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While it can be awe-inspiring to see those with a head full of thick, healthy locs trailing down their back, it's normal to wonder when yours will look the same. Let's face it: The process of waiting for your hair to loc can be both lengthy and frustrating. We spoke to natural hair expert Chimere Faulk to help us outline everything you need to know about how long it takes for hair to loc, including the various factors that influence how quickly or slowly they develop to how to upkeep maintenance.
Meet the Expert
Chimere Faulk is a natural hairstylist and the creator of Dr. Locs.
What Are Locs?
Locs are a hairstyle where the hair that one would normally comb or shed, locks into itself, creating rope-like strands.
How Long Does It Take Hair to Loc?
"The length of time it takes for hair to loc varies depending on hair texture," says Faulk. "It's very difficult to pinpoint how long one's hair will loc because of the factor of the different stages hair goes through to loc as well as texture. Generally speaking, it could take anywhere from 10 months to two years to get to the maturest stage of locs." The process of hair "locking" and the process of these locs maturing are different. Locs develop and take shape long before they're actually mature, or rooted, but the length of the process varies from person to person.
Can You Make Hair Loc Faster?
In general, thicker and more tightly coiled hair locs faster. Hair that's typically considered "Type Four" in the hair typing system will have a much easier time locking than "Type Two" or even "Type Three." If you're considering investing in a product that claims to help hair loc faster, Faulk says to proceed with caution. "It is not scientifically possible to speed up the loc'n process," she says. "When a product promises to speed up the process, the product is instead meshing hair together to give the illusion that the hair is matting. These claims are from products that are sticky in texture and will help cling together. Once the hair has actually matted, and loc'd, the product stays in the middle of the locs and eventually rises to the top creating a visible buildup."
The Best Starter Loc Styles
There are several hairstyles that serve as the perfect starting point on your road to achieving locs. Palm rolls, two-strand twists, individual braids, and comb coils are all effective ways to begin the locking process. You can also move right into a loc look with a process like Sister Locks—the hair won't actually loc for some time, but it will give the appearance of being locked. The tighter the starter style, the quicker your hair will loc.
"Overall, styling starter locs are great; I just suggest taking breaks in between each style," says Faulk. "Popular styles such as barrel twists going in different directions and into an updo can keep the integrity of starter locs." Faulk also recommends two-strand twists (using two groups of locs and twisting them together), Bantu knots, and plaits.
If your hair's texture is wavy, opt for braids as a starter style, as twists and rolls can unravel easily when you shampoo and condition.
How to Care For Locs
Locs do best when left alone and handled with care, especially at the start of your loc journey. Faulk recommends treating your starter locs as if they're babies and teenagers. "Just like a teenager shouldn't do certain activities because they're not mature enough to understand or stand without influence. Baby and teenage locs are similar." She says this is because during the early stages, locs aren't loc'd fully yet, making them prone to disruption and even unraveling. "With a slight gesture at times, baby locs can come undone. So if you keep loc styles in for long periods of time, it may leave an impression on the locs (such as indents, curls, etc.) keeping the form of the previous style."
How to Maintain Locs
You may have read or heard that cleansing locs is a no-no, but ensuring your scalp is healthy should always be a priority. With locs, you'll want to build a routine and product line up with your unique loc journey in mind. There is no one-size-fits-all in haircare, especially in this case. Talk with your loctician about your lifestyle and hair concerns, so they can help craft a schedule with products that work for you and your hair.
Staying away from ingredients like alcohol, beeswax, tallowate, lanolin oil, silicone, and mineral oil are also recommended when maintaining locs, which is why Faulk founded Dr. Locs. "I created this for the loc'd community solely," she says. "It's an entire line that provides nourishment, shampooing, and conditioning without the buildup." For those just starting our on their loc journey, Faulk wants you to remember to practice patience. "The most important practice I'd recommend for maintenance is having patience with the process," she says. "And secondly, never compare your locs to someone else's. Your locs are unique to you."
As far as a re-twisting schedule, again, this will depend on your hair and where you are on your journey. However, there is such a thing as too much twisting. Re-twisting too often can thin out your locs, so it's best practice to only re-twist when absolutely necessary. During the beginning of your loc journey, this may be once or twice a month. Stick to a routine to tighten your roots (instead of taking an occasional, haphazard approach), as this will help locs develop healthier.