5 Ways You Could Be Self-Sabotaging Your Dreads

1. Using the wrong shampoo.

tingle shampoo

That’s right, if you’re using the wrong shampoo, it can make your dreadlocks look dirtier than when they started. All too vividly I remember a rough 6 month time period early in my Dread Journey when I decided to switch to fancier, make-your-hair-softer-and-bouncy-and-plump-like-the-movie-stars-shampoo. How could I go wrong with that?

Well, I soon discovered that with each wash, my hair would look dirtier…and dirtier…and dirtier.

There were little white/gray flakes though out my dreads that seemed to multiply, week by week, actually diluting my natural black hair color into a dull, powdery gray. Gross.

I actually started to look like I lived on the streets, and became so self-conscious that I started wearing hats everyday. Finally, when I couldn’t take it anymore, I visited a hair studio in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where one of the stylists, Cookie, had beautiful, thick, well-maintained dreads. Upon whipping off my cap and poking at my head for a few moments, she said without an ounce of doubt, “You’re using the wrong shampoo. You need something that clarifies, and you need to wash your hair until it’s squeaky clean.”

“Squeaky clean?” I repeated doubtfully.

“Yes,” she replied. “You need to wash your hair until it literally squeaks in your fingers.” At the time, I had no idea what she was talking about, so Cookie patiently explained to me that a clarifying shampoo simply stripped your hair clean without leaving any residue. Simple as that. No bells and whistles. Within a half hour, I was stumbling out of the shop with a new bottle of their mint clarifying shampoo, and I was half-way certain that she was just trying to sell me a product. However, I was proven wrong that very evening when, a quick hair wash later with the new stuff, my dreads emerged a glorious, almost sparkly black, and residue free! It made all the difference in the world. The very next day, I let my head go hat-free with pride!

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2. Starting your dreadlocks too small.

It may be tempting to section your hair as small as possible when you’re first starting your dreads so that you’ll get even more lovely locks covering your head, especially if your hair is on the not-so-thick side, like mine. This is fine if you’re trying to start sister-locks (a smaller, thinner form of dreads), but beware of dreads that may eventually grow so thin that they break off. Even dreads that seem to start off a certain size may slim out a bit with time, and the last thing you want is discover a year later is that poor lock in the back of your head that’s literally hanging by a thread. I had this happen in my case, and remedied the problem by joining it with another lock. However, it’s best to start them off a decent size in the first place. General rule of thumb: section your hair into 2 inch x 2 inch squares, and you should get some good, solid dreads. This is just a general rule of thumb, so feel free to play with the size…Just beware of starting your dreads ridiculously small and having them break off later.

3. Using too much beeswax.

If you put too much of the gunk on your dreads in the hopes of helping them form, beware of discovering this gunk inside your locks years down the line. Believe it. Some wax helps, although I made the decision early on to stay away from it after trying it for a few months and disliking the consistency. I’ve gotten along fine without it, mainly because I’m African American.

4. Not keeping an eye on them, even when they’re mature.

Let it be said that even when you’ve gotten your dreads figured out and they’re growing great, it’s extremely important to keep an eye on them to make sure they continue to grow correctly. In particular, after you wash your hair, it’s vital you gently pull apart the ones that are trying to grow together at the roots, lest you get a monster dread forming in the back of your head. Even skipping this step for a few washes can start the growing of the dread beast. It’s also important to keep an eye out for dreads that are starting to thin out at the roots due to a few escaped hairs that are trying to intertwine with other dreads.

5. Refusing to trim.

It took me about 9 years to finally get to the point where I wanted to trim my dreads…and when I did, I wished I had done it sooner. It had gotten to the point where my hair was getting caught in car doors, cabinets, purse straps, you name it! On a few occasions, I actually got a good chunk caught in a door, didn’t realize it, turned my head, and violently ripped a good chunk off (I still shudder. It sounds just like fabric tearing). Finally, I decided that my hair was too long, and took off a simple 5 inches all around. And you know what?

It made all the difference in the world.

No more getting my head caught in precarious positions, no more ripping my hair out, and no more getting my hair in my food. In all seriousness, it can improve your overall quality of life. An added bonus was that, for the first time, my dreads were even, which made my mane look even fuller. Sweet!


Never sleep with wet locks! Going to bed with wet or damp dreadlocks can cause mold to build up. Washing that is too frequent can also cause this, as well as bundling up your hair in a hat or cap that does not let them dry. Always, always, always make sure your dreadlocks are completely dry after you wash them.

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  1. This is a wonderful post. Thank you for sharing. What are your thoughts on using Rhassoul mud?

  2. Why are my dreads breaking at the ends,they get skinny at the ends and will soon break off..helppp

    • Sounds like your hair that you initially dreaded was damaged. I started my dreads after years of bleaching, dying, straightening, hairspray etc, and after having my dreads for a year you could see me healthy, virgin hair compared to my abused hair pre-lox.

  3. Hi I used to dye my dreadlocks but now every time I’m styling my dreadlocks is breaking at the end,and I don’t get help from my salon I’m stressing please help. Last they tell me to put a black dye but still is not helping. Email address daki.pakama12@gmail.com or call 0766846074

  4. I have a few dreads that is thin at the roots in the front and the sides what shud I do I been twisting them together and the problem is they want lock and they keep coming apart

  5. Adubjohnson Try twisting them together and tying rubberbands at the end of them

  6. Hi, I decided after one year of growing my locs and having them done (instead in someone’s home) at a shop my ends are starting to break off. What could of possibly happen ? I’ve never had this problem before. Also I’d let hair trim my ends for the first time since growing my locs and I’d let her use the crochet needle(also for the first time)along with palm rolling . I’m starting to get nervous about my situation.. Please help me

  7. Mines got caught in the door once and I lost 1

  8. hey:)
    It’s been a month I started my freeform dreads.. and I wash them ones a week. Evertytime I wash them my dreads loosen themselves and fall apart. so much for putting all the effort 🙁
    please suggest where and how I am going wrong and what can I do about them:)

    • You should not wash your locks until about a month or two after you start them. As well as you should not be washing them that frequently. Try washing them once every month until after 5 or 6 months into the locking process. (future note you do not have to load your head with shampoo, apply majority to the roots of your dreads.)

  9. my dreads have been thinning and shedding since I bleached them a few years ago. They seem to break off every time i wash them. any advice?

    • if they are thinning from the edges or middle try a firm palm roll with a little oil mixed into the mix. If its happening from the roots try not getting locks styled, re-twisted or pulled on. Go maybe a month with no maintenance and then get your retwist with all of your new new growth. It should reverse he thinning process.

  10. My daughter has dreads and a couple have twisted onto themselves and popped off. Any recommendations on why this would be happening? Please Mom needs some advice badly. Thanks

  11. Just started my new dreads with extensions its been 1 week its too long When can I cut them and how long a wait before first wash

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