The Dark Side of Dreadlocks

dark side of dreads

There are a million and one reasons for you to get dreads today and those are simple to outline for newbies, but talking about the bad stuff is often a bit harder for the new audience.

Sharing the bad too early in a potential new dreader can scare them away or gross them out to what they might be getting themselves into. There is also a sense of responsibility from those who have had those experiences, those darker moments, those silly mistakes you may have made, that will teach and educate the next generation of dreadheads.

Honestly, there are not many bad things about having dreads that those with their natural hair wouldn’t also deal with but there are a few stereotypical occurrences that actually do happen more often than you might like to admit.

The Stereotype:

The stereotype of dreads being stinky is almost never true, but it’s actually weighted in some truth and some terrible experiences. There have been instances where people with dreads do not care for them correctly and things start to get weird. And, weird is an understatement.

The truth is that when dreads are not cared for properly, they can start to have build-up on the inside. Maybe it’s old hair, leftover shampoo and conditioner, or the excess wax that you used, it all seems harmless, right? Wrong!


All of those things can build up over time and actually cause mold to sneak its way into the inter workings of your hair. Yes, that’s mold. Inside your hair! Talk about stinky. 

The Real Thing

So now the real truth. Yes, it does happen, but it is also very preventable. In fact, it will happen from product build-up, excess wax or other products, or even lint from your blankets, pillows, or hats. It’s true, all of those things can cause the build up and when a few things get in there without being noticed, they start to multiply.

The real deal is that caring for your dreads is not a joke and while there are tons of reasons why dreads are less maintenance than real hair, the cleaning part is not one of them. Being mindful of the products you use, how much of them you use, and whether those products are accurately cleaned and replaced is all part of the delicate balance.

What To Do About It

What happens if this does happen to you? You start to notice your dreads smelling a little “off” and you notice some fading in the color or maybe more oils collecting in parts of your hair. It’s time to investigate.

First, figure out what the root of the problem is. Are you sleeping with wet hair? Using poor products? Getting stuff caught in your hair without removing it? It doesn’t matter because most people with dreads have had these issues at one time or another but it is important to outline the underlying causes.

Next, move to the solution phase. There are two simple ways to both fix this issue if you are currently having it and prevent it from happening if you haven’t experienced it.

One option is switching shampoos. There are a lot of product reviews on this site about stellar clarifying shampoos that would be best in this situation. Using a good quality shampoo is going to be a game changer. Find one that another trusted dreadlock owner uses and try it out. Every person’s hair is different but that shouldn’t stop the shampoo from being highly effective.

Option two is if the mold is there and the funk is real. Apple cider vinegar is simple to find and simple to use. One tablespoon of apple cider vinegar matched with about one quart of water will give you the right balance. Pour the concoction into a spray bottle and get to work. In fact, vinegar will not only kill the nasty mold buildup, but it will start the process of balancing the PH of your hair so repair can begin as soon as the gunk is out.

Dreads are awesome and everyone should get them, but there is still an educational route to take to get there. Making yourself aware of the good and the bad are the best ways to really understand if you are ready to take on a new type of responsbility and a totally rad hairstyle.

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