Dreadlocks are a personal expression and reflection of beauty, strength, and love. It isn't your responsibility to justify why you wear dreadlocks to anyone else, especially people who won't believe you and need their personal biases validated.
Dreadlocks allow the wearer to revel in displaying their God-given and natural beauty. It's freeing and spiritually affirming to wear your hair naturally without coiffing it in a manner that society or critics will approve of.
Even if you wear dreadlocks strictly for the aesthetic appeal, it's important to understand that you will be judged by your appearance before you open your mouth. And this is especially true if you are a person of color.
You don't have to justify wearing dreadlocks to anyone. But you do have an important responsibility to keep your dreadlocks hygienically presentable, well-groomed, and aesthetically maintained at all times.
You, and everyone with hair like you, will be judged by your appearance. And if you don't dry your dreadlocks properly, or wash them too often without drying them properly, then you could become susceptible to dreadlock rot, also known as dread rot.
Dread rot is basically a kind of mold that permeates the interior follicle matrix of the dreadlock. (We will explain further later.) And once that happens, the dread rot permeates the interior locked follicles. Mold grime spreads on the dreadlocks.
And dread rot creates an unpleasant and pungent stench.
The historical and cultural trademark of growing dreadlocks is to keep them immaculately clean. And allowing dread rot to occur only empowers critics to perpetuate further stereotypes about uncleanly dreadlocks.
If there is any stressful part about wearing dreadlocks, it's dealing with ignorant stereotypes about people who wear dreadlocks.
Some people believe that everyone who wears dreadlocks is hippies, happy-go-lucky, lovers of incense and essential oils, and knows where to score the best marijuana.
In 2015, film star Zendaya wore faux dreadlocks at a red-carpet event. A fashion commentator quipped that Zendaya probably smelled like marijuana and patchouli at the event.
Some people believe that anyone who wears dreadlocks is from or has visited Jamaica. Or that they are politically militant or Rastafarian.
In 2016, a scientific research paper was published that suggested that wearing dreadlocks in the workplace constituted potential hazards and threats to the workers and others. And this thesis does not include people who wear long hair, only dreadlocks.
And quite amazingly, a British scientist published a medical paper in 1843 that tried to make a connection between mental illness and dreadlocks.
But one of the most offensive stereotypes about dreadlocks is that they smell. The style glory in wearing dreadlocks is keeping them immaculately clean.
So, let's discuss dread rot, what it is, how to treat it, and how to prevent it.
Take great care of your dreadlocks. Always use natural, vegan, and organic hair products from Lion Locs.
Related: 4 Ways to Moisturize Your Locs
What is Dread Rot?
To better explain dread rot, it is important first to explain the interior follicle matrix of the dreadlock.
The interior follicle matrix of the dreadlock is just another term for the interior scaffolding structure of fused, locked, and entangled follicle structure within the matted dreadlock.
Think of the dreadlock like a vine-like hair sponge, with pockets of empty space between the entangled hair follicles.
Dreadlock wearers need to dry their hair thoroughly after washing them. Otherwise, excess water and non-organic grooming product residue trapped between the entangled hair follicles can turn into mold or dread rot.
Do you notice that if you leave a wet towel in the bathroom too long, it starts emitting a bad smell? The first sign of dread rot is an unpleasant smell and the appearance of mold grime on the dreadlock or follicles.
Dread rot also damages hair follicles and obstructs proper blood flow. Dread rot can cause follicle decay, baldness, or bald patches, along with unpleasant smells.
Dread rot, or hair mold, is not something that exclusively occurs to those who wear dreadlocks. People with closely shorn hair or straight hair can develop hair rot.
Non-dreadlock wearers who have ever discovered accumulated grime on their hair may not understand that it isn't just accumulated dirt but mold.
Unfortunately, the stereotype only seems to stick with dreadlock wearers.
What Causes Dread Rot?
There are a few reasons for dread rot to accumulate on your dreadlocks, but neglectful hair maintenance routines are the main reasons.
Dread rot will occur if you wash your dreadlocks too often and don't dry them out thoroughly.
Do you use beeswax and other non-organic grooming substances on your dreadlocks? Beeswax rots.
If water, beeswax, non-organic hair grooming products, and dirt accumulate within the interior follicle matrix of the dreadlock, mold will develop, proliferate, and spread.
The Best Ways To Get Rid Of Dread Rot
Several home remedies proclaim to neutralize dread rot. We have considered many of them and can recommend two methods that you can try.
Get a sink or a bucket large enough for you to submerge your dreadlocks and scalp comfortably. Fill it halfway with distilled water, not tap water. And then fill the rest of it with distilled white vinegar. Vinegar neutralizes mold and fungus.
Soak your head and scalp in the water and vinegar mixture for at least 20 minutes. Wash your hair with a scent-free and organic shampoo. And then repeat the process.
If desired, you can also use apple cider vinegar instead of distilled white vinegar.
Dry your dreadlocks entirely until they are bone dry. Gently squeeze the dreadlock to remove excess water and use multiple towels. Use a good hairdryer on a low setting if needed, but make sure that your hair is dry.
Check your dreadlocks daily. It should smell like vinegar until they dry out. If it still smells moldy, repeat the water and vinegar soaking and aggressive drying process until the smell ceases and all visual signs of the mold disappear.
Be patient. This process could take days since the vinegar must deeply penetrate the interior follicle matrix of the dreadlock.
Be advised that cutting off your dreadlocks may be a last resort if all else fails. In the same way that mold can overtake a house, a dread rot problem can become so bad that you may have little choice but to cut them and start over.
How to Prevent Dread Rot
Always remember that excess and trapped dampness in your dreadlocks causes dread rot.
Wash your dreadlocks at least once or twice a week. Invest in a good hairdryer and make sure that your dreadlocks are bone dry before wrapping them or putting on a hat.
If you want to wash your dreadlocks daily, that is your choice. But it is your responsibility to keep them dry after each wash.
Don't sleep with damp dreadlocks.
Don't use any non-organic products that will get stuck in the interior follicle matrix of the dreadlock. The residue will cling to your locked follicles and turn into mold or fungus.
Develop a washing and grooming routine for your dreadlocks and stick to it. You have to justify wearing dreadlocks to anyone. But it is your responsibility to keep them as clean as possible.
Your dreadlocks deserve the best grooming care possible. Only use dreadlock grooming products from Lion Locs.