Lots of tips and a nourishing three-part routine for a healthy scalp and happy dreadlocks!
I notice that customers who have an irritated or flaky scalp are often shy about it & I love to help them back to wellness! I have some knowledge in this area as my father is a dermatologist, and I suffer from a scalp condition exacerbated by having dreadlocks. So, my knowledge comes from some science and a lot of my research into treatment.
I've also listened to many customers who've been kind enough to share their own experiences with me, and I believe I've identified commonalities. I'd like to share what I know to be a healthy and factual path to scalp and dreadlocks wellness.
Can I wash my dreadlocks? How often?
Yes, you can and definitely should. It’s very important to keep your hair clean! You could even wash your dreadlocks weekly or fortnightly.
Strong shower pressure can make dreadlocks messy. Keep your shower pressure low to help avoid post-washing loose ends. When you do, focus on cleaning and massaging your scalp. At the very least wash your head with water regularly.
Not washing hair doesn’t turn it into good dreadlocks, and washing your hair doesn’t mean you will lose dreadlocks if they are good. Clean hair and a healthy scalp produces amazing dreadlocks.
Please don't be tempted to leave your head unwashed. Leaving hair unwashed for a long period can cause bacterial infection and all kinds of problems.
What should I use to wash my hair? Should I use shampoo or conditioner?
You can use any shampoo that is good for 'hair and scalp', but I don’t suggest using any products containing conditioners. If the shampoo makes your dreadlocks feel loose, you can try another shampoo or swim in the sea. Salty water makes dreadlocks feel tight!
Ideally, soak first then rinse your dreadlocks. That would be perfect.
If you are using a liquid shampoo and it’s hard to apply onto your dreadlocks, you should switch to a shampoo bar. They’re life changing!
I have dandruff, flakiness or a red scalp! What should I do?
There are different reasons why people have dandruff or dermatitis. Dreadlocks are a very common cause because of the stress we’re putting our follicles under, and sometimes they can flare up without warning or seemingly any reason, but don’t worry!
Firstly, when washing your head don't use very hot water. This can irritate your scalp and strip your hair of healthy oils.
This is important; you need to start washing your scalp and dreadlocks regularly with an anti-dandruff shampoo. Either an organic super-moisturising shampoo bar or a trusted over-the-counter variety like Head & Shoulders.
After washing, it's a great idea to use an organic apple cider vinegar spray as it helps to restore the natural PH levels in your hair. You can even make it at home, there's a recipe on the label of the bottle I sell!
The third step I can recommend, especially for dermatitis or an itchy damaged scalp, is to rub an organic kawakawa oil into your skin. Give special attention to very inflamed or flaky areas. This keeps the skin moist and reduces itchiness!
I've also had relief from using organic hemp balm so if that's something you spot in your travels you could purchase some for relieving itchy or flaky scalp.
With that said, I can personally endorse this nourishing organic three-part routine of super-moisturising shampoo, ACV spray and kawakawa oil as I found it exceptionally soothing and it cleared my dandruff and dermatitis over time. I recommend repeating the process twice per week, and give yourself 2-3 weeks to see results.
You really should also tidy up your roots and sections if you haven't had maintenance for a while, or if your dreads are starting to grow together. You'd be surprised just how much tidying your sections can relieve scalp irritation. Sometimes hair follicles just get fed up with being pulled a certain direction and need releasing to join a different dreadlock.
Scalp irritation can also be worse when the season changes. Don't be surprised, just wash regularly, and use the solutions I mentioned here.
If you have serious dermatitis or your scalp is bleeding, please go see a doctor. Seek professional medical advice, not this blog, naturopathy or alternative medicines. Don’t be ashamed! It’s very common and treatable with modern medicine.
Should I use wax?
You can if you like, but wax only keeps dreadlocks tidy for 1-2 days and can be hard to wash out. Wax also traps moisture and even nice smelling wax can make you smelly if you don't wash. Don’t use much! Some people just use wax to keep their tips tidy.
Are Essential Oils recommended?
There's a lot of information on the internet, Facebook groups especially, where essential oils like peppermint are mentioned. The evidence for peppermint oil is mostly anecdotal. In any case, essential oils must always be diluted. In perfumery, essential oils are diluted with carrier oils to make their application harmless to our bodies. No one should ever put essential oils in raw form directly onto hair or skin. This may cause a very bad irritation. I recommend using a much safer product with real benefits like organic kawakawa oil.
Can I dye my dreadlocks?
You sure can. However, wait until your dreadlocks are at least 6-12 months old so they're properly formed. When you rub colours into dreadlocks and wash them off a few times, your dreadlocks may become loose. Also, some dyes contain conditioners which you need to avoid. Consider dyeing your hair before you need maintenance so you can get your dreadlocks tidied up afterward.
How often do I need maintenance?
When you first get dreadlocks you may need maintenance every 2-3 months. After your dreadlocks are mature or you've had them 6-12 months, you can do maintenance every 4-6 months.
Everyone’s hair is different. You are the best judge of when you need maintenance. I've had my dreadlocks for years and only tidy them up twice a year.
What is the best way to maintain dreadlocks?
Using crochet hooks is the most efficient way to create, tidy or fix dreadlocks. It’s also natural! Palm rolling is also a great way to tidy your dreadlocks.
I do not suggest the interlocking method. Interlocking ties knots in dreadlocks, doesn’t work on all kinds of hair, can create unsightly holes, and it makes them increasingly difficult to maintain over time.
I don't suggest using perming solution or other hairdressing chemicals. It's unnatural and won't give you dreadlocks alone so you're going to end up wanting crochet anyway. Similar to bleaching, perming often damages hair irreparably from being left in for a long time. Hair becomes brittle and dreadlocks can break.
You should wash regularly with a good shampoo, avoid conditioners, use ACV spray to balance hair and scalp pH levels, Kawakawa oil for itchy or flaky scalp, and it's also important to keep the sections between your dreadlocks tidy maintaining them 2-3 times per year.
I hope I've given you some great ideas on how to exercise proper care. I believe if you do these things you will have healthy skin and happy dreadlocks.