Keen to get your hair twisted into dreadlocks, but worried about whether or not it will hurt? This article is for you. We take you through how to minimize and prepare for the pain caused by dreadlocks, and how to take care of your locks once they’re in.
Written by Alice Carlill
The short answer is: yes, it does hurt to get your hair dreaded. Your scalp and neck area will hurt because of the pulling required to put the locs in place.
Why Does It Hurt To Get Dreads?
There is contention over what exactly causes the discomfort and yes pain, that comes with getting dreadlocks put in as well as managing them moving forward.
A few reasons why dreads can hurt:
Your Scalp Is Very Sensitive
When your loctician first dreads your hair, no matter what technique they use – tear and rip, crochet, or natural, there is going to be some tugging on the scalp.
This may, in turn, cause some pain, even in those with high pain tolerance.
Your head might hurt for a few hours after your appointment (which themselves can last hours) and perhaps for a few days after.
Wet dreadlocks act like a sponge, retaining water and therefore being somewhat heavy.
Never style your locs when wet either – it will give you a false sense of security, because once they dry, you may experience painful pulling and tension.
Equally, as your hair adjusts to its new locs, your scalp becomes more used to fewer washes and less brushing.
This may result in some itchiness. Be aware that if this becomes a real problem, with your scalp feeling tender, sore, or even painful, it’s time to seek medical advice.
The general consensus is that it’s the process of retwisting dreadlocks that hurts the most.
This is the method by which dreadlocks are – you guessed it – re-tightened.
Depending on how you or your loctician twist, your dreads can end up being pulled so tightly that your scalp hurts.
If you’ve not looked after your locs, the hairs will attach to each other, growing somewhat like a bird’s nest.
This then results in each loc becoming entangled and intertwined, which makes separating them out an absolute nightmare.
Bear in mind, too, that the hairline along the edge of the face is the most sensitive.
This will likely hurt the most during retwisting if pulled too tight.
So as much as it does hurt to get your hair dreaded the first time, consider that the maintenance process might also be a bit painful.
How To Prepare For Locs And Minimize Pain
The good news is that there are steps you can take to reduce the pain and prepare your scalp for dreadlocks.
1. Take Painkillers
Consume some ibuprofen a couple of hours before your appointment. It’s simple, but it may help minimize that ache you feel.
2. Wash Your Hair
The day before arriving for your appointment, wash your hair. It’s easier for your loctician to work with clean, dry hair – or, if you already have dreads, with clean, dry dreads.
3. Apply Aloe Vera Or Jojoba Oil
Jojoba oil or aloe vera gel works wonders. If you apply a hot oil treatment for example to the root of your locks, you help to release tension in the scalp.
Aloe vera is anti-inflammatory, so it will help mitigate any irritation or soreness you may have.
4. Deep Tissue Massage
Using gentle circular motion and, if you like, some vitamin E oil, use your fingers to massage your scalp, neck, and shoulders.
This will promote blood flow and should therefore help to reduce pain.
A deep tissue massage can also help to prevent skinny roots as the blood circulation will help stimulate your hair follicles.
How To Take Care Of Dreadlocks
As well as there is some pain associated with getting locs in your hair the first time, the maintenance of dreadlocks can also cause pain.
Thicker, longer dreads will inevitably be heavier. This in turn places more stress and strain on your neck, so you may experience some pain.
If you’re experiencing long-term pain or hair loss from your dreadlocks, or it’s likely there’s another issue going on. Some mild, temporary pain is standard, but seek medical advice if this becomes a persistent issue.
There are however a number things you can do to help your dreadlocks stay happy once they’re in, too:
1. Wash Them
Sure, dreadlocks may not need to be washed as often as loose hair, but they still need to be washed.
Otherwise, your scalp will suffer from the build-up of oil, sweat, and pollutants. This can cause irritation and tenderness, and even dandruff.
Just be sure to avoid harsh shampoos that leave residue in your hair. If you’ve been in a pool or the ocean, rinse your locs with fresh water and allow them to dry completely, without styling.
This also applies if you decide to dye your locs. It’s best to use henna to dye dreadlocks as it is a more natural approach. Henna also carries many benefits for hair and can actually strengthen your locks.
Just make sure you use lemon or grapefruit juice when mixing the henna dye. Do not mix oil with henna as the color won’t hold as well.
2. Tie Loosely
If you do have to tie back your locs, do so loosely. High ponytails, for example, will only cause pain. Use a cotton hairband if you can.
3. Separate Each Dreadlock Regularly
Every 2 – 3 days, you should be separating each dreadlock.
Twist it in the direction of your choice and allow each loc to grow separately. If you don’t, you’ll end up with one giant matte.
There’ll be some pain when you do this, as you redirect hair that’s growing into the wrong dread, but it’s essential maintenance.
Before you visit your loctician, you can do some work that will reduce the pain once you’re sat in their chair.
Spray your scalp with water or a moisturizing mix like the aloe vera and jojoba oil we mentioned above.
Work your fingers through and separate the hair yourself. You’ll speed the process along and also be more gentle than the stylist!
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