Dreads Vs. Locs: Unlock The Distinctions & Find Your Type

The meanings and connotations of locs and dreads can vary depending on cultural and historical contexts. Dreads have an interesting history while locs are a traditional African hairstyle with twisted, coiled, or braided strands of hair.

Difference In Dreads And Locs

Before diving into deeper details, here’s a quick comparison between dreads and locs.

Dreads Locs
Terminology: Also known as “dreadlocks” or simply “dreads,” this term refers to sections of hair that are intentionally matted and knotted to form locks. Short for “locations” or “locks,” locs are braids or twists of hair that are allowed to naturally mat over time.
Formation: Dreads are often formed using various techniques like backcombing, twisting, interlocking, or crocheting.

These methods can create dreads more quickly.

Locs are typically formed by braiding and twisting sections of hair. These are then neglected for the “freeform” method.

Hair is left to naturally mat over time, resulting in an organic appearance.

Maintenance: Dreads usually require more maintenance in terms of palm-rolling, re-twisting, or re-crocheting to maintain their uniform appearance.

This can involve regular grooming to prevent them from combining or thinning out.

Locs tend to require less frequent maintenance, after the initial intense sessions of braiding.

However, regular cleansing is still necessary to keep the locs healthy and clean

Size And Shape: Dreads can vary in size and shape, and they often have a more consistent diameter from the roots to the tips.

Some people prefer to have thicker or thinner dreads based on their personal style.

Locs often have a more diverse and irregular shape, with varying thickness along the length.

They may be thicker at the root and taper towards the ends, resulting in a more uneven appearance.

Cultural And Spiritual Significance: Dreads are associated with various cultures, including Rastafarianism, where they may symbolize a connection to spirituality, identity, and resistance. Locs can also hold cultural significance in different communities and may symbolize spirituality, personal growth, or a connection to one’s heritage.
Styling Options: Dreads can be styled in various ways, including updos, braids, buns, and more.

The more structured and uniform nature of dreads allows for a wider range of styling options.

Locs can also be styled in different ways, but the more organic and tangled appearance may limit some styling possibilities.

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Dreads formed by intentionally matting or tangling hair strands into cylindrical rope-like structures. They can be created using various methods like backcombing, twisting, or natural neglect. They hold cultural, spiritual, or personal significance for many individuals.

Common Ways To Achieve Dreads

Common Ways To Achieve Dreads
source: nylahsnaturals.com

There are various methods to create dreads, each catering to different hair types and desired outcomes. The choice of method depends on factors such as hair type, desired look, and personal preference.

Each technique results in unique and individual dreads, offering a variety of options for those seeking to embrace this distinct and stylish hairstyle. Some common ways to achieve dreads include:

1. Natural Method

Natural Method
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Also known as freeform or neglect, this method involves letting the hair form dreads on its own without any manipulation. This method embraces the hair’s natural texture and allows it to lock up organically over time.

Individuals typically refrain from combing or brushing their hair regularly, allowing the hair to tangle and coil naturally into dreads. While the process might take longer than other methods, it creates unique and personalized dreads that reflect the hair’s natural pattern and growth.

2. Backcombing

source: reddit.com

Backcombing is a popular method for starting dreads, especially for those with straight or less-textured hair. In this method, the hair is sectioned into small segments, and each section is backcombed using a fine-toothed comb.

It involves combing the hair towards the scalp to create tangles and knots. These tangles, when left to settle and lock up, eventually form dreads. Backcombing provides a uniform appearance, but it may cause some initial frizz that settles with time and maintenance.

3. Twist And Rip

Twist And Rip
source: laylahair.com

The twist and rip method is a gentler approach to starting dreads compared to backcombing. Hair is sectioned, and each section is twisted before being pulled apart to create dreads.

This method is less aggressive on the hair and can lead to looser and more textured dreads. It is particularly popular for those seeking a more natural and organic look for their dreads.

4. Twist And Gel

Twist And Gel
source: canva

The twist and gel method involves twisting the hair into dreads using gel or wax to provide hold and definition. The product helps keep the twists in place as they lock up, creating a more defined and structured appearance for the dreads.

This method is suitable for those who desire a neater and more sculpted look for their dreads.

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Stages Involved In Achieving Dreads

Stages Involved In Achieving Dreads-dreads vs locs
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Stages Achieving dreads typically involves several stages of hair transformation, each contributing to the formation and maturation of the locks. Here are the stages involved in achieving dreads:

1. Preparation

Before starting the dreads, the hair should be clean, free from any products or residue. Depending on the method chosen, the hair may be sectioned or divided into smaller portions for easier locking.

2. Starting The Locking Process

There are various methods to start dreads, such as backcombing, twisting, etc. Each method creates initial tangles and knots that serve as the foundation for the dreads.

3. Budding Stage

As the hair begins to lock, it enters the budding stage. This phase can last around six to twelve months, during which the dreads become matted and start to take shape.

4. Maturation

Over time, the dreads will continue to tighten and mature. This process can take several months to a year or more, depending on hair type, length, and maintenance.

5. Established Locs

Once the dreads are fully matured and tightly locked, they become established locs. At this stage, the dreads are more defined and structured, requiring less frequent maintenance.

6. Maintenance

Regular maintenance is essential to keep the dreads neat and healthy. This may include retwisting, palm rolling, or interlocking to maintain the shape and prevent unraveling.

7. Rooted Locs

After several years, the dreads reach the rooted locs stage, where they are fully matured and have grown to a substantial length. At this point, the locs are well-established and reflect the individual’s unique journey and hair growth pattern.

Throughout the process, patience, dedication, and proper care are crucial to achieving well-formed and healthy dreads. Consulting with a professional loctician can also be beneficial in navigating the stages and maintaining the best possible outcome for your dreads.

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Pros And Cons Of Dreads Hairdo

Dreads Hairdo-dreads vs locs
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Similar to any other hairstyle, dreads come with a number of pros and cons. Here are some of them:


  1. Unique and Personalized Look: Dreads offer a distinct and individual appearance, reflecting the wearer’s personal style and personality.
  2. Low Maintenance: Once mature, dreads require minimal day-to-day maintenance, making them a convenient and time-saving hairstyle.
  3. Versatility: Dreads can be styled in various ways, from updos to loose styles, providing flexibility in expressing different looks.
  4. Cultural and Spiritual Significance: For some individuals, dreads carry cultural, spiritual, or historical significance, representing a connection to their heritage or beliefs.
  5. Natural Texture: Dreads embrace the hair’s natural texture, allowing individuals to showcase their hair’s unique patterns and characteristics.


  1. Time-Consuming Process: Starting dreads can be a lengthy process, requiring patience as the hair goes through the locking phase.
  2. Initial Frizz and Unraveling: During the early stages of forming dreads, some frizz and unraveling may occur, requiring regular maintenance.
  3. Commitment: Dreads are a semi-permanent hairstyle, and removing them can be time-consuming and may require cutting the hair.
  4. Potential for Breakage: Improper maintenance or excessive manipulation can lead to breakage or thinning of hair.
  5. Social Perception: Dreads may still face stigmas or misconceptions in certain social or professional settings, potentially affecting perception and acceptance.


Locs are characterized by sections of hair that are intentionally twisted, coiled, or braided to create matted and interlocked strands. Unlike dreads, locs are more defined and polished. However, they take longer to mature.

Different Ways To Get Locs

Different Ways To Get Locs-dreads vs locs
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The five basic ways to do it are mentioned below. These techniques are most primitive and all the other methods are variations of these.

1. Comb Coils

Comb Coils-dreads vs locs
source: blackhairtribe.com

One of the most common starter loc styles involves creating comb coils by spinning small sections of hair using a rattail comb or coil twist comb. By grasping the end of a hair section, you insert the fine-tooth comb and spin until the hair forms a coil.

To maintain this style, ensure constant moisturization with your preferred hair oil and wear a head scarf at night.

2. Palm Rolling

Palm Rolling
source: digitalloctician.com

This technique entails rolling hair sections between your palms to shape your strands. Palm rolling is not only a stylish option and a means to maintain locs, but it’s also an excellent way to start your locs naturally.

Before starting the palm rolling process, determine the size of your sections and strive for uniformity.

3. Braids

source: naturallycurly.com

Braids, or plaits, are a popular choice for starting locs, especially for individuals with looser hair textures to prevent unraveling during the initial loc stages, particularly when the hair is wet.

However, it’s worth noting that braid locs won’t be as circular as rolled or twisted locs since the braids are flat. The braid pattern may take a year or longer to disappear and your locs to form.

4. Two-Strand Twists

Two-Strand Twists
source: pinterest.com

For individuals with hair types that might make comb coils prone to unraveling, two-strand twists offer an alternative. Just like palm rolls, two-strand twists can be left in to grow into locs, resulting in a fuller and thicker appearance.

To form two-strand twists, you’ll need at least a couple of inches of hair (preferably four inches for optimal results). You can use palm rolling or comb twisting to maintain the twists as they grow.

5. Freeform

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The fourth method is organic or freeform, where the individual stops detangling their hair altogether and allows it to lock up naturally with minimal manipulation. This method embraces the hair’s natural texture and encourages a more organic and untamed appearance.

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Stages To Achieve Locs Hairstyle

Different Ways To Get Locs
source: locsbybee.com

The growth stages of locs can be devided into five distinct phases, each spanning several months.

1. Starter Stage

The first stage, known as the Starter stage, lasts from three to six months. During this phase, the hair is initially styled into coils, twists, or box braids. As time passes, these styles encourage tangling, causing the hair to wrap around itself and form a “loc.”

2. Budding Stage

This stage follows from six to twelve months, is when the hair starts to lock up and become matted. This stage can be challenging, as the growing hair may appear somewhat fuzzy. However, regular shampooing and retwisting can help manage this phase effectively.

3. Teen Stage

The third stage, Teen stage, occurs from month twelve to month fifteen. At this point, the locs experience less unraveling when manipulated, but the direction of growth might not be entirely as intended. Nonetheless, this phase is transient and leads to the fourth stage.

4. Mature Stage

The Mature stage, lasting from month fifteen to month eighteen, is when the locs become long enough to hang, and individuals gain a clearer understanding of how to clean and maintain them properly.

5. Rooted Locs Stage

Finally, the Rooted locs stage emerges from month eighteen to month twenty-one. This stage represents a more experienced phase, akin to the 30-somethings of locs.

At this point, those who have had their locs for several years feel confident in managing them according to their preferences.

The journey through these stages marks the evolution and development of locs, reflecting a unique and personalized growth process for each individual.

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Pros And Cons Of Locs Hairdo

Pros And Cons Of Locs Hairdo
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Locs is a unique hairstyle, and just like dreads this comes with its own set of pros and cons:


  1. Low maintenance: Locs require minimal daily grooming, reducing the need for frequent washing and styling.
  2. Versatility: They can be styled in various ways, allowing for a range of looks and personal expression.
  3. Cultural significance: Locs hold cultural and historical significance for many communities, representing a sense of identity and pride.
  4. Natural hair protection: Locs can serve as a protective style, preventing damage caused by frequent manipulation and styling.
  5. Longevity: When properly maintained, locs can last for a long time, making them a long-term hairstyle option.


  1. Time-consuming initial process: Forming locs can be time-consuming, requiring patience and commitment during the locking phase.
  2. Initial discomfort: Some people may experience scalp tenderness or tightness as the locs mature.
  3. Limited styling options during the early stages: While locs can be styled in various ways once mature, the options during the initial stages may be limited.
  4. Build-up and residue: Without proper care, product build-up and residue can accumulate in the locs, leading to potential hygiene issues.
  5. Irreversible commitment: Removing locs can be a lengthy and challenging process, requiring cutting or shaving the hair.

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Dreads Vs. Locs: Which One Is Better?

The choice between dreads and locs depends on personal preferences, hair type, and desired look. Both hairstyles have their own unique characteristics and benefits.

Dreads are typically formed through various methods like backcombing or twisting and can result in a more textured and loose appearance. They offer versatility in styling and are generally quicker to start compared to locs. Dreads provide a more carefree appearance.

On the other hand, locs are usually formed through the natural method or with minimal manipulation, resulting in a more uniform and structured appearance. Locs take longer to mature, but they offer a more polished and refined look once fully developed.

Ultimately, the “better” choice depends on what appeals to you and aligns with your lifestyle and hair goals. Consider factors like maintenance, commitment, and the specific look you want to achieve.

It’s essential to research and consult with a hairstylist or loctician to determine which option suits you best.


The distinction between dreads and locs lies in their creation, appearance, and cultural significance. Both hairstyles have their own set of pros and cons, and the choice between them depends on personal preferences, hair type, and desired look.

Whichever option one chooses, embracing dreads or locs allows for a unique and expressive hair journey, reflecting individuality and pride in natural hair. Consulting with a stylist can help in navigating the process and achieving the perfect hairstyle to suit one’s lifestyle and personality.

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