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Locs vs. Dreads: What's the Difference?

Our natural curls are more than a hairstyle for us. It's a part of our identity and what we truly stand for. Now, natural curly hair is becoming increasingly accepted, signifying positive progress. However, dreads and locs are still widely misinterpreted, if not misunderstood. They're more than just trends; they are a reflection of the wearer's heritage and individuality.

Understanding the difference between locs and dreads goes beyond appearance; it delves into their cultural significance and origins. While some may perceive "dreads" as unattended, matted hair, they often carry deep spiritual and cultural meaning. In this blog, we'll explore is there a difference between locs and dreads, the physical attributes and historical contexts of both locs and dreadlocks, shedding light on their importance in various communities.

What Are Locs?

What Are Locs

Locs, short for "locks," represent an African hairstyle achieved by coiling, braiding, twisting, or palm-rolling hair strands to form a distinctive rope-like texture. This style is more naturally suited to Nubian or African hair, as it helps retain moisture and can endure for extended periods. Unlike dreadlocks, which often form spontaneously, locs are intentionally created by professional hairstylists or through DIY methods like backcombing, twisting, or interlocking. The term "locs" derives from "dreadlocks" but represents a neater and more intentionally maintained version of the same style. Regular maintenance, including retwisting and palm rolling, ensures that locs remain well-kept and tidy.

What are dreads?

What are dreads

Dreadlocks come to life through a unique process. The hair is allowed to grow freely without combing. As time passes, the strands naturally intertwine, forming distinct masses and sections of knots. Upon close inspection, a single dreadlock closely resembles tightly woven steel wool, with fibers compactly interwoven to create a solid mass. It's important to note that while locs are often worn as a hairstyle, they also reflect a way of life, embodying a unique fusion of personal expression and cultural significance.

Dreadlocks have a rich history across diverse cultures. The term "dread" has been misinterpreted in American culture, but individuals sporting locks are traditionally regarded as warriors in other societies.

The origins of dreadlocks can be traced back to various cultures, religions, and regions, including ancient Greece, the Israelites, and Hindus. For people of color, the history of dreadlocks can be traced to the transportation of enslaved people from Africa. Due to the challenges of maintaining their hair while overseas, natural locs emerged. Dreadlocks have a multifaceted history, stemming from both East African warriors and the revered Rastafarians in Jamaica. The term "dread" was associated with people's apprehension when encountering these formidable warriors distinguished by their unique dreadlock hairstyle.

In the 1930s, the Jamaican Rastafarian tradition was pivotal in adopting dreadlocks. In Western culture, the influence of Jamaican Rastafarians, with their awareness of black hair history, contributed significantly to the popularity of dreadlocks. Rastafarians proudly wore dreadlocks as symbols of their religious devotion and empowerment.

Exploring the locs and dreads difference: Locs vs. Dreads

Difference Between Locs and Dreads

Dreads and locs difference extends beyond mere hairstyle preferences; it encompasses a deeper cultural and personal significance. Locs, characterized by their systematic formation, arise from various techniques such as twisting, palm rolling, or interlocking. They undergo distinct locking stages, with the second phase, known as "buttoning," lending them their distinctive appearance. Regular maintenance of locs includes washing, moisturizing, and retwisting or palm rolling to preserve their well-defined structure.

On the other hand, dreadlocks, synonymous with simplicity and natural processes, emerge primarily through the neglect method, allowing hair to mat and tangle naturally. While alternative techniques like backcombing or twisting may be employed, Rastafarians, in particular, emphasize a chemical-free, low-maintenance approach. Dreadlocks' root structure lacks neat partitions, presenting as a singular mass gradually separating into individual dreads. Once established, combing through dreadlocks becomes arduous, making it nearly impossible to transition to alternative hairstyles. Understanding the differences between locs and dreadlocks underscores the significance of these unique forms of self-expression.

Are dreads and locs the same? Finding Common Ground

Locks and dreads may seem worlds apart, but they actually share some striking similarities. Both hairstyles involve manipulating hair strands into rope-like twists, showcasing a distinct and artistic flair. These styles hold significant cultural importance, particularly within the African-American and Caribbean communities. Moreover, they call for regular maintenance to keep them looking sharp and well-groomed. Growing both locks and dreads is a journey that demands a patient spirit as they gradually evolve into their complete, beautiful forms. Beyond being a mere hairstyle, both of these distinctive looks are powerful expressions of cultural pride, personal style, and self-assuredness. So, are locs and dreads the same thing? The answer is no, but they are very similar.


There are several misconceptions surrounding locs and dreads that need to be addressed:

1. Dirty and Unkempt: One common misconception is that both locs and dreads are dirty and unkempt. This couldn't be further from the truth. Both styles require proper care and maintenance to stay healthy and clean. Nice Thing by TLP is a natural hair detox designed to cleanse loc'd hair and scalp effectively. It gently removes buildup and toxins without disrupting the scalp's pH balance. This gentle detox not only leaves the scalp feeling refreshed but also promotes the growth of healthier hair strands.

2. All the Same: Another misconception is that all locs and dreads look the same. In reality, the difference between dreads and locs lies in the appearance of these styles, which can vary widely based on factors like hair type, maintenance techniques, and personal preferences.

3. Permanent: Some people believe you can never change your hairstyle once you have dreads or locs. While it's true that these styles can be time-consuming to remove, they are not permanent, and individuals can transition to different hairstyles if they choose to do so.

Pros and Cons: dreads vs. locs

Dreads Pros:

  1. Unique Aesthetic: Dreads offer a distinctive, eye-catching hairstyle that sets individuals apart.

  2. Low Maintenance: Once formed, dreads require minimal day-to-day upkeep compared to other styles.

  3. Cultural Significance: Dreads hold cultural and historical significance for many communities.

  4. Versatile Styling: Dreads can be styled in various ways, offering flexibility in appearance.

  5. Natural and Chemical-Free: Unlike some other styles, dreads are achieved without the use of chemicals or heat.

Dreads Cons:

  1. Time-Consuming Creation: Forming dreads can be a lengthy process, especially for those with long or thick hair.

  2. Initial Discomfort: In the early stages, dreads may feel tight or heavy, causing discomfort.

  3. Potential for Breakage: Over time, dreads can become fragile and prone to breakage if not properly cared for.

  4. Negative Stereotypes: Dreads can sometimes be associated with stereotypes or misconceptions.

  5. Reversal Difficulties: Undoing dreads can be a complex and time-consuming process.

Locs Pros:

  1. Cultural Heritage: Locs are deeply rooted in various cultures and often have vital cultural significance.

  2. Versatility in Styling: Locs can be styled in various ways, allowing for creativity and personal expression.

  3. Low Maintenance: Once established, locs require minimal daily maintenance.

  4. Natural and Chemical-Free: Achieved without the use of harsh chemicals or heat, promoting hair health.

  5. Longevity: With proper care, locs can last many years, providing a durable and long-term style.

Locs Cons:

  1. Time-Consuming Establishment: Forming locs can be a lengthy process, especially for those with long or thick hair.

  2. Initial Discomfort: In the early stages, locs may feel tight or heavy, causing discomfort.

  3. Potential for Breakage: Locs can become fragile and prone to breakage without proper care.

  4. Negative Stereotypes: Locs can sometimes be associated with stereotypes or misconceptions.

  5. Reversal Difficulties: Undoing locs can be a complex and time-consuming process.


In conclusion, locs and dreads are two distinct hairstyles with unique histories, cultural significance, and formation methods. Understanding what's the difference between dreads and locs and dispelling misconceptions is essential to respecting and appreciating the diversity within the natural hair community. Both styles celebrate natural beauty, self-expression, and cultural identity, making them powerful symbols of heritage and individuality in a world that often pressures individuals to conform to Eurocentric beauty standards. Whether you choose dreads or locs, both styles carry a sense of pride, resilience, and a connection to one's roots that should be honored and respected.


About The Author: Paula Bland

Paula Bland - Natural Hair consultant

The founder of TLP, Paula Bland, is a medically qualified Nurse Practitioner, Hair aesthetician, and psychiatric Nurse Practitioner known for her highly effective hair consultation. Paula has a non-traditional approach to hair care and advocates a chemical-free, natural, and holistic approach. The Love of People is her brainchild, and its products reflect her approach to hair health and have helped women with naturally curly hair manage their curls in a chemical-free and organic way.



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