The Lowdown On Locs + Faux Locs According To A Celeb Hairstylist

Black Hair

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Over the past year, we’ve seen a major resurgence of locs on social media, and we’re SO here for it. If you’re a newbie to the loc world, buckle in because we can’t lie, committing to locs is a journey. Real talk, dreadlocks can take over a year to cultivate and develop, so patience is key. If you don’t have that level of patience, keep calm as there are tons of other loc trends that can be installed in a day, from faux-locs to butterfly locs. Here’s what you need to know before you embark on your loc journey.

The First Installation

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If we had to condense the loc process into a single sentence, simply put: your hair will tangle, causing the strands to coil into fused units and form locs. The process from installation to adult locs can take over a year as you move through five key stages of development.

As for the installation, there are multiple methods. Some people with coily or kinky texture can simply stop combing their hair to create “free form” locs, which vary in size. However, others prefer a more cultivated look, with partings throughout and uniform loc size.

According to celebrity hairstylist Evalyn Denis who works with goddesses like Solange, “There’s a couple of different [in-salon] methods to achieving locs.” She prefers the comb coil method. She outlines, “The comb coil method is pretty simple. I take freshly washed hair, part the section out, then moose the hair and detangle. Next, I take the comb & twist it down the hair all the way to the tips.” Your first loc appointment will take roughly 3 to 4 hours. However, Evalyn adds that this “Depends on the client’s natural hair density and the size of the loc they’re going for.”

The Five Loc Stages

Locs aren’t an overnight sensation – they can take over a year to form and develop, so patience is key. With that being said, it’s well worth the wait. Here are the five key stages of loc formation:

1. The Baby Phase: This stage is often referred to as the “struggle” stage, as your hair struggles to form the loc. This can take anywhere between 3 to 6 months, depending on your hair texture.

2. Budding phase: The size of the locs will begin to expand, and they may look a little ‘puffy.’ The hair will typically expand in the middle section to the ends of the locs. It’s a great idea to get into a retwisting routine during this time, however, don’t overdo it as it can lead to thinning locs and breakage.

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During this phase, it’s also important to care for locs by using lightweight, water-soluble ingredients to avoid unwanted buildup. The Dr. Locs Yasin Shampoo, $27, is specifically designed for locs and will run fluidly throughout your hair and help you avoid product build-up. This also means you should stay away from oils, shea butter, and gels.

3. Teenage Phase: After the formation and expansion phase, your locs will finally begin to plump and solidify. Your locs may even double in size, and compared to the budding phase, they’ll be denser and even a little tangled.

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This phase can last anywhere up from 6 to 12 months. During this period, you can experiment with different styles like low-tension buns or ponytails. After a while, you may notice your locs begin to shrink. This is because your hair strands are condensing and tightening.

4. Mature loc phase: Congrats, your locs are formed at this stage and will continue to grow longer. Your locs will be denser, and they’ll seal off and be less fuzzy. They should be thick enough to support themselves, and you’re likely to be more comfortable and familiar with your loc needs.

5. Rooted phase: This stage is known as the rooted or adult stage, which comes several years after your first appointment. Your locs will hang differently, feel heavier and yet look slenderer.

Congrats, your locs made it!

Loc Maintenance 101

According to Evie, “Moisture, oiling your scalp daily, and low manipulation” are the three essential loc maintenance rituals you need to practice. When it comes to her fave oil, she recommends Jamaican castor oil like the Tropic Isle Living Black Jamaican Cator oil, $14, as it’s super nourishing and will supply the hair shaft with the essential vitamins and proteins it needs to boost growth and thicken your locs.

Re-Twist With The Palm Rolling Method

To keep your locs tight, celebrity hairstylist Camille Friend (and the lead stylist for Blank Panther) recommends retwisting with the palm rolling method. This is a great practice to get into when you first install your locs, as it’ll allow your hair strands to lock themselves and begin the budding process.

Wash Your Locs Every 1 to 3 Weeks

There’s a common myth that you shouldn’t wash locs. However, it’s recommended to wash your hair every one to three weeks, to remove product build-up or debris that can damage your hair strands. The time between washes is dependent on your lifestyle and hair type, so experiment to find what feels right for you.

Most importantly, washing your hair will not disrupt the loc process. In fact, the water can add a kink or curl to your hair and help the loc form. Shampoo also plays a key role in the health of your locs – be sure to look for a lightweight, moisturizing shampoo to cleanse your scalp. However, many recommend avoiding conditioner, as it can be counterproductive to loc formation.

An apple cider vinegar rinse is a good DIY option to clarify your scalp and remove buildup. Use a 1:2 ratio of ACV and water, massage into the scalp, then rinse with warm water.

Loc Removal

If you want to remove your locs, Evalyn outlines the best practice. She says to “Start at the tip of your loc, with a rat tail comb and begin to pick it out with the tail of the comb. Once enough is picked out, you can comb it out.” While this may sound simple, she warns, “The removal process can be pretty lengthy,” you can also expect to sit for 6+ hrs. If you’ve had your locs for over two years, you may not be able to remove them and may need to cut them out completely.

Other Loc Options:

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If this sounds like too much commitment for you, other loc options can be fitted and ready to go in one, albeit, long sitting.

Faux-Locs

Faux locs are exactly as the name suggests – fake locs. They’re a temporary protective style where the extension hair is loc’d instead of your natural hair. Evalyn says it can take anywhere between three to eight hours to install depending on the length and parting, and they’ll last up to three months. There are two methods of installation: 

Braid and wrap: You start by braiding your natural hair and then wrap loc’d hair extensions around each braid.  

Cornrow and crochet: This involves braiding your natural hair into cornrows and then crocheting the faux locs with a latch hook. This method is quicker; however, the final look is not always as realistic as the wrapping technique. Evie’s go-to? She likes to install faux-locs with a crochet hook.

As for maintenance, Evalyn recommends using a “Leave-in conditioner, plus, a peppermint-based oil for cleansing.” She also suggests wrapping your hair at night.

Butterfly Locs

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Butterfly locs have dominated 2021 and are undoubtedly the most popular faux-loc style RN. They’re a variant of faux locs, so the installation methods are the same; however, the technique is different. Evalyn says, “I also like to install butterfly locs with a crochet hook. The technique is less controlled, plus there’s more texture and “bubbles” throughout the loc.”

To create butterfly locs, Evalyn uses ‘Freetress Water Wave‘ hair, but she does add that crochet hair can also work. As for removal, she suggests taking them out around the two-month mark.

For more protective inspo, check out our knotless braid guide.

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