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Synthetic Dreadlocks

The very basic idea: Backcomb heat reactive hair. Twist into a dread shape. Seal into the twisted shape with heat. Wear dreads on head.

What kind of hair do I buy?

Buying the correct hair to make dreadlocks with is very important. There are four main types: Kanekalon, Toyokalon, Microfiber, and PP (polypropylene).

Kanekalon (jumbo braid texture or silky texture) reacts to heat very well and is my number one suggestion for beginners; jumbo braid texture is easier to backcomb than silky texture. If you're buying from a local shop, be SURE that the packet of hair says 100% Kanekalon. If you're buying from a website, see the section "DIY Supply Shops."

The next fiber is Toyokalon, which also reacts to heat well but mostly comes in silky texture, making backcombing a bit trickier.

Microfiber hair tends to be more expensive than the other types, has a high tolerance for heat, and is very silky. However, it can make some very gorgeous dreads, but I suggest waiting on this fiber once you're comfortable making synth dreads.

The final fiber, PP, is the cheapest; however, it does not react to heat very well. It can be mixed with the other fibers to add poof to dreads or on its own to make wrappy/knotty dreads (see below).

I also suggest buying 10 packets of hair; that should give you enough wiggle room should your first tries not come out so great. There's a discussion here about how many packets to buy.

What else do I need?

A comb, a heat source, a place to anchor the hair, and patience.

A fine tooth comb works best for the intense backcombing that is needed to knot up the hair. The comb needs to be quite sturdy or you need an army of flimsy combs. Hard plastic combs with fine teeth tend to break off their teeth, whereas softer plastic combs tend to bend their teeth. Usually your local beauty supply shop will offer a bulk package of fine tooth combs for cheap. I suggest starting with soft plastic combs; breaking the teeth off of hard plastic combs can really be annoying. One of the best combs to use is a metal flea comb used on cats and dogs. It's rigidity makes for easy backcombing, and it doesn't break or bend.

There are many different heat sources used to seal dreads. Sometimes, picking a heat source depends on the type of dread being made. Below, when dread types are described and tutorials linked, you'll find out what heat source is best for different dread types. For now, I'll list some of the most popular heat sources: steamer, hair dryer, kettle, espresso machine, iron, hair straighteners, flame.

Since you'll be doing a lot of pulling while backcombing, you'll need a place to firmly anchor your hair. A nail in a desk works brilliantly, but if putting holes in your furniture isn't an option, you can try clamps or even a vice. Some people use their toes. Some people use doorknobs. Others hook it to the top of a chair. For a beginner, I suggest finding a bit of wood and putting a nail in that. You can then sit on the floor, hold the bit of wood down with your legs, and backcomb like crazy. There is a great discussion here with photos about dread making stations.

Patience is key. It will probably be frustrating and difficult your first time trying to dread up synth hair, and it often takes a very long time to make even one dread. Patience.

Other tools may be needed, such as crochet hooks, scissors, towels, dowels, etc. Each tutorial below explains or shows what is needed for each dread type.

How do I make them?

As stated above, backcomb, twist, and seal is the basic method. However, many other methods have been forged that involve no twisting or alternative sealing. Below is a list of different dread types with pictures, descriptions, and links to tutorials to make them.

*Important!* The following types of dreads will come in two shapes--DE (double ended) or SE (single ended). See "Basic Definitions" page. For a discussion of the pros and cons of each see here. It really is all about personal preference, but I suggest starting with DE dreads because they will be easier to install later.

Basic DE or SE Dread: Click for picture of DE; click here for a picture of SE. This is a solid colored, backcomb-twist-seal dreadlock. I suggest trying this very first. Click here for a video about proper backcombing technique. Click here for a video on how to seal with a steamer. Click here for a tutorial about how to seal with a household iron. Click here for a video about how to seal with a kettle. Click here for a video about how to seal with boiling water. Click here for a video about how to seal with a hair dryer. Click here for a tutorial on how to seal ends in multiple ways.

Harlequin Dread: Click for picture, especially focus on dreads in the middle. This is essentially two SEs hooked together in the middle. This is especially convenient when wanting the two legs of the dread to be two different colors. This is a tutorial on how to make basic Harlequin Dreads.

Silky Dread: This is a Basic Dread which is then wrapped in silky kanekalon hair and sealed again. It's been a long time since I've seen anyone make dreads this way, and I cannot find a tutorial or photos of them. *sorry* I'll keep looking.

Curly Dread: Click here for a picture. Backomb, twist, and seal as you do for a Basic Dread, but add another step of wrapping the dreads around a dowel and applying a heat source to create a curled effect. Click here for a tutorial on how to make curly dreads using steam or boiling water. Click here for a video on how to make curly dreads using steam. Click here for a video on how to curl dreads using boiling water.

Wavy Dread: Click here for a picture. Again, backcomb, twist, and seal as you do for a basic dread. Instead of wrapping dreads around a dowel like curlies, three dreads are braided together then a heat source is applied. Once cooled and un-braided, the dreads have a wavy shape to them. Click here for a video on how to make wavy dreads.

Candy Cane/Swirled Dreads:Click here for a picture. This is similar to a Basic Dread, but two (or more) colors are incorporated and twisted around each other to produce a candy cane/swirl. Some prefer to backcomb the colors separately, others prefer to backcomb them together. I prefer to backcomb them together for the tightest sealing. Click here for a video about Candy Cane Dreads where the backcombing is done separately.

Transitional Dread: Click here for a picture. This dread begins in one color at the top, then switches colors further down the length. Typically, Transitional Dreads are only two colors but any amount of transitioning can be done. Click here for a tutorial on how to make basic Transitional Dreads. Video to accompany basic Transitional Dreads tutorial. Click here for a tutorial on how to make Transitional Dreads with a felting needle.

Striped Dread: This is a Basic Dread with stripes or blocks of color wrapped around the dread. Here is a video on how to create them start to finish.

Splashed Dread: This is a Basic Dread with peeps of color poking out here and there. Click here for a tutorial about creating Splashed Dreads. Click here for an accompanying video to the tutorial.

Blended/Marbled Dread: Click here for picture. This is a Basic Dread, but before backcombing the loose hair is blended together. The hair can be blended enough to make an all new color, or not so much to create marble like streaks. Here is a tutorial on blending. Here is a video on blending.

Natural Dread: Click here for a picture. This is similar to a Basic Dread, except there is no twisting involved and palm rolling is used. Here is a video of Natural Dreads sealed with boiling water and palm rolling. Myself, I backcomb my dread, then clamp it with a straightener to heat it up, then palm roll; this avoids water flinging everywhere.

Box Braid Dread: Rather than twisting and sealing a backcombed dread, they are braided box style to seal. Creates a very textured look! Click here for a video of how to box braid dreads.

Wrappy/Knotty Dread: Example here. Rather than twisting and sealing a backcombed dread, the backcombed dread is wrapped with other small bits of hair to create a lumpy, popcorn type look. Here is another video on how to create Wrappy Dreads.

Crocheted Dread: Example here. After the dread is backcombed, a crochet hook is passed through the backcombing over and over to knot up the dreadlock. This video is showing it done on natural hair, but the method is the same for synthetic hair. Here is a video of it being done to synthetic hair.

Printed Dreads: Example here. After completing a basic dreadlock, acrylic paint or permanent markers can be used to add patterns to synth dreads. Leopard print, zebra print, and Xs are some of the most used.

Giant/Goddess Dreads: These are dreads of an epic size, mostly used in falls/wigs due to their massive weight. 1/3-1/2 bag of KK is needed. Tutorial here.

How do I wear them?

There are several ways to attach your made dreadlocks to your head, with the most popular being Dread Falls and Installation.

Dread Falls: This is attaching dreadlocks to a piece of elastic or lace or ribbon, then tying them around buns of your natural hair. Here is a video about how to make dread falls. Here is a tutorial about how to wear dread falls. Here is a video about how to wear dread falls. Here is a video about how to wear dread falls with short hair. Patience, practice, and finding your own technique are very important to wearing dread falls. And also, always remember to get dressed BEFORE putting on your dread falls.

Installation: This is attaching the dreads to your head by separating your hair into small sections, then braiding the dread in with your natural hair. Here is a whole page dedicated to installation.

Jaw Clips: This is attaching the dreads to a piece of mesh which is then attached to a jaw clip and attached to your natural hair. This tutorial here is about making a cyber fall on a jaw clip, but just imagine sewing dreads to the mesh rather than tying plastic, foam, and tubing to it.

Clip In Dreads: This is just a few dreads sewn onto a wig or weave or snap clip. It's easy; just use a needle and thread to sew on two to three dreads.

How do I care for my dreads?

Installation: I have a page over here ALL about installs and what to and not to do.

Falls and Clips: When storing your falls or clips, try not to fold or kink up the dreads because those marks could become permanent. Try to lay them flat, and I always suggest storing them in a bag of some kind--old pillow cases work great! There's no way to "wash" your dreads, but spraying them with a deoderizer (Febreeze) can really help freshen them.