Basic dreadlock maintenance: Lock Lacing

Hair Lacing

Today I am going to discuss a type of lock maintenance that is not for the masses: lacing. I’m sure that there are many different names for this technique but I don’t know any of them, I call it lacing. The reason I say that this technique is not for the masses is that it makes your locks permanent. Some people assume that locks are permanent but this is not true. Locks are simply a controlled form of hair matting and it can be combed out – it just takes patience. One MAJOR exception to combing out dreadlocks is lacing.

Lacing is a technique that loops the lock end through the new growth at the root to create a knot. The amount of times each lock needs to be laced will be determined by the amount of new growth available. Some people using lacing rather than palm rolling as their sole form of new growth maintenance because lacing doesn’t pull the roots of your hair (and thus is kinder to your edges than palm rolling) and it doesn’t wash out. I do not use lacing as my primary form of new growth maintenance because it is very time-consuming. It takes me about double the time to lace my hair than to palm roll my hair. Typically, I lace my roots about once or twice a year.

Start with a clean head of hair. It really doesn’t matter too much if the hair is wet or dry with this technique, unless you also plan to wetset your hair at the same time. It is important to make sure that the hair is moisturized and not so dry it is brittle, however. Brittle hair could possibly snap with this technique. I like to moisten my fingers with a little Miss Jessie’s Curly Buttercream before starting each lock.

Step 1: Take a lock and grasp the new growth. Smooth the hair with your fingers until it is straight enough to make a divide in the new growth with your fingers.

smoothing new growth

Step 2: Divide the new growth into two sections with your fingers

divide the new growth into two sections

Step 3: Grasp the end of the lock and thread it through the new growth divide that you created

thread the lock through the new growth divide that you created

Step 4: Pull the hair through the divide to create a knot.

Pull the hair through the divide to create a knot

Step 5: Repeat until the majority of the new growth is knotted, changing the direction of the knot each time. If you do not change the direction of the knot you will end up with a “V” separation in your new growth and (eventually) your lock.

That’s all! Repeat these steps for each lock in your head.


Second Chance Locks – Keven Cotton

Redo. Take 2. Let’s run that back. All are requests for a second chance and all would accurately capture my 2nd go round with locks. I cut off my locks about 6 years ago after having grown them for 4 years. While I can point to several reasons for cutting them off (didn’t think that I could get a job in policy with locks; locks were becoming a fad; my locks were defining me instead of me defining me), I realize now that I gave up on my locks as opposed to fighting through the difficult stages that come with having locks. Unfortunately for me, it took growing locks over again and seeing people with long locks and knowing that mine would have been longer to fully appreciate the locks I had.

If you have locks, you can point to at least 3 periods in the first year of having locks that will make you throw up your hands in frustration. For me, the tough times were: initially growing out my hair, trusting that those baby locks would actually grow into something, and being patient when some of your hair has locked while other sections stubbornly resistant to the process. Couple that with friends and family offering their comments and you’re often left with only your commitment to the process as motivation.

There’s a symbiotic relationship between growing locks and your personal growth. While I was still committed to growing my locks, I didn’t feel that I was growing. That could be why I felt that my locks were beginning to define me instead of me defining me.

After about a year to two years, that commitment is rewarded as you can begin wearing your locks in multiple styles and others begin seeing and appreciating your efforts. The funny thing about having locks for longer than 2 years is that you can find yourself in the “now what” stage. “Now” that your locks are down to or past your shoulders, “what” do you do with them? Perhaps you never thought that your locks would get this long. Maybe you don’t know anyone that can style your locks and you’re tired of pulling your locks back in a ponytail. Or, it could just be a hot summer in DC and your locks make you feel 10-15 degrees hotter. The difficult or trying stages of having locks are not just in the beginning. Throughout the time that you have locks, there will be times when the easiest answer is to cut them off and as well all know, the easy way is not often the best option.

When I cut my locks, I promised myself that I would re-grow them if: 1) went to graduate school; 2) worked in the education field; or 3) started my own business. That was as much a challenge to myself to find a path and follow it as it was a recommitment to my locks. As for my second go round with locks, I’ve been growing my hair since October 2009 and actually twisting/locking since June 2010. My hair is definitely in that 6 month window where some hair has locked and some sections, especially the top of my head, are resisting the locking process. The difference between having locks now and 6 years ago is that I’m ok with the process. I’m ok with my locks looking fuzzy and I’m ok with them freshly twisted. Locks, like any relationship, has its ups and downs. The key to not getting frustrated or just “cutting your losses” is patience, understanding and belief in the end results.

I’ll be honest, in these early stages, I am not ashamed to visit a loctician to get my locks re-twisted. However, when the funds are low, I will set aside the 3-4 hours necessary to wash and re-twist my locks myself. There are many people who have locks who will tell you that going to a loctician or natural hair specialist takes away from the process of having locks. Personally, I’m ok with going to a loctician, especially in the early stages. Getting your locks off to a successful start is critical so whether you go to your cousin, friend, or hairdresser, just make sure that they know what they’re doing. But I also subscribe to the belief that if you have locks, you should know how to re-maintain your locks yourself. Sure, it feels good to have someone scrub your scalp and re-twist your hair while you check your email but that’s the easy way out. Having locks is demanding and time-consuming but it is that process that bonds everyone who has locks. It’s like a badge of honor. If you see someone with long locks, you respect them for the time they put in. At the same time, if you see someone with baby locks, you respect them because you remember when you were just starting out and you can appreciate how far you’ve come.

Locks are definitely a labor of love whose fruits you not see for months, sometimes years. They definitely become a part of who you are and I’m excited to embark on this path once again.

Keven Cotton is an education professional as well as an avid sports fan and blogger. Check out his blog: Opinion on Sports

Regal Up-Do

One of the things I want for my blog is to build a huge library of photos of people with dreadlocks and natural styles done specially for formal events. If you can, help me out! Got any pictures of great natural formal hairstyles? Please send me a pic!

Peezy Headz Salon, GA

One of the first people to send me pictures of their hair was Rachel. Thank you, Rachel! She is rocking a wonderfully regal style. Her locks are medium length and she has it braided into an up do. The loose ends were shaped into a crown. Her stylist is Brittany at the Peezy Headz salon in 5 Points, Atlanta.

(Close Up)Peezy Headz Salon, GA

Doing my own hair (somewhat)

I’ve searched high, I’ve searched low – I can’t find any hair style that I like. I can’t find a natural hair care stylist who I trust to make me look my best. I don’t know why – in 2010 – it should be sooo hard to find a good natural hair care specialist.

I have a wonderful friend, Glenda, who owns a natural hair care salon in NC. If I was in NC I wouldn’t have this problem cause Glenda would be doing my hair. But that’s not the case, I live in the DC Metro area…

I decided it may be a better idea to do my hair myself. It’s not that hard and although I’m not that creative when it comes to hair, I don’t want a crazy complicated style. My fiance likes my hair down and to the side. I like my hair down. No one else’s opinion matters 🙂

I decided to do a short hair trial to see what I could do for myself. I’m going to have to do this again, though. Here are some pictures before I started:

I always start my hair by getting a fine tooth comb and scratching my scalp. I know that it’s not necessary for everyone but I LOVE the way it feels.

After I scratch my scalp, I get ready to wash. I usually do a co-wash but I am currently trying the new Rosemary Mint (?) shampoo and conditioner from Carol’s Daughter. The shampoo is rather thick and since I have dreads I decided it would be a great idea to dilute the shampoo. I squeeze a generous amount inside of one of those open tipped plastic bottles that are used for dying hair – you can get them at any beauty supply shop.

Supplies for Lock Maintainance & Styling

Supplies for Lock Maintainance & Styling

I use just enough hot water to “melt” the shampoo – then I saturate my scalp with the shampoo/water mix while my hair is still dry. It should be thick enough to keep from running into your eyes but watery enough that you can create a lather by rubbing the hair and scalp. I like to do this (I call it a dry shampoo) before wetting my entire head. This give me the opportunity to do a good scalp cleansing before I start my actual wash.

After I saturate my hair with my shampoo/water mixture, I wash my hair. After I wash (this time) I then conditioned my hair with the Rosemary Mint conditioner. This conditioner is pretty thick, too (though not quite as thick as I was expecting, considering the shampoo). Normally I dilute my conditioners, too.

Once my my wash and condition is complete (should have also done an ACV rinse, but I didn’t), I dried my hair, separating the individual locks. I used EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) to give myself a hot oil treatment (but I also like to use Carol’s Daughter’s Lisa’s Hair Elixer) and then I started to maintain my locks.

I have dry scalp, so I almost always oil my scalp prior to doing my maintainance. Currently I am using Taliah Waajid’s “The Strengthener” hair oil. It’s medicated, so it has a heavy scent and it tingles. Have to admit, I LOVE the tingle! 🙂 I use this hair oil on my entire scalp, then I proceed to palm rolling (Palm rolling is a method for tangling the roots of your dreads and helping them knot and tighten. It works much better than “twisting” with the fingers. To palm roll you simply grab the dread between the base of your palms – tightly by the root – and roll it in a single direction – I prefer counter-clockwise. It’s a bit like rolling Play-Doh between your palms to make a long rope. You are doing two things at once: tightening the root of your lock that has come unraveled and you are shaping the rest of that same dread into a cylinder shape. Palm rolling works well anytime but the best time to palm roll is right after washing/co-washing your dreads).

When doing maintainance, I always keep a few things on hand. One items is some type of oil based moisturizer lotion. I’ve used several different brands of several different things, but one of the ones I love best is Carol’s Daughter Hair Milk. I’ve used it off and on for years. Another great item that I like to keep on hand while doing my hair is a water based hair spray/detangler/leave in conditioner. I’m currently using Johnson & Johnson Maintainance for dreadlocks is really best done on moist or wet hair. Depending on how long it takes your hair to dry compared to how long it takes to do your hair will let you know if you need to re-wet your hair while completing maintainance.

Since this is a bridal hair style trial, I decided to set my hair in the manner in which I plan to wear it. Since it is over one shoulder to the side, that is exactly how I set it. I made sure that I palm rolled AND set my hair in that same direction.

Setting Hair - Front

The way I set my hair for this trial was what I call a wet “braid out.” I call it this because I set my hair while wet by braiding it. The “out” part comes because I take out the braids (simple, I know 🙂

Setting Hair - Profile 2

Setting Hair - Back

After I set my hair I usually do one of two things. I either let my hair dry naturally and leave the set in for 24-48 hours OR I sit under a hood dryer for 3-5 hours.

Once my hair is completely dry, I removed the braids.

Braid Out - Front

Braid Out - Front

The set worked VERY well, if I say so myself :-). I love the fact that the hair is slightly molded in a side position. One of the things I noticed, however, is that my hair doesn’t really want to stay that way. The weight of my hair makes it want to fall away from the one shoulder look. I held it in place with a few strategically placed hair pens.

Braid Out - Profile 2

While I think my hair has come out pretty nice – I’m also glad that my friend Glenda will be there on my big day to actually STYLE my hair!