What Are the Best Tips for Backcombing Dreadlocks?

Marjorie McAtee

Backcombing dreadlocks is considered one of the most effective ways to form evenly shaped, smooth dreadlocks in straight and wavy hair types, though it is also used to form dreadlocks in kinky hair. Hair should usually be sectioned off before backcombing. The width of the hair section generally determines the size of the finished dreadlock after backcombing. Larger sections of about 0.75 inches (1.9 centimeters) generally form larger dreadlocks, while tiny dreadclocks may be made by backcombing smaller sections of about 0.5 inches (1.3 centimeters). Backcombing dreadlocks is usually done slowly and carefully, by pulling the sectioned hair straight and pushing a few strands at a time toward the scalp with a comb.

Backcombing helps form evenly shaped and smooth dreadlocks.
Backcombing helps form evenly shaped and smooth dreadlocks.

Many proponents of backcombing dreadlocks into one's hair believe that the trick is to tease only a few hairs at a time up towards the scalp. The sectioned hair should generally be pulled taught with the fingers. The teeth of the comb should usually be pressed firmly toward the scalp, since it's considered best when hair knots tightly near the scalp. Those who embark on the backcombing method of forming dreadlocks are usually warned that the method can cause some level of discomfort in the scalp. Discomfort is often considered necessary in order to ensure tight knotting of hairs near the scalp.

Visiting a loctician is recommended for those seeking to style their hair into dreadlocks.
Visiting a loctician is recommended for those seeking to style their hair into dreadlocks.

A specially designed comb known as a dreadlock comb is most often used for backcombing dreadlocks. These combs normally have extra-strong, minutely spaced metal teeth that make the comb look like nit combs in their design. Combing should typically begin about three inches from the scalp, and the comb should generally always be moved backward through the hair, towards the scalp. Hair may have a tendency to bunch up during backcombing; bunched hair should usually be pulled back straight and teased again, to create dreadlocks of uniform thickness.

Dreadlocks may be periodically rolled between the palms during backcombing, to give them a smooth, round, rope-like shape. Once a complete dreadlock has been formed, small rubber bands can be attached near the scalp and near the end of the dreadlock. The scalp band should generally be loose enough to move up and down along the length of the newly-formed dreadlock.

It should be placed about 0.5 inches (1.3 centimeters) from the scalp to prevent discomfort. The band at the tip of the dreadlock should usually be tightened as much as possible. These bands are believed to help the new dreadlock retain its shape until the knots therein have fully tightened. They are typically removed once the dreadlocks have matured.

Teasing or comb-knotting the hair into dreadlocks is generally considered one of the most tedious ways of forming dreadlocks. Backcombing is, however, considered one of the most effective ways to form dreadlocks, because it provides tidy, evenly shaped dreadlocks from the start. New dreadlocks formed in this manner are generally believed to be tougher than new dreadlocks formed via other methods. Backcombing dreadlocks can also help to create a smoother appearance as new hair tangles in the growing dreadlocks.

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