The origin of locs dates back to 2500 B.C., most often with spirituality at the center. But like natural hair, locs also represent embracing our roots—literally and figuratively. Celebrated stars and artists like Bob Marley, Whoopi Goldberg, Lauryn Hill, Lenny Kravitz, and Alice Walker have donned locs on magazine covers, television screens, and global platforms.
As faux locs became popular among Black women, Zendaya walked the Oscars’ red carpet with cascading faux locs—to have television host Giuliana Rancic use stereotypical tropes to describe the stunning style. Locs have long been discriminated against in society and the workplace. With the U.S. Court of Appeals ruling in 2016, denying potential black employees for wearing dreadlocks does not legally constitute discrimination. Meanwhile, white fashion designers and celebrities appropriate Black locs time and time again.
Locs represent the rich Black history and set many on a journey of self-love, acceptance, and spiritual grounding. Finding a loctician to start your locs is always a good place to begin. However, starting locs at home can be done if you follow a few rules that keep your hair from breaking during the process. To get some expert guidance, we reached out to Jamila Powell, the owner and founder of the Miami-based Maggie Rose Salon, and hairstylist and barber Nigella Miller of Brooklyn-based Nigella Hair Studio.
Keep reading to find out how to start your locs at home without damaging your hair.
For starters, you’ll want to consider your hair texture and density as you decide on a locing method. “The higher the texture of your hair, the easier it is for your hair to loc up,” Jamila Powell, owner, and founder of Maggie Rose Salon, tells Byrdie. “If you are locing straight hair, you will have to create texture or give your hair enough time to loc on its own.”
Powell explains there are a few locing methods to try if you want to give the DIY approach a go. “There are different types of locs and ways to start them,” she tells Byrdie. “You can start locs with a two-strand twist, comb twist, or with an interlocking method. You can also let locs form on their own, which is known as free-form locs.” Certified locticians typically perform the interlocking method, so our advice is the book an appointment if you find this particular method speaks to you.
Two-strand twists are among the easiest way to start locs, and are recommended by both experts. Two-strand twists are a style on their own. Since two-strand twists can swell as they mature, you’ll want to think about how big you’d like your locs to be in the long term. “When initially locing your hair, you have to take into consideration the density and texture of your hair. If you aren’t doing free-form locs, you want to make sure your hair is evenly parted. You also don’t want to start your locs too small because they can become weak, thin out, and break off later on,” Powell tells us.
Keep in mind that two-strand twists can take longer to loc and can even appear more like a two-strand twist once matted. Miller offers a sage piece of advice: Book an appointment with a professional at least every few months, depending on the size and length of your locs. “That way, you can fix what’s needed if you run into any loc issues,” she says.
Comb twists are small coils that are twisted from root to end. This particular technique fares well with coarse, tightly coiled hair types. When crafting these coils, you might be tempted to layer on multiple products, but Powell says don’t. “Locs require maintenance like any other style. You want to keep them clean and free of product build-up.” One other note: As your coils grow, keep retwisting to a minimum. “You also don’t want to retwist your locs too often because this can lead to breakage.”
“I think that’s [a problem in] most at-home DIY loc routines,” says Miller. “They over twist their locs, which doesn’t give your locs a chance to develop their own textured size and overall look. I would recommend retwisting once a month to give your roots a chance to develop a base for your locs. Over twisting and styling can cause extreme breakage which leads to a weak root and base to support your heavy locs.”
Freeform locs are just as they sound—locs that form with little to no manipulation. Typically, you start with twists, but as the locs mature, there is no retwisting or manipulating the hair. You just let the locs naturally form on their own, keeping the use of product to a minimum. No matter which DIY method you choose, patience will be needed along with a minimal yet effective cleansing routine; as Powell says, maintaining a healthy scalp and buildup-free locs is essential.
To avoid disrupting budding locs, invest in a cleanser with a nozzle made with natural hair in mind. Alodia Hair Care formulated an organic black soap wash infused with aloe vera, tea tree oil, lavender, and plantain to help cleanse and soothe the scalp with a slim nozzle applicator. As far as conditioning treatments go, this is an area where you may want to enlist a pro, because many with locs prefer to use products made and recommended by their trusted loctician to keep locs healthy.
Starting your loc journey at home doesn’t mean connecting with an expert should be off the table. When you’re ready—after researching, of course—schedule an appointment with a professional to ensure you’re on the way to the loc look you’ve always dreamed of—we wish you the best of luck on your new journey.