The goal with locs is to have shafts that are tight, clean, and healthy. But like any goal, it will take time to get there, and sometimes, once you’re there, you can experience setbacks. Loose dreads are shafts that are not as condensed as they should be, and can signal immature locs or damage to mature locs.
If you’re just starting, the shaft of your locs will be loose and a little bulky. It’s not a problem. Consider techniques like palm rolling, to help to draw the hair together and keep it there. Avoid the temptation to use waxes or other sticky stuff to achieve the look you want. Those substances aren’t water-soluble, so they can’t be washed thoroughly from your hair. You have to wait it out. Your locs will eventually tighten and look fabulous.
However, if your locs are already mature, but you’re finding loose areas, this needs to be addressed.
Related: How to grow locs faster
Clean locs tighten faster
Contrary to what many people think, proper maintenance is a hallmark of healthy locs. Fortunately, as time goes on and your locs mature, they require far less maintenance; but in those early days, baby and immature locs take a lot of time and focus. It’s a must. Those thick, beautiful locs you want can only be achieved with clean, healthy hair.
Choose a shampoo that is specifically for locs or one that states that it is residue-free. That’s important because, often, it is residue buildup that leads to unhealthy locs. Residue buildup is the accumulation of hair products, dust, and lint inside of the loc. Buildup can discolor your locs and hinder loc formation in the shaft - leading to other problems.
So, once they have shampooed - RINSE, RINSE, RINSE. Make sure that you have washed away all the shampoo that you put in your hair. Avoid creamy conditioners unless they are made for locs and are water-soluble. That means that they can be easily washed away with water. It’s all about having clean, healthy hair, void of any buildup.
Stop the Damage
There are many reasons why your loc may be loose or thinning - damage due to hair dyes or other chemical residues, over maintenance, or hairstyling.
Chemically coloring locs is widely done and very attractive. It’s tempting to cover a little grey or go for some trendy ombre look, but dying locs isn’t the same as dying loose hair. While loc’d hair is strong, it isn’t invincible. We have to be protective of it and be very wary of anything we put into our hair that we can’t easily remove.
Hair dyes are harsh chemicals, and their residue can hide in the shaft of the loc. Consider going to a loctician or other natural hair professional to have your locs colored. This can be costly, but your locs will thank you.
Locs are beautiful! It’s easy to get a little obsessed with them and overdo their maintenance. Twisting too often or too tightly, or constant trimming of loose hairs to keep an overly-neat appearance, are actions that will come back to haunt you. Damage doesn’t always show up right away, but it will show up.
Over twisting is similar to tight hairstyling, so we’ll address them together later.
But cutting loose hair is not a good idea. There are times in the loc growth process when you have to embrace a look that is less than where you’re aiming. Your locs will eventually look smooth and tight, but don’t cheat the process by constant trimming. You don’t know which hairs are holding your loc together, and actually, they all are! So don’t do this very often - if ever. Over time, this constant trimming of hairs will show itself in loose, damaged areas down the length of your loc.
Tight hairstyles and over twisting will cause weakening of your hair from the roots. Avoid daily ponytails, buns, braids, and any other style that involves holding your locs tightly in place for long periods. You’re wearing away at your roots.
Get Rid of Buildup
As we’ve already said, buildup will spell disaster for your locs. But how do you get rid of the evidence of past ignorance?
Clarifying shampoos are great for getting out the gunk. Follow the directions on your favorite brand and cleanse your locs.
If you have more than a little buildup to get rid of, consider a soak. Apple cider vinegar (ACV) soaks have been around for a long time and have stood the test of time because they work. Recipes vary slightly, so find one you like - but the main ingredients are ACV, baking soda, and lemon juice.
Here’s one quick method: Fill a basin with very warm water, then add 1 cup of ACV, ½ cup of baking soda, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, and essential oils of your choosing (optional). Mix these thoroughly, allowing for the chemical reaction between the ACV and the baking soda.
Soak your locs in this solution for up to 20 minutes, squeezing them often. Remember to use a cup to frequently run the solution over your scalp and other parts that aren’t in the water. When you’re all done, rinse your hair in the shower.
It should be noted that an ACV soak or rinse, doesn’t just get rid of buildup, but will also balance the pH of your hair and scalp. The vinegar will prevent mildew and lice from growing inside of your locs, and it will also soften your hair and prevents frizzies.
Alright, now that your locs are clean, you can tighten them. As mentioned earlier, palm rolling is a simple but effective method for tightening and smoothing out the loc.
Lay the loose section of loc across your open palm, hold it flat there with your other open palm, then roll your loc between as your hands move back and forth in opposite directions. For small sections of loose dread, you may use a finger roll.
The next method requires some level of expertise or some research on Youtube. It is possible to tighten up your dread with a tiny crochet hook. You will need to practice before using the hook on your loc, but the results are amazing.
You use the hook to pull loose hairs into the loc, and then use the hook to pull the hairs inside of the loc closer together.
The final method won’t tighten your dread, but it will give it the appearance of it. Using afro bulk human hair and a crochet hook, you can wrap your loose or weak areas. Once the area of the dread is wrapped, use the same crocheting techniques (from earlier) to draw all of the loose hair into the loc.
If you have loose dreads, there are a variety of reasons for it. If your locs are young, give them time to grow and tighten. But if your locs are already mature, consider why it’s loose. Avoid doing damaging things and use one or more of our remedies.