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Curly Nikki

4 Common Mistakes that Will Ruin Your Locs

By November 4th, 202328 Comments
4 Common Mistakes that Will Ruin Your Locs
by Sherrell Dorsey of OrganicBeautyVixen

I’m working a little backwards here folks. When I first started my locs I was young, bull-headed and all about instant gratification. So I turned my human hair kinky twists into locs and never looked back. That in-between stage? Nah. I skipped it. As my locs began to form I would slowly trim off the ends until all of the added hair was finally gone.

I listened a bit to those ladies who had taken the plunge before me. I skipped the beeswax, opted for a cream and washed my hair after 3 months of scratching away dandruff and funk. Despite living in New York’s hub of natural hair salons I wasn’t ready to spend the money or the time learning from some semi natural hair priestess on all of the complicated ways to loc my hair. It was just hair right?

Fast forward four years later and here I’m sitting with locs that look great on the outside but are clearly suffering from some initial abuse. While my locs are not a complete disaster I certainly regret not listening to the professionals. Now that I’m on my “get right” plan with my hair and really learning how to manage a healthy hair care routine, here are a few ways I caused damage to my locs without knowing:

1. Washing Too Frequently
I never wanted to be identified as “Smelly Sherrelly”. Please don’t ask. Childhood trauma I guess. After that three month locking process was over I washed my hair every two weeks fearing that between sweat and product, I was going to build up that “loc” smell. Unfortunately, due to my incessant need for clean hair, my locs took extremely long to officially lock in and parts of my locs became thin.

2. Not Moisturizing Enough
For some reason I became extremely lazy with my locs. I never oiled my scalp and out side of tossing on some Jane Carter Nourish and Shine moisturizer, my locs were ashy and brittle. To top it all off, 90 percent of the time I went to bed without a satin scarf. Poor locs. Someone should have reported me.

3. Tying them in Knots
Did I mention I was trifling? When my locs started to thin towards the bottom of the loc I began tying them in knots to keep the length. I still have a few that look a little awkward. Instead of going to get them “repaired” by a loctician I didn’t feel like being bothered or spending the money. Don’t judge me.

4. Coloring them Yourself 
In an experiment gone wrong, I allowed my cousin who was in cosmetology school at the time bleach and color a few of my locs in their early stages. Bad. Wrong. Painful. The color was great and I felt like a new woman but if my hair could talk it probably would have screamed in agony. Those few locs turned brittle and actually started to break. I did it again by myself and though I loved the texture the addition of color to my already dry hair wreaked havoc on my hair’s overall health.

I went to loc rehab and I’m finally taking the time to study what my hair needs, how to manage it and how to get it to glow.

Things You Should Do:

1. Moisturize Properly: 
My new routine consists of weekly deep moisturizing conditioners, sometimes with steam and washing only with Eden BodyWorks Jojoba Conditioner. Olive oil and water are my go-to moisturizers and I have faithfully been rocking that satin scar folks. Okay, I admit, maybe one night out of the week I hit the bed sans protection (hair protection that is).


4 Common Mistakes that Will Ruin Your Locs


 Giving my hair some love. I treated my hair with Carol’s Daughter Monoi Hair Mask

2. Wear Protective Styles
Since I’m headed back to NYC and the heat wave is in full effect I’ll be rocking some protective styles that will keep the hair off my back and away from my face. I decided not to twist the roots. It took a full 24 hours to completely dry but looked shiny, healthy and clean of course!


4 Common Mistakes that Will Ruin Your Locs


After rinsing out the hair mask my hair was silky soft. 

3. Limit Styling and Manipulation
I’ve also limited styling my hair to give it a chance to breathe without being manipulated. No more curls, twists, braiding for a while until my hair has fully forgiven me. It’s a tedious routine but I’m up for the challenge. I want to see as much growth and prosperity in my hair as I do in my life.

Did you start off damaging your hair but now you’re on the right path? 
Dorsey is an eco-glamour expert, writer, speaker, social entrepreneur
and creator of the blog – “A Brown Girl’s
Guide to Eco-Glam Living”. Sherrell believes that going green with
your beauty routine doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your fierce and
fabulous style. Connect with her on twitter and facebook for all things beauty, green, eco-friendly, organic, sustainable and of course… Eco-glam.


1.  How Do I Start My Locs?

Starting locs is a personal choice, and there are various methods to begin your loc journey. You can choose from techniques like twist and rip, two-strand twists, braiding, or even the freeform method where you let your hair naturally lock over time. Consult with a professional loctician to determine which method is best for you.

2. How Often Should I Wash My Locs?
The frequency of washing your locs depends on your hair type, activity level, and personal preference. On average, most people wash their locs every 1-2 weeks. Use a sulfate-free, residue-free shampoo and follow with a moisturizing conditioner. Be gentle during the washing process to avoid unnecessary frizz or unraveling.

3. Can I Color My Locs?
Yes, you can add some color to your locs to express your individual style! However, it’s essential to use hair dye formulated for locs and to consult a professional colorist who specializes in locs. Keep in mind that frequent coloring may affect the overall health of your locs, so proceed with caution.

4. How Do I Retwist My Locs?
Retwisting is a common maintenance technique for locs. It involves twisting new hair growth at the roots to maintain a neat appearance. You can retwist your locs every 4-8 weeks, but avoid overdoing it, as too much manipulation can lead to thinning or breakage.

5. What Products Should I Use for Loc Maintenance?
Choosing the right products is crucial for loc maintenance. Opt for products that are free from heavy oils and waxes, as they can cause build-up and make your locs heavy. Look for residue-free shampoos, lightweight oils, and leave-in conditioners designed for locs.

6. How Do I Prevent Build-Up?
To prevent build-up, it’s essential to use products sparingly and wash your locs regularly. When applying products, focus on the ends and avoid the roots to minimize build-up at the base of your locs. Regularly deep clean your locs with a clarifying shampoo to remove any residue.

7. Can I Work Out with Locs?
Absolutely! Locs are versatile and can handle an active lifestyle. To protect your locs while working out, consider wearing a moisture-wicking headband or bandana to absorb sweat and keep your locs dry.

8. How Can I Keep My Locs Moisturized?
Locs can sometimes become dry, so it’s essential to maintain moisture balance. Use a water-based moisturizing spray or aloe vera juice mixed with water to hydrate your locs regularly. You can also apply a light oil like jojoba or argan oil to seal in moisture.

9. How Long Will It Take for My Locs to Fully Mature?
The maturation process varies from person to person and depends on factors like hair type and the method used to start your locs. On average, it can take 1-2 years for locs to start to mature and fully lock. Be patient; it’s a journey worth taking!

10. Can I Style My Locs Creatively?
Absolutely! Locs are incredibly versatile and can be styled in countless ways. From updos and buns to curls and twists, the sky’s the limit. Experiment with accessories, wraps, and even temporary loc extensions for added flair.


Read More:
This post was originally published in June 2012 and has been updated for grammar and clarity. 


  • Denise says:

    This article was very refreshing & I gained a lot of do & don’t I’m a lil over a week with my Loc’s journey, I was finding myself retwisting daily because it seems like they were unraveling. I have a satin bonnet that I wear, I’m going to go & get some type of moisturizer spray. I was going to wait until the end of July to wash. Will that be too long, I was told that I can put aloe vera plant gel on my scalp to keep it clean ..Welp, I want my loc’s to be nice soft & somewhat thick. Any & all suggestions will be greatly appreciated!

  • Scarcity says:

    Hi, im just 19 days into locs and im feeling frustrated as im itchy and all. Iv scrubbed my scalp and oiled my scalp but still i feel like i could get a good scrubbing unfortunately my locs will unravel if i do so kindly advice.

  • Taren Wrighton says:

    I never forget when I cut my locs off, and all the debris that was in them was unbelievable. I could not imagine that I was walking around with locs that where coils of hair intertwined and in them was a build up of so much dirt, lint and old dead hair. My locs where beautiful and I took care of them. I always used virgin Olive Oil mixed with essential oils, washed my hair weekly, they were never dry or smelled. Every so often I would treat myself and get them done professionally. My hair was always well kept and shiney, I stayed away from waxey products that can build up in the hair. None the less when I made the big chop, there was a build up within the locs that I was not happy about. I never was a person to dye my locs like I had seen so many people doing at that time. I don't prefer locs anymore, but when I had them for eight years it was quite a journey of love, learning and maintaining.

  • Ebony says:

    When my locs first matured, i didn't moisturize them enough or condition them at all. Luckily I only lost a few from the back lol. Now my locs are my babies. I use all natural vegetarian shampoo and moisturizing conditioner, spritz daily with a water/ olive oil/ tea tree oil mixture, deep condition with olive oil after every wash, ACV washes maybe once a month and 98% of the time I wear my locs down. Oh and my scarf and bonnet are both a must. So over the last few months, my hair has grown like crazy, its thick and shiny and I love it.

  • Anonymous says:

    To Sherrel as well as other posters, can you please list names of products that you use on your locs, especially conditioners/deep conditioners??? You list a few in the article, but I would like to collect as many brands and names as possible. I am planning on locing my hair by the end of the year and one of my top concerns is pleasant smelling products. Guess I have to say goodbye to Herbal Essence and Pantene.

  • Unknown says:

    I don't have locs but the "bad' things you did to yours were exactly the things I feared I would be guilty of. I'm now trying to appreciate my natural more and who knows someday maybe I will loc.

  • Loren says:

    Great post!! I have had my Sisterlocks for the past 12 years and didn't follow the instructions and insisted on putting every product on my locs and scalp. Later with the help of the internet and the FB page, I have learned a lot about the maintenance of Sisterlocks and always receive compliments on how healthy and shiny they look. It comes from what I put on them and what I put in my body that helps with the locs. I advise everyone to keep yourself hydrated and your locs will prosper!!

  • Unknown says:

    Great post on locs. I started my loc journey in jan 2008, so now they're past my shoulders and growing strong. I color them myself-I've always colored my hair myself, even when I rocked the creamy crack. However I live in Hawaii now and my hair gets wet constantly. I'm either at the beach or the pool, I also work out daily as such need to wash my hair frequently. Any tips on maintaining locs that have to be washed/wet frequently..and I've tried swim caps, but they dont fit :(

  • Gee lee says:

    OMG a loc post! I wet my locs and message my scalp usually every other day. I am two months in and I am really enjoying them. I feel more like myself with them.

  • rocharron says:

    I thought this post was great. I'm new to the loc game (9 months in) and I REALLY WISH there were more loc posts here. I CRAVE THEM!! Thanks for this excellent post–especially the notice to not self-color. I've been thinking about doing that for months!

  • Jenni Lovette says:

    Great read. I had locs for one year and 7 months and decided to comb them out. I made the lack of moisture mistake as well. Your hair is awesome..much love….Jenni

  • luvmylocs says:

    i would love to see more loc features. i'm in sisterlocks now (i loved that gio samuels feature) but i've had loose hair and long traditional locs too. anyway, sherrell!! we can learn as much from others mistakes as we can their perfect routines!

  • Anonymous says:

    So glad to see this, im 3 months into locing after being natural for 3 years, and im paranoid about all of this! Im glad to see im on the right path so far!

  • Anonymous says:

    OMG!!!! I have done the same thing I too started with two strand twist with human hair and tried to color my hair I'm 9 months in the game
    and I have had some breakage but I'm in recovery now I've been to a loctician and she has me on the right track.

  • Anonymous says:

    OMG!!!! I have done the same thing I too started with two strand twist with human hair and tried to color my hair I'm 9 months in the game
    and I have had some breakage but I'm in recovery now I've been to a loctician and she has me on the right track.

  • Anonymous says:

    I rocked locs for about 5 years and I loved them. I too colored my hair myself and it was a mess, the locs thinned, dried out and just looked a mess. It took months of tlc to get them back to a healthy state. What I ended up doing was washing, conditioning, no re-twisting then air dry. After making peace with my hair it was beautiful. It was nice to read that I was not the only one to DIY hair color.

  • Anonymous says:

    Great Tips For Locs.

  • Anonymous says:

    CurlyNikki, your censorship sucks.

  • Anonymous says:

    I recently took down my locs, which I had for seven years. I don't think I would ever loc my hair again because, even with my meticulous hair regimen (which was even more involved than this), there was still so much shed hair and lint compacted into the locs itself. It was absolutely gross and made me realize that no matter how diligent I was about my hair and how I didn't use any cream-based product, locs can never truly be "clean." Plus, about half the length is no longer attached to the scalp anyway. Locs can be lovely, but they do not represent true hair growth or hair health – but unlocked, long, thick, abundant natural hair does!

  • Anonymous says:

    I am a loose haired natural, but I would love to see more posts on locs. Loved this post!

  • elle says:

    1)I have locs and I dont suggest going more than a month without washing your scalp, especially if you are used to washing once a week. that's issues,funk, and buildup waiting to happen.

    2)I also say product isn't necessary for hair to loc (i.e. loc butters,gel,wax).

    3)If you have issues retaining moisture dont shy away from water spritzes and if you must use a conditioner, dilute it to cut down on buildup. and be sure to incorporate a clarifying shampoo.

    4)to make retwists last, braid your locs, tie the ends with a hair tie/scrunchy/rubberband/etc. then wash as usual and your old retwist will look relatively tidy.

    5)dont twist hair when its dry.

    6)be gentle to your edges.

    7)when wanting to combine locs, it'll mesh better if you comb out one loc and the end of the other one you want to combine it with, then braid the combed out loc around the partially combed out one and braid the loose ends together and voila, there's no need to worry about 2 headed dragons.

    8) dont trip about lint. it happens, nothing you can do except wear headwraps the rest of your life. lint doesnt equal dirty hair but product buildup does.

    Hope this helps someone.

  • Anonymous says:

    I suffered from extreme heat damage two years ago from flat ironing my hair on 450 heat my hair is 3c/4a I wanted it so straight and perfect like when my father would take the time to iron and crease his pants. My hair broke off because I did not use a heat protectant I wanted to do my hair on my own because I was grown but hard headed. My mother never let me get a perm I was always natural curly majority of the time pressed on ocassion. My hair was always long mid-back length. I say my mother had the magic touch or mother knows best she is natural as well. So I had to do a huge chop I cut my hair into a really short almost to my chin Bob. I was sad,but I had to do it. I began watching YouTube to find out ways to wear my natural curls or at least style and manage them. I found a regiem that helped me protein treatments, prepoos (evoo or evco) moisture treatments, leave ins, stying products and oils above to seal or carols daughter Mimosa hair honey my favorite. I also found and curlynikki who saved my hair. My hair grew from the Bob to armpit length now to brastrap length. I learned that I can wash my hair once every week or two now before I wanted to keep it straight for a month gross to some.

    Megan Montgomery

  • Anonymous says:

    My DH began his loc journey in 2001, and my dear daughter BC'd and began locs in 2002. DH's hair is 3c/4a and DD's is 4c like mine's.

    DH uses (eeek!) Bigen to color his locs, and DD gets red color from the salon.

    DH uses essential oil blends (hustle-man coworker) and his locs are actually soft and supple. Amazingly though, he does not have breakage from the (eeek!) Bigen.

    DD is bullheaded, uses sulfate shampoos that strip her color, and does not regularly deep condition. Her locs are stiffer, dull, and she occasionally loses itty-bitty pieces from breakage.

    In closing, low manipulation, cleansing the scalp, timely palm rolling to avoid matting, and oiling the locs seem to help keep his in good condition.

  • Kudos says:

    Your hair is beautiful!!
    I had locs for like 15 years and just took them out in November 2010.
    I can definitely cosign with the not moisturizing and self-coloring points. Let me also add, DO not twist your roots super tight. I retwisted once a week or once every two weeks, because I liked mine to look 'fresh', and liked my parts to show…MISTAKE! It was like trauma to my scalp, I still have random bald spots along the top and sides of my hair (yeah, sometimes when I was in a time crunch I only retwisted the parts that could be seen ;-))
    My locs always grew, but have mercy, if I would've known then what I knew now…

  • jly says:

    I don't have Locs but I do know a thing or two about not taking care of my hair properly. I was raised in a house where my mother did not know what to do with my hair, my genetic mixture is the only reason why I had long hair (I have a mixture of 3b, 3c, 4a hair which can hold out for while during a period of bad hair care)….Well by college I was losing length with my hair, it was breaking, thinning out, brittle and begging for equal balance between protein and moisture. I gave in to my hair and BIG chop my bra strap length DAMAGE curls (sometimes I miss the length) so I could restart on a fresh new slate. Thanks to Youtube natural videos and sites like Curlynikki my curls were saved and my hair is growing with shine, thickness, softness, and strength! I <3 this site!

  • Anonymous says:

    I don't have locs but I did damage my natural hair in the beginning of my journey with henna from a Indian store that had ppd in the ingredients & I didn't do my research & it broke my hair off at the roots something terrible. Love your journey to happy, healthy, hair good luck!

    Brooke B.

  • Anonymous says:

    omg i had locs for a year and never did anything right regarding maintenance. i could totally see myself in the things u did/didnt do. great article! ur locs look gorgeous!

  • Anonymous says:

    Great article, I dont have locs but know folks with ones describe in the article. People think once they have them they dont have to take care of them. And, sadly they break off because of that…

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