Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Maintaining Your Locs
It’s a beautiful thing to see women of color like Lisa Bonet, Ledisi, Ava Duvernay and Lena Waithe (pre-big chop) embracing their natural texture by way of locs. Others, like Taraji P. Henson, Naomie Harris, Ciara, Blac Chyna, Meagan Good and more have also dabbled with faux- or goddess locs as a protective style alternative.
One of the biggest misconceptions with the style is that it requires little to no-maintenance, which isn’t exactly accurate. From daily hydration to monthly retwisting, it takes a little work to solidify your ‘loc star’ status. We caught up with four natural hair experts and lociticans to hear what it takes to keep your hair healthy and happy in between salon visits or at home. Check out their tips below.
More from ESSENCE
Set Up A Wash Schedule
Three out of four of our experts agreed, the maximum amount of time you should go in between washes is 3 weeks (Editor’s Note: hairstylist Samantha Padilla advised weekly). “The longer you wait, the easier your scalp can create build up and irritations,” she explains. “Even if you don’t shampoo [every time], a really good rinse can do wonders.”
“Products I recommend are Carol’s Daughter Loc Butter ($17)—it’s great for sensitive scalp or if you’re prone to skin conditions like eczema,” shares Padilla. “Also, Vernon Francois Mist~Nourishing Water ($18) is an amazing leave-in spray that locks in moisture and protects the hair from harsh weather conditions.”
Take Care of Your Scalp
According to natural hairstylist, cosmetologist, and owner of Noire Salon in Silver Spring, Camille E. Reed, dry scalp can have several sources. “The primary one can be a pH imbalance between the clients’ shampoo and conditioner and too frequent use of these products,” she explains.
“I most-commonly identify a shampoo that strips too much of the scalps natural fats away from the skin and a conditioner that isn’t formulated with enough humectants and emollients to protect the skin. This kind of dry scalp can be healed with using sulfate-free shampoos, moisturizing conditioners and avocado oil or rosehip oil applied directly to the scalp. The other kind of dry scalp is actually inflammation from skin disease called dermatitis—specialized shampoos and medicated oils have to be used to calm the inflammation.”
Celebrity hairstylist, Takisha Sturdivant-Drew—who works with Gabrielle Union, Kerry Washington, Cynthia Erivo, and Lupita Nyong’o—recommends “a hot oil treatment with 20 minutes under a heating cap or dryer. [Follow-up] with a moisturizing conditioner and a three-minute scalp massage before rinsing.” She’s a fan of Taliah Waajid’s collection of natural hair care products.
Select A Maintenance Method
To twist or not to twist is the question many of us seek. If you are debating between palm rolling and/or twisting, certified trichologist and owner of Locmamas salon, M London offers some insight.
“In a lot of ways, they are the same thing,” she shares. “In both cases, you are wrapping the new growth around the loc. For a home stylist, twisting is just easier than palm rolling. Palm rolling requires you to keep both hands above your head. It’s tiring! But the maintenance is the same for both techniques. Ultimately, you have to choose what’s best for you.”
Reconsider Your Diet
The phrase “you are what you eat” isn’t just a myth. “I have had locs for 21 years and the key to healthy locs for the long haul is consistent attention to self-care, especially around nutrition,” explains Reed, who styled Ava DuVernay for her April 2015 at the White House Correspondents Dinner.
“I see a lot of the most common loc related problems—think, skin diseases, hair thinning and loss, and breakage—happening in clients who aren’t consuming enough whole food and healthy calories or missing several crucial meals in their workday. I encourage my clients to eat protein-rich meals four to five times a day,” she adds.
“Hair will not cooperate or grow when the body thinks that you are starving it. For healthy locs and natural hair, you must honor your body and feed it properly. The cells in your blood are supported by your nutrition, so poor eating habits will cause your body to make weaker cellular copies of keratin—the protein that makes your hair all over your body.”
Skip The Beeswax
Reed jokes that “in the late nineties, beeswax was all a lot of folks had to begin their locs. However, many of the veteran hairstylists soon realized that it attracts both lint and dust to the hair and should not be used.”
M London is adamant about her clients staying away from both waxes and butters. “Locs thrive when you use water-soluble products,” she explains. “Wax just sits on your hair—it doesn’t come out! It causes buildup, which is the last thing you want.”
Colored Hair Needs T.L.C.
Your hot new hue might leave your locs a bit more lackluster than you’d like. “Colored hair needs to be treated and monitored by a professional stylist because it can be prone to dehydration and must be handled with care,” advises Reed. “A professional colorist has access to bond strengtheners, a.k.a. products that restore molecular bonds that are broken in the coloring process.”
M London suggests incorporating steam treatments into your routine. “Add oil [try tea tree if dry scalp is an issue] to freshly shampooed hair and then sit under the steamer for 15 to 20 minutes,” she explains. “This will infuse your hair with moisture—remember, the best ingredient that will ensure hydration is water.”
Like life, your hair journey is completely individual. “Don’t compare your hair to anyone else’s—Your locs aren’t going to look like theirs! They’re your locs,” adds M London.