Main content
Woman in a bright purple shirt with locs

How To Care For Locs Guide

For permanent locs, keeping hair moisturized and your maintenance routine are vital.
07 Feb 2023

What Are Locs?
Are Deadlocks and Locs the Same Thing?
Are Locs High-Maintenance?
What Are the Stages of Locs?
How Long Do Locs Last?
How to Care for Locs?
What Are The Best Products For Locs?
How to Remove Locs

Whether you’re years into your locs journey or new to the style, there is still a lot to learn about locs hair maintenance for the protective style possible. It’s easy to think that caring for all protective styles looks the same but locs care comes with its own process.

There are a plethora of locs care tips for permanent locs to maintain a crown full of healthy hair. Like all natural hair routines, keeping locs moisturized will be paramount and is easy to do with the right products, for a blog/hair/hair-care-tips/healthy-hair-tips-natural-hair.html low-maintenance routine. Ahead, discover the best tips and tricks for maintaining your locs, along with hydrating hair care products to maintain your locs through the different stages.

What Are Locs?

Locs are a long-lasting (usually permanent) protective style most popular among those with natural hair. All hair types (from straight to kinky) can be styled into locs, however, the history behind locs has been closely connected to curly and coily hair types. This style is most popular with coily hair types because the tighter the curls the easier the hairs intertwine to create a loc. Getting your hair locked requires a lot of time and patience depending on your hair length and curl type. Those with longer and less coily strands (like 2A-3C hair types) should expect permanent locking to take anywhere from 18 to 32 months.

This hairstyle involves multiple sections of hair being twisted and knotted together to create a rope-like appearance. With this process, hair is “locked” within itself with no flyaways or strands left poking out or unraveling. This is what keeps the hair together, which becomes permanent over time with the proper maintenance.

Are Deadlocks and Locs the Same Thing?

If you’re familiar with this protective style then you may have heard locs referred to as dreadlocks. To confirm, in the occasional debate of “locs versus dreads” there is no difference as these terms are both used to describe the protective style.

The terms dreadlocks and dreads are commonly used, but many stylists and locs wearers are moving away from these names because they feel like they have a negative connotation. Overall, there is nothing wrong with calling locs dreadlocks but for this story, we’ll simply use the name locs.

Find Your Personalized Routine!
Know your curls better than ever before! Our quick and easy 5-step quiz, which uses powerful data to determine your hair type, will help you understand your strands. Set aside a couple of minutes to answer some simple questions, and we’ll take care of the rest. At the end, we’ll identify your curl type and main hair concerns, and provide expert tips, product recommendations, and a personalized routine. The journey to gorgeous hair starts now. Click Here to find your personalized routine.

Are Locs High-Maintenance?

Locs are high-maintenance in the beginning, but it gets easier as you continue retwisting, moisturizing, and caring for your hair. Patience is a major requirement when locking your hair as you’ll have to keep up with regrowth by retwisting hair from the root as it grows on your locs journey. As with most protective styles and hairstyles in general, you have to trust the process and be consistent with your locs care for the best results. Locs look better with time, and as they mature, they will become tighter and smoother and require less maintenance.

What Are the Stages of Locs?

As stated previously, locking hair can take a lot of time, in both the start of the hair wrapping process and the maintenance journey to permanent locs. Typically, there are four main stages of growing or creating locs: starter, budding, teen, and mature or rooted locs. You’ll know that you’re ready to move on to the next stage as your hair grows and becomes thinner (more tightly wrapped) and easier to manage.

Keep in mind that the time between each stage will vary depending on hair type and when you’re starting your locs journey. Below, learn about the different locking stages to help determine where you are in your locs journey, along with how long it takes for locs to form and how often you’ll need to retwist your hair. Note: The below stages and time estimations are for those with short, naturally coily hair.

Starter Stage

The first stage of locking hair is called starter or baby locs. You’ll want to start with a protective style like tight comb coils or double-strand twists. Comb coils involve using a fine tooth comb to twist hair into a coil and double-strand twists by twisting and crossing them over each other.

You can keep your locs intact during this stage by wearing your hair in low styles that aren’t too tight (either hanging or tied with a large scrunchie) and using styling products that offer hold like pomades, gels, or beeswax. You can use Black Vanilla Edge Control Smoother to keep locs bound and moisturized without product buildup. When twisting hair into locs you’ll want to use clips to hold the root of the hair as the products dry. Once the gel, pomade, or wax is dry you can remove the clips.

Additionally, you’ll want to avoid washing your hair in the first four weeks as water and conditioning hair products will undo the twists. If you leave your hair in these styles (along with other protective styles like box braids) past the allotted time (three to five weeks), they will start to lock. You can also start freeform locs that are created by leaving hair alone and letting it naturally intertwine. This stage usually lasts the first three to six months of locking.

Budding Stage

Budding is when hair becomes tightly woven together and forms the intertwined locs that you’re hoping for. This stage usually lasts six to twelve weeks as sectioned hair forms locs that are becoming more conjoined. This stage brings a lot of flyaways and frizz at the root of the hair from new growth that needs to be retwisted into the loc.

You won’t (nor should you) need to completely re-do your twist as this will eliminate the locs you’re creating. Instead, palm-roll your new hair into the individual loc. Palm rolling is exactly how it sounds and involves you rolling the new growth and the individual loc back and forth in your palm with a holding product until the hairs are intertwined. You’ll want to use hair gel, wax, or pomade on the locs and place a clip at the root as the product dries. This process allows you to keep moisture in your hair care routine to strengthen and smooth hair.

Teen Stage

At the teen locs stage you’ll see a lot less unraveling of the locs that are beginning to take their true shape. This stage get’s its name because it comes before the following mature stage, similar to real life. When your locs are in this stage, they may seem puffy and look like they’re growing in different directions and that’s okay. The key to achieving permanent locs is commitment, just keep going and you’ll have durable locked hair. Your locs will be in this stage for 12 to 18 months, relatively.

Mature Stage

Locs are considered to be mature or rooted locs when they’re becoming longer and firmer with minimal flyaways or frizz. Your locs will be able to maintain a good shape without being retwisted or manipulated. Your hair will remain in this stage as you care for it, for about 15 to 18 months.

Rooted Stage

By now your locks are fully grown and looking strong, moisturized, and tight with no signs of unraveling. New growth is going to happen no matter what locs stage you’re in so be mindful of that upkeep to combine new hair with locs. At this point, your locs will feel sturdier in thickness without unraveling, additionally, they may feel a lot heavier than in the previous stages.

Since your locs are fully formed, you can style, cut, and dye them however you please. You’ll want to avoid cutting and dyeing your hair before this stage to keep hair from unraveling and ruining all the work you did up to that point. Low manipulation styles like simple updos are recommended before the rooted stage to limit unraveling.

How Long Do Locs Last?

Locs last as long as you care for them. With the proper care, locs can last for years (and even decades). If you barely twist your regrowth and never moisturize your hair, your locs will end up loose and poorly combined, making them easy to comb out. This type of hair weaving will be uncontrolled and not as structured as the cylindrical, tight locs seen in the rooted stage. As your hair grows you’ll want to twist the new growth to keep up the locs. Ultimately how long your locs last and how easy they are to remove will depend on your maintenance and the current locking stage, but essentially, locs are permanent.

How to Care for Locs

Now that you’re more familiar with the background of locs you’ll want to know what type of locs care is needed. Caring for locs is all about patience, moisturization, and upkeep. Here, learn how to perfect your locs whether you’re locking hair for the first time or need a refresher to give this protective style some TLC.

Intentionally Shampoo and Condition Locs

All hair needs to be washed and conditioned, no matter the hairstyle. Washing, moisturizing, and protecting your locs will ensure your hair grows and stays healthy as shampooing helps restore the pH balance necessary for healthy growth. The most important thing to remember when selecting a shampoo is residue. When locs experience residue, it can cause itching and make it harder for thicker locs to dry properly and tighten.

If you’re wondering how to wash locks, start by wetting your scalp and soaking your locs until they’re sopping wet. You want your locs to be soaked with water to guarantee all layers of hair are wet to properly clean them. Then, use a gentle hair wash like Monoi Repairing Sulfate Free Shampoo to cleanse hair. Work the shampoo into your scalp and massage it around your head to fully lift any impurities like dirt, sweat, or oil. Rinse the hair until it’s completely free of suds.

You will want to regularly (every two to three weeks) wash and detox hair to remove any products, oil, or debris trapped in the strands and scalp. Every other wash day, swap your regular hair wash for a micellar cleanser like Wash Day Delight Sulfate Free Shampoo for Curly Hair to deeply penetrate hair and detox your locs. Detoxing locs is important to target any product buildup, oil, or sweat that may be trapped inside the tightly wounded hair.

Use the pointed tip of this shampoo to target the scalp and locked hair. Massage the water to foam shampoo into your locs and give it a good (but gentle) rub to make sure the hair wash is penetrating deeply. A commonly asked question around locs is: Do locs smell? Simply, washing your locs will prevent any bad odors the same way washing any other hair type (from straight to curly to coily) does.

After shampooing, add a lightweight conditioner that moisturizes without clogging hair with residue, to help strengthen your locs. Try Wash Day Delight Conditioner with Aloe to wrap your locs in the jelly-to-cream formula to instantly moisturize hair without added weight or residue.

Use Proper Drying Techniques

After washing your hair or getting it wet you’ll want to know how to dry locs. The answer is pretty straightforward: stick to air drying. Direct heat can damage locs, whereas air drying will properly dry hair and prevent it from mold and poor odor. However, due to the structure of locs, drying and making sure locs don’t unravel or retain water — especially in the starter stage — can be difficult.

A good rule of thumb is to squeeze locs after washing them and use a microfiber towel to absorb some of the water before styling or wrapping hair. Ringing locs of excess water will help you avoid too heavy locs which can put unnecessary strain on your head and damage your scalp from the added weight. Locs will begin to dry faster and faster after each wash, making the style convenient.

Adopt a Moisturizing Routine

As with any other hair texture or style, the most important part about locs care is keeping your locs moisturized. Even though hair is tied up and locked in, locs can still get dry and break easily if not properly moisturized. To keep locs moisturized and looking their best, use nourishing conditioners, styling products, and scalp oils.

Reach for Goddess Strength 7 Oil Blend Scalp & Hair Oil to add moisture to each loc and your scalp for nourishment from root to end. This lightweight oil won’t feel too greasy on hair and is infused with castor oil to wrap strands with the perfect amount of moisture. You’ll want to keep your hair moisturized every day so your hair can look and feel more hydrated and avoid flyways, tangles, or breakage.

Maintain New Growth As your hair grows, you’ll need to maintain this new growth by retwisting it into existing locs. Like most natural styles, moisture will be key in maintaining locs at home. After all, dry hair is more prone to brittleness and breakage. Your best bet is to use hair oil (or a lightweight leave-in conditioner) on top of a moisturizing spray to keep dryness away. Opt for lightweight oils like Born to Repair Reviving Hair Oil With Shea Butter, which strengthens and smooths your mane as well as repairs damaged hair.

Don’t forget to sleep with a silk or satin bonnet and pillowcase to keep hair from rubbing against materials (like cotton) that may be too rough on hair, resulting in breakage and unraveling (when you’re just starting). Wrapping locs at night will keep the style in place and help prevent frizz, tangling and unruly locs.

What Are The Best Products For Locs?

One main point to always keep in mind with locs maintenance is to use lightweight, moisturizing hair care products. Use products, from the shampoo you use to styling gels for your edges, that won’t leave a lot of residue on strands.

When it comes to how much product to use, that will depend on the thickness and length of each individual loc. Be mindful to not go overboard prompting buildup and flakiness. Instead, start with a small amount on your fingertips and add more as needed.

We’ve already mentioned a few products to help you in your locs hair care journey, additionally, check out five nourishing hair care products below that can help keep your locs moisturized.

Black Vanilla Moisture & Shine Hair Sheen

A great way to keep locs moisturized without flooding hair with heavy creams is to use a spray leave-in conditioner like this one. Locs are instantly hydrated with the formulation of shea butter and jojoba oil. Spritz a light layer of this spray all over dry hair daily or whenever your locs are feeling dry and looking lackluster.

Wash Day Delight Hair Gel to Foam Styler Aloe

As you form locs (especially during retwisting) reach for this lightweight gel-to-foam styler that provides a crunch-free and frizz-free hold, perfect for locs upkeep. Hair is easily detangled for improved manageability, making it easy to twist hair through the many locs stages. This foam also provides hydration and shine with the added aloe and glycerin (a humectant that serves as a hair moisturizer). You’ll get more hold and moisture in one product.

Mimosa Hair Honey

Apply this shine pomade to your hair and scalp to revitalize strands with added moisture. The combination of shea butter, cocoa butter, and rosemary strengthens hair and adds a fresh scent for healthier, shinier locs. Add enough product to cover locs in a thin layer to smooth the hair, minimize flyaways, and add shine without leaving behind a heavy texture of product on locs.

Born to Repair 60-second Moisture Treatment With Shea Butter

Once a week (or during wash day) pack your locs with intense nourishment via this 60-second moisture treatment. It helps repair the hair and minimize frizz while also soothing the scalp. After cleansing your locs and scalp, add this treatment to each loc and your scalp and let it sit on your hair for one minute. Follow up with a lightweight conditioner and rinse both products thoroughly.

Monoi Repairing Leave-In Conditioner

This spray is another perfect option for locs maintenance to add shine, softness, and protein to strengthen hair. A blend of wheat protein and vitamin B5 makes up this leave-in conditioner that fortifies your hair, for healthier hair with minimal breakage. You don’t have to worry about any creamy residue weighing down locs as this repairing mist offers a lightweight texture that quickly absorbs into locs and easily rinses out without any harsh scrubbing during your wash day routine.

How to Remove Locs

The beauty of this protective style is its permanence which makes styling and caring for natural hair easier. It’s a personal style choice that many people want to keep for extended periods (if not forever). Keep in mind that as you go through the locs stages, hair becomes more and more intertwined, making it more difficult to remove the locs.

If you’re still in the first three stages (starter, budding, and mature locs stage) you can remove locs by saturating strands with conditioner and carefully combing them out. It’s best to go to a professional for this step as it takes a lot of time and skill. At the rooted stage, your locs are basically permanent, meaning you’ll have to cut your hair to remove them. In general, the older the locs are, the less likely you’ll be able to comb them out.

You don’t have to cut your locs out right away. If you don’t want to start your hair journey over from a big chop, allow your hair to grow for a few weeks, and don’t twist your new growth into your locs. Remember, locs are constantly forming at different stages so the hair at the end of the locs will be more fused and rooted than the hair near the scalp. Cut your individual loc where it’s most tightly wound and use a rattail comb to unravel the remainder of the loc until you get to new growth. This will help you salvage the hair of the locs that are closest to the new growth.

A less permanent option to locs is the faux locs hairstyle that combines braiding hair (hair extensions) and your natural hair to form locs that can be removed at any time. It’s a style that is braided and wrapped looser so it’s easier to remove.

Next Up: How To Care For Fine Curly Hair: Your 4-Step Routine

  • Goddess Strength 7 Oil Blend Scalp & Hair
  • Wash Day Delight Sulfate Free Shampoo for Curly Hair
  • Monoi Repairing Leave-In Conditioner
  • Wash Day Delight Conditioner with Aloe
  • On the same topic

    Discover the best haircare tips for natural and curly hair from Carol's Daughter's beauty blog. Check out our recipes for a beautiful life.

    For the best experience, please turn your device