Ladies, Gentleman, and everyone in between, may I proudly present to you Imp And Petal's "Buyer's Guide" for Synthetic (and wool!) Dreadlocks. I am certainly not the first to drop this knowledge (mad props to RivetLicker and Mkatsi among others), but the times they are a-changin', and I feel it would be beneficial to this wild and wonderful community of creatives to have some updated information in a solid location. This isn't only for the newbs, either. Wee scout dreadlings and proper dreadthusiasts alike, this information is designed to have you armed with enough knowledge to have the smoothest of purchasing experiences. Feel free to skim over to the parts that interest you, bookmark and come back later for the rest.
I'll be blogging in segments.
It's gonna be a LOT of information.
Questions, comments and discussion are all welcome below.
Grab a snack. Reheat your coffee. We've got a lot to cover.
TYPES OF DREADS
Thanks to innovative artists like Ls Seven, Urban Synthetix, Miasma and more, texture bubbled and boiled into acceptance and grew strong roots, and (thank goodness) it's not showing any signs of stopping.
Nowadays, there are options. So many in fact, that I could never cover them all here. The ART of sculpting dread extensions has moved to the forefront now, with each artist developing very diverse techniques and flair of their own.
Below, I'm going to showcase the most common style families available to you, and hopefully convey through the borrowed imagery from dread artists all over the world how unique the execution of each style can be when worked by different hands.
DOUBLE-ENDED vs. SINGLE-ENDED
Both have their pros and cons, and many will fight to the death about what allows for the most "natural" install. Here's what I'm going to tell you: You will never know until you've tried both. Not a lot of help for a first timer, I know. Unfortunately, I think it's the only way to REALLY know. That said, I do tend to recommend DE's to the inexperienced simply because they are generally a simpler and most importantly when you're just starting out, FASTER install.
They also make wonderful Harlequin dreads, which involves one leg typically matching a wearer's hair color, and the other leg being something different. This is one way to help hide the installation a little, though it should be noted: most people will NEVER know, no matter how obvious you are!
FALLS vs. INSTALLS
Installs are a longer lasting option, staying in anywhere from 1-6 weeks (as recommended by your friendly resident extensionist: me). They are braided in to sections of natural hair using one of several braiding techniques, and secured with either elastics or thread. Done properly, they involve minimal to no damage, are washable (though they do take a long, long time to dry), and provide a notably stress-free styling experience while in.
1. No matter what type, ALL extensions add weight to your head. During the first week (and during the very first install in particular) many people experience mild to moderate tension in the head and shoulders as they adjust to the added weight. For most, the tension eases up after a few days as their extensions "settle in", but if you are extremely sensitive or get frequent headaches, that will definitely be something to consider when weighing your options.
2. You're going to draw attention. In all my years of wearing dread extensions, I have had a pretty positive experience all around. Most people LOVE them (especially children), are very curious, and many will want to touch them. Be ready for the one in five that will just go ahead and do that without asking. It happens a lot more frequently than you might imagine.
Occasionally, you'll get some not-so-positive reactions. It's been rare than I've personally had mean things directed at me because of my hair, but it has happened. Mostly the negativity takes shape in the form of disapproving glances, shop owners treating you suspiciously, or conservative parents instructing their children not to stare or ask questions. Be ready for this, also. It can be an unexpected pang of sadness to your heart if you're not, and can feel discouraging. Just remember: If someone has a problem with your hair, the problem is just that; Theirs.
3. There is a learning curve. NOBODY gets it exactly right the first time. It probably took me three different sets of dreads and multiple installs to figure out exactly what I like. After your first install, you will begin to discover small things you will want to change the next time around. Sectioning, a comfortable dread count for you, and placement/distribution of weight are all things you just have to learn trial & error style. The good news, is that when you purchase high quality extensions they have a nearly limitless lifespan as long as you're good to them, so problem solving is relatively economical. If you go into your first experience knowing this, it will save you a lot of worrisome early morning hours, wondering if you made a wise choice. Stay tuned if this is something that interests you, also, as there will be a trouble shooting segment in the future! Many issues are super simple to fix.
Don't forget to Stay connected with Imp And Petal for future segments, either. ;)
Comments and additional questions are warmly welcomed below. Thanks for stopping by!
Links courtesy of all the amazing oldschool dreadheads
who have been around, sharing knowledge and passion for over
a decade. You guys are the fuel to my fire!