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See How You Would Look With Dreadlocks

Black Hairstyles

Whether you opt for a retro Afro, classic pageboy, braids or dreadlocks, be sure to use the right products when styling your hair.

  Dreadlocks - A Great Summer Style
Dreadlocks are a popular style, particularly during the summer.
See how they would look with Stellure Hairstyle Imagery Software
Black hair is more fragile than most, requiring tender, loving care. The follicles and hair shaft are tightly curved, creating a naturally curly or kinky texture. With less oil production, black hair also tends to become dry and easily knotted.

Cornrow braiding, glues used to apply extensions, use of hair relaxers and other popular services may lead to hair and scalp problems that require a visit to the dermatologist.
"The frequent use of chemical hair relaxers to straighten the waves of African-American hair weakens the hair, even when done properly," says Dr. Gary J. Brauner, an associate clinical professor of dermatology at Mt. Sinai Medical School in New York City.

For women who favor Afros for a natural look, use of a pick to lift hair at its bushiest spots can cause damage. If braids are pulled too tightly, hair may fracture and break, leading to bald spots and hair loss. Women who regularly use a hot comb to relax their hair may suffer progressive, irreversible hair loss, beginning at the crown and spreading across the entire head.

Jenyne M. Raines, a former associate beauty editor at Essence magazine, encourages black women to make peace with their hair in her new book, Beautylicious! The Black Girl’s Guide to the Fabulous Life. She outlines six basic hairstyles for women of African heritage, with chic updates. (“The rest is just a riff on a theme,” she writes.)

  1. The Afro was designed to form a perfect circle during the 1970s. Today, aim for a “textured, piecey, free ’fro,” she recommends, perhaps parted to one side.
  2. The classic pageboy, meant for straightened hair, is now a modern, layered bob.
  3. The “slicked-back ’do” for short hair was generously “lubed” and brushed back when you were younger. Today, it’s “texturized to highlight the natural curl pattern.”
  4. Long, straight hair will never go out of style, but Raines recommends angling it at the face or fashioning “a riot of natural curls.”
  5. Ponytails are always a sensible standby when you’re pressed for time, but Raines believes buying an I Dream of Jeannie-style hairpiece confers a more sophisticated look.
  6. Braids are always pleasing to the eye, and Raines urges women to aim for Janet Jackson’s look in the film Poetic Justice.

Dreadlocks are another popular style, particularly during the summer, when hair feels heavy and you want to reduce its contact with your neck. For the uninitiated, dreadlocks are not braids. Rather, the hair is tightly twisted, tangled and knotted (“locked”) into place (think of reggae great Bob Marley). Locks are difficult to undo, so select this style only if you’re comfortable with a long-term commitment.

You don’t need long hair to wear locks. A length of 3” will suffice. Some women will lock their own hair, but it’s advisable to use an experienced stylist.

Some women erroneously believe that locks are maintenance-free. The style can be worn without problems if you follow specific guidelines:

  • Shampoo appropriately: every three to five days, on average—definitely at least once per week. If you fail to shampoo frequently enough, your locks will become dirty, itchy and begin to smell. If you wash too often, locks will become too dry. Your shampooing schedule should be based on your scalp condition and lifestyle. When dreads are new, experts often recommend washing them through nylon mesh to prevent loosening. (A pair of clean pantyhose works well.)
  • Use the right shampoo—one designed for black hair, which won’t leave residue. Many stylists recommend Dread Soap (available from, which contains no colored dyes, fragrances, animal products or chemicals that compromise locks. Always rinse well after washing, and dry locks thoroughly with a towel, followed by air-drying. Tight dreadlocks that retain water may actually form mildew.
  • Use specially formulated astringent cleansing pads between shampoo days to reduce any buildup of excess oil on the scalp.
  • Moisturize regularly with appropriate products. Dr. Susan C. Taylor, a dermatologist who directs the Skin of Color Center at St. Luke’s–Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York City, and author of Brown Skin, recommends two products manufactured by Dark and Lovely: Tea Tree Oil Lock and Twist Buster, as well as Hydrating Citrus Braid and Sheen Spray.
  • Avoid product buildup by switching from pomades and gels to light oils. This will also help eliminate frizz.
  • Wear a silk or satin scarf when you sleep to prevent frizz and dryness.
  • Maintain dreadlocks by replacing rubber bands, as needed. Otherwise, locks will loosen. Never tug or pull at them.
  • Exercise caution when coloring or bleaching dreadlocks. Seek the assistance of a qualified stylist to avoid hair breakage.

To find a qualified stylist, visit the African American Hair Salons search engine (, which can help you locate hair salons, spas, services and supplies in your geographic area.

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