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Unraveled: How To Take Down Locs

Avatar • Oct 9, 2013

By T. Hall of DopeReads.com

Last month I shocked a lot of people when I posted pictures of my giant Afro on Facebook. That might not seem so strange, except for the fact that for the past five years I have had (dread)locs.

Yes, you can comb out locs.

No, your hair isn’t necessarily damaged.

Yes, it took a long time.

The questions immediately started flooding in, so I decided to write a post on some of the why and all of the how of how I took down my dreads.

Why did you do it? That’s the question that is both the hardest and easiest to answer. The short response is ‘because I wanted to,’ but the longer story is that I went through some pretty interesting Life Changes, and as a result wanted to have an outward manifestation of said Changes. It’s something I wanted to do for a few months before I actually did it, but held back for Various Reasons (what will people think? will I still look cute? etc. etc.) Letting them go meant letting go of who I had built myself up to be over the past five years and starting fresh.

Started from the bottom…

…Now we’re here!

How the hell did you do that? This is the question I have gotten most frequently. It was really simple, actually. Conditioner, a rattail comb, and the souls of at least 3 BIC ballpoint pins.  Before taking the big jump I did a little research on Youtube and found this video. It was pretty helpful, and gave me a good point of reference. CurlyNikki also has a post about de-locking here.

 

Because my locs were so mature (5 years old) I cut 4–6 inches off so that I wouldn’t have to work through so much hair.  Combing out locs is exactly like taking down 3 month old braids – you know that tight little knot that you have at the root of a braid when you unbraid it? Multiply that by 10,000 and that is essentially what a loc is. Starting at the bottom, I just used the pen/rattail comb to *gently* pick at the tangles. My hair is pretty pliable when wet, so it didn’t break as much as I thought it would.

 

How long did it take?  I was actually surprised at how quickly (relative to other people’s experiences) my process took. With the help of my aunt and grandmother, it only took me 3–4 days to take down my entire head, and had roughly 88 locs.  My grandmother was a beast and ended up taking down about 70% of my hair, even though I initially told her I didn’t want her do touch my head. 80 years of experience working in gardens and fields meant my Granny was a pro (and I had to eat my words, she’s still gloating about how fast she was).

After Care: My hair hadn’t  seen the light of day in 5 years, and it felt AMAZING to wash it without being weighed down by the heaviness of my locs. I shampooed using a cheap clarifying product (Suave) and then followed up with an Apple Cider Vinegar/Water rinse (I just used about 1 cup of vinegar, 2–3 cups of water, and poured it into my hair).  Then, I conditioned with John Mitchell’s Tea Tree Oil conditioner and let it soak in for a bit. After rinsing that out, I made a hair masque using the following items:

  • 1 avocado
  • Some honey
  • Some olive oil
  • I free balled the honey and the olive oil, but I just made sure to add enough oil so that my hair wouldn’t get sticky. I tossed the three ingredients into the blender and boom! Hair smoothie! I applied the masque to my clean hair and got under a dryer for 20 minutes. This left my hair feeling super soft and manageable.

    Big Hair Don’t Care

    I ended up retaining about 12–14 inches of hair, which was much more than I’ve had in a while. It was super thick, and it was weird to be shedding hair again (when you have locs all the hair you shed gets folded into the loc). After blow drying, hot combing and pressing it with a ceramic flat iron, my hair came out like this:

    Being unlocked is an exhilarating and frustrating experience. On one hand, SO MUCH HEALTHY HAIR! On the other, SO MUCH HAIR! EVERYWHERE! Lol. When I had locs maintenance was fairly easy, but now I have to constantly be checking to make sure my hair isn’t showing out and doing something crazy. I ended up cutting it into a more manageable style because I don’t have time to braid it up and deal with it every night (and I love short hair. A lot.).

    Two really interesting things I noticed during this process: one, that as a black woman, so many people (employers, lovers, relatives, friends, strangers) have an opinion about your hair. It’s really kind maddening, actually, because in the end those opinions shouldn’t (but often do) motivate hair choices. The second is that as soon as I straightened my hair, I felt like my Natural Hair Mafia privilege card was revoked, and I was no longer ‘sistah’ or ‘queen’ or ‘Nubian Empress’, but rather just another lightskin chick with straight hair. I don’t have strong data on this, but I definitely felt the difference in how people interacted with and approached me.

    So there you have it folks.  Have you ever considered locking or unlocking? Let me know in the comments section.

    T. Hall

    T. Hall is the founder and editor of DopeReads, a multicultural book blog that focuses on fiction, non-fiction and other literary works by writers of color, women writers, LGBTQ writers, and anything else that’s dope. You can follow DopeReads on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @DopeReads

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    silkynaps
    silkynaps
    7 years ago

    Loved that big hair photo!!!

    T. Hall
    7 years ago
    Reply to  silkynaps

    Thanks! It was a lot to comb.

    Alisa
    Alisa
    7 years ago

    I am one month into my loc journey. I started with braidlocs. I love how simple the maintenance is, but I do sometimes miss running a comb through my hair and feeling water on my scalp. I have started locs so many times before. I usually end up taking them down after a month or two, because they require a lot of commitment and patience.

    Amma Mama
    7 years ago

    She and her hair is beautiful! I’m glad she made the hair change that she wanted to make. I love that afro pic <3 N Natural Hair Studio has a de-locking video too. I find the whole process fascinating. When I was young, people always told me the only way to get rid of locs was to shave them all off. There are so many misconceptions regarding locs.

    http://ammamama.wordpress.com/

    T. Hall
    7 years ago
    Reply to  Amma Mama

    Thank you so much!

    Alisha
    7 years ago

    Wow! You are beautiful in every picture. I’d love to read a follow up- on how people you now versus with locs.

    T. Hall
    7 years ago
    Reply to  Alisha

    Thanks 🙂 A follow up post is a great idea, I’ll do one next week!

    Zy
    Zy
    7 years ago

    I just took out my locs too! I was only 5 months into freed irking 🙁 but seeing your locs so long and mature and how fast you took them out ! Wow! Mine took 3 days and were still baby locs ! Your hair is gorgeous!

    SMILAN
    SMILAN
    7 years ago

    I took my 8 yr old locs down about 3 months ago. It took a lot of getting used to; management, shedding, etc… I am loving it now and have finally stopped thinking about relocing in Janary, lol. I’m loving my loose hair now.
    [img]https://bglh-marketplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/image-13.jpg[/img]
    [img]https://bglh-marketplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/image-14.jpg[/img]

    SMILAN
    SMILAN
    7 years ago
    Reply to  SMILAN

    Sorry about the sideways pic — don’t know how to fix it!

    T. Hall
    7 years ago
    Reply to  SMILAN

    Gorgeous!

    Christine
    7 years ago

    That is awesome! I would have never known that this was a possibility! And I definitely feel you on the “natural card.” Although I don’t have locs, I feel like when my hair is braided or in twists, somehow I am more legitimate than when my hair is “naturally” straightened. Defining natural is interesting and it’s actually what I’m exploring on my blog. http://hallchristine373.wordpress.com

    Aaliyah
    Aaliyah
    7 years ago

    I’ve been thinking about taking mine out after five years because I’m getting tired of it and wanted my afro back that I had when I was a toddler. My hair is close to brastap legnth(i need 1 inch more)and i started my dreads in a very short legnth. I have 4c,4b, and a little 3c

    TWA4now
    TWA4now
    7 years ago

    Beautiful pics! Yes, please talk about the way folks treat you now and what residual thoughts you have now that the locs are gone. You didn’t relax it just straighten it with a flat iron. Either way, you are a black queen! #enjoyitnomatterwhatitisYOURchoice

    Shada
    Shada
    7 years ago

    I LOVE IT! I have been growing my hair for 5 years nd 9 months, I have ben tellin everyone dat I want to take my locs out nd its funny cuz I ask myself da same questions dat yu asked urself. I also want to do it for pretty muc da same reason why yu did it.. bt I cant get ova da feeling dat I mite miss dem too much 🙁 so I haven’t done it yet bt thunkin bout setting a date.
    [img]https://bglh-marketplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/0908131851a-shada.jpg[/img]

    Cynthia
    Cynthia
    7 years ago
    Reply to  Shada

    I could barely understand a word you wrote…

    londoner
    londoner
    7 years ago
    Reply to  Cynthia

    London speech lol

    maralondon
    maralondon
    7 years ago
    Reply to  londoner

    Don’t make me cringe,London speech?!! I’m from London and I don’t write or speak like that. More like lazy can’t be bother to speak properly.

    Nisha
    Nisha
    7 years ago
    Reply to  Shada

    I understand you girl!I took my locs out after 8 years and I don’t miss them one bit. However, I started over with sisterlocks, so that might have something to do with it. Your locks are beautiful.

    aduke
    aduke
    7 years ago

    Hi T Hall, thanks for the inspiration. I am seven years into my locs and I am thinking of taking them down in a couple years so I have already stopped interlocking for over a year and can already see the “free growth” from the root 4–5 inches. When I do take them down, I expect to find a few inches of healthy hair. I maintain by conditioning and palm rolling the roots to prevent breakage and it seems to be working.

    Carla P.
    Carla P.
    7 years ago

    I had locs for 7yrs and decided to take them down when I was pregnant (it was the hormones that made me do it!). It took me 3months to complete my whole head. I ended up starting locs again after a yr of loose natural hair because it was so hard to manage and took so much time.
    [file]https://bglh-marketplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Presentation1.pptx[/file]

    Jamz
    Jamz
    7 years ago

    i also took my locs down after 5 years…took forever, but it was worth it. Had a healthy head of hair after, though my scalp was sore for days! your hair is lovely…

    T. Hall
    7 years ago
    Reply to  Jamz

    Thanks 🙂 hair is WORK, that’s why I ended up shaving the rest of it.

    Foluke
    Foluke
    7 years ago

    I took down my 5 year old locs at the end of 2012.

    I wish I researches it better I had just below shoulder length locs. I had probably 250 locs. I cold have retained about 10’inches. Instead I chopped but I love my short super healthy Afro.playing with it and discovering new products and recipes.
    I’m considering sista locs next but I’m enjoying the freedom of a new look so locs later; at least I know now they aren’t permanent, you just need patience!

    Asad Muhammad
    7 years ago

    Rastafari I For Life!Never Cut.
    [img]https://bglh-marketplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/20130714_154817.jpg[/img]

    the MANE CAPTAIN
    7 years ago

    wow, i don’t have locs and would never get one mostly because I love the versatility of loose hair. And locs is like single braids and another hairstyle.
    I say welcome to the otherside. I’m sure you know what you’re getting yourself into. But i do love the time I give my hair.
    themanecaptain.blogspot.ca

    u-marie
    u-marie
    7 years ago

    wow, i never knew it was possible to take down naturally formed locs. i actually want to get locs when im 21 but was afraid of having them forever(lame right?) 😛 Again, blackgirlwithlonghai has educated me on this thing on my head i once took for granted

    Indigo1617
    Indigo1617
    7 years ago

    I has loca for 13 years & combed them out last year (actually it’s 1 year next week). I also studied YouTube videos. It took me 2 wks. U don’t realize how free u were with ur loca (maintence, styling, shedding, etc) until I take them out. Haven’t quite mastered my new natural hair but it’s a work in progress. My hair is very fine, soft & curly. I wear it straight & sometimes curly. I won’t go back to chemicals! Enjoy ur new hair!!!! I am????

    LBell
    LBell
    7 years ago

    Wow, I’m amazed at how quickly it took some of you to take down your locs. I had 3.5‑year-old locs that were started with twists and maintained by latching (interlocking). It took me approximately 40 minutes per loc to take down the 12 locs at my lowest layer (nape). I had about 160 total on my head and they were about 10 inches long. I ended up chopping them down to 3 inches and picking them out from there and even that took the better part of a week. Three months later, after countless DC sessions to try to restore what… Read more »

    T. Hall
    7 years ago
    Reply to  LBell

    Yes, to all of this. We get so attached to our hair sometimes, but you can always grow more 🙂

    queenmiek
    queenmiek
    7 years ago

    I’ve had my locs for 11 years and have been taking them down for what seems like months. I had over 150 locs, it is a long process even though my locs were cut to shoulder length. I am excited about running my fingers through and combing my hair. Why I decided? It’s time for a change.

    Pamela
    Pamela
    7 years ago

    I really want to take my locs down, it has been 7 years for me. I cannot do it myself because of medical reasons. Is there a salon that does this?

    Sami
    Sami
    7 years ago

    Such a timely post. I am currently in the process of unlocking my almost 4 year old Sisterlocks. I didn’t think it could be done, especially being that these are much finer locks. I am using a little mustache/beard comb I found at a $1 Store. I had the hardest time finding a good detangler, so I purchased some Hawaiian Silky 14 n 1 and using Mahogany Roots Pomade. Anything to create slippage. Mines may take a while, but I am not In a big rush. When I can’t hide my little twist anymore, it’s wig time until. We need… Read more »

    Eboni
    Eboni
    7 years ago

    I’m currently in my 4th month of my starter locs and I’m really enjoying everything so far. I’m not so sure that I’ll ever comb them out given that I love the look of grey locs : ) Plus they completely suit my life style right now as a fine arts student too.

    It’s a shame how people are starting to treat her differently since combing out her locs, but she looks great with or without locs!

    stace
    stace
    7 years ago
    Reply to  Eboni

    Yea I found that a bit off-putting that people are treating and interacting with her differently. The crazy part is that she didn’t even need to elaborate on that point and it spoke volumes.
    I also agree that she looks amazing with the loose hair. That fro was darling, but I really love the short cut. It suits her face well and I almost want to say personality but I don’t know her..teehee…

    Terryn
    7 years ago
    Reply to  stace

    Thanks so much! Yeah the afro was a lot of work. I’ve since shaved it all off, and really enjoy the freedom of brushing and going!

    Nkem
    7 years ago

    This is helpful.I remember watching videos of how ladies took down their locs on youtube and was surprised. I initially thought that you had to cut off the entire hair to remove your locs.I was wrong. It is good to be properly informed.

    Chanelle
    Chanelle
    7 years ago

    I just unlocked my 10-year-old locs six months ago. I cut about half my length. It took me 30 hours (by myself!) to take down 6 inches . I wanted a change and got tired of long hair (my hair grew like a weed in locs). I also wanted to try out my loose natural hair which I haven’t seen since I was 3 years old (before it was chemically procssed). It’s exciting to be learning new things about my hair and I love my hair now. But I miss my loc and get sad when I see someone with… Read more »

    ashall
    ashall
    7 years ago

    I “un-loc’ed” in 2010 after about 4 years. My sister and I loc and unloc’ed together. It took me about 1 month, I would do 2 or 3 a day. I used the tool that beaders use (to make necklaces). The last removal session was about 10 hours, my Mom and a friend helped, we started that day with 85 locs, I had 120 total. I too was left with nice long hair (I’ve had long hair before), but this was a different animal! Long and natural, after about 5 months I cut it off. I have been growing and… Read more »

    krokan
    krokan
    7 years ago

    Sure wished I had someone to help me pick out my eight year old locs lol. It took me an entire month and a ton of patience.
    [img]https://bglh-marketplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/IMG_1235.JPG[/img]
    [img]https://bglh-marketplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/IMG_1477.JPG[/img]
    sorry for the sideways pics I don’t know how to fix it lol

    Niki
    Niki
    7 years ago
    Reply to  krokan

    Your locs were gorgeous! I can only hope mine grow as well as yours. <3

    krokan
    krokan
    7 years ago

    [img]https://bglh-marketplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/IMG_1477‑1.JPG[/img]
    [img]https://bglh-marketplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/IMG_1235‑1.JPG[/img]
    fixed it I think lol

    Phoxxie
    Phoxxie
    7 years ago

    Wooo that was a lot of hair. I cringed when you said you didnt have time to braid it every night. The thing is, you don’t actually have to braid it every night. Me, I wash, deep condition and braid my hair every Saturday or Sunday, leave the braids in for 2 days, unravel em and rock it like that all week. You are gorgeous regardless, long, short, straight, curly or locked. I just wanted to put my 2 cents in regarding that comment.

    Terryn
    7 years ago
    Reply to  Phoxxie

    Thank you so much! When I grow my hair back out I’ll take that into consideration

    Mai
    Mai
    7 years ago

    This is why I LOVE going on natural hair sites/blogs/forums etc. You learn something new everytime!

    I have always been envious of women with beautiful locs. But I always thought that you would basically have to cut off all your hair if you wanted to get rid of them. Now I know differently… sounds like a time consuming thing to do but from the “after” photos it looks so worth it! The loc-ed and unloc-ed hair looks gorgeous!
    [img]https://bglh-marketplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/CAM00756.jpg[/img]

    Dani
    Dani
    7 years ago

    Thnank you so much for this post! I’m taking down my locs (also 5 years) next month and although I had an idea of how to do it I didn’t think you could keep so much lenght.

    Terryn
    7 years ago
    Reply to  Dani

    Good luck! Just make sure to go slow and moisturize.

    CherieB
    CherieB
    7 years ago

    I actually combed out my 5 year old locs in early 2011. I did a lot of research and took my time, slowly taking them out here and there over the course of 2 months. I hope you have better results than I did but I found that over time, that “free” hair just wasn’t strong enough to withstand breakage. Looking back I should have just stopped locking for a couple of months and rocked a headband/hat, cut my locks at 2/3 or 3/4 of the length and then combed them out to hold on to my newer and less… Read more »

    Amelia
    Amelia
    7 years ago

    I’m so glad to see this post. I went through the same process over a year ago, except it took me months to do. I never realized how many locs I had and on average, it took about an hour a loc. My granddaugther helped with a sizable amount, but for the most part I was on my on. I posted a summary on you tube with a bag of shedded hair. After 12 years of locs, I wondered what it would be like to have my hair in its natural state. Although I love my hair, I’m learning how… Read more »

    T. Hall
    7 years ago
    Reply to  Amelia

    Beautiful!

    Stacy T.
    Stacy T.
    7 years ago

    I loved this post ! I took my locs down for similar reason. I grew way too attached to my hair and needed some “freedom” so to speak. My dreads took me almost 3 months to take down but its been well worth it !
    [img]https://bglh-marketplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/423297_10151414138327059_897288873_n.jpg[/img]
    [img]https://bglh-marketplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/931353_10151701828227059_680159065_n.jpg[/img]
    [img]https://bglh-marketplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/1376401_10151965602592059_1053981669_n.jpg[/img]

    T. Hall
    7 years ago
    Reply to  Stacy T.

    Gorgeous. I love the last pic!

    Alwina Oyewoleturner
    Alwina Oyewoleturner
    7 years ago

    Thanks for sharing your experience! Your hair looks lovely either way!

    Dee
    Dee
    7 years ago

    I just unlocked my 4.5 year locs. It took me about a month to do and I used a very similar take down method. I’ve been wearing my loose natural hair for about 2weeks now and it is a bit daunting but exhilarating. Good for you for doing what feels right for you, it takes a lot of courage to try something new and outside what is “expected.” And you look absolutely beautiful with your new do.

    udine
    7 years ago

    Hi all, this is a very interesting website as it speaks to my desires of experiencing my natural hair outside of dreads. The post and all comments have given me much food for thought and i will like to thank everyone. However I have one ques though, does the type of dread one have matters, or can you unloc any form? By this I mean, I’ve had my dread for over 15yrs and from inception it has been interlocked with the famous needle tool. I know some people have free formed and Pam roll dreads, which might make these types easier… Read more »

    Toni
    6 years ago
    Reply to  udine

    Yes it is possible, I unlocked mine using the same process 4 yrs ago and then ended up relocking 2 months after. Now 8 yrs later I am thinking just to BC.…

    Just use lots of slip, and water and slowly pick at it, time consuming for sure. 1 loc for me 10–12 inches long took a good 45 mins to an hour.

    Hope this helps:-)

    Udine
    Udine
    7 years ago

    Hello everyone, this website is very interesting and I am pleased that I found it. Thank you all for sharing your experiences with unlocking, I myself have considered cutting my dread just to start over my natural hair but never knew unlocking could have been done without loosing a lot of hair. I have had my dread for over 15 years and I love my natural beauty but sometimes I feel that I just want to feel my hair out of locs. I however have a question though. My dread has been formed via interlocking methods since inception, now I know… Read more »

    Shon
    Shon
    6 years ago

    We took down my spiritual mom’s locks. It was an eight(8) day project. But fully worth the experience. She has a throw-back afro. We love it
    [img]https://bglh-marketplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/IMG_20140818_200233.jpg[/img]

    Dreddi
    Dreddi
    6 years ago

    I started locs with extensions April 2013. Just took out the last one Saturday late afternoon. It took three +weeks ;( . My hair has really grown. Loving my hair loose again but have to learn how to manage it.
    [img]https://bglh-marketplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/IMG_3418.JPG[/img]
    [img]https://bglh-marketplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/photo1.JPG[/img]
    [img]https://bglh-marketplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/IMG_3740.JPG[/img]

    Judith
    Judith
    6 years ago

    I used to have dreads but I cut them off since July now I want to have them bck but what I realise about my hair it takes long to grow I would like to know how do I start it again? Thanks for your help

    Blood Orchid
    4 years ago

    In the month of February will make 7 years growing my locs. 7 years is long enough. I want to cut them but now I have this strange ‘fear’. I want a change. I’ve actually trimmed my locs 3–4 times within that these 7 years when they crept past my good to my buttocks but never fully committed to a full blown chop. I think I need supportive words. Lol!

    Msteacherdiva
    Msteacherdiva
    4 years ago

    I have just combed out my Locs of almost 3 years! Best decision I have made instead of chopping off. Yes it is time consuming but I couldn’t see myself spending over $400 when I can do it myself. Now it did take about 5 days (have a 7mth old) so I couldn’t work on it exclusively.

    Kuzi
    Kuzi
    3 years ago

    Wow thanks so much for the post! It has brought me peace of mind. I just got my hair loc’d today…Reading all these comments of 5 year locs and 15 year locs and here I am with my 7 hours old locs lol. So I’ve been having a bit of a panic attack because my hair’s not too long or too thick so the locs are sorta flat right now and I’m feeling a bit insecure because I prefer having some sort of volume to my hair ( I usually have an afro-centric hair-do or braids. But I do want… Read more »

    LySandra
    LySandra
    3 years ago

    I LOVE my sister locks and tell anyone who ask “they are so freeing” but I’ve had mine almost 7 years now and I’ve seriously contemplated cutting them off, well actually taking them down, but I know I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THEM DOWN. I wouldn’t mind paying someone to take them down for me and I’d hope to retain as much as possible. Maybe by the end of this year I’ll do a take down or a chop If I have NO takers for the take down.

    Blue
    Blue
    3 years ago

    I’ve only ever had one hair cut my entire life, and locks on both sides of that once. Currently I have had my current locks for 15 years. I’ve never really had any other hair style and I’m just not sure I want to take that leap but recently I’ve felt like I had to. I’m finishing one part of my education and lately I’ve been feeling different and more and more I have wanted to change my hair, but it feels like destroying part of myself for even considering it.

    TuesdaysGrace
    3 years ago

    I know you posted this years ago, but I am so happy that I found it! I’m thinking about unlocking my hair. I just need a change, this has been very helpful.

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