A brief history of locs
Dreadlocks (locs, locks, dreads, Jaṭā in South Asian language) are rope-like strands of hair that are formed by braiding, twisting, or coiling (and in some cases with the help of interlocking tools). Locked styles have existed globally and have been depicted in ancient civilizations as far back as 1500 BC. Locs are worn for spiritual, religious, cultural reasons, and have become a popular aesthetic in modern beauty, music, and fashion. Throughout the times, the techniques and products used to form locs have also evolved.
What are microlocs?
One of these evolutions are the famous microlocs. Microlocs are a hairstyle inspired by the iconic dreadlocks. They are smaller and less voluminous, thus becoming a great option for those who want to acquire a dreadlock look but prefer less bulk. Dreads range from about 10mm or larger in diameter, whereas microlocs typically range from about 6-9mm in diameter, just about smaller than a pencil. The number of individual microlocs can range between 300 to a thousand depending on the size of your head, hair density, and hair thickness.
Microlocs and traditional locs are similar in many ways. You can style both by twisting, coiling, braiding or with a tool that allows the hair to be interlocked, a method that pulls the end of the loc through the base of the root.
Microlocs have gained popularity widely due to its smaller sizing, allowing for more flexibility in styling. Microlocs can be cornrowed, braided, roller set, sculpted into updos, dyed, and cut into various shapes such as layers, bobs, and one-length. Microlocs are great for people who desire the appearance of fullness or who seek endless styling options.
Starting your microlocs
An important part of styling your hair into any kind of loc is the method by which you start. These three methods are the most notable ways of starting your microlocs. Beginners are encouraged to contact your nearest loctician and/or take classes to familiarize yourself with the techniques of styling into locs.
Because of the flexibility in styling of microlocs, there are different ways to start them. The most common method is with interlocks. Microlocs don’t have to follow a precise parting grid. Rather, the parting can be wherever you desire. When starting microlocs with interlocking, it’s basically a locking technique whereby the end of the hair is pulled through the root to tighten the hair all the way to the scalp.
This technique can be done with a tool or with just your fingers. Interlocking is a technique that can be used to start and maintain any texture of hair because it reinforces the hair to stay in place and prevent unraveling. This method is quite useful for people who have relaxed, permed, or chemically treated hair.
If the interlocking technique is too difficult for a beginner such as yourself, a starting technique that might suit you is the two-strand twist. A two-strand twist can be achieved by splitting a section of hair into two and then creating a rope-like appearance by wrapping each section around the other. You have the option of achieving an even smaller loc size than any other starting method with this one.
You can also start your microlocs with braids. This technique is most suitable for people with looser or relaxed hair. This is also a good option for people with short hair. With braiding, your hair won’t experience as much budding, leading to less body or volume. This also means your locs won’t experience much shrinkage and fizz.
The 5 stages of loc maturity and maintenance
Like traditional locs, microlocs go through five stages of maturity and with each stage comes with its own set of maintenance practices:
Starter/baby lock stage
This is the beginning stage of the development of your locs. It can last anywhere from three to six months depending on your hair type and the rate at which your hair grows. What’s important at this stage is that your hair is able to form coils entirely through from roots to ends.
Here are some tips to take care of your locs at the starter stage:
- Try to wait at least two weeks before your very first shampoo
- Use a residue-free shampoo whenever you wash your hair to keep your scalp clean whenever your locs get itchy
- Apply conditioner daily to your hair to keep your scalp and baby locs moisturised
- Never detangle them again
- Leave your locs alone and let them grow
This is the stage where hair begins to bud or loosely mat and signs of frizz and some swelling of the locs occurs. Your hair will start to intertwine at the tops of your coil after shampooing, and the coils will start to have some thickness. You will also notice that at this stage your starting patterns will start to diminish. But there’s no need to worry because this is all part of the process.
Here are some tips to maintain your budding stage locs:
- Cleanse and cultivate your hair regularly
- Shampoo regularly but be careful, so you don’t unravel the hair
- Don’t re-divide your budding locs or twist them to death
- Practice a light re-twisting routine to promote new growth
- Refrain from frequent re-twisting as it can lead to thinning locs and breakage
A lot of people refer to this phase as the locking stage. Many others see it as the ugly phase. It is the exciting time when the buds and sprouts truly begin to look like locs as they have swelled up to almost twice their original size. This is also an excellent time to rock your hair by investing in accessories so you can play around with a few styles. At the moment, shampooing can no longer loosen locs since the growing stage of your locs development where your locs have developed enough to hang down.
At this stage you might find these tips important:
- Be highly selective of products you use to avoid buildup since your locs are just starting to lump
- Experiment often with pressure styles (such as ropes twists and curly sets) to control some swelling
- Wash your locs regularly and keep them moisturised with the best hair growth oils for dreadlocks
This is where locs can swell to double the original size, matt, and shrinkage where hair retracts in length which is common in textured hair. The duration of this adult stage is around 1-2 years, but the speed at which your locs will grow depends on your hair’s texture, your hair care regimen, and the products you use. You know you have reached the mature stage when your locs are closed at the ends, and they are finally long enough to lie flat or hang down. At this point, your locs are firm, and there’s no more reforming, so you don’t have to re-twist your new growth.
For this stage it is recommended that you:
- Engage in a regular shampooing and conditioning routine
- Use the right products to prevent buildup and unravelling
- Properly re-twist your hair to avoid weak locs and excessive frizz once they are mature
At this point in time, your hair is denser, ends become more sealed, minimal to no frizz and the hair grows exponentially. This stage is akin to the shedding stage of hair growth, and it happens after the second year. Normally, by this time, your locs should have all grown to the same length and will feel heavier and at the same time, more slender. You can choose to let them go below your waist or trim them if you want a more manageable style. After a few years of wearing your locs, there’s a good chance that some locks may begin to think and break off at the ends.
Don’t let your proud locs deteriorate by following these tips:
- Use natural oils (such as Argan oil and Avocado oil) to keep your tresses moisturised, long and shiny
- Get regular trims to control deterioration at the ends of your locs
- Deep condition your locs every 1-2 weeks
- Wrap your locs at night with a satin scarf to prevent breakage and dry locs
- Dry your locs thoroughly to prevent odour
General Microlocs Care Reminders
Depending on how fast your hair grows, it is recommended that microlocs should be re-twisted every 4-8 weeks to maintain consistency throughout the loc. When maintaining the microlocs with interlocking, the time you have to wait between maintenance sessions is remarkably longer unlike other forms of starting. With interlocking you can go anywhere between two to three months before your next maintenance session.
There is also a misconception that locs do not need to be washed often. Washing is encouraged, especially during the early stages as water promotes the matting and maturing of the loc. And it is also important to keep the scalp free of product residue and buildup. Light, natural oils or leave-in conditioner can also be used to hydrate and keep hair feeling soft.
While styling possibilities are endless, it is important not to over style and create too much tension at the root. Too much tension can lead to traction alopecia. Waiting too long between maintenance appointments can also weaken locs. Locs are strengthened by the ability to encapsulate new growth. In other words, there is a fine balance between over styling and neglect.
Before you go on with your microlocs journey, be sure to have the necessary tools and accessories required to take care of those precious locs. Consult with your nearest loctician so you can be best prepared. Take classes on styling with locs if possible.
Microlocs are a simple but stylish offshoot of traditional locs. Its volume, versatility, and ease of maintenance is suitable for people with active lifestyles. Microlocs are also a good starting point for beginners about to don their first locs.
Much like traditional locs, microlocs are a loud and proud personal statement. This style of hair is a testament to your commitment towards your chosen way of expressing yourself to a world that can often discourage standing out. But this power comes with great responsibility. Microlocs demand regular maintenance and care. And event then, it will take over a year before they show their full potential. This much style just can’t come easy. But don’t let that discourage you. Rather, it should be a point of pride to be able to commit to your style.