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.
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.
After 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
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.
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!
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!
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!
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!
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 :)