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Dreads vs Braids: Differences and Similarities

The urge to adorn one’s hair in beautiful and aesthetic patterns is fundamentally human, and there are many ways to fashion hair.

Dreads and braids are two such methods that are immensely popular. However, people often get confused between these two hairstyle forms and conflate them. Despite being similar in appearance, dreads and braids are very different.

Both hairstyles carry unique characteristics and have different maintenance techniques. Dreadlocks have a rich history, and people wear them in Africa, Australia, etc. Hindu ascetics also tend to style their hair in dreadlocks.

What are dreads?

Dreads Hairstyle

Dreads are also known as dreadlocks or locs, and they are made by locking strands of hair together or braiding them. The practice of wearing dreadlocks dates back to 2500 BC.

They are recognized by their rope-like appearance, coiled together like a piece of steel wool. Dreadlocks look as if each strand of hair has been loosely knit with the other. There is a maturation period for dreadlocks, but it has not been specified.

It is conjectured that dreadlocks derive their name from British soldiers’ dread upon encountering Mau Mau people who wore this hairstyle. Bob Marley, the reggae pioneer, is famously known for his dreadlock hairstyle.

Dreadlocks were popularized in the west during the rise of the Rastafarian movement. This movement propounded the belief that the head emanates valuable and spiritual energy, and dreadlocks help in reserving that energy.

Dreadlocks became a symbol of strength and power that helped to keep mind, body, and spirit in alignment.

Also read: How to grow dreadlocks from short hair?

What are braids?

braid hairstyle

Braids are a form of hairstyle in which hair is divided into two or more interlaced sections to form a repetitive aesthetic pattern, and they have a zig-zag appearance.

The most common braid worn across cultures universally is the three-sectioned braid. Like Dreadlocks, braids also carry symbolic significance in different cultures. Many Native American people attach great importance to braids and consider them a symbol of the soul’s unity with the universe.

Besides the standard three-sectioned braid, there are styles like the french braid, fish braid, or waterfall braid.

Also read: Do braids make your hair grow?

What is the difference between braids and dreads?

Even though they might appear similar, dreadlocks and braids are very different from each other, and they have fundamental differences in design, structure, form, maintenance, etc.

That dreadlocks are ‘braided’ does not necessarily equate them to braids. Braids are relatively quick to create than dreadlocks. Elaborate braids can be formed in much lesser time than dreads. Unlike braids, the unfortunate events of history have stereotyped dreads with negative connotations.

Braids are worn for a shorter period as compared to dreads. While braids can be loosened at will and hair can be restored to its original structure by unraveling the braid, it is not possible with dreads. Dreads are a more permanent hairstyle than braids.

The first step to making both the hairstyles is to section the hair, but the similarity stops here. To make dreadlocks, hair is sectioned, backcombed, and twisted. Then it is allowed to matt itself naturally. In contrast, braids are simply three or more sections of hair woven together.

Which hairstyle is harder to maintain?

maintenance of each hairstyle

Any hairstyle needs to be adequately maintained to appear beautiful. A good hairstyle should allow the person to clean it regularly and without much hassle.

A messy hairstyle lacks attractive appeal and hygiene. It is a common misconception that dreadlocks are a dirty hairstyle. The truth is that dreads require less maintenance than regular hair and can be cleaned adequately. One can choose how often they would like to cleanse their dreads.

Some may get them retwisted every four weeks, while some never do that. One can wash dreads every one to two weeks. People who wear dreadlocks also use waxes and shampoo free of residue to keep their hairdo in a fresh condition.

Braids do not provide this flexibility of maintenance at a whim. One can wear dreads and simultaneously cleanse the scalp. That is not possible with braids. Braids can only be worn until they start looking dirty, after which they need to be loosened to cleanse the hair.

Dreads cannot be loosened as easily because the hair gets matted and minute knots are formed that are almost impossible to untangle. Often people choose to cut off their dreads from the roots to allow unmatted hair to grow.

Which Hairstyle is more expensive to maintain?

The cost of maintenance is also essential when considering hairstyles, especially when one is not adept at styling their hair. The maintenance expense of dreads and braids may differ from place to place.

Still, an approximate estimation might help one get a clear idea. Dreads are more expensive to obtain and maintain than braids, and it is so because of the sheer amount of time that goes into making dreadlocks and their maintenance.

The hair needs to be washed, parted into sections, twisted, and dried. Because they involve more intense and professional skills, dreadlocks are costlier than braids.

Braids are relatively easy and do not have an intricate styling process. They take lesser time and expertise to complete; therefore, they are cheaper.

Length of hair

Length of hair

Another fundamental difference between dreadlocks and braids is the length of hair required to make them. The length determines whether a particular hairstyle is even feasible to be made to not.

The hair length needed to make braids is longer than the length required to make dreads. Dreadlocks only need enough hair to twist and section, while braiding is easier with longer hair.

One must have enough hair to be sectioned, gripped, and twisted to get dreadlocks. Contrastingly, it is easier to braid hair when they are longer.

Therefore, one must have hair long enough to be woven into each other and hold their position.

Which is better, dreads or braids?

The choice between braids and dreadlocks is ultimately subjective. The information provided can help one gain comprehensive knowledge about the hairstyles before committing to either.

One can choose the preferable hairstyle after considering the length of their hair, expense capacity, and willingness to maintain the hairstyle.

One should also choose the hairstyle they are more confident in carrying. It would not be very smart to opt for a trending hairstyle and then be unable to maintain it or carry it confidently.

Final Thoughts

In this modern world, one can choose how one wants to look without being subjected to any judgment. Before pursuing dreadlocks or braids, it’s important to remember that neither of the two hairstyles is dirty or unhygienic.

The misconception that dreadlocks cannot be washed and are unhygienic is only a misconception. It depends upon the person how often they would like to clean their scalp, which is also the case with any other hairstyle.

One should wear dreadlocks proudly if it is their cultural heritage. Other people must be attentive to not engage in cultural appropriation concerning dreads or braids. Many hippies, Africans, and African-Americans have helped popularize dreads, and people wear them with pride today.

For many artists, it was a way of rejecting western values that had replaced their cultural values. Hair is a valuable part of one’s body and is often seen as an extension of one’s mind. It is one’s onus to define their relationship with their hair and style them in preferable ways.

The similarities, differences, maintenance, and expense of the dreads and braids should be considered before arriving at any decision.


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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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