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Common Problems with Dreadlocks (and how to avoid them)

Contrary to popular belief, dreadlocks are a purely high-maintenance hairstyle that needs a considerable chunk of your time, patience, and lots of trials and errors.

Over time you will notice that your dreads look smoother, tighter, and better as they mature.

But before you reach that stage, you have to maintain your dreads, keep them clean and devoid of any products that might harm the process.

Whether your head has dreadlocks from the twist method, crochet method, braid method, or wax method, you are bound to face a few complications throughout your hair journey.

To help you with that, we have curated a comprehensive guide about common dreadlocks problems with many reliable solutions.

Problem #1: Not Washing For Prolonged Period

Washing dreads with shampoo

People often misunderstand and fail to balance a proper wash cycle schedule to keep their dreadlocks healthy and clean. Many locticians and dreadlocks enthusiasts suggest not washing your hair for months at a stretch.

But apart from the initial stage, you must wash them every week to keep the locks clean. Not washing your locks for a prolonged period will ultimately make your scalp itchy and add a layer of product residue.

How to avoid/ fix it

The residues from your shampoos, conditioners, creams accumulate on your scalp, making it itchy. To get rid of that, we recommend using a residue-free shampoo every time you get into the shower for a hair wash.

Your scalp irritation and itch will subside with time. In the meantime, we also suggest opting for non-sticky oils that you can apply directly to your scalp to hydrate sufficiently. So regular washes, moisturizing, and deep cleaning is the only way to have a head full of healthy and clean dreads.

Problem #2: Cutting The Frizz/Loose Strands From The Dreads

Many individuals prefer cutting their frizz for regular maintenance of their dreadlocks. However, this method is highly inaccurate as it makes your dreads weaker and smaller in the long run.

Although trimming might feel like the easiest way to tidy up your dreads, it tends to weaken the locks and drastically reduce the size and thickness of your dreadlocks.

Similarly, trimming isn’t a permanent solution as the hair strands will grow back very soon, and you certainly will be back to square one.

How to avoid/ fix it

The best way to stop this vicious cycle is to avoid trimming in the first place. The next step is to deal with the frizz and flyaways. We recommend spritzing any moisturizing oil and palm rolling them into your locks.

You can dread the ball or wrap the loose hair around your deadlocks and continue your palm rolling until the strays get decently incorporated into the existing locks. Additionally, if you possess tools like a latch hook or needle and thread, use them to pull in those stray hair strands.

Problem #3: Residue And Buildup On Your Dreadlocks

Residue on dreads

Creamy hair products like shampoos, hair masks, and conditioners can leave your locks feeling sticky with all the residue buildup.

This buildup might seem like a harmless condition on the surface level, but in reality, it will surely stunt your hair growth and clog all your hair follicles to the maximum. This residue also causes slight discoloration resulting from caked-up residue from months and months of product usage.

How to avoid/fix it

You can easily tackle this buildup issue with a reliable clarifying shampoo available on the market. Even if you wash your locks regularly, the problem might not cease with the use of regular shampoo. Therefore, consider opting for a clarifying shampoo for best results.

Problem #4: Applying Excessive Wax

Many people use wax to pull the dreads together or style their locks. If your dreadlocks look like oily candles or have started falling apart, section by section, you must have probably applied an excessive amount of wax.

Apart from the waxy look and shedding, it will also start attracting tremendous dirt and dust, making your scalp dirtier over time.

How to avoid/fix it

To remove the wax that is caked up on your head, consider washing your dreads with a clarifying shampoo and allowing them to air dry. If you still feel a lot of wax after dry palm rolling, take out the big guns- your trusty blow dryer.

Wrap these individual dreads in paper towels and apply heat using your dryer. The excess wax will get soaked into the paper towel, leaving your dreads wax-free.

To avoid this waxy mess in advance, consider opting for very lightweight gels for palm rolling and retwisting. Steer clear from wax-based creams and products to keep your dreadlocks less oily.

Problem #5: Itchy Scalp

Itchy Scalp

An itchy scalp is genuinely one of the most common problems associated with newly twisted dreadlocks.

The process of pulling your hair into tiny sections can cause a lot of stress on your scalp, resulting in an itch. Your skin might take a while to get used to the pull/constant stretch, but after a time, your scalp will stop itching on its own.

How to avoid/fix it

You need to be patient and avoid constantly scratching your itchy scalp. To prevent the scalp from getting inflamed, consider opting for a peppermint-infused cooling spray. Such sprays for dreads are readily available on the market and work flawlessly to reduce the itch of newly twisted dreadlocks.

One can use this spray in-between the wash days or workout sessions to feel extra relieved. Lastly, storing the spray in the fridge will add an extra cooling sensation for those hot sunny days.

Problem #6: Weak Dreadlocks Resulting From Rough Handling

Not being extra gentle while washing your locks can make them weak in the long run. Since hair is a dead matter, you need to ensure that it is not dry, brittle, or has any unwanted weakened link.

Rough handling of your dreads or constant pulling can put immense pressure on your roots, encouraging the hair to fall from the roots.

How to avoid/fix it

To keep the dreads safe, consider taking a slow shower and avoid rubbing the shampoo with great intensity. Instead, massage the product on your scalp gently using your fingertips. You can further create a lather by using your palms and covering each strand with care.

Consider air-drying your dreads as hot air from blow dryers can cause considerable heat damage. You can even pat dry the dreads to help speed up the process of drying.

Problem #7: Tight Styling

If you’re noticing your dreads getting thinner and have recently got a tight hairstyle, consider that the very primary reason. These tight updos with your locks often leave the scalp feeling stretched.

This repetitive and sustained tugging and pulling often cause hair tension around the hair follicles, resulting in inflammation and hair loss. Thus, constant tight styling for months on end using grips, bobby pins, extra tight rubber bands will undoubtedly result in hair thinning.

How to avoid/fix it

To avoid your dreads from thinning out, keep them as much open as you possibly can. You can tie the dreads in loose knots or secure them using a soft rubber band but abstain from using anything tight.

One can opt for a crochet hook to tie them securely without harming any single strand of dread. You can save such ‘tight styling’ hairstyles for special occasions, but consider keeping them open for everyday living.

Problem #8 Leaving The Dreads Wet For Long A Time

staying wet for too long

Most people who get dreadlocks often complain about an unpleasant smell lingering even after they have washed their hair. They often contemplate whether their wash cycle steps are inaccurate.

However, the main issue is the after-care of the hair wash cycle and not the showering part. Leaving your locks wet for a long time causes the hair to have an unpleasant smell that people often despise.

How to avoid/fix it

The easiest way to avoid the smell is to dry the hair entirely as soon as possible. Please don’t leave the dreads covered in plastic wraps or thick towels that do not allow them to dry correctly.

Try to squeeze out the water as much as possible with your hand. Since dreads are dense, squeezing out the excess water will expedite the drying process.

Besides, consider investing in a super absorbent towel and practice air drying as much as possible. Do not use blow dryers on maximum heat after every wash as it can cause heat damage to the dreads.

Problem #9: Workouts And Dreadlocks

People who exercise often find it difficult to limit their hair wash cycle to 1-2 times a week.

However, over washing will surely leave the dreads feeling dry, and let’s not forget the extra time it takes to wash the dreads compared to normal hair.

How to avoid/fix it

You can opt for Bondi bands made from moisture-wicking materials. These bands will efficiently wick away your sweat from your scalp, hairline, and neck to help prevent your dreadlocks from absorbing all that sweat in the first place. These bands are perfect for people of all shapes, sizes, and gender, so you can focus on your workout and not on the sweat.

Secondly, we recommend investing in a good quality alcohol-free witch hazel. Since alcohol can be extremely drying, ensure that your bottle has ‘alcohol-free’ written on it. You can mix this alcohol-free witch hazel with a few drops of tea tree oil or peppermint oil in a tiny spray bottle.

The antibacterial and antiseptic properties of both these oils will help your scalp feel fresh while keeping any unpleasant smells at bay. We recommend spraying this solution topically on your scalp after every workout session to revitalize your scalp and keep the dreads fresh.

Lastly, if your dreads feel way too wet after a workout and you do not wish to go for a hair wash, try using a blow dryer. Plug the blow dryer on the max cool setting and dry out the dreads as soon as possible.

Problem #10: Sleeping On Rough Surfaces

How to sleep with dreadlocks?

Your beautiful dreadlocks can potentially get damaged by the friction of your head and bedding fabrics. These fabrics often brush up against the dreads- causing frizz, tiny knots, or even unraveling your dreads to some extent.

To avoid such frizz and damage, most people skip using the pillows. However, since your bed sheet has the same fabric, eliminating pillows won’t be of any help. Apart from the frizz, it also creates unwanted discomfort, which can disrupt your sleep.

How to avoid/fix it

Switch out the harsh fabrics of your bedding set to something more soft and forgiving, like silk or satin.

These fabrics are excellent in eliminating any friction, protecting your dreads while giving you a super smooth surface to rest your locks. Many people also feel that silk pillows and bedsheets are more comfortable for their scalp, especially during the starting phases of the dreadlocks journey.

Problem #11: Tiny Lumps And Bumps

As your dreads start growing out, you might recognize little lumps and bumps around your locks.

Most lumps and bumps occur because of the growth of hair that happens at different speeds, but these tiny lumps get straightened out with time. Dreadlocks usually tighten and smooth out all these small lumps without any help but usually take time.

How to avoid/fix it

If these lumps constantly bother you, consider opting for a crochet hook. Use the hook to pull the bulge back into dread. You can push the pin in from the opposite side of the lump, grab a few hair strands and pull them into the center of your dreadlock.

Depending on how loose the hair strands around the node, you could even pull some out, rub between your fingers to create a ball, pull it back into the dread using the same crochet hook. Moreover, if you cannot work around a crochet hook, use cuffs or dread beads to cover and hide these tiny lumps and bumps.

Problem #12: Overwashing Your Dreads

Many people try to over wash their dreadlocks every other day to avoid smelling bad. Once you have surpassed the initial no-water period for your locks, you need to ensure a healthy hair wash cycle that is neither over nor under-washed.

Overwashing often leads to stunted growth and brittle strands and takes a considerable period to lock these dreads in place. Sometimes the locks start to open up because of the constant beating of water, scrubbing, and rubbing. Moreover, you might even notice your locks getting thinner.

How to avoid/fix it

The easiest way is to limit your hair wash cycles to 4-5 times a month. If your scalp feels sticky or oily in between, opt for peppermint-infused cooling sprays to reset your scalp’s pH to normal.

Problem #13: Using Hard Water For Shampoo

ACV rinse

Hard water refers to the local tap water that contains minerals like calcium and magnesium. Usually, the hardness level of the water is calculated by the number of minerals present in the water.

Hard water is notoriously famous for not working with any shampoo, soap, or detergents as it drastically reduces the lathering capacity of any soap or detergent. Apart from subpar dreads cleaning, this water will surely turn the hair strands rough while subsequently trapping shampoo buildup in your head.

Also read: Best Shampoos for Dreadlocks

How to avoid/ fix it

The first step is to avoid using hard water for your dreadlocks. But if that is entirely out of the question, consider making this easy apple cider vinegar rinse to reset your dreadlocks and scalp.

(ACV) Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse


  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 15 – 20 drops of rosemary essential oil
  • 15 – 20 drops of lavender essential oil
  • 10 drops tea tree oil


  1. Pour your apple cider vinegar rinse in a large pitcher.
  2. Measure and add all the essential oils in the pitcher containing the vinegar.
  3. Pour this ACV rinse over your head and let your dreads soak up the liquid. Let the rinse sit for 5 minutes, and later rinse it well with water.

Problem #14: Lint In Your Dreadlocks

Because of dreadlocks’ volume and texture, they tend to pick up unnecessary fuzzy elements and lint. This lint makes your dreadlocks look unclean despite them being thoroughly clean.

People mostly feel this lint attack when they are sleeping as the sleeping position gives the head a desirable angle to collect the lint.

How to avoid/ fix it

Change your sheets and opt for pillowcases that do not shed a lot of lint. Additionally, securing your head with a headscarf will keep all these lint and dust particles away.

However, if your dreads are long, purchase bigger head scarfs so you do not squish or harm them overnight.


As mentioned in the beginning, dreadlocks are very different in terms of looks and maintenance. Therefore we highly recommend taking utmost care of them and looking after your scalp’s needs.

Consider making efforts to keep your scalp happy and healthy so it can hold and house your majestic dreads with ease.

Lastly, fret not if you are facing any dreadlock problems, as these reliable techniques mentioned in our article will allow you to have voluptuous dreads in no time!


  • dreadlockulture.com
  • lovelocsnatural.com


I’m Aida and this is my blog where I write mostly about beauty & make up related stuff, but I like to spice it up a bit with lifestyle and photography posts. Or with whatever that comes to my mind. Hope you will enjoy the reading enough that we will ‘see’ each other more often!

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