Dreadlock Extensions: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know Plus Some Things You Didn't

hair, hippie, misc

What are they?

Dread extensions are semi-permanent hair extensions that are usually attached to the hair by braiding, then secured with polyurethane bands. They can also be tied onto hair bobbles to make removable “falls” that can be worn short-term.

What types of dread extension are there?

There are generally 3 types of dread extension: wool, synthetic hair, and real hair:

  • Wool dreads are made from wool roving, and are generally lighter than the other two types. Be careful here, “roving” can include natural wool and/or synthetic fibres. Always carry out a flame test if these are to be used in an activity involving, or surrounded by, fire. If they melt, don’t use them.
  • Synthetic hair dreads are made out of synthetic material and resemble course hair. They are generally harder wearing and give a more realistic dread effect.
  • Real hair dreads are made from real hair. They are generally more expensive but will have more natural colours.

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Where can I get them?

You have two options at this point: buy or make. I’ve found the best place to buy them ready-made is either from an online specialist shop, or from a maker markerplace like Etsy or eBay.

It’s generally cheaper to make them, but very time consuming. Roving can be purchased from eBay or anywhere that sells felting supplies.

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How many will I need?

This will depend on how much of your head you want covered, and whether or not you have single- or double-ended dreads. Double-ended dreads are twice as long as single-ended are braided in from the middle, rather than from a loop at one end, and folding in the middle to give two dreads per braid.

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How long will it take to put them in?

Putting in dreads is a very time-consuming process. For a full head of dreads, allow at least 3 - 4 hours if the person installing them has done it before. Double-ended dreads take less time than single-ended, as less are needed.

How do I put them in?

You don’t! Well, not by yourself. You’ll generally get far better results if you bribe persuade someone to install them for you. There are also many hairdressers who offer this service, if you’re willing to spend money.

I won’t go into the details of dread installation here, as there are many good tutorials elsewhere, but as a general outline: dreads are braided into existing hair in sections.

These braids are then secured using polyurethane bands, which can be bought online or in a salon shop. I generally use black bands, as I have black hair, but white/clear-ish, and coloured ones are available.

There are several braiding techniques; my preference is blanket-stitching, as it makes for a better transition between hair and dread.

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Will they damage my hair?

If you leave them in too long, yes. Your real hair will matt into the dreads, around the securing bands, and into itself. If this isn’t too bad, a good hairdresser may be able to pick it out. If not, you’ll need to get the matted parts cut off. This happened to me, and meant getting rid of my lovely shoulder-length hair that I’d grown over a couple of years!

Dread extensions don’t make your hair fall out. We lose about 100 hairs a day naturally, and these will “stick” to dreads that are braided in, so don’t be alarmed if you notice this more with dreads in!

How long can I leave them in?

It depends on whether you prefer to take them out or cut them out. Dread extensions will matt your hair if you leave them in long enough. This time will vary from person to person: generally the guideline is no more than 2 - 3 months, but my thick curly hair was irrecoverably matted after a month! Dread extensions can be removed and reinstalled if you want them in for longer.

Can I wash them?

Yes, but it’s up to you whether you do. If you don’t want to wash the whole dreads, you can just wash your scalp to stop it getting itchy. Tea-tree oil is generally recommended to prevent itching, but YMMV.

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Will they smell?

I’ve generally found that they’ll smell of soap used when they were made. Oil and dead skin are more likely to build up on them and add to their smell if you don’t wash them, but this isn’t generally too bad.


jekyll, blog, misc

The blog works, yay! I’m using Jekyll hosted on GitHub Pages, which I’m liking a whole lot more than WordPress!

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