Like any other hair type, dreadlocks also need proper maintenance and care to stay healthy and looking good. If you have dreadlocks, there’s a very specific approach you should have as far as your hair is concerned, else you might find yourself with broken, smelly and just plain dirty dreads – not the look you’re going for, right?

We spoke to Bhekumuzi Ngubeni, dreadlocks stylist and owner of Royal Roots salon in Johannesburg, about basic care tips, common mistakes people make and generally keeping your dreadlocks in check.

Routine is key to maintaining your dreads – and while, as a man, some of these basics might not be ideal, they are crucial.

Washing your dreads

The belief that people with dreadlocks don’t wash their hair is false and problematic (but we won’t get into that). If your dreadlocks are new, then you shouldn’t wash them for about two to three weeks so they can lock without any hindrances. Thereafter, make sure you wash your dreads once a week or fortnightly.

“Always wash your hair with warm water and always dry your dreadlocks by ringing them, then wrapping them in a towel to get rid of any extra moisture,” says Ngubeni. “If your dreadlocks are styled, don’t wash them too often; wash them about twice a month, two weeks apart,” he adds.

The right shampoo

Your choice of shampoo is vital – always opt for a residue-free one. Residue tends to clog your pores, thus attracting dirt. You could also go directly for shampoos created specifically for dreadlocks – but avoid commercial shampoos, as these are filled with additives that won’t do much for your natural hair.

Ngubeni suggests you use Jabu Stone’s.

READ MORE: Keep your natural hair healthy, man!

Keep moisture at bay

Your dreadlocks should be wet only if you’re taking a swim or when you’re washing them. They can develop a bad smell if left damp for a long period, in much the same way clothes develop an odour when left damp for a length of time.

Ngubeni says that if you exercise a lot and sweat, you have to wash your dreads more often than the average person.

“Dreadlocks can start smelling really bad if you spend a lot of time at the gym or running and don’t wash them afterwards. This is because your hair is left damp with sweat, which can cause a bad reaction.”

He says that another common mistake people make is not completely drying their dreadlocks before styling them. “You have to absolutely dry your hair before you style it! Not doing this will result in the same bad smell.”

Cover up 

“When you go to bed, it’s important to make sure your dreadlocks are always covered, that they don’t go directly on your pillow,” Ngubeni advises. “These days, they actually make dreadlock covers that you can buy in some salons. This is so you don’t get small white particles in your hair – you may have to dye your hair every month if you don’t cover your dreads.”

It’s also important to make sure your hair is covered if you’re in a dusty place or during certain seasons.


If your dreadlocks are quite thin, Ngubeni suggests you don’t twist them often because this, among other things, is one of the leading causes of hair breakage.

“When you go to a salon to have your hair done, make sure they don’t only twist the growth, but that each dread is treated from top to bottom and is constantly moisturised,” he says. “Dry hair is prone to breakage.”

He also says that if you feel your hair is being pulled too hard at the salon, don’t be afraid to speak up, because over time this weakens your dreadlocks at the roots and causes them to be more prone to breakage.