What is Palm Rolling?

Palm rolling is often performed by those styling their hair into dreadlocks.
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  • Written By: Del Sandeen
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 21 November 2015
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Palm rolling is a technique used to create a coiled hairstyle. It's most often used on people of African descent, or anyone with tightly curled or coiled hair. While it can be worn as a style on its own, it's also a suitable way to begin growing dreadlocks.

The right palm rolling technique involves a light hairdress, preferably with some hold, or gel. Beeswax should not be used, as it is very difficult to wash out of the hair. A person can palm roll his own hair, but will probably need the help of a stylist or friend to successfully style the back of the head.

Palm rolling should be done on freshly shampooed, conditioned, damp hair. It will be easier to comb through curls if they are damp to wet. As the palm rolling technique progresses, water can be spritzed onto the hair if it dries during the styling process.

To begin palm rolling, a stylist will part the hair in small sections, preferably no larger than 1 inch (2.5 cm) square. Diamond shaped partings can also be used. Hair needs to be at least 2 inches (5.1 cm) long for palm rolling. Once a section of hair is parted off, a hair product should be applied and combed through to work out any tangles.


A stylist will begin working close to the scalp and place the section of hair between the palms of his hands. One hand will remain mostly still, while the other palm will rub against it in one direction. This causes the hair to form a coil shape. The palm rolling will continue all the way to the end of the hair section.

To achieve palm rolls that hold well, the hair should be in its natural, un-straightened state. Chemical straighteners will make the hair too slippery and straight to hold onto itself. The more tightly curled the hair, the easier it will stay in place. Hair that's loosely curled or wavy will not hold palm rolls in place well without help from a strong gel or hair clips. Hair can be shampooed while it's in the palm rolled style, but loosely curled hair will likely loosen up and may need to be redone.

To grow dreadlocks from palm rolls, the wearer should leave the style in place. It will probably be necessary to re-roll the coils as the hair grows. It's important that a stylist or the person wearing the style continue palm rolling in the same direction so that the coils hold their shape.


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