How does Dread Head wax help the hair dread? - Dreadlocks FAQ's

Disclaimer: I can't speak for "all dread wax". Outside of some limited testing all my experience is with DreadHead Wax so unless otherwise noted all mentions of wax or dread wax below refer to DreadHead Dread Wax.

Since there is quite a bit of mis-info about how wax works I think it's important that the role of dread wax in the locking process is understood.  Hair has some unique properties because of it's structure. Many people don't know that hair actually swells, becoming larger when it's wet. It can also retain moisture within itself even when it is not damp on the surface. Depending on it's health it may also be void of moisture. In this dry state it is more prone to damage. Hair also has memory. Not like memories of what you did to it on spring break(although it still looks a bit purple in the sun) but more like the memory that wire has. If you've ever left your hair in braids for a few days you'll be familiar with the way the hair stays wavy until you wash it. The tighter and smaller the braid, the tighter the wave.

Believe it or knot =P this has a lot of influence on the dreading process. When we start dreads with backcombing we create a ton of knots. These knots are just knots until they tighten. Dread wax by the way does not help the creation of knots, this may be one reason why it's often misunderstood. Dread wax does help these knots tighten. The A-B maintenance routine uses this principle of making, then compressing knots to quickly bring dreads to maturity. Let's go through at this process with a fine tooth comb.


How wax is used to tighten dreads.


Yes, knots tighten over time. Some say "time makes dreads, not products" or something like that. I personally like the idea that "Jah makes the dreads" myself, and I also believe that "Jah helps those that help themselves". But back to what I was saying... In addition to time there are some other forces that help out. Sleeping on the dreads is one of these forces, another one that we have a bit more control over is palm rolling. Palm rolling can be used to help knots compress and tighten faster than they would on their own. Some say that palm rolling doesn't do much, or even palm rolling hurts your dreads. I find this amusing and you'll see why in a minute.

When you palm roll you are squeezing the dread and rolling it back and forth. This gives it a "temporary" tightening. It's only temporary because by the time you let go of the dread you rolled and move to the next one it looks like it did before...well, pretty much anyway. And by the time you wash and dry the dread you probably can't tell it from the dreads you didn't palm roll. "Exactly!" The anti-waxerscry! It's a waste of time! Well to be honest you may have gotten some small benefit from it but if that was all you got I'd have to agree that palm rolling would be a waste of time.

The problem is that the hair compressed down easily and then popped right back up just as easily. If only it could stay down for a while...and get used to being compressed! Well, that's just what a small amount of wax can encourage. The wax holds the hair when it's not being compressed and allows the hair to move when it's being palm rolled. Is this impossible? Does this defy reason? Think about a shiny silver spoon in a tub of Häagen-Dazs at just the right temperature. You push it in, the sweet creaminess holds it in place. It will stay there all night if you have enough self control (and stays the same temperature), but as soon as you push the spoon it moves again. Wax has a similar thing going on but it can do it at room temperature. So back to our palm rolling. We palm roll the dread, it compresses as much as it can, the wax holds it there and it only decompresses a little when we are done. So only a small amount of progress is lost. A day or two pass and the whole time the hair is able to get used to this compressed position because the wax holds it. Like being in a braid it gets used to it.

Eventually we find the time to palm roll our dread again. It's long been comfortable in this tightened position so when we palm roll, it now can get even tighter than it did last time. The process continues and the dreads get super tight. After some time they feel solid inside. It's hard to describe. Imagine a cotton rope. It's totally flexible if you bend it, but when you try to squish it flat between your fingers it hardly compresses at all. This is what's meant by "tight, mature dreadlocks". It's easy to understand how people might believe there is something inside the dread (besides hair) making it so tight. After all, besides dreadlocks where would you ever encounter hair packed together like this? And since dreads don't generally get this tight without using wax, it makes sense that some would assume that the wax is "stuck in there forever" and that it's hardened wax that makes them feel so tight. Without some critical thinking we might believe this but fortunately we can check this out for ourselves. Some Dread Heads, myself included, have dissected dreads that were waxed properly and taken care of according to the instructions on the dreadhead site just to debunk the claims that dread wax is impossible to remove. You can see the results of one of these dissections below. Thanks to Chris for taking the time to dissect a dread he had trimmed and posting the pics.

dread wax inside dreadlocks

As you can see, when the instructions are followed the only thing waxing leaves behind is tight, mature knots. Btw, I'm not trying persuade anyone to use dread wax - the benefits speak for themselves, If someone has a reason for not using it I have no intention of changing their mind, but as long as there are those that feel the need to bash wax I will do my best to defend it with the facts.