Monday, 28 March 2011

Fifteen Year Dreadversarry

Well, this post is a little overdue, but yes, I marked the fifteenth anniversary since I started my dreadlocks!

Thanks to everyone who responded to my post Dread Beads with questions; I shall endeavour to answer them all, as well as a few I get asked regularly by random people.

How many dreads do you have?

I currently have nine dreadlocks. They’re pretty fat. I think I had around 25 when I started them, and slowly they merged. I was aiming for 13 dreads for a while… but they seem to have a mind of their own.

28 dreadlock down

How long was your hair when you started them?

I started them when I was 16, my hair was fairly long, I guess about halfway between my shoulder and elbow. Here’s a very rare photo of me from before I had dreads, age 15 (and yes, I looked like that most of the time. At least in this photo I was sort-of smiling!)


Did yours start out loopy too?

Yeah, mine started out really messy – I did the neglect method. They do settle down with time, and a little palm-rolling helps. The loops are just part of the individual beauty of natural dreads. Here’s another rare photo of me, when my dreads were just starting out, age 16.5:


Though they did settle down, they shrunk a lot, and stayed on the short side of shoulder-length for a long time before they really started to grow. Here’s a pic from when I was about 18 (note how my brother and sister have grown up!):


Have you ever done a dread timeline?

Nope. But I kind of am now. Here’s a pic from when I was about 21 at Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe (you can see how my hair grew in 3 years)


And this one is when I was nearly 22 in the Deadvlei in Namibia


How do you maintain them?

I don’t really do much of anything; mine are fully natural. I started them with the “neglect” method, which basically means stop brushing one’s hair, and no more using conditioner. I was living in the bush, and went to stay in a cave for a while, and lost my hairbrush.

086 dread faerie aphroditeAfter my dreads were well-formed enough, I went back to regular shampooing, but I stopped using shampoo or soaps of any sort on my hair when I was about 19. I wash my hair thoroughly at least once a week, just a really good scalp rub under lots of hot running water (or in a cold creek, as the case may be).

Then I set about making sure they dry as thoroughly and quickly as possible, so I usually only wash my hair early in the day when it’s sunny. I’ve also recently started making use of a hairdryer. Frequently damp dreads can get mouldy and stinky, so diligent drying is essential.

Me, age 24 in, Bolivia


A similar shot for comparison, age 30, in Far North Queensland

014 dread mama

Also I am wondering if you had or have any dandruff problems and if so what you used. I've tried oils and its not working.

I don’t have dandruff or any problem with it, sorry. I have heard that using bi-carb soda and an apple cider vinegar rinse is good for that. I do use oils for head-lice prevention. I hate those nasty little @#$% and I don’t tolerate them anywhere near me or my kid. I spray Littletree’s and my hair daily with a mix of rosemary, geranium, lavender, citronella and tea tree essential oils (diluted). It smells really good too – people often ask me what the wonderful perfume is, and it’s very effective for preventing lice. :)

Here’s me with Littletree when she was about 12 months old (and I was nearly 25) in Costa Rica.


I don’t use wax and I don’t recommend it. I think the only people who really rave about wax and other dread products are people trying to sell them to you. Even if you don’t want to wait for the full neglect method (or just want neater dreadlocks), palm-rolling, back-combing and/or crochet are far better in the long run. Using wax will create nice-looking dreads overnight, but then you have a bunch of wax in your hair which is a pain to get out, and the dreads won’t hold over time.

97 antarctic beechHow do you handle stray hairs or do you just let them do their thing?

I don’t worry about stray hairs. They always find their way into dreads when they’re good and ready. If you want to neaten up straight hairs, I think crocheting them is a good method.

Also is it wise to have a professional do the dreads?

That depends on what you want. Having them done professionally can be really pricey, but you do get them “done” in a day. Personally I’m a big fan of natural hair.

I wonder if I can get them done in Singapore.

I imagine you can, but I don’t specifically know of a place.

Are they super heavy or do you not even notice the weight anymore?

I guess they are heavy, but I really don’t notice the weight (except when they’re wet!) I usually find having them up in a bun means they’re well balanced and comfy (and out of the way). I’ll probably notice the lack of weight if I ever cut them off!

89 dread portrait

Do you use pins or hair sticks to hold them up in the bun you wear or do they just stay like that on their own?

I don’t use anything. They stay up like that all on their own. I just twist them around each other and then tuck the ends in. Takes me about 10 seconds. I do, occasionally, put a wrap or scarf around them, but mostly for aesthetics. I restrain them with a strong scarf when I go dancing though!

61 Purim Ela

Do you keep the beads in all of the time?

Yep. What gets put in stays in till it falls out. I have almost never put anything into my hair myself; the vast majority of beads, wraps, bells, shells, and random trinkets get put in there by other people. I still have one ring in my hair that was put in there by a schoolgirl I didn’t even know, back when I was about 18!

52 mama's hair

Have you ever found anything strange in them? (I had a client once who found a big spider in his!)

While the spider thing is largely an urban myth, I will admit I’ve had spiders in my dreads before. I don’t know if I’ve ever had anything really weird in there though. I had a friend who used to plant seeds in his; some of them even sprouted!

03 Ela longstockingsAnd also do you ever get unwanted comments from people and if so how do you deal with them?

I have rarely gotten negative comments. When I first started them, pretty much everyone said “what have you done to your beautiful hair?!” because, yeah, though you can’t tell from that photo, I had that kind of ‘beautiful’ flowing, silky hair that looked like something straight out of a shampoo commercial. Strangers would regularly stop me in the street to ask who did my hair. Negative comments in general don’t bother me; what other people think of me is none of my business.

Do you think you'll tire of them?

Sure, maybe, one day. Maybe not; who can tell? I do like the idea of being an old woman with really long, grey dreadlocks!

Can I touch them?

If you ask me first, I usually don’t mind, but don’t think you can just sneak up behind me and feel my hair without me noticing, and probably being annoyed.

Is all of that really your own hair?

Yep. All the way to my knees.

Why do you have them?

I like them, and I have a strong belief about not altering my body’s natural state. I keep clean and healthy, without modifying. I don’t comb my hair; it just grows naturally like that – most people’s does. For some reason there’s a common myth that only African hair will dreadlock, and Europeans have to work hard to get their hair to dread. It’s just not true. There’s loads of cultures around Asia that have dreadlocks, and some evidence of it amongst ancient European tribes as well. I don’t see it as cultural appropriation, not for a second. I also don’t fit into many of the stereotypes associated with dreadlocks: I don’t smoke marijuana, I’m not unemployed or on welfare (nor do I have a trust fund), I’m not vegetarian, I’m not unwashed.

Mostly, I love that they’re extremely low-maintenance and I can do all sorts of crazy stuff with them :)

26 ela


  1. Ahhh!! A beautifully inspiring post!! Thanks so much for sharing your dread journey... I'm currently combing out my 2 year 4 month dreads (halfway done combing out), and you just made me regret it... I can't believe how long yours were by 3 years... Wow. BEAUTIFUL post!

  2. What a great post! Your dreads are beautiful :) I had dreads for a little over 6 years and then decided to cut them. Your post makes me miss mine.

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  4. I love love love this post and I learned alot! Your hair is gorgeous and magical, just like you!

  5. What an awesome post! So informative and interesting.

    I love dreads but as I've heard they are such high maintenance I decided against it and cut my hair short BUT reading your post has changed my mind, thank you.

  6. Awesome post! You are so beautiful!

  7. Gorgeous! I LOVE that Zimbabwe picture. So beautiful! xox

  8. Your dreadlocks are beautiful :-)

  9. btw... this pic:

    amazing, and very fairylike <3

  10. thanks fugzilla. that's me: amazing and fairylike. ;)

  11. This post was so amazing! Thank you so much for sharing! I love your dreads! Your video on YouTube where you and your client are dancing while she is in labour convinced me that it is okay to be a doula and to have dreads!:)

    I was wondering - would you be willing to share your recipe for your anti-lice spray? I love my dreadbabies and I live in fear of getting lice! I had them twice as a kid and I hate those little buggers...I want to avoid getting them as an adult. Since I do birth work and postpartum work, I'm frequently around little ones and while I adore them, I find children who are in school often bring them home with them. I would love to try anything that could potentially repel lice.

  12. thanks Beth.
    My lice prevention spray recipe:
    in a small (100ml) spray bottle I put: about 5ml each of Geranium and Rosemary essential oils, 2ml of Lavender essential oil, and about 1ml each of tea tree and citronella oil (citronella is kinda optional, but it's also a good mozzie repellant). Then I top it up with water, give it a good shake, and spray on hair, especially around the neck and behind the ears, before *any* contact with other people, especially kids or hippies :P
    It smells great :)

  13. Ahhhh, you dreads are beautiful, actually you are totally beautiful and gorgeous and amazing.

  14. being in love makes me so beautiful ;)

  15. Thanks for such a great post! I've always wanted to learn more about dreads. I don't have them, but I love hearing how dreads weave themselves into the stories of people's lives (no pun intended).

    I hope this isn't too forward of a request, but could you share a little bit about your travels. From your photos it seems like you've been to many places throughout the world and I'd love to know how you got started doing that, etc.

  16. One more thing...the picture of you wearing Little Tree on your back took my breath away. Stunningly beautiful.

  17. I use half rosewater, half witch hazel,several drops of peppermint oil, tea tree, lavender, and whatever else is in my bathroom. Your recipe sounds yummy too, I will be trying it out. Thanks for this post sister, you and your hair are wonderful :-)

  18. amazing dreads and love the way you put this together i run we have alot of dreads over 15 years mine are going on 21 soon (simular story on a mountaintop forgot to comb haha) you should come by the site much love n respect love naturals

  19. jaqueline, thanks :) I suppose I could do some more travel flashbacks from before I was blogging. I've been in over 50 countries.

    and thanks soaring, your site looks cool

  20. happy 15 years! i'm just 5 months into my journey and it was great to see your timeline with them.

    beautiful post!

  21. Love your blog and especially enjoyed this entry! It would be interesting to hear what other homemade remedies you have up your sleeves! :)

  22. So many gorgeous photos of you and your beautiful locks xo

  23. thanks everyone :)
    and yep, I probably have a bunch of home remedies up my sleeves.

  24. Love dreads, and love learning about them. Don't have them but keep promicing day.

    If it's a story you're willing to share I would love to hear about living in a cave.

  25. I wish I could grow anything similar... but I am as bald as a bowling ball 8-(

  26. Wow.. what a wonderful post!I recall asking quite a few questions, so thank you for answering them all! I LOVE the photos you included.. especially the one of you with Little Tree on your back! You are so beautiful!!
    My dreads also completely have a mind of their own.. I originally wanted them to be thin but I have a head full of textured fatties instead- I've definitely grown to love them though.

  27. that's the beauty of natural dreads - they do have a mind of their own.

  28. hi majikfaerie, i found my way here from your post on GUDU and i'm glad i did. congratulations on your dreads' 15-year anniversary! they are truly epic dreadlocks. my dreads are also neglect method [although i prefer the term organic], but are only two years old. so they have a little way to go yet! your dreads are an inspiration for me.


  29. thanks anne-marie :) I also prefer the term "organic" but I stick with the commonly-used terms. good luck with yours!

  30. not only are your dreads amazing, you seem like a truly beautiful person. thank you for sharing with the world :)

  31. (((Hugs))) I can't wait to give you a hug in a couple months!! Thanks for sharing your dread-journey! So fun to read! Love to you! I loved the pics!
    Love, Dayna
    ps. We HAVE to go out on another "date" when I get there! ;)

  32. *swoon* I'd love to go on another date with you Dayna!

  33. Love that your dread pictures are all in different places around the world, how lucky for you to have been such a world traveler. I always dreamed of traveling the world, but became a mama at 19 and haven't been anywhere yet(now I am 30). Hoping there will be time for that when my children are grown. Just discovered your blog, I am sure to visit again what a interesting story you have!
    Blessings to you!

  34. Hello!
    I happened upon your blog this evening, and fascinated by dreads as I am, I found this post. The photo you you wearing your baby on your back and hailing what I presume is a taxi- I 'pinned' this months ago and Pinterest, thinking it was so beautiful. I am a lover of babywearing, and think dreads are so interesting, it was so lovely this evening to come across the actual person in the photo!

    It's lovely to 'meet' you, Rhiannon xx

  35. Hi Rhiannon, thanks for the comment!
    Yes, I was hailing a taxi in Bangkok in that photo.

  36. You. Are beautiful!!! I have 13 brand new dreadies and I was a bit concerned about the small number. Your post made me smile! THANK YOU!!!

  37. So glad to make people smile Alice :)

  38. Love this post. mine are 7 months: I look forward to more length, since they´ve shrink so much.


Thanks for your lovely words, witty banter and entertaining discussion :)