I just got my dreadlocks. Now what?
How you take care of your dreadlocks is entirely up to you. You can do as much or as little to them as you want. You will find over the course of your journey what works best for you. Here's the basics to get you started:
Shampoo: I will always 100% recommend the AG Balance apple cider vinegar shampoo. It has a very light and natural fragrance, and a watery texture that rinses out of locs easily. And no, it doesn't smell like ACV! I typically recommend avoiding getting your locs wet or shampooing them for two weeks after install, as water can loosen the crochet work. This is not a hard and fast rule, though, so if you want to wash your hair sooner, you are more than welcome. After the first couple of weeks, you can wash as often as you want as long as they are getting dry in between. Most people wash every 1-2 weeks. For temporary dreadlocks, I recommend waiting a week after install to shampoo as frequent washing can cause them to loosen up and slip.
Drying: Perhaps more important than shampooing your locs, is making sure they are dry. I highly recommend a bonnet dryer, especially in the winter, when wet hair means being miserable the whole day. You can also blow dry with a normal blow dryer, or air dry. If you air dry, be sure that they are COMPLETELY dry within 8 hours, or your locs can end up smelling musty and mildewy.
PLEASE NOTE: mold doesn't happen overnight. In my career, I have only come across mold a few times. As long as you are not repeatedly wetting your locs without letting them dry completely, you will not get mold, I promise.
Products: Any product used on locs should be used no more than a few times a week. Dollylocks Tightening Sprays are helpful for palm rolling and to smooth frizz. While it is a beneficial product, using more will not make your dreadlocks tighten any faster. If you can feel it on your hair, you're using too much. Dollylocks refreshing sprays are great for freshening up your locs in between washes, and have the added benefit of making them smell really nice.
Scalp Health: Since we live in a dry climate, scalp health is one of the most common concerns. Rosewater is a wonderful daily moisturizer and is perfect for soothing dry scalps. I prefer Nappstar's Rosewater Spray. As far as oils, I love Noggin Oil's whole line, and particularly their Chill and Replenish formulas. They come in an easy-to-apply rollerball tube, and are the perfect size to carry with you. The Chill is great at soothing soreness from a maintenance or install, and the Replenish promotes general scalp health.
Sleeping, Swimming, and Showering: While you absolutely don't have to sleep with anything on your head, a silk bonnet can help keep frizzies in line, and keep the roots from getting stuck together. It is also helpful to keep your locs from strangling you or hitting your partner in the face!
If you are an avid swimmer, get a dreadlock swim cap to protect your locs from the chlorine. Locs love saltwater, so if you're going to the beach, you don't need to cover them. After swimming in either a pool, ocean or lake, you should shampoo as soon as possible. If you're going to be getting in and out of the water multiple days in a row and you don't want to shampoo every day, rinse really well after each swim, and when you're done, then you can shampoo.
Most people have a style they refer to as the "shower bun". It involves piling your locs on top of your head so that they don't get wet in the shower. If you have a partial or your locs are too short to pull up, definitely get a shower cap. The humidity in the shower can increase frizzies.
At Home Maintenance
Separating: Separating is arguably the most important part of home maintenance. It works best when the hair is damp, but you can do it dry as well. Run your finger along each section and break any crosshairs from neighboring locs that have decided to bond with their friends. If you have a lot of crosshairs and it's too much to separate with your fingers, then you can pull the locs apart to break the hairs, and then go back in with your finger and separate them into their respective bases. Separating will prevent matting and locs growing together, also known as congos. This is especially important if you don't have a full head of locs and you have loose hair getting tangled in them.
Palm Rolling, Finger Rolling, and Root Rubbing: Palm rolling is very easy and you can do it as much or as little as you want. It has a cumulative effect, though, so doing it once will not make much difference. Take each loc in between your hands and roll it back and forth along your palms from root to tip. This will help baby locs to mat up, and will help your locs maintain their shape if they get flattened out from sleeping or wearing your hair up. Palm rolling with the Dollylocks Tightening Spray after a wash will help smooth frizz. Finger rolling works much the same way, except instead of using your palms, you will roll them between your fingers. This is helpful for very small or very soft locs.
Root rubbing can give the illusion that you just got a maintenance by taming root frizz and loose hair. Gather up any loose hair at the base, wrap it around the loc, and place the root between your index and middle fingers with your palm facing your head. Then, rub the root in a clockwise motion, and you will feel the loc getting tighter. This is a perfect technique to do if you have an event coming up and you don't have time to come in for a maintenance appointment.
Detox: A detox uses baking soda and apple cider vinegar to deep clean the locs. I can also do this in salon. I recommend doing a detox no more than 4 times a year, and once or twice a year is usually good for most people. Fill a bathtub, bucket, or sink with hot water, and add 3 tbsp of baking soda and 3 tbsp of apple cider vinegar. Soak for about 15-20 minutes, squeezing the locs to bring any trapped dirt to the surface. Rinse really well and then shampoo. If you have color in your hair, the baking soda may fade it a little, so I recommend doing it right before you plan to recolor your hair. That way, you won't fade a fresh color.
Stretching: Stretching your locs is helpful if you have lumps and bumps and you want to encourage them to go back inside the loc. While your hair is wet, hold the root with one hand, and gently but firmly, use your other hand to pull down the length of the locs and smooth the surface. This should not hurt if done correctly. Be careful if you have extensions. Only stretch your natural hair or you may loosen or pull off the extension.