When it comes to synthetic dreadlocks, some techniques have become so incredibly good it is hard to tell they are fake…..unless you get up close or feel them and wear them. In this blog I will cover the good, bad and how to maintain them as well as tips before install.
In this picture, one method is human hair and one is synthetic fiber. The one on the left is synthetic fiber. The one on the right is human hair. Hard to tell no? In this article I will explain the differences, my experience, care and how to make a good informed decision before you make the big plunge.
Synthetic Kanekalon fiber is man made. The claim is that it is very similar to human hair. It is claimed to be lightweight and less likely to tangle. Fact? It is plastic. The hair is used a lot in synthetic dreadlocks because it dreads easily and because the hair is much less expensive than human . The hair comes in many colors including pastels.
My experience with synthetic kanekalon dreadlocks has not been a ‘great one’. They look very real until you get very close to them and even then they can be hard to spot if the technique is out of this world crazy good. I have had many, many compliments. The process cost me $600.00 and that included time, materials and tip. I decided on a permanent type install. They were dreaded into my own hair.
The first eight days were the worst. My scalp hurt and burned from the pulling to get the band in place to hold my hair and the extension in place. I had tiny bumps all over my scalp and along my hairline. THIS IS NORMAL, however, I do believe the stiff fake hair added to my distress. On the eighth day it was as if everything loosened up. My scalp was not so sensitive and the bumps started to diminish. To help me through that timeframe I used a lot of KnottyBoy Cooling Spray. Life saver!!!!! I still use it now and again. The first eight days the locks were very tight and after that they loosened or softened each day.
The ‘look’ was excellent. The feel? For me it was terrible. The synthetic fiber was not soft and poked my scalp, still does. When you lean up against a fireplace or brick, does your head stick to it and you need to peel it off? Natural hair does not. Well, with Kanekalon you will have that experience guaranteed! Velcro! The fibers stick together. I found when they are not slicked down or moisturized beyond necessity the locks will bind up and get tangled but my natural hair at the root does not. It is irritating and uncomfortable. I also found the material to be heavy. Now, this might be tolerable for some but not for me. To get myself through this I went through a ton of Dolly products to find they worked, meh, ok on this material. Problem is, they do not absorb much because they are plastic. I think Dollylocks makes an excellent product, it is the fiber that is the problem. I finally had to stick with pure liquid coconut oil or aloe vera gel. For the first month I was ready to rip them out because they felt awful. I stuck through it because it was such a huge transformation for me and I liked how they looked. Natural. The pain and irritation lessened as they grew. Again, this might be all ok for some but I think it is important people are aware of the possibilities and drawbacks. I must say, the aloe gel has been a savior. As a positive, they are pretty low maintenance and do not hold smell (smoke, grease, environmental) and the extension itself stays very clean, I assume because it is plastic and difficult to penetrate. It is also not necessary to use a bunch of wax because they stick really well.
Maintaining dreadlocks, natural or synthetic does take work and gentle care. Making sure the scalp and hair stays build up free is most important. To do this you will need to invest in residue free products. Residue free means no byproduct. My suggestions would be any Dollylock Product , all natural aloe gel, pure liquid all natural coconut oil, apple cider vinegar and any essential oil you prefer. My routine is wash weekly, maintain daily. This routine has worked very well for me and hopefully saves you some grief in the process. Wait two weeks or 14 days before your first wash. Your scalp will need extra time to produce the oils it needs. When hair is in locks the oils from your scalp cannot easily move around because there is less hair sitting on your scalp at once. The scalp is open to air and needs more time to produce.
Once weekly I wash my hair with Dollylocks Liquid Shampoo. This is an all day process, start early knowing your hair will need to be down. When washing I am gentle but I make sure I rub the scalp very well to loosen up any possible build up (build up causes stink and dandruff). If you are using the right residue free products this part is very easy. The dreadlocks will become very heavy so I suggest washing in the clean sink where they can rest (don’t forget to block the plug partially so your hair does not get sucked down the drain!!!) I do not even really rub the soap into the synthetic extension because the soap runs down into them and I rinse it out. Mine do not get real dirty though. I would suggest a good washin’ if you are around a lot of dirt or debris. Rinse out soap really well and wring them some. I then have a mix set aside of 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar and three cups water. I might add some tea tree or peppermint oil but only a few drops. The purpose of this? Apple cider vinegar is high in acetic acid and has potent biological effects. I will not go into a biology lesson but I will link info here if you wish to read that. This mix kills bacteria and fungus while moisturizing at the same time. It balances the PH level of the sebum (oil glands). I let it sit as I massage my scalp then rinse after a few minutes. You may not like the smell but the vinegar stinkies go away very quickly. I sit at the sink and twist out as much water as I can and wrap them in a towel squeezing the excess water out. I do not leave them in the towel ever.
The synthetic dreadlocks will drip water at the ends for a while. I have found the best time to use the Dollylock Tightening Spray is when my hair is damp. When it starts to dry I can feel my natural hair get a little tacky or as if I put powder in it. That tells me it is helping my hair lock, almost like hairspray effect. I might gently give the drying process a little push with a low heat blow dryer only on my scalp. The rest of the time I let them dry naturally all day. While they are drying I take this time to separate and re-twist at the root. I do it almost like twirling hair in the fingers. I started off always going clockwise but when my hair grew out I did it the natural way it was curling. This tidies up the root area and directs the hair. Once my hair is completely dry I moisturize them. This process is also residue free. I have used the tightening spray but my favorite thing I have found is pure aloe gel for this fiber. I apply it twice and I am not shy with it. Make sure your hair is completely dry before tying it up, before going to bed and do not keep it in a towel. This is how dreads get bacteria and stink. Have you ever left a wet towel in the sink or wash and it smells? Your hair does the same thing if you do not let it fully dry.
If you stick to this process you should be squeaky clean and happy. I also suggest doing the aloe application daily or every other day. If the dread extensions get too dry they will get pokey again. If your hair gets too dry it will be brittle. You want natural shedding, not breakage.
Before making this huge decision find the right person to do the job. Be informed and know what look and feel you want and the maintenance you are willing to put into it. You cannot color this hair. It is plastic. My suggestion would be to look at work the technician has done in photos. Look at colors you know you will stick with. If I could have done it again, I would have asked to see samples I could look at and feel in person of both synthetic and natural hair fiber. Squeeze them. The synthetic will poke you. They feel different. They perform different. You’r e spending a lot of money and the technician should answer all of your questions in your consult and if you make a deposit continue to communicate.
I for one do not like the ‘feel’ of synthetic and have the time to take care of human hair. I will be making the change over to natural extensions and I will update in that blog. I hope this will help someone who has questions. If I have not answered a question for you, please feel free to comment. I will not respond to malice or rude comments and they will not be published.
Thanks for reading!