Sisterlocks are one of my favorite styles. Long or short, they look beautiful. Aside from their beauty, Sisterlocks are incredibly versatile since you can roller set, color, braid, or wear them wild and free. They even make for an ideal transition style if you're ready to say goodbye to your relaxer. Since the locking process begins at the root, you can gradually cut off any straight ends as your hair grows out. The Sisterlocks technique is a one-of-a-kind experience because of the hands-on training required to ensure the trademarked method is performed correctly. (There is a full directory of consultants to select from here.) Before scheduling an appointment, take a look at your future consultant's social media page or website, since those marketing tools can ensure you're making the right choice.
Below, we're sharing their origin story, what to expect at your appointment, what makes them different from locs, and how to care for them.
The Origin of Sisterlocks
Sisterlocks were created and trademarked in 1993 by Dr. JoAnne Cornwell. In her own words on the Sisterlocks official website, Cornwell's mission says, "Sisterlocks is not about a hairstyle. It's about a lifestyle. Sisterlocks invites women who are interested in self-empowerment and cultural self-expression to embrace a natural hair care system that is self-affirming and truly gorgeous."
Nearly 30 years later, Black women worldwide are on the path Dr. Cornwell was hoping to inspire. Before you embark on your Sisterlock journey, there are a few things you should keep in mind. One of the most crucial research points is to ensure you find a certified Sisterlock consultant since they are professionally trained on the Sisterlock technique.
What Are Sisterlocks?
Sisterlocks are much thinner than traditional dreadlocks and are weaved into the hair with a patented tool rather than hand-rolled with product. They should only be installed by certified Sisterlock consultants.
The Difference Between Sisterlocks and Locs
Locs and Sisterlocks require different time commitments, for starters. When locing your hair for the first time, you can expect your appointment to last between two to three hours, depending on your hair length, thickness, and the overall look you're hoping to achieve as your hair grows.
Sisterlocks, on the other hand, can take up to 36 hours to install because of the intricate weaving technique used to loc the hair with a patented latch hook tool. Where locs require wax to twist larger sections of hair, Sisterlocks are installed with no hair product on small sections of hair. This precise and time-intensive process can create over 400 locs, which explains why your first Sisterlock session usually starts at about $500 and goes up to $800 (sometimes more depending on your consultant's skill level and training).
With locs, you can start with braids, two-strand twists, palm rolls, or comb coils. With Sisterlocks, your consultant will use the tool to install a few locs during your consultation to see which pattern will work best on your hair type. Locs and Sisterlocks do have one thing in common, though: After installation, how you care for your hair will determine how well your locs mature. A follow-up visit is recommended, usually two to four weeks after your first appointment. After your follow-up, re-twisting every four to six weeks is advised to keep your locs healthy and looking their best. The retightening sessions start at about $100 and usually take three to five hours. However, after six months with your consultant, you can take a retightening class to learn to do the maintenance on your own.
How to Care for Sisterlocks After Your First Appointment
Between re-twisting sessions, cleansing your hair is essential, but this won't be the same as the shampooing process you're used to because of slippage (or when the hair begins to unravel and frizz). This is something you'll want to watch out for until your locks "settle," which can take up to a year. Until your locks mature, make sure to be gentle to ensure they keep their structure. Processes like bundling, braiding, and banding Sisterlocks are common practices wearers use on wash days, which Lavenia's detailed video helps showcase below.
Blogger CeCe Olisa, who started her Sisterlock journey in 2014, shares two additional Sisterlock haircare product tips on her blog. She uses rosewater for shine and moisture and a saltwater spray to help hair lock faster.
Additionally, the namesake Sisterlocks shampoo is recommended as your locks mature, as the formula was created specifically for the locking process.
How Much Do Sisterlocks Cost to Start and Maintain?
The process of starting and maintaining Sisterlocks is not cheap. On average, they can cost anywhere from $400 and all the way up to a whopping $900+ to start. How much you pay usually depends to how thin you'd like your sisterlocks, preferred length, the stylist, and your location.
The cost of maintenance is another factor to take into consideration. You'll need to re-tighten your locks several times a year—up to six times a year to be exact, and each re-tightening session can cost anywhere from $100-$250. So you're looking at anywhere between an additional $600-$1500 a year for maintenance as well.
The Final Takeaway
Starting Sisterlocks can be a life-changing process for many, and community plays an integral part in that process. There are many forums, Instagram accounts, and YouTube communities that provide a safe space for Black women to share their tips and learnings as they grow their hair, so know that you have many resources available to help make the journey as enjoyable as possible.