6 Down & Dirty Tips on Choosing A Dreadlock Shampoo
Whether you’re just starting to explore natural hairstyle possibilities, are beginning to grow dreads or have been wearing locs for a while now, it’s important to learn how to shampoo dreads to ensure that they stay healthy and keep on looking great.
Well, to put it simply, you can’t just shampoo dreadlocks with any old shampoo you pick up at the 99 cent store. (Sorry, not sorry).
You’ll want to use the best shampoo for dreads if you want to get the best results and avoid hair care woes.
Choosing a shampoo that’s best for your dreads can seem a little daunting. Your first thought may be that “shampoo is shampoo is shampoo, what difference does it make?” but deep down inside you have a hunch that may not be the case. Knowing your locs have special considerations when it comes to other styling methods, you wonder if the same is true for shampoos too.
But what makes for a good dreadlocks shampoo you ask? Read on to discover some important tips about shampooing dreads…
The main consideration when choosing a shampoo for your locs is residues. Depending on the shampoo and the hydrating and conditioning agents it contains, shampoos will leave residue in the hair even though it gives a sudsy cleanse.
1. Residue Is a No No.
Locs can easily absorb ingredients like fragrances and oils from shampoos and other hair care products. Even if you thoroughly rinse your hair, traces of residue can linger in your locs and absorb moisture. Even if your dreadlocks feel dry, that residue that’s lurking behind might leave them still slightly damp, increasing your risk of developing dread rot. Always rinse your hair thoroughly after washing your locs, meaning twice as long as what feels natural or “enough.”
And while residue is not particularly good for any hair, the structure of dreadlocks makes this even more troublesome. Reason being that since the hair is matted and tightly packed, residues cannot escape the hair in the same way that they do on un-matted hair. The residue gets trapped and builds up over time.
Residues also add slippage which can delay the time it takes for your locs to fully mature and may even promote unraveling. It can also lead to an itchy or irritated scalp when not properly and thoroughly washed out allowing product build-up to accumulate over time.
Here’s how you can tell if your shampoo is leaving a residue in your locs:
- It feels as if there’s a heavy coating weighing your hair down
- You hair appears dry and dull even after you just washed it
- Your hair won’t hold the style the way that it used to. In other words, curls don’t last as long, braid-outs fall limp after only a day or two
So you want to make sure that the shampoo you choose not only provides a deep cleanse, but also is residue-free. Residue-free shampoos are a better alternative to conventional shampoos for dreads. A residue-free shampoo helps wash away product build-up without adding additional build-up causing agents to your hair.
Here are the best shampoos for dreads topping our list:
- Liquid African Black Soap
- Dr. Bronner’s Castille Tea Tree Soap (must be diluted or can be drying)
- Jamaican Mango & Lime Tingle Shampoo
- Dollylocks Nag Champa Shampoo
- Trader Joe’s Tea Tree Tingle Shampoo
2. Most Shampoos Will Leave Behind Residue.
You’ll find a number of conventional and even specialty ethnic shampoos on the market that claim to be “residue free,” but in actuality most still leave behind some traces of ingredients. Before buying any shampoo, it’s important to check the ingredient listings for any ingredients that start with the letters PPG or PEG. These ingredients are likely to leave behind residue on dreadlocks and should be avoided.
Right now, I’m using Jason’s Tea Tree Normalizing Shampoo. Reason being, it doesn’t have any any harsh chemicals (i.e. no parabens, no sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate or phthalates and not tested on animals). I read about it on a dreadlocks forum and sought it out, when I finally found it and saw on the packaging that it’s recommended for itchy scalp (which I have), with that I was convinced enough to try it and have been very happy with the results.
[UPDATE: It was later discovered that Jason’s did have sodium lauryl sulfates in their product and was taken to court for falsely advertising the absence of this ingredient. I have since replaced this shampoo in my wash day regimen and now use a combination of African Black Soap and Dr. Bronner’s Tea Tree Castille Soap.]
3. Sulfates Are Not Your Friends.
There are two surfactants commonly used in shampoo that people of all hair types are starting to avoid like the plague: Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES). Both of these ingredients have been shown to potentially damage the cuticle of the hair strands and to strip moisture from the inner layers of hair proteins. These cleansing agents should be avoided if you have dreads, as they can trigger scalp sensitivity and leave locs dehydrated.
4. “Organic” and “Natural” Are Not Synonymous With “Safe for Dreadlocks.”
Many shampoos today are touted as being organic, natural, naturally derived, made with organic ingredients and so on. Many Naturalistas make the mistake of assuming products with these types of labels are automatically safe for their locs, but that’s not always the case. Many natural ingredients can still create residue, making it important that you only choose formulas with essential oils or saponified oils not oils mixed with carrier oils. For example, a lot of people still use beeswax for their dreadlock maintenance. Yes, beeswax is technically “natural” (and who could hate those cute little bees busy making honey and other goodies for us?) but it’s a death knell for dreads because it attracts lint and unsightly buildup.
5. Search Before You Buy.
Before purchasing any shampoo for dreads, don’t simply be swayed by pretty packaging and clever marketing angles… flip the bottle over and take a scan of all of the ingredients contained in the formulas. Find out whether or not they’re really dread safe before you make your purchase. There are commercial products out there that are safe, but it can take a bit of investigation to find them.
6. Don’t Be Afraid to Make Your Own.
Because it can be so difficult to find a residue-free shampoo for dreadlocks, many Naturalistas (and NaturalMistas) choose to whip up their own homemade rinses. You can find a number of recipes online that allow you to make a big batch of dreadlock rinse with just a few easy-to-find ingredients.
Whether you decide you want to make your own dreads shampoo or purchase one of the best shampoos for locs currently available on the market, your locs will thank you by being easy to manage when you take the time to shampoo your dreads with a formula or natural rinse made especially for locs.
Let’s recap some final considerations when picking a dreadlock shampoo…
- Pick products made with natural oil: Natural oil is great for your locs, and that is why you want to pick products made with natural oil, like coconut oil, jojoba or argan oil to name a few. Natural oils help nourish and moisturize your locs. And since your hair’s natural sebum has a harder time traversing all the twists & turns of your locs on its own, this simple addition helps keep your locs moisturized and supple.In addition, you should look out for products made with anti-fungal and anti-microbial benefits like peppermint and tea tree extracts which leave your scalp & hair feeling fresh, clean, and smelling great.
- Stay away from products made with Beeswax: It is critical to also steer clear of products made with ingredients that weigh your hair down such as beeswax. Before picking a shampoo for dreadlocks and dandruff, take a look at the ingredients included to make your hair shine, avoid those with wax or petrolatum in them, and opt for products that, again, have natural oils.
- Pick a formula designed specifically for locs when possible: Now you don’t have to obsess over this one or become a natural hair Nazi, simply use it as a guideline or best practice. Generally speaking, products designed for locs have already taken the special needs of dreadlocks into consideration and are more likely to work better for you. They are more likely to have the best ingredients your hair needs to remain healthy and vibrant. This is not always the case though, so you still have to examine the ingredients.
- Not all organic shampoo is good for you: Don’t be tempted into believing that all products with the label natural and organic are right for your hair. While it is good to go for an organic product, you must also keep in mind that there is no guarantee that you will get the right result because some organic ingredients affect people differently. Some people may be sensitive to aloe vera and others to coconut oil. So another best practice is to do a small patch test on the back of your hand with any new product you choose.
One last tip… the best shampoo for dreads is one that has a well-balanced pH formula and ensures your scalp receives the same care as your hair.
And to keep that healthy vibe going, consider adding a Dreadlock Shampoo Brush to your dreadlock maintenance routine. It’s like a pamper party for your scalp…