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A woman touching her dreads

How Long Does Your Hair Have To Be To Get Dreads

Many people believe they need to grow their hair out for years before it would be long enough for dreads. However, what they don’t realize is that their hair is likely long enough right now.

While it’s easier to start with hair at least six inches long, you can start your dreads sooner — you’ll just have to invest a little extra time to maintain them in the early stage.

No matter what length of hair you start with, using the right loc maintenance products is essential — get everything you need here.

Related: How to Retwist Your Locs

The Length You Need to Start Your Dreads

The required length for dreads depends on a few factors:

Your Dread Method

You can start freeform dreads — where you let your hair form locs on its own — at any length. You have to let your hair be, use dread-friendly shampoo, and it will form locs when it’s ready. However, don’t forget to separate the roots early, or you’ll end up with one giant knot.

If you plan to use the twist-and-rip method to get loose dreads, you want your hair to be around five inches to start. If you start shorter, you risk then unraveling in the early stages.

If you go the backcombing route, you can get firm or loose dreads depending on how you backcomb your locs and hair. You can start around four inches, but you risk them unraveling when they’re that short — we recommend waiting until your hair is six inches.

Finally, if you use the crochet method, you’ll end up with firm, stiff dreadlocks that will likely hold together well during the early stages. Loctitians will likely require a minimum hair length; however, you can start on your own with around six inches of length.

Your Hair Type

Your hair’s natural texture also affects how well it will dread at different lengths.

  • If you have kinky, coarse hair, you can start your dreads anywhere between one and four inches.
  • If you have loose, curly hair, you’ll want to wait until your hair length is three to six inches. This hair type typically holds the shape of a dread easily.
  • If you have thin, straight hair, you want to start your dreads a little later — four to eight inches is ideal.

However, no matter your hair type, it’s best if you can wait until your hair is slightly longer than the minimum length listed above. Your hair goes through various stages as it forms mature locs; if it’s too short, your locs will not want to stay in place. Typically, the longer your hair, the more knots you’ll easily form and keep.

Your Desired Look

If you start your locs with extremely short hair, they’ll look like small pokey things sticking out from your head for a while — not always the best look.

However, you can either own the style, get dreadlock extensions, or cover them with a beanie. If you need your locs to look professional for work, dreadlock extensions might be the way to go as they grow out.

If you plan to get dreadlock extensions, you’ll want at least three inches of hair.

Related: Different Ways to Create Locs

Does Hair Get Shorter When You Start Dreads?

a man with dreadlocks looking down

Many people notice that their hair appears much shorter while their locs mature. This process can take months or years, depending on your hair type, how you maintain your dreads and other factors.

Curly and kinky hair typically matures faster than straight and silky hair.

During the awkward stage, while locs mature, you can expect to lose quite a bit of hair length. Some methods, like backcombing, typically result in more shrinkage than others, like crocheting.

As your hair knows and pulls itself, you’ll start noticing loops and bubbles — a clear indication that your hair is locking; the result of this is noticeable shrinkage. However, don’t worry. If you wait out this process, you’ll notice your hair gaining more length as your dreads mature.

How Long Until My Dreads Get Longer?

Growing healthy locs takes time and patience — it takes years to grow long dreadlocks unless you get extensions or start with extremely long hair.

Want to ensure you grow healthy locs that will mature properly and look great? Come see us at Lion Locs for all your loc product needs!

Starting From Scratch

Some people shave their heads to start their dreads from scratch with even length and healthy hair. You should use a residue- and sulfate-free shampoo to wash your hair once a week for the first three months. You can expect your hair to grow a half-inch per month.

If you start with no hair, it can take up to 15 years to grow dreads that reach your lower back.

Starting With Short Hair

If you have short hair (around 3-4 inches), you can allow it to start dreading as it continues growing by not combing it, washing it weekly, and separating and sectioning your hair with your hands — this is possibly the best (and most natural) way to start growing your dreads.

Because your locs are short, it might look like your hair stops growing for a while; don’t worry — they are growing and maturing.

Starting With Medium Hair

If your hair is between 6-12 inches, it’s the perfect time to see a loctician or start forming your locs at home.

You’ll form locs faster, and they’ll be less likely to unravel if you start with this length, whether you use the freeform, backcombing, or any other method.

Reaching maturity should take about a year, and you’ll start to notice they look longer. You’ll also notice less shrinkage compared to starting with shorter hair.

Starting With Long Hair

a man with long dreadlocks standing next to a black wall

If you start your locs with long hair (over a foot), you’ll notice a lot of shrinkages before you see any growth. However, the maintenance process is much easier compared to starting with a shorter length.

Let your locs do their thing, and you’ll have super long dreads in no time.

Remember that many things influence hair growth — your locs will grow at a different rate than other people’s — keep at it and enjoy your locs!

Related: Transitioning Into Locs

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