Dreadlocks vs Braids: What’s the Difference?

Photo credit: Richard Masoner

Photo credit: Richard Masoner

Dreadlocks vs Braids: What’s the Difference?

Recently I was at the grocery store when a nice lady stopped me and pointed at my dreadlocks, which I’d left loose for the day. “I love your braids,” she exclaimed, while reaching out to touch them.

I took a deep, centering breath and plastered a smile on my face. Be polite, I told myself, After all, this lady is being sweet by saying she likes your hair. 

“Thank you,” I kindly replied. “But these are actually dreadlocks. They’re made completely differently.”

Surprise registered on her face. It was clear her knowledge of dreadlocks was foggy, at best. With a kind nod, she went off to find the bread aisle.

I couldn’t help but sigh. Many people assume that dreadlocks and braids are the same type of hairstyle. While they might share some similarities in terms of appearance to the untrained eye, dreadlocks and braids are two completely different hairstyles with their own characteristics. So today we’re going to take a closer look at the nuances between these two styles.

Let’s start off by looking at a braid:

Braid Example

Thanks to StockSnap from Pixabay.com for the photo.

Now, let’s look at a dreadlock:

Dreadlock Example Up Close

Thanks to bohemianbikini from Pixabay.com for the photo.


They Are Made by Two Completely Different Methods


Let’s get to the nitty gritty here. Braids are essentially made by separating your hair into three strands and interweaving them together. It takes all of about 30 seconds to form a decent braid.

Dreads can be created using a number of methods, with some methods being way more efficient than others. While dreads can be formed by first braiding the hair and then letting the hair closest to the scalp eventually loc over time, dreadlocks can also be formed by full on neglect, backcoming, interlocking, or the crochet hook method.


Time Commitment


As I mentioned above, you can knock out a single decent braid in the time it takes to watch your favorite Super Bowl commercial. You might even have extra time to go grab a snack. Needless to say, it super quick.

Dreadlocks, on the other hand, require a greater amount of time and effort, with individuals often spending days, weeks, and sometimes months to create their dreadlocks.  So if you’re looking for a fast hairstyle that requires minimal time and effort, braids might be the right solution for you. If you have the necessary time to invest, then dreadlocks may be the better option.


Dreads Are Considered Permanent


It’s also important to mention that dreadlocks are way more permanent than braids due to their structure. A properly formed, mature dreadlock is essentially matted hair, with the strands complexly locked and interwoven. While it’s possible to get rid of dreadlocks without cutting your hair, it ain’t easy. When you decide to get dreads, you’re in it for the long haul.

Braided hair is easily undone by unraveling the braids with one finger, and it only takes a few seconds.


Look Closely. They Have Completely Different Textures.


From afar while squinting your eyes, dreadlocks and braids might look somewhat similar. They both create rope-like structures of hair that can be pulled into a wide array of styles (ponytails, buns, etc). However, they couldn’t be more different.

Braids have more of a zigzag shape due to the three groups of strands used to create them. They have a very specific, uniform texture throughout the length of the braids.

With mature dreads, there is no such three strand texture. They have more of a matted look. If the dread was created correctly, running your fingers down it should yield few bumps and lumps.


Upkeep and Maintenance


While dreadlocks require more elbow grease (i.e. time investment and effort) to get them started, maintenance doesn’t take a ton of time once they’re mature. Folks who decide to start dreads are committed for the long term to starting them and sporting them. By long term, I mean years. No one says, “I’m going to start dreads and only wear them for a few weeks” (unless a pop in some synthetic dreads). Usually, if you decide to take the leap and start locs, you’re in it for the long term and wouldn’t have it an any other way.

Braids, on the other hand, are way more temporary. They can be your hairstyle of the day, to a couple days, or maybe even months (if you get a weave).


To Wrap It Up: Concluding Thoughts


As you can see, dreadlocks and braids might look similar to the untrained eye…on a foggy day… while wearing sunglasses…(sorry, couldn’t resist)…but they are actually completely and utterly different. Braids are common and can be quite cute, but dreadlocks a popular choice among those folks who seek to differentiate themselves from the crowd.

Even more fun is starting dreads, and then pulling your dreads in a giant braid! Yes, the two styles can work together. Super cute hairstyle!

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1 Comment
  1. So they’re only different based on their looks??

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