Stages of Dreadlocks

People in the early stages of the locking process tend to be very impatient. Why? Because growing dreadlocks is an individual process and although I can give you a set guidelines, no two dreadlocks are the same...even if they're on the same head!

As a result, new dreadlocks wearers have numerous questions with regard to how to take care of their hair. The difficult part in answering these questions without having the dreadlocks in front of me is that "What works for one, may not work for another."

Whereas Dwayne who's a freeform dreadlocker might choose to wash his hair daily because he says that doing so helps it dreadlock, Syreeta (a comb-coiler) may prefer to wash hers every three weeks because too much washing causes her dreadlocks to unravel.

So the simplest and most accurate answer when it comes to most questions regarding dreadlocks is "Be patient and do what's best for you and your hair." You won't know what's "best" right off the bat because it takes years to understand your dreadlocks.  Through trial and error you'll learn not to make the same boo-boo twice.

Growing dreadlocks is all about time and patience, but for the most part you can expect to be somewhat dreadlocked by the end of your first year and people with looser African or black hair can expect to be fully dreadlocked at the end of year two.

If it doesn't happen within the given time frame, don't send me emails attesting to the contrary. Maybe your hair is being overly temperamental during its teenage stage and needs some more growing time but don't fret, no matter what your hair type, anyone who has truly stuck with the process should have dreadlocks within 16-18 months...if not sooner.

Either way, calm down, breathe, take everything in stride and listen to your hair. Believe it or not, as you come to learn more and more about each individual dread, you'll find that each has its own story to tell.

There are three relatively distinct stages in the dreadlocking process; baby, teenage and mature. Like human beings, our dreadlocks grow and develop with time, patience and lessons learned. In this section you'll learn more about each individual phase and what you can expect to encounter along the way.

As always, consult a licensed professional before attempting any style.

Dreadlocks Stages Overview

Baby Dreadlocks:  Depending upon your hair texture, this phase lasts 3 to 6 months. Soft, fine or wavy hair takes longer to dreadlock than coarse, curly or tightly coiled hair.

Starting baby locks in uniform sections increases the probability of uniformity once your hair is fully lock'dBaby dreadlocks should be maintained by re-twisting, two-stranding or palm-rolling. It's suggested that you avoid washing baby dreadlocks during the first 3-4 weeks to allow them to set.  However, if you have a scalp condition such as seborrhea or feel the need to shampoo sooner, do so.  Just do so carefully and be ready to retwist areas that come undo.

Teenage Dreadlocks:  This period lasts anywhere from 3 months to a year.  Although this phase tend to overlap the Baby dreadlocks phase, the time frame largely depends on hair texture, length, method used to start your dreadlocks and maintenance techniques.  

Teenage dreadlocks are characterized by budding and matting (for descriptions of these terms visit the Dreadlocks FAQ Section.

It's recommended that you groom your dreadlocks no less than once a month because they have a tendency to bunch or crawl together (share rootbeds).  Teenage dreadlocks should be washed gently every 2-3 weeks barring any scalp or lifestyle conditions (such as working out frequently) which may cause you to shampoo more frequently.

Mature Dreadlocks:  Depending on your hair texture, you should expect to reach maturity sometime within 12 months but this period may take up to 2 years.  On average, people with African textures of varying types report to be fully dreadlocked within 16-18 months.

Mature dreadlocks are the strongest and require less grooming; however they are not maintenance free. Unlike baby and teenage dreadlocks, you'll have more liberty when it comes to maintaining and styling them. How "neat" they appear is really a matter of personal preference and time invested in the dreadlocks as compared to the other stages where "neatness" is far more unpredictable.

Hair Colours

Dull Hair Color?

Does weather or the elements impact hair color?

When to Use a Professional Colorist

Deciding when to use a professional.

Shopping for Hair Colour

Choosing the right hair color.

Natural Black Hair Styles


The Afro is a classic style that was popularized in the United States during the 1960's and '70's. The Afro is the ultimate expression of the strength and beauty of African or Black hair.

Bantu Knots or Zulu Knots

Bantu knots are a very simple style that be achieve with hair of just about any length. 


Braids are the cornerstone of natural hair styling.  They can be long, short, real, fake, black, white, thick, small...

Learn how to care for and create braids and braids extensions.