Dreadlocks have probably been around since before recorded history, and archeological evidence exists that indicates they were definitely in style in many cultures during the earliest days on record. Modern dreadlocks take many forms, and as they’re drastically increasing in global popularity, so do the methods people use to create their dread styles. Twisting hair with Aloe gel is one way to create healthy, easy to care for dreads.
There are just as many misconceptions about dreadlocks as there are people who sport them. Essentially, matted twists of hair that grow so densely together that they eventually form permanent knots, dreadlocks do not have to be dirty, smelly, crusty, infested or moldy. In fact, with proper care, dreadlocks are one of the cleanest hair styles around, as tighter locks form when hair is absolutely clean. Many people simply allow their hair to become matted by never washing it or dousing it with waxy substances that contribute to a sort of faux dreadlock look. Unfortunately, these methods have led to the untrue stereotype that all dreadlocks are nasty, filth-ridden masses of unclean hair.
The Problems with Waxes
Beeswax and other wax-containing substances have long been used in traditional settings as means of hair care, and in modern times, people tend to rely on such aids in locking. In reality though, all hair types have the natural potential to lock up. The critical deciding factor is whether or not the hair follicle is clean or coated in the natural oils and additives that are commonly found in shampoos and conditioners. You may indeed have the straightest hair in the world, but if you wash it with hard soap, skip the conditioner, and let it air dry, you’ll note that it begins to curl more. Because waxes are so hard to remove, using any more than an extremely small quantity will lead to problems. While you may not be able to visually distinguish a wax user from a natural dreadlocks wearer, the sticky waxes attract dirt and dust to the hair. Their impermeability means that it’s also hard for people who use wax to dry their locks completely. Moist, damp dreadlocks sealed with wax more often than not lead to the mildewy sour smell that people mistakenly associate with all dreads. If wax is used at all, it should only be used sparingly in the very beginning stages of locking, and only natural plant-based waxes ought to be used, avoiding petroleum substances at all costs.
Modern Methods vs Traditional Natural Locking
Beauty salons and hair specialists cater to people who enjoy the dreadlocks look but would rather not have to go through the trouble of making their own from scratch. Dreadlocks are formed in a number of ways, including the use of harsh chemical products that essentially destroy hair follicle structures. While these methods do produce the desired visual results, they can lead to unhealthy scalp and hair damage, meaning that your new dreads won’t look so good if you don’t continue getting them done. While chemical methods look great at first, they’ll rarely hold up without major maintenance in the long run.
Traditional dreadlocking methods used on curlier hair include circular rubbing with palms and towels following washes to tangle the follicles further or long term braiding and twisting. Locking methods to make straighter hair more knotty also include backcombing, twisting saltwater washes that strip the hair of natural oils, and neglect. Recently, a number of natural plant-based substances have risen to the forefront of healthy dreadlocks culture.
Twisting With Healthy Aloe Vera
Aloe Vera is a natural cactus-like plant used for a number of traditional remedies where its high moisture content helps as it heals cuts, burns and scrapes. Vegans and vegetarians who want to skip the beeswax love aloe because its sticky sap allows them to re-twist their locks comfortably. As it dries extremely quickly, aloe leaves no mold-promoting moisture, sticky residue or unpleasant oily texture. The water-based substance is also very easy to clean out with the same soap you regularly use to wash your hair. Aloe Vera’s medicinal properties also help with creating nice locks. Because many people use locking methods that dry their hair follicles out, the soothing, moisturizing qualities of the Aloe Vera plant greatly assist in countering the effects such of unhealthy hair practices. For dreadlock-wearers, aloe serves to maintain tight knotted structures without completely rendering hair brittle and hard. The common “crispy” feel that most chemically-tightened dreadlocks bear does not occur with aloe use.
The greatest thing about using aloe for dreadlocks care is that the plant is so versatile. If you’ve ever used a nearby Aloe Vera plant to take the sting out of a paper cut, you know how simple it is to extract the sappy fluid by simply breaking off a piece of the plant and squeezing. Rolling pins and books can easily be used to press the sap out of plants, but there are also aloe-containing products that already have it.
As with anything you put in your dreads, make sure that your aloe products don’t have the additives that make most shampoos unsuitable for locking, such as extra conditioners and moisturizers. Aloe Vera can be used in conjunction with beeswax in the early stages of locking, but as time progresses and your locks become tighter, you can gradually phase out the wax and use aloe alone.
Dreadlocking is traditionally a long-term process that requires patience, and there’s really no getting around the fact that most shortcut methods produce less-than-satisfactory results. Stick with natural locking and you’ll never have to deal with unpleasant odors, crispy locks, or the need to cut your awesome hair and start over again because you can’t keep up with the mess you’ve made.