Afro Dreads 101

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Long Thick Afro Dreads

Afro Dreads: Feeform Locs Guide

Afro dreads, better known as freeform locs, have become more and more popular in recent years. While other dreads or locs are formed by palm rolling, coiling, twisting, or braiding the hair, afro dreads are formed by letting the locs take form on their own (hence their alternate name freeform locs). Afro dreads are often less uniform in size/thickness than other loc styles. If you want afro dreads, there’s really little that you have to do to get started: naturally curly/kinky hair will eventually lock on its own if it’s not manipulated with a comb or brush. Keep reading to learn more about this unique style.

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1The Evolution Of Afro Dreads

Where and when dreadlocks originated is a highly debated topic, but they can be traced back to over 2,000 years B.C. It’s safe to say that people with afro-textured hair have been wearing afro dreads/freeform locs since then, possibly earlier, due to the way they tend to form on their own. In the 1970s, Bob Marley became an international music sensation, introducing locs to the rest of the world. In the 1980s, artist Jean-Michel Basquiat also wore freeform locs.

2Afro Dreads Today

In recent years, The Weeknd became known for his fresh musical sound as well as his signature freeform locs. He cut them in 2016, but it’s hard not to continue to associate him with his distinctive look. NBA rookie Elfrid Payton has also become known for his unique afro dreads. While they are certainly not the first to wear afro dreads, they have helped introduce them to a more mainstream audience today, normalizing a style that may seem strange to those who are not familiar with the wonders of natural Black hair.

3How To Get Afro Dreads

As previously mentioned, there’s really not much you have to do to start afro dreads. Afro-textured hair is tightly coiled, which means the strands naturally tend to curl and tangle together with neighboring strands. If you simply stop detangling your hair, it will begin to lock over time. You can help control the size and shape of each loc by keeping the hair split into sections. You can also coil the sections with your fingers if you like. As far as maintenance, you can continue to shampoo your hair as you normally would just refrain from detangling it.

4How To Grow Afro Dreads and How to Make Dreads Grow Faster

While afro dreads require less manipulation, it’s still important to take care of your hair during and after the initial grow-out process. Your hair will be less vulnerable to breakage caused by combing and daily styling, but that doesn’t make it invincible to damage, so it’s important to handle it with care. It’s also important to keep your hair and scalp free from build-up by washing it regularly. Whether or not you use conditioner on locs is a highly debated topic. Many argue that using creamy, slippery conditioners is not good for locs and will cause them to loosen. As an alternative, you can use a lightweight, liquid leave-in conditioner (or just plain water) to help replenish moisture. When properly maintained, you can grow your afro dreads to great lengths.

5Maintaining Afro Dreads

To maintain afro dreads, use a sulfate-free shampoo that will not strip your hair too much. You can also opt for an apple cider vinegar rinse in the place of traditional shampoo. Be sure to dilute the apple cider vinegar with water beforehand and be careful not to get it in your eyes. Avoid products that contain beeswax as it has a tendency to build up on the hair; be sure to check the ingredients, as many products catered towards locs contain beeswax. Natural oils and butters are a much better alternative; you can apply these to your hair while it’s still damp to lock in moisture after shampooing. Tie your hair with a satin scarf and/or sleep on a satin pillowcase at night.

6Pros Of Afro Dreads

Afro dreads are easy to do on your own, which means you don’t necessarily need to go to a stylist to start the process They also tend to have a unique look because no two heads are exactly alike and the size and shape of freeform locs vary from person to person. One of the most time-consuming parts of maintaining afro-textured hair is keeping it detangled; by just letting the hair do it what does naturally, you’ll save time and avoid breakage that can occur from rough detangling methods. Afro dreads are a great form of self-expression; wearing your hair in its most natural state is a great way to celebrate your natural beauty.

7Cons Of Afro Dreads

One of the biggest cons to growing afro dreads is that it may take a while for them to actually look like locs, which could make for a somewhat awkward transition. You may also find styling options to be limited. Depending on the size and shape of your afro dreads, it may be more difficult (or impossible) to wear styles like updos and buns the way you would be able to with palm rolled/uniform locs. While locs are natural and beautiful, because they are so different, many people unfortunately still consider them to be “unprofessional,” so depending on your industry/employer, you may have trouble wearing your hair as is in the workplace (particularly during the initial locking process). This type of discrimination is generally more common in corporate environments and less of an issue in more creative fields, but it varies greatly from company to company.

8The Versatility Of Afro Dreads

Many people grow afro dreads for spiritual/religious reasons (i.e. Rastafarians), but others do it as a form of self-expression, because they like the look, or because they want to wear their hair in its most natural state. During the initial stages, it can be hard to predict how afro dreads will look once they reach the “mature” phase (after the hair is completely locked) because everyone’s hair is different. When it comes to freeform locs, results will vary significantly depending on your unique hair texture, the length of your hair, and how you maintain it during the locking process. If you don’t want your afro dreads to be too large, be sure to separate the hair into smaller sections. You can twist or coil the hair to help the process along; otherwise, just let it do what it does. Here are 15 beautiful afro dread styles.

9Side-Swept Afro Dreads

These beautiful afro dreads are styled into a simple but cute side-swept hairdo. This is a great styling option for longer locs.

10Afro Dreads High Ponytail

This high ponytail is a perfect example of how versatile afro dreads can be. Their unique texture gives this classic style a fresh look.

11Long Freeform Locs Updo

These gorgeous afro dreads are styled into a cute updo with the help of a colorful scarf. This is a great way to show off the unique texture and shape of freeform locs.

12Chunky Afro Dreads

These gorgeous, chunky afro dreads are formed by splitting the hair into medium-sized sections.

13Heart-Shaped Freeform Locs

These pretty afro dreads frame the face beautifully, forming a subtle heart shape in the process.

14Red Afro Dreads

A burst of deep red color really makes these afro dreads stand out. Changing your hair color with either a temporary or permanent hair dye is one way to change up your look.

15Afro Dreads With Gold Cord

These cute, short afro dreads hang loosely in front of the face. This style is jazzed up a bit by wrapping a bit of gold cord around one of the locs.

16Golden Afro Dreads

This pretty golden color helps show off the texture of these short afro dreads. Experimenting with color is also a fun way to track the growth of your locs: the color contrast between your new growth and the dyed part of your hair will allow you to see your new growth more easily.

17Beaded Afro Dreads

Beads are great hair accessories for many different hair textures and styles; afro dreads are no exception.

18Basquiat-Inspired Afro Dreads

This Basquiat-inspired style is a popular way to wear afro dreads, allowing you to pay homage to the late artist while maintaining your own unique look.

19Elfrid Payton Afro Dreads

With his signature afro dreads, Elfrid Payton has joined the ranks of NBA players known for their distinctive hairstyles, like Allen Iverson and Latrell Sprewell.

20Short Afro Dreads With Brown Tips

Brown tips create a subtle ombre effect on these short, chunky afro dreads. The shape and texture of these freeform locs create an absolutely gorgeous look.

21Layered Afro Dreads

These afro dreads are shorter in the front and slightly longer in the back creating a subtle layered look. This style looks great on both men and women.

22Afro Dreads Updo

This pretty updo is a fun, carefree way to style freeform locs.

23Tree Branch Freeform Locs

These afro dreads are a true work of art. Taking on the shape of tree branches, this look is an example of the beauty and magic of natural hair.