Locs are often left out of natural hair conversations even though they are arguably the oldest style. For some, locs are a visible symbol of strength, a requirement of faith, an act of rebellion or just the latest fashion trend. Whatever the reason, all locs require some level of care and maintenance. For a style with such a rich and long history, they’re also steeped in misconceptions and have been looked upon unkindly. I aim to answers the most common loc-related questions regarding upkeep below:
What is the best way to start locs?
“Traditional” locs are started using comb coils or interlocking, however depending on texture and desired outcome they can also be started with twists, plaits or using a crochet needle for “instant locs” (this method used can cause some damage to the hair if not done well, find a good practitioner and see if their final styles look good). The best way to decide is based on your budget and lifestyle. If you are very active and wash your hair frequently, comb coils may be the hardest to look after. Interlocking, especially sister/micro locs can be the most expensive.
Pros and cons of sisterlocks /micro locs?
This style requires a HIGH level of commitment, I mean the install alone can take a few days so are you prepared to sit and pay? Apart from that, there are no real cons to this style and it is great if you have fine hair or hair loss as it can make the hair look denser. Always research the technician to make sure you are in good hands as you will be spending a lot of time together.
How do I keep them moisturised?
As with loose hair, locs need moisture but there is a myth that a little neglect will help them loc faster, so people avoid conditioner and leave-ins. While you want to avoid heavy products, a light leave-in goes a long way! Choose products that absorb quickly like the Almocado leave-in conditioner (they also provide a sisterlocks service).
Do you have to use waxes or gels to retwist?
Comb coils can require a setting agent to help them hold for longer and most locticians will use some form of gel. Stay away from beeswax and the product with fruits in the name (I don’t want to get sued). Interlock, crochet, braids and twists (basically all methods bar comb coils) can be done without any gels. If you are going to use a gel, my recommendation is Taliah Waajid Tight Hold as a little goes a long way – plus it washes out really easily so reduces the chances of build-up inside the loc
How do I prevent thinning/breakage or recession?
Retwisting your locs too tightly or often are the main causes of damage and may have a delayed effect. If it hurts on day one you can for sure expect problems in the future. Choose a loctician who is gentle on your hair. Colouring locs can also have this effect if not done by a professional, possible issues include dryness and breakage, but when done well they look amazing (mine are green!)
Do I need to do an ACV rinse?
Apple cider vinegar rinses are common with locs as they are more prone to build up from infrequent washing and heavy styling products, so ACV is used to try and break down the heavy oils and grease. ACV can be harsh on the hair when mixed incorrectly. Replace it with a good clarifying shampoo and note points three, four and seven
How often should I wash my locs?
Every 7-14 days! Yep even locs need to be cleaned often – don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. I have heard some stylists tell clients with starter locs to wait one month or more before the first wash – sorry to your scalp and nostrils.
Should I condition my locs?
Absolutely! In the beginning, you may want to avoid deep or long conditioning treatments but a conditioner is an essential step of the wash day routine and helps to smooth the cuticle and provide moisture so your locs stay strong and healthy.
Hot oil treatments?
I would hold off until the locs are more mature or unlikely to unravel but proceed with caution as the hair is more likely to hold onto these oils so you need a really good shampoo after.
How do I prevent build-up and lint?
Correct products will reduce build-up as will regular washing. Keep your locs covered at night (silk/satin bonnets, pillowcase or a durag). It might be beneficial to keep them covered in certain environments, or for dusty outdoor work, under woolly material and hats.
This is part of the Afro Answers column. If there are any afro hair questions you would like answers to in a future column, email them to [email protected] with the subject line “Afro Answers”