Hello everyone! I don't post on here very often, but I am an admin in the Dreadlocks Natty Dreads Facebook group, and this was the pinned post in there for a long time. We will be changing it soon, but Soaring Eagle asked me to post it here on Dreadlockssite before we unpinned it from the group. I wrote this back in May.
Dreadlock Maintenance: A Cautionary Tale
I have seen a lot of recommendation lately of harmful methods that are done to dreads. The purpose of this group is to support healthy, natural dreads and to discourage the practice of harmful methods. There are plenty of groups on Facebook who support harmful methods of dreadcare, but this is where everyone comes when they realize they are ruining their hair. There are many harmful methods, and while I can name a list a mile long (anything involving crochet hooks, wax, interlocking/root flipping, twisting (as maintenance, twisting is an okay way to start dreads), palm rolling...) but there is actually just one word buzzword you really need to look out for: Maintenance.
Dreads maintain themselves, all one actually needs to do is wash them (clean hair dreads better, in addition to being cleaner and smelling better), and separate them if they wish to prevent congoing. Many people in this group are here and are so avidly against doing maintenance for 1 or 2 reasons: We have been there and done that (in my case), or we have just seen too many other people go down the same road.
I crocheted my hair for a few months when my dreads were new. I was very careful not to break hairs, not to pull too hard, I did everything right. I thought it made my new dreads look more mature but truth be told, it only made them look crocheted. Its not hard to tell: they are stiff as a board, they are scratchy, and they are incredibly thin (this is a result of being tight). My dreads were no exception to this. Months later, it is still obvious I crocheted, and will be for some time. They look frizzy, there are loose hairs poking out of the middle of dreads (this is from where the hairs are broken by crocheting) and some are still rather stiff. Over the past few months, I saw those hairs start to poke out, but I started to see that my hair is maturing much better on its own in very little time. They are thickening up and getting fuller looking. They are getting better, and I'm more proud of them. I have come to realize what I was really doing when I crocheted my dreads: I was trying to fix the damage I did that was coming out from the last time I crocheted. It was like I cut my arm, and every time it would scab over I would try to cut the wound off. That is all that any form of maintenance does. I wish I never crocheted, and I regret not listening to those on this group's warning before hand. But my dreads are a part of me, and they represent me. In that way, they show my own stubbornness, and the wonderful part of it, is that as I learn to progress and evolve out of my stubbornness my dreads are also healing. We are growing together, because they are a part of me.
All maintenance does is give the untrained eye the appearance of maturity, when anyone who knows the difference can tell it has been done, and can point out all the ways in which it has damaged your hair. Much of the damage can be reversed through time, some of it cannot. Sometimes one may even lose their dreads. It is a question in risk management: Knowing that so many others have been down those roads and have come out with harm to their dreads, hair and even scalp, and continuing to do so is taking a huge risk. When someone here warns of these risks, they are not doing so out of elitism, they are not doing it to be mean, bossy, pushy or controlling. We are doing it because we love dreads, all kinds of dreads, and we want them all to be healthy! It is out of caring, concern, compassion. Every time I see someone who is enthusiastically sticking to their own methods, I see myself and I feel like I am arguing with myself.
It has come to my attention that there will always be those, like myself, who must learn the hard way. However, I beg you, I implore of you all: please do not recommend these methods to others. That is not the purpose of this group (natty means natural, after all!), and all it is doing is confusing people who come here looking for help or wanting to know how to start dreads. Usually the reason they are needing help with their dreads is that they messed them up by doing some sort of maintenance. Just because you have gotten by a few months, maybe even a few years, by doing some sort of maintenance to your own or other people's dreads. That does not mean those methods are safe, and it certainly does not mean you should recommend them to others looking for help, not more problems.
updated by @bear-scott: 05/26/15 06:17:53PM