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How to Interlock Dreadlocks

The great thing about starting and maintaining dreadlocks is that there isn’t just one way to do it. Your hair type, length, thickness, and overall goal for its appearance all determine how you start and maintain your unique and beautiful locs. Interlocking is a controversial method that can start your locs and maintain them later. There is some debate about whether or not it is safe for locs. But here, we will discuss how to interlock dreadlocks, its benefits and drawbacks, and why some locticians promote it. 

Interlock Dreadlocks: The Controversy

Interlocking is the dreadlock development process of taking the tip end of a dreadlock strand and then threading it carefully between the loose hair follicles growing out from the base.

Interlocking is like threading a needle into a stitch, except the thread is a dreadlock tip, and the stitch is your scalp.

Some loc technicians believe that threading the tip of a dreadlock strand through the scalp follicles will tighten locs and help follicles fuse and lock easier.

You should only have a loc technician or hair stylist experienced with treating dreadlocks perform the interlocking method on your locs.

If you have no experience with dreadlock interlocking or employ a loc technician with no experience, you could end up damaging your dreadlocks and scalp.

So, even though the interlocking method is viable and useful for starting dreadlocks, it is also very controversial.

Before we go in-depth into interlocking dreadlocks, let's briefly discuss the controversies surrounding the practice.

Excess Tightening

The interlocking method is unlike the traditional twisting method that is usually employed to develop dreadlocks.

A better way to describe interlocking is "latch hooking." As you thread the dreadlock tip through the loose hair follicles at the scalp, you are basically flip-twisting the hair follicles over themselves.

As previously mentioned, this method is used to tighten hair follicles as they form into dreadlocks. But the right amount of force and tension must be employed during the interlocking process.

If too much twisting force and torsion are used during the interlocking process, then traction alopecia could occur.

Traction alopecia is an entirely avoidable form of hair loss that is caused by aggressively pulling and twisting hair in the service of hairstyle maintenance.

If you feel too much pulling pressure and torsion on your scalp via braids, plaits, weave, or dreadlocks, then traction alopecia can occur. And since interlock dreadlocks are inherently tight, this problem could become unavoidable. 

Traction alopecia occurs slowly over the years and decades. The aggressive pulling and twisting of hair will encourage growth, but it will also damage hair follicles.

And sometimes permanently.

Traction alopecia will slowly damage hair follicles, making them thinner and weaker over time.

Receding hairlines, bald spots, and permanent baldness can occur due to traction alopecia.

Or, your dreadlocks can fall out over time as the tightened hair follicles at the scalp slowly weaken and die off. As your dreadlocks grow, they get heavier. 

And heavy dreadlocks create a strain on already weakened scalp follicles after years of aggressive tightening. So, lengthy and relatively heavy dreadlock strands will slowly break the weakened follicles holding them to your scalp.

The only way to prevent this is to make sure that you employ an experienced loc technician who knows how to employ the correct pressure and torsion when interlocking dreadlocks. 

Additionally, ensure your dreadlocks are at least three to six inches long before you start interlocking. And ensure that you allow time for your roots to grow so that a dreadlock strand can be easily threaded through it.

Dread Rot

Dread rot, also known as hair mold, is a type of fungus that can grow on hair follicles and the scalp.

Most forms of dread rot are caused by wrapping up dreadlocks that are wet and have not dried thoroughly.

Since interlocking requires threading and flipping dreadlocks through hair follicles, undetected dread rot can proliferate quickly.

Make sure that your dreadlock is washed thoroughly with organic clarifying shampoos and conditioners. And always dry your dreads thoroughly; you could use a hair dryer or hair salon-style domed hair dryer to accomplish this.

Not Real Dreadlocks?

Some critics charge that the interlocking technique does not create "real" dreadlocks.

Some critics contend that interlocking is just threading, flipping, and latching dreadlock hair follicles upon each other.

Dreadlocks developed with traditional twisting methods tend to be rounder in circumference and thicker. 

Interlocking dreadlocks are usually thinner than traditional dreadlocks since it is easier to thread thinner dreadlocks through loose hair follicles than thicker and rope-like dread strands.

The point is that while every dreadlock development technique has a drawback, interlocking dreadlocks require more professional skills to pull off.

What is Interlocking?

Interlocking, also called latch-hooking or root-flipping, is a method of knotting the hair to start locs and maintaining tidy roots after your locs have formed. It requires that you pull the ends of your hair or your dreadlock through the roots of the section. This is pulled gently through and tightened, and it follows a four-point interlocking pattern. The hair is pulled through the roots in these four directions - north, west, south, and east. This method creates tight knotting that can’t be reversed. 

While interlocking can be done on any hair type, it is particularly effective for finer hair that may take a long time to lock on its own. 

There is a little confusion around the terms crocheting and interlocking. If you go into a loctician’s salon, you may ask for crocheting and instead get interlocking. This is because some professionals use a latch-hook for both. So you’ll have to be specific in your request.  

Related: Should You Get Locs? Here’s Everything You Need to Know

Why Professionals Use Interlocking

Many loc care professionals swear by interlocking, and here are some of the reasons they do.

  • It is a quick method for maintaining tidy roots.
  • It is easy to perform. No special skills are required.
  • This method works with kinky and non-kinky hair types.
  • The hair can’t unravel with this method, keeping the roots tight.
  • The results are immediate.

Interlocking to Start New Locs

Interlocking may be used to begin your locs. Depending on the length and thickness of your hair, it can be the way to get the look of locs immediately while you wait for your hair to loc on its own. 

The Process

Your loose hair is repeatedly interlocked from the ends to the root until the whole length is eventually knotted. This may be a long process, or it may be quick - depending on your hair. Over a couple of years, this will lock naturally and begin to look like mature locs.   

Are you trying to find loc care products that love your locs as much as you do? We provide the best products to grow beautiful, healthy dreadlocks. Check out Lion Locs today!

Interlocking for Maintenance

As your hair grows, interlocking is an effective method of tightening the new growth to the scalp in a way that won’t unravel like retwisting. You can do it with your fingers or specialized tools.  

Related: How to Get Your Locs Thicker

The Tools for Interlocking

You can use several tools for interlocking

Wooden handled latch hook used for interlocking locs.  Source: Amazon.com

Source: Amazon.com

A set of three crochet hooks for dreadlocks.

Source: Amazon.com

Small metal hand tools for interlocking locs.

Source: Amazon.com

Though these tools vary in style, they all do the same thing. The end of the loc is secured in the hook or the loop, and then gently pulled through the middle of the new growth. If you’re careful, you can even use your fingers to produce the same result.

The Benefits of Interlocking

  • It is easy to learn to interlock.
  • It works well for all hair types, including softer and straighter hair. 
  • Interlocking holds even when you sweat or wash your locs - unlike retwisting.
  • The locs produced by interlocking are uniform in appearance.
  • You don’t have to use sticky products to achieve the needed result. This is great for avoiding product buildup in your locs.  
  • The result of interlocking can last a couple of months.  

The Drawbacks of Interlocking

  • Though the method is easy to learn, it is also easy to damage your locs at the root, causing severe breakage.
  • Interlocking forms thinner, tighter locs than other methods.
  • If you use hair products, the residue can buildup in the divots in the interlocking pattern. 
  • The pattern formed by interlocking isn’t a ‘true’ loc.
  • Interlocking can create weak areas in your loc.  

How Often to Interlock

How often to interlock your locs depends on how active you are and how fast your hair grows. But every six weeks to 3 months is a good guide. 

Here are a few things you can do to keep your locs neat and extend the time between interlockings:

  • If you can, limit activities that cause you to sweat in your scalp.
  • When you go to bed, wrap your locs in a satin scarf or bonnet to keep it smooth and avoid friction while you sleep.
  • Wear your locs in an up-do often.
  • Avoid washing your locs more frequently than every two weeks.
  • Don’t tighten your roots too much.
  • If your scalp gets itchy, scratch it carefully. 

Will Interlocking Hurt Your Scalp

The interlocking process entails slight pulling of the loc, the new growth, and stray hairs. So, it can be painful or uncomfortable if you have a sensitive scalp. Because interlocked hair can not be reversed, be careful not to pull it too tight. If you’re in a salon, pay close attention to how each loc feels as they do the interlocking. If it starts to feel tight, speak up. Otherwise, you will be stuck with uncomfortable tightness until your hair begins to grow out a bit. And that’s too long to have a sore scalp. 

Related: How To Find The Best Hair Stylist For Your Locs

Final Thoughts

There is controversy around interlocking. Some people swear by it to start and maintain locs, while others think that it is the worst thing you can do to your locs. Both sides have good points. Ultimately, you will have to decide what’s best for your dreads. But if you do choose to interlock, learn to do it well. Research the things that can go wrong and avoid them. Above all, enjoy your beautiful locs as they grow into a creative expression of you. 

Do you need trustworthy products for your locs? We use healthy, organic ingredients to give you style without sacrificing quality. Check out our products at Lion Locs today.

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