. Between 80-100. I’ve never counted and don’t care to 🙂 It will just scare me out of doing maintenance, lol. They are the size of a #2 pencil, if that helps.

  6. Hey I love this post and the fact that you are responding to everyone. I have a few questions of my own….Ok actually a lot of questions lol, bear with me. When using oil for my scalp and hair should I do a hot oil treatment? Or just keep it room temp? If I should do a hot oil treatment should I do it Everytime? And do I have to do it after I shampoo my hair or can I just dampen my scalp and hair a bit before I put it on? Also is it possible to maintain my locks without using any locking wax or gel? If so is it healthy to not use anything?

    I’m asking that because I read some articles that said locking wax is bad because it stays in your hair. And I’ve been noticing that it’s true! The wax comes to the surface when i wash my hair and I can literally scrape and squeeze the wax off my hair. Id either want to use nothing to maintain the locks and just twist them regularly or find a healthy alternative to wax. I’m using Jamaican mango and lime locking firm wax . Which leads me to my next questions. Have you tried any of the Jamaican mango and lime products? What do you think of them? Do you like them? Right now I’m using their tingling shampoo, firm locking wax, and “island oil”. If I can I would rather not use any locking wax, and I’m thinking of switching to almond oil. Cause I’m thinking it may be healthier if it doesn’t have all the extra stuff in it like the island oil

    1. Hot oil is great. You don’t need to use it with every wash, though. Perhaps once every 1-2 months. Warm fluids help to open the pores and follicles so warmer than room temperature would make sense. Apply oil treatments after shampooing. That way, you remove dirt and product buildup that may otherwise block the benefits of the oil from your hair and scalp.

      You don’t **need** any products for locs, but many people find it convenient. You can retwist and pin you hair while it’s wet and it will work towards locking. Waxes and gels just prolong the time between retwists. Waxes and gels, though, contribute to buildup in the hair. I never use wax. On beach vacations or long hikes I use a bit of natural gel (e.g. aloe based). Otherwise, I just use water and my oils when I retwist. I don’t use any holding product during interlocking maintenance because it’s not needed.

      I have not tried any holding products from line of products because I’ve heard so many complaints from long-term users. I haven’t tried their shampoos either, sorry!

      I have used doTERRA shampoos and conditioners and they work marvelously. Let me know if you’re interested and I can send you a sample.

  7. I just got my hair retwists a week ago I whore a stocking cap to bed now my hair looks as if I’m free forming I’m a truck drivers so it’s hard to get back to my stylist any tips on getting it back organized(looking neat) without going to a salon

    1. If you got a retwist, you can Palm roll it yourself to help the locs get their shape back. Palm rolling is actually pretty easy 🙂 just takes a bit of time.
      Get your roots damp with a bit of water. That may re-activate whatever product your stylist used. If not, get the hair damp and use a bit of oils (almond, olive, fractionated coconut) or natural gel (like aloe) at the root. Palm roll the hair and keep them turning in the same direction that your stylist established. There are several YouTube videos on Palm rolling techniques.
      And don’t use a stocking cap while your hair is damp or sweaty! When your hair dries overnight, it will looked matted-down. I prefer a silk wrap. It secures the hair without so much pressing down. Good luck!

  8. Hey. Is a common problem or am I doing something wrong , when I retwist my dreads my hair will look retwisted for probably 3 days after that then I look like Like my hair has never been retwisted. I sometime very from wearing a silk bonnet or a nylon dread sock. What am I doing wrong here

    1. Hi Monay!
      No, you probably aren’t going anything “wrong.” The product that you use when you retwist your hair (if any) just has a very light hold. So whenever you sweat, go to sleep and lay on it, get in humid conditions, or something like that, your roots are going to puff and curl back to their original state instead of holding the style.
      If it bothers you, you have two major options:
      1. Retwist your hair using a product with a stronger hold, like a gel or wax. I don’t recommend this because of product build-up but it make be good option if you don’t like option 2.
      2. Start interlocking instead of re-twisting. Interlocking actually knits your hair together so it doesn’t unravel as quickly. Downside is that you can’t brush out interlocks if you decide you don’t want to loc anymore. I interlock and I LOVE it. My loc appear “tight” for 1-2 weeks and then it gets just a taaaaad puffy at the root when my hair starts to grow. I love interlocking!
      Good luck!

  9. Erica your blog is so helpful thank you. I just started my locs 6 Months ago, I started off wilth interlocking but I changed salon and the new place insists Palm rolling is best. What is your advice? I have palm rolled once.

    1. Hi Lisa,

      “Best” is a matter of opinion. Palm rolling is “best” if you have a lot of time and money to spend in the salon. When palm rolled, your locs will unravel faster or your roots will look puffy when your hair gets damp, you sweat, you wash your hair, you sleep wildly, or whatever. Palm rolling isn’t a method that holds well.

      Likely, your stylist will recommend palm rolling because it means you need to go see her more often, and pay her more often. Her recommendation makes her a smart business woman but that doesn’t mean that palm rolling is “best” for your hair 🙂

      Now there are advantages to seeing your stylist often. If she is any good, she can make sure that your hair and scalp stay healthy. Mildew, Dandruff, etc. plagues people with poorly maintained locs.

      Palm rolling is also “best” if you plan to maintain your hair yourself. It’s easier and faster than DIY interlocking.

      Now, she may have disapproved of interlocking because some people interlock too often. All that tension may cause their hair to thin or put stress on the scalp…but the same thing can happen to people who palm roll too often.

      At the end of the day, I like interlocking but neither is “best.”
      Cheers!

  10. Just found your blog and this post is so helpful. I’m on my second set of locs, about 7 weeks in. I started retwisting using ORS twist and loc gel but stopped using it 3 weeks in. It made my scalp flake more than usual. I now use water and castor and coconut oil mixed together in a spray bottle. Flaking doesn’t occur as much and my locs are super soft and supple. I recently bought argon oil to try mixed in water. I’ll see how my scalp and hair respond. Castor oil have helped control my flakes and itchiness so much!

    1. I’m glad I can help! I hope that you enjoy your loc journey and find the products that work best for you! Don’t be discouraged if it takes a while, and don’t get disappointed if you hair’s needs change with the seasons or phases of your life. It’s all part of the journey 🙂

      I haven’t tried castor oil. I’ll have to check it out!

    1. Hi Latisha,

      Thanks for stopping by. I’m hesitant to say what’s best for anyone’s child 🙂

      Interlocking is great for minimizing frizz at the roots and keeping his parts looking tidy, longer. Since the hair is basically woven, it is also less likely to get puffy, lumpy, or otherwise distorted. If you’re looking for those benefits, interlocking may be a good choice for your son!

  11. Hi, i got loc extensions put in about 2 days ago, so im new to the loc game lol. Do u have any advice on how to make my loc extensions a bit softer and not so stiff? I know this will come with time but do u recommend anything? Also she kind of did them a bit bigger than i wanted them therefore i was only able to get about 69 locs in..out of the 90-100 that i originally wanted. Will i still be able to style them with only 69 locs? Thank yu!

      1. Hi Teaira,

        I’ve never worked with loc extensions, so I contacted a friend who got them installed earlier this year. This is her advice:

        The softness and pliability will likely come back to your hair once it’s been washed and retwisted.
        As for the size, at least maintenance won’t take as long with fewer locs! That’s a bonus. As for styling, you likely won’t be limited as long as you shift your focus towards styles for thicker locs (rather than comparing your hair to others’ with sisterlocs or super thin locs). Find models that have thicker dreads and explore their styles.

        Personally, I would give it three months. Locs take a lot of getting used to! But if the thickness truly bothers you, revisit your stylist and move forward with a plan to comb out and restart your locs sooner than later.

  12. Thank you for your information. I am starting my locs with 2 strand twist and was researching the maintenance and cleansing/hydrating information. Do the oil and water retwist hold as well as the gel retwist? I’m very concerned with getting buildup on my starter locs.

    1. In my experience, yes, the hold for oil/water is similar to NATURAL gels (such as aloe-based). Those are the only gels that I have used. There may be some manmade super hold gel out there that does better but I haven’t dared to use it. Will likely cause build up. Good luck!

  13. hey my name is gabriel, i started my dreads a week ago, there smaller dreads id say half inch ones but they are like 8 inches long. anyway i got some argon oil spray that my stylist said she uses, i just wasn’t sure if i don’t use it for the first 2 weeks? she said not to wash it for about 2 weeks which will be when i go in for my first maintenance but do i use the oil????

  14. Hey Erica. I started my locs October 2016 . About 3-4 months in . I use coconut oil Jamaican proiducts only . N spray water . I haven had a retwist since November 11. I wanted to wait till a few more weeks to get retwisted . I want to wait just to have more growth before retwist . Do u recommend waiting to retwist ? Is it a must to rush to retwist me only being 3-4 months in ?

    1. Hi Jermaine! How often you retwist is ENTIRELY up to you. I’d recommended retwisting every 4-6 weeks (or interlocking every 6-8 weeks) because that minimizes excessive strain on the roots. Less breakage and hair loss. But some people retwist every 2 weeks and they just don’t twist as tight or they use products with a lighter hold. Just depends on how defined you want the roots to look 🙂 There isn’t a right or wrong answer to a retwisting timeline. Enjoy the journey!

  15. Hey Erica. I started my locs in February 2016 with palm rolling. But my roots unravel within a week or two unless I have them styled. I like to wear them loose instead of the tension of updos. My question is, can I start interlocking now or would I need to have started them out that way?

    1. Hi Letitia,

      Yes, you can start interlocking at any time. There will be a transition period where the pattern of your hair appears different. This goes away with time (or at least it did for me, anyway).

  16. I am in love with your blog! Thanks for sharing so much valuable information. I am locing for the second time and just hit six months in. I have more than one curl pattern in my head and the pattern at the nape of my neck is very soft and taking a lot longer to loc. With this in mind, I have two questions. First, what oils would you recommend to soothe my scalp without unraveling the locs at the nape of my neck? Also, what are you thoughts/opinions on dry shampoos and is there a brand you recommend? Thanks in advance and keep sharing your knowledge.

    1. Hi Amanda,
      Thanks for your kind words! I’ve never used a dry shampoo so I can’t comment on that. (Let me know what works for you as I’m quite curious!)
      As for the oils, here is the thing: any oil that “sits on top” of your hair and creates a slick surface will contribute to unraveling. Any oil that absorbs into your hair within a few minutes without sitting on top will be fine. That will depend on your hair, of course. For me, jojoba oil has been great on my scalp. It’s very light, sinks in quickly, and is chemically similar to our natural sebum. Sweet almond oil is also pretty good. Olive and coconut seem to be too thick.
      Best wishes,
      Erica

  17. Hello Erica,

    Thanks so much for taking time out to address each person that comments on your post! Your locs are absolutely beautiful! I am two months in and have always had an issue with dry scalp. Right now I’m not washing my hair, so I’m wondering if you have any recommendations on dry scalp.

    1. Hi Thea,

      Make sure that it’s dry scalp and not dandruff. I say that because I didn’t know the difference for years! Secondly, what I’m about to recommend won’t help the root of dandruff. It will only mask the flakiness and build-up but the problem will remain.

      For dry scalp, I swear by jojoba oil. It’s great for all-things-skin related but what I like the most is how quickly it absorbs and mimics our body’s natural moisture. Avocado oil is also a good alternative. It’s a bit thicker so I’d recommend putting in on your scalp before bed and wrapping your hair. That’ll give it time to sink in and the excess oil can rub off–but not on your car seat or couch haha.

      Secondly, melaleuca / tea tree essential oil is a great add in. It soothes the scalp and serves as a catalyst for sebum production. It’s sliiiiightly drying, so be sure to dilute it with one of the oils mentioned above. Maybe 1 drop per 5 tablespoons.

      Enjoy your loc journey,
      Erica

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