Locs are nothing new, but if they’re all over your For You page these days, you can thank a talented singing-sister duo for making them everyone’s summer hairspo. Unlike other trendy hairstyles, however, locs are a bit of a commitment, so you should really know what you’re getting yourself into before taking the plunge.
Luckily for you, we consulted loctitian to the stars Shanique Frett, who’s known for styling the iconic locs of your favorite mermaid—er, singer/actress. Read on for Frett’s must-have tips for how to care for locs, including the products you need to add to your routine.
What are locs?
Locs are a hairstyle created by intentionally or unintentionally twisting and locking strands of hair together to create matted rope-like strands. Locs have become increasingly popular over the years as they look stunning (duh) and are fairly low maintenance to care for. While locs are having a well-deserved moment on social media, this style is nothing new. As Frett explains, locs have a rich history that dates back hundreds, if not thousands, of years.
“Locs are a culturally significant hairstyle deeply rooted in various cultures and civilizations such as Egypt, India, and Ethiopia. In many cultures, locs are often worn for spiritual or religious reasons, and serve as a powerful statement of Black pride and resistance against oppression.”
Whether you’re just curious about locs or they’ve been on your hairstyle inspo board forever, chances are good you’ve heard the term “dreadlocks,” and you may be wondering—are locs and dreadlocks the same thing? Yes, they are. While the checkered history of the name is up for debate, many loc wearers prefer to drop “dread” from the name given the word's negative connotation.
How are locs created?
Locs are formed by matting and locking strands of hair together to create a thick strand. Frett says several techniques can be used to create locs depending on your hair texture and desired look.
“Locs can be achieved in several ways, such as neglect (free form locs), twisting, palm rolling, or interlocking or crocheting,” she explains. “The journey can be started with comb coils, two-strand twists, braids, instant locking with a crochet needle, or extensions.”
Can any texture achieve locs?
Locs are not exclusive to one hair texture, but Frett says some textures may take to the loving process easier than others.
“All textures will present their own challenges and benefits when it comes to forming locs. Straighter textures may need additional techniques and products to encourage the locing process.”
How to Care for Your Locs
One of the best things about locs is how low maintenance they are—think, roll out of bed with flawless hair, low maintenance—but that doesn’t mean you can neglect your hair care routine. That said, your hair care routine may look slightly different depending on how far along you are in your loc journey.
When your locs are brand new, it’s crucial to manipulate them as little as possible, as that may hinder the locing process. For best results, consult your loctician about how long you should wait before washing and conditioning your locs. Frett recommends waiting anywhere from three to six weeks, depending on the texture of your hair. While you wait for your locs to mature, you can manage any scalp itch with a few cotton swabs and witch hazel.
Once your locs begin to mature, Free recommends washing your locs every two to four weeks. Because Frett recommends going longer periods without washing your hair, she says choosing the right shampoo formula is important.
“A good clarifying shampoo is necessary as it aids in removing build-up and dirt that gets trapped in the loc,” she explains. “You want to be mindful that excessive shampooing could lead to dryness and brittle locs depending on the texture.”
Searching for a clarifying formula for your wash day? Frett recommends the L’Oréal Professionnel Metal Detox Shampoo. Formulated with patented technology, the Metal Detox Shampoo features Glicoamine, a molecule small enough to penetrate and neutralize metal inside the hair fiber.
Shampooing your locs is a no-brainer, but there’s been some debate about whether you should condition locs. Those against conditioning worry the conditioner will soften the locs too much, causing them to unravel, but Frett says you can and should condition your locs—as long as you have the right conditioner.
“You want to choose a lightweight and residue-free conditioner to avoid build-up. Leave-in conditioners are also great to avoid build-up but provide moisture retention,” she explains. “My conditioner of choice is Matrix Food For Soft Hydrating Conditioner.”
Drying your locs seems simple enough, but there’s been some debate about whether you should air dry locs. Frett says locs can be air-dried, but if you are short on time, she recommends having a hot tool or two on hand to speed up the process.
“Air drying maintains the integrity of the locs and helps to avoid heat damage. But locs tend to have a longer drying time, so you can dry with a hooded dryer and then allow it to further dry by air drying it.”
Are locs versatile?
If you love to switch up your hairstyle and think locs aren’t for you—think again. Not only are locs versatile, lending themselves to many popular hairstyles such as ponytails, buns, braids, and curls, Frett says loc wearers still have many styling options.
“In the early stages of the locing process, many people wear wigs as the locs are shorter, making wearing a wig easy. Braiding or wrapping over locs has become a popular trend, so whether you are styling your locs or adding extensions, locs provide much style versatility.”
Are locs permanent?
Many people who opt for locs commit to the style for a lifetime, but that doesn’t mean you have to. When you’re ready to retire your locs, Frett says there are several ways to remove them.
“You can cut at the new growth or take a more tedious route by taking a pin or comb and detangling the locs out. This is also dependent on hair texture.”
If you decide to comb out your locs, just know that the process can often take up to several days to complete depending on the length, thickness, and age of your locs. Be prepared to see a lot of shedding as much of the hair that makes up your locs is no longer attached to your scalp and only remains a part of your style because your strands are twisted and matted together. While the shedding is likely intense, if you aren’t dealing with hair loss and have been taking care of your locs, your hair should be healthy and ready for the next style.
Whether you commit to locs for a lifetime or just a season, equipped with Frett’s expert tips, you’re sure to slay the style.
Header image credit: @samira.bem