Megan at Millions of Miles, who I only know in the cyber world, but who I will soon know in person, asked nicely if I could share what we do to maintain locs at our house. I am happy to do so. Sounds like a good reason for a list.
- We started our locs with microbraids. We partitioned off the head(s) into little squares, making sure lines were in the right places for parts for some of our favorite classic hairstyles. For one daughter, the grid has stayed pretty tidy. For another, her locs have sort of migrated to where they want to be. For one girl the blocks are pretty tiny as her hair is thick, coarse, and tightly curled...in short, the BEST hair for locs. For one girl, the blocks are bigger as her hair is finer and looser curled. Not the best hair for quick locs, but with time they are shaping up nicely. Some people prefer to start with twists. The braids tend to take awhile to disappear, but they do eventually.
- We tighten our locs with a latch hook. We bought it at the craft store for a few bucks, and it has served us well for years. It's hard to explain this process in words, but you can find videos to walk you through it. Basically, as the hair grows, there becomes this looseness at the scalp...kind of like if you left braids in long enough to let your hair grow out. Most of the time it takes 3-4 pulls through with the latch hook to tighten a loc that has been left alone for a month to six weeks. Thicker ones tighten with less, and thinner ones need more. You MUST NOT overtighten, though it can be tempting. It pulls uncomfortably, and chronic overtightening can thin and weaken locs. I always do each "pull" from a different direction, doing the last pull in the direction I want the loc to hang. Many people twist instead of latch hooking. I also take any loose growth and twist it around the appropriate loc before tightening. This keeps the fuzzies down, and lets new growth train itself into the right loc.
- My girls only shampoo about once a month to every six weeks. They use shampoo for ladies of color, and this is our method. Locs are hard to get shampoo worked into. If you take a dab and try to work it in, it will remain in one spot only. We take the squirt of shampoo and put it into an old shampoo bottle. Then we fill it up to about the 1/3 level with hot water, and shake it up. The girls gently squirt this over their whole heads, and work the lather down the whole length of the locs. Then they rinse and rinse and rinse and rinse. Rinse until you're sure you have all the shampoo out, and then rinse that much more. Those babies really like to hang onto the suds.
- In between, my girls rinse well in the shower, using as warm water as they can stand. This varies depending on what they are doing. In the summer their hair gets a lot of dirt in it because we live in a dusty place. Also the pool water can do a number on their hair. In the winter, it's not so bad. If you don't get locs clean, you can tell. First of all, they can stink. Think wet dog. Also, when you pinch a wet dirty loc between layers of white towel, it will leave a muddy mark. So really, they can't get away with saying they washed their locs when they didn't. Not for long anyhow.
- The girls moisturize daily with a homemade spritz. I make it with 5 ounces of warm water, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and 2 tablespoons of conditioner for ladies of color. They tend to spray close to their scalp most, because scalp dryness plagues them far more than dry hair.
- They are careful not to wear their hair in the same style all the time, in order to not stress their locks. They also use soft elastics and head bands...nothing that would "bite" into their locs.
- They sleep at night with a silky granny cap. And they wear nylon swim caps under their ski caps.
- They enjoy hair that gets longer and longer, is all their own, can be styled in hundreds of styles, and can wash and go. Plus it gets compliments wherever they go, from folks of every color.