Kinky Hair 101: All about locs

I am often asked for loc advice, but as I've never had them, I can't really give any. Thank goodness for Fiona, who has agreed to step in as a regular guest blogger on everything to do with locs.

Guest blogger Fiona
Hopefully most of you will have caught my introduction last month on the Kinky Apothecary blog. My aim as a guest blogger is to talk about everything locs related. Whilst currently on my second locs journey, I am by no means an expert, nor am I a loctician. I am, however, often knee deep in research on styles, products and maintenance practices, as I generally prefer to do my hair myself (despite my, sometimes, extreme laziness when it comes to said hair. I know you know what I’m talking about).

To loc or not to loc?
Personally I see my hair as an accessory and am prone to experimenting with different styles, colours and lengths (including shaved bald). My choice to loc up the first time was purely aesthetic. I have a few friends that have been loc-ed for what seems like eons and I loved the way their hair looked and felt.
I researched for about three months before finally taking the plunge and intitally was plagued by thoughts of what my parents would say. I believe at your birth, parents are magically imbued with the ability to cause extreme anxiety in their offspring with a single raised eyebrow, even when said offspring is a grown ass woman. My approach was ‘say nothing till they notice’ and having chosen to start my locs using the comb coil method; I managed to get away with it for a few months before my mother asked what was going on with my hair. This time round, my parents are still not in love with the idea but I’m a little older, I care a little less about their reaction and well…I’ve done it before and as I recall, the sky didn’t fall.
The main character traits you will need if you are going to embark on a locs journey are patience and acceptance. It takes a while to get fully loc-ed and you will need to learn to embrace and be confident with the new forms and stages that your natural hair will go through.


Mysconceptions

You can’t wash your hair.
This one still baffles me. Yes you can and absolutely should wash your hair or it will get filthy and people standing close to you will scrunch up their faces in reaction to the odour.

Locs require no maintenance.
For most of us this is not true. Unless you are choosing to completely freeform, you will need to twist or coil your hair to start them off and then to re-twist your roots to keep your locs maintained.

Locs are unprofessional.
*sighs like a steam engine*
As long as you wear your locs tidy and in a work friendly style there is absolutely no reason why your hair should not look professional. This is a tricky one in countries like Nigeria where having natural hair in any form can lead to you getting the side eye from colleagues.

It’s funny how a ratty looking weave that should have been taken out a month ago can sometimes be seen as more acceptable than a tidy natural updo. All I can say to that is keep it looking neat and tidy and keep fighting the good fight.

Chescaleigh is one of my favourite locs video bloggers; check out her response to the ‘unprofessional locs' question here

You have to shave your head if you decide you no longer want locs.
Whilst shaving your head will definitely make the whole process much faster, you don’t have to go bald to remove your locs. You may, however, have to cut the locs to a manageable length to begin unravelling the hair. It is a very time consuming process and personally I was just too lazy to do it. I had about two inches of new growth, which I cut my hair down to.


Loc Stages
Your locs journey will take you through five stages: starter locs, baby, teenage, mature and rooted
Stage 1 -Starter Locs
And so it begins…  Depending on how you choose to start the locing process, your hair will be in two strand twists, comb coils, single braids or loc extensions. People won't notice a difference yet and may even ooh and ahh at your cute hairdo.
Starter Locs: Source
Stage 2 - Baby Locs
Also known as “sprouting” or “budding”. Individual comb coils/twists/braids may seem puffy as the hairs start to intertwine. It is important to keep the original scalp partings, to maintain neat and (as near) uniform locs in the later stages. Try to avoid redividing and overtwisting at this stage, they are meant to be puffy and will settle down later. Care has to be taken during shampooing not to unravel the hair. People will begin to notice and ask if you are locing up. Personally, I enjoy the baby phase; they are a little fuzzy but they look cute.
Baby Locs: Source

Stage 3 – Teenage Locs
As the name suggests, your locs are a little older, they are starting to form but also have a mind of their own! The intertwining extends further down the loc, causing some to drop but some will still be loosely meshed and choose to defy gravity. Fewer locs will unravel during shampooing. At this stage you are learning to re-tighten the base so it will look neater.
This is a real love/hate stage. There will be days when you adore your hair; followed by days when you are convinced it is doing the opposite of what you want just to spite you. This is the phase when a lot of people turn back; the key is to embrace it. You will not always be able to get the look you are going for but you can have fun with it and if you relax and allow yourself, this is where you gain more confidence with the locing process.
Teenage Locs: Source

Stage 4 – Mature Locs
Your locs are thickening up and have finally dropped. They don't need as much re-twisting and have settled in. You will begin to see more consistent growth because each loc has intertwined and contracted into a cylindrical shape. Some loosely coiled hair textures may retain a small curl at the end of the locs (as in my case), but most will probably be closed at the ends.

(This stage is usually reached within 16-18 months)


Stage 5 – Rooted - Beyond Mature locs
Your locs don't need frequent re-twisting because your hair is mostly now growing from the base directly into the loc. By this stage, your locs should be strong, thick and healthy.
Actress Dakore

Starting Locs
There are a variety of methods to start your locs depending on the length and texture of your hair.

Comb Coils
Hair is sectioned and is twisted into coils using a comb. This is usually done on shorter hair. 
Comb Coils: Source
Single Twists
Hair is sectioned and rolled between the palms or twisted round the finger. This is usually achieved on hair that is longer than 2 inches. 
Single Twists: Source
Two-Strand Twist
Hair is sectioned and is twisted using a two-strand method.  This can be achieved on hair of any length, usually more than 2 inches.
Two Strand Twists: Source
Braid Extensions
This method is achieved on hair that has been styled in braids or twists that have hair extensions added to it.  When the hair has grown out, the new growth is twisted using palm rolling or a similar twisting method.
"Braid Locs": Source
Loc Extensions
In this method, hair is braided and extension hair is wrapped around the braid to resemble a loc. You can keep the extension in or trim it as your locs grow out. Many people like this method because it gives the look of a matured loc instantly.
Loc Extension: Source
Freeform Locs 
This method is achieved by seperating the hair into clusters and leaving the new growth to its own devices. With this method, locs can sometimes end up marrying at the root (when two or more locs fuse together at the root).
Freeform Locs: Source


Washing Starter and Baby Locs
There is a lot of misguided information out there regarding the frequency of washing your locs during the early stages of your journey. The initial coil, twist or braid will obviously hold its shape for longer if you don’t wash your hair for three months but the goal is to LOC YOUR HAIR, not hold a perfect comb coil for as long as possible. That aside, dirty hair is just… gross!

Some locticians will suggest that you avoid washing your hair in the first four weeks. The key word here is “avoid”. Depending on your lifestyle this might not be an option. You could do a herbal rinse or clean your scalp with an astringent like witch hazel or Sea Breeze but overall my personal belief is that its better to wash your hair than spend weeks raking your nails into your scalp due to dry sweat and oil buildup.

For starter locs, the easiest way to wash your hair will depend on your hair texture and how you started them. I have a fairly loose curl structure and I started comb coils with a loctician the first time around. During the first wash (about 2-3 weeks after the initial styling) we thoroughly washed my scalp, while avoiding too much disruption of the comb coils. The shampoo was scrunched into my hair and then rinsed and scrunched out after thoroughly rinsing my scalp.

This time around I started my locs myself with a two-strand twist and washed my hair a week later. I started off by wetting my hair completely, then applying the shampoo to my scalp with my fingertips, taking care not to use too much but distributing it well. I then put my hair into four ponytails and applied a little shampoo to each one before massaging gently but thoroughly with the palms of my hands. Once finished, I removed the ponytails and rinsed my hair by scrunching the water out, taking care to disrupt the twists as little as possible. You can of course leave the ponytails in while rinsing depending on your preference. Two of my smaller twists unraveled during the initial wash but I simply retwisted the ends before palm rolling.

Another option if you are worried about your hair unraveling is to use a stocking or mesh cap over your starter locs. Apply the shampoo using a nozzle bottle and then agitate with the palm of your hand instead of your fingertips, before rinsing well through the cap. Obviously this technique is not as thorough as having access to your whole head but it’s cleaner than avoiding water altogther.

After washing, I palm roll and clip my hair and then air dry or sit under a hooded dryer. Air-drying usually means that I have washed my hair in the early evening and I’m staying home, as my hair takes aaaaaages to dry.

Finally, some tips to get you started

  • I avoided using a conditioner in my locs the first two months after starting the second time around because I have a fairly soft hair texture (conditioner is a detangler, and its purpose is to do the opposite of locing). However, this was not strictly necessary.
  • After washing, make sure your hair dries completely. Constant damp hair can encourage mould in your locs and believe me you do not want that!
  • Don't retwist your hair too often or you will end up with breakage.
  • Always sleep in a satin scarf/stocking cap to avoid losing moisture and natural oils into your cotton pillowcase.
  • DON’T USE BEESWAX. I cannot stress this enough. Beeswax is horrible. It’s too thick and heavy for natural hair, prevents proper airflow within the loc and will often trap lint causing your locs to look dirty. If your loctician pulls out a jar of the buzzy wax, scream “Oh no you di’int!” while running in the opposite direction.
  • Use a dark towel when washing your hair to avoid light coloured lint sticking to your locs.
  • An apple cider vinegar rinse will help soothe an itchy scalp and has the added benefit of balancing the pH of your hair and removing buildup that can result from the use of styling products. Rinsing will also close the cuticle scales, which cover and protect the surface of each hair shaft, leaving it smoother and shinier.

Feel free to write in if you have any questions for Fiona, and make sure you follow her on Twitter!

26 comments

  1. Great article, really nice. I am wearing locs too and at the teenage stage.

    I only disagree with you on Dakore's hair as it here being achieved in 16-18months.
    That length is not less than 36months.

    Thanks

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    1. Hey Ogo, thanks for your feedback. I agree the placement of the words was misleading. It was meant to show that the mature locs stage can be achieved in 16-18 months, not that Dakore's hair was achieved in that time (it was not a photo caption, just a continuation of the segment). I have now reformatted and moved the photo below to avoid any further confusion :)

      ~ Nibi

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  2. Woow! this is so helpful. I do not have locs but i will pass this to some of my friends that have just started their loc journey. thanks so much.

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  3. Hello i just did two strand starter locs in my hair a few days ago and i think i twisted some in the wrong direction should i redo them smh it seems like its most of the right side of my head except the front

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    1. Apologies for the ridiculously late response. I wouldn't worry too much about some of your starter locs being twisted in the different directions. It's more important for you to try to twist them all in the same direction from now on when you re-twist.

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  4. How often should you retwist starter locs?

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    1. For the first few months I would try to re-twist every 3 - 6 weeks. It depends on how well your hair is holding the starter locs and how often you decide to wash your hair. The longer you can leave your locs between re-twisting, the faster your hair will mesh together. Ultimately, it's a question of preference. Having said that, please do not feel like you cannot wash your hair, you can and should! I re-twisted every 2-3 weeks with my second set of starter locs, as I was quite active and washed my hair weekly.

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  5. Question for Fiona, the picture of your hair now, was that started with two strand twists and how long was your hair?

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    1. Hi Tarika,

      Sorry for the late reply. The photo at the top of the page is of my first set of locs about two, possibly three years in. I started with comb coils on approximately 2-3 inches of hair.

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  6. Hello. I'm in the process of getting locs and I was wondering if there was a certain direction that two strand twists are suppose to go in? Also when it's time for a retwist, should I twist going to the right or left?

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  7. Hey. Uhm what hair can I use for loc extensions ?

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  8. Hi guys. Again sorry for the late response. In answer to anonymous Sept 5th. Personally I prefer to keep everything moving clockwise. There's absolutely nothing wrong with going anti-clockwise but you have to remember to stick to whatever direction you choose, or you will end up with warped locs. If you can, I would two strand twist in the direction you plan to retwist your locs.

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  9. Hi Anonymous September 25th. I would suggest using hair that is close to your texture. Preferably human hair if you can. Afro kinky or marley braid hair should work. The idea is to use a texture that is close to your hair, so that the differentiation is not extreme when you start re-twisting. The extensions also look more like your hair if you're only keeping them temporarily.

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  10. Hi, U advised not to use beeswax, so what product do i use to re twist my baby locs?

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    1. Hi Anonymous,

      Happy New year. I would use a gel that is light enough not to gunk up your hair but still has a good hold. I use Eco Styler Olive Oil Styling Gel. Check out the Kinky Apothecary Shop link at the top of the page for various gel options.

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  11. Hey! I never thought to use Eco Styler on my first set of locs. I used to spend so much money on the Jamaican Mango Lime loc gel. It only comes in small jars (well, I could only find it in small jars) so it didn't last too long. I can get vats of the Eco Styler at Sally's. Thanks for the great tip! I'm starting my second set of locs, I over-twisted on the first time around and ended up with extreme thinning at the crown. Plus, I started them way too small and I know that had a lot to do with the thinning as well.

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  12. what happens if you accidentally retwist the wrong way?? what is a warped loc?

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  13. Hair extensions come with a lot of uses. The biggest factor is to make your hair appear longer. Girls with short hair, who want to add length to their hair, can add hair extensions to achieve those results. If you already have long hair, you might want some extensions to add body. Not every girl is fortunate to have full, voluminous hair, and it can be added with hair extensions. wigs also can be used for people who have long hair, and want to rock a short hairstyle. Lastly, if you want some added highlights or a few crazy colors in your hair, but do not want to damage your hair by bleaching and dyeing your hair, then wigs for women like those from abhair will give you what you want without the damage.

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  14. Nice read. Informative and helpful post. Thanks!

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  15. What to do when ur month old local get retested the opposite direction

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  16. Hi there, I have finally chosen to start my locs, I have a thick head of hair and the front reaches under my chin. I have tried two strand twist and using a come to coil them, non worked! I am considering interlocking the whole strand, then as they grow do palm rolling and interlocking. What do you think about this method? I'd like my locs to be a bit fluffy but not over the top or scruffy lol please share your thoughts on this method. Also when it comes to the rows how do you suggest I go about it. Thank you ever so much Andrea ;)

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    1. Hi there. Sorry for the slow response, I had no idea that I had a new question. When you say that comb coiling and two strand twisting didn't work, how long did you have them in before you gave up? I only ask because the loc process really is a journey that involves a lot of patience. Your hair more than likely will not loc up for a couple to a few months -your routine and other external factors like the weather, weather you wear a scarf to sleep etc can also contribute to this. For instance my comb coils took about 3 months to start to look like locs when I was living in UK and was a lot less active, added to that the cold weather. Whereas my two strand twists began to loc up in about 5 weeks while living in Lagos, a lot more active which meant more frequent washes and of course the weather is hot and humid. I'm not sure what you mean by the rows? If you meant the hair parting - my first set of locs were very neatly and evenly spaced because the comb coils were done at a salon, whereas my second set weren't evenly spaced or evenly sized as I started from an unplanned two strand twist. I loved both.

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  17. I'm starting my second loc journey today. Going to make this article my loc bible. Thanx for the information

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  18. Hi Fiona.
    Can you please post a recent picture of your hair?

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  19. Hi Fiona
    Can you post a recent picture of your locs?

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  20. am not sure if this post is still trending but i started my locs using crochet method not in your post though, i just want to ask how often should i retwist the roots?

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