Afro hair

Dreadlocks vs Braids

Published By: Kennedy

Fact Checked By: Juleana

Last Updated: June 1, 2022

Dreadlocks and individual braids are both beautiful hairstyles that are similar in some ways. Knowing the specific characteristics and process of each will help you to decide which will best suit your needs. 

Dreadlocks vs. Individual Braids

Both dreadlocks and individual braids are great hairstyles for people who want to go the natural hair route. Dreadlocks are best for people who want a specific look that lasts for a very long time. Braids are best for people who want to protect their hair while adding length. They both also add a lot of style and personality and suit on-the-go lifestyles.  

Some differences include:

  • Dreadlocks are permanent and braids only last a few weeks at a time
  • Braids take less time than dreadlocks to form
  • Dreadlocks are less costly than braids
  • Braids are easier to create on all types of hair textures 

Some similarities include:

  • Both are easy to maintain
  • Both are good for hair growth

Dreadlocks

What are Dreadlocks?

Dreadlocks are rope-like strands that are formed when the hair locks onto itself. In the locking process, the hair strands start to coil around themselves and fuse together. Dreadlocks can be created by either not combing the hair or by parting the hair and starting smaller locks that grow into bigger locks over time.

The word “dreadlocks” first originated during the trans-Atlantic slave trade in the 1600s-1800s, when Africans were brought to America for the slave trade. The African people would arrive with their hair locked because they had no access to conduct their usual grooming practices. The slave owners would comment on the “dreadful” look of the hair, and thus the word “dreadlocks” was derived. 

Today, however, dreadlocks are worn by many different people and are a popular style choice. Dreadlocks can be done by people with any texture hair, but curly hair dreads the fastest. One of the most famous celebrities known for this look is actress Whoopi Goldberg. 

How to Do Dreadlocks

There are several ways that you can start the dreading process. Some of those methods are listed below. 

1. Free Form

The freeform method is simply to let your hair grow out without combing it. To achieve dreads in this process you simply wash your hair and leave it alone until the dreads start to form. Free-form dreads come out in different sizes that cannot be controlled. Also, if you have straight hair, this process takes the longest for dreads to form. 

The free-form method also starts off very messy in the beginning, and may not be the method for people who need their hair to look neat, because it will take a while for the locks to form. However, this method is the most cost-effective and organic way for dreadlocks to form. This method also works for any hair texture. 

2. Two-Strand Twists

Dreads can be started with two strand twists but are only effective for those with highly textured hair. The strands of the twists will interlock with each other and form into locks after the course of about 6 months. Two-strand twists tend to unravel in the beginning and will need to be maintained and re-twisted until they fully become dreadlocks. 

3. Backcombing

Backcombing is basically teasing sections of hair. As a section of hair is taken and then the hair of that section is combed backward from root to tip. After the hair is combed, then the hair is rolled between hands to create the round shape of dreads and to tame the frizz. 

The backcombing method gives the person the ability to make the dreads any size they want, while also having control of the parting. The backcombing method is mainly done by those with Type 1A -2C textured hair. 

Pros

There are several benefits of having dreadlocks that are great to consider. 

  • They are cost-effective –  Dreadlocks are meant to be a permanent hair choice. For many people that chose this style, the permanent nature of the style gives financial freedom for other things. 

The only upkeep you need to do for dreadlocks is to retouch the roots and wash them, otherwise, you don’t have to do any extra maintenance. Having dreadlocks will help you save dramatically on hair products, professional styling, and other related hair costs. 

  • They help to save time – While hair is in locks, you don’t need to spend much time styling your hair. Dreadlocks help save time in your day that you would otherwise use for a different style. 

Retouching the roots may take an hour or two every 6 weeks, but other than that, there is minimal time that is needed for dreadlocks. Many people who wear them appreciate their convenience and consistency. 

  • Easy to maintain – Dreadlocks enable you to experience hair growth and volume without constant styling. With locks, you don’t deal with shedding because the shed hairs stay intact. Also, you won’t have the option to blow dry, straighten, or relax your hair, which makes the options for styling a lot easier. 

The only parts of the hair you will really need to focus on with locks are the roots, which still grow out in their natural form. 

Cons

There are some cons when it comes to having dreadlocks as well. 

  • Hard to undo – Dreadlocks are meant to be a permanent style choice, which means if you ever decide that you don’t want them anymore, it is difficult to undo. Although dreadlocks are meant to be permanent, it is not impossible to undo them. 

The process of undoing dreads is very time-consuming and expensive, and depending on the nature of your locks, it might not be possible to undo. Usually, when people do not want dreadlocks anymore, they cut them off at the root.

  • They take a long time to form – The process of forming dreadlocks is not a short process in any case. The hair needs time, sometimes over a year, to form and become mature. When dreadlocks are not in the mature phase, they can look very unruly and go in all different directions.

 It takes a lot of patience to get to the end goal of what you may want your dreads to look like. 

  • They can be painful sometimes – Some of the methods used to form dread can be painful, like backcombing from the pulling and tugging. Also, mature dreads tend to feel stiff and prickly, which can be uncomfortable while sleeping. 

Individual Braids

What are individual braids?

Individual braids or “individuals” are braids that are divided into sections and are braided individually. They can be of any width or size. They are not attached to the scalp like cornrows are, and hang down. Sometimes people will feed in artificial hair to the braids to make them longer and fuller, but other times people will just wear the braids as a completely natural style.

How to do single braids

There are 2 primary ways of doing individuals, with extensions and without extensions. 

1. Without extensions

The hair first needs to be parted into sections that look like boxes on the scalp – first making a vertical part and then horizontal parts that separate each braid. Then make a three-stranded braid going all the way down to the ends of the hair. The whole process gets repeated until the head is fully braided. 

2. With extensions

After the hair is parted into sections, before braiding, some of the hair from the hair extensions will need to be attached at the root of the braid and braided down with the natural hair. The amount of artificial hair you use will depend on how big you want your braid. The bigger the braid, the more artificial hair will be used. 

Pros

There are several benefits to individual braids. 

  • It is a protective style –  Braids are great for those who want to protect their hair for a while from the elements. Braiding keeps the hair in place from moving and rubbing against things, while also tucking in the ends of the hair. While the hair is in a protective style, the hair is in a good state to grow more than usual. 
  • Added length – Individual braids stretch the hair, which showcases its natural length very well. Being able to add in artificial hair also creates the potential for the length of your style to be as long as you want. 
  • Low-maintenance – While your hair is in braids, there is not much that needs to be done to it. Braids can be left in for weeks at a time, so it is a hairstyle that is very convenient for on-the-go people. 

Cons

There are also several cons to having individual braids that should be considered. 

  • They could cause hair damage – If braids are done too tightly or kept in too long, then breakage can happen when they are taken out. It is even more risky to add a lot of artificial hair to the style, as it will be heavier on the scalp.

Anytime someone wears their hair pulled tightly for an extended period of time, they risk breakage. This is not a hairstyle that should be worn consistently. 

  • They could cause dryness – A lot of times when people put their hair in individuals they forget to moisturize and wash the hair. When the natural hair is not receiving the hydration it needs, it can become brittle. When the hair is taken out of braids, it will need to be intensely washed and conditioned.
  • They can be expensive – If you are going to a stylist for individual braids, they can cost anywhere from $80-$400, depending on the length and the amount of hair you may be adding. This process also has to be repeated after 8 weeks, so it can get expensive if it is a style you regularly want to have. 

The Final Word

It is very important to know as much information as you can about either of these styles before you choose which is right for you – especially if one of them is going to be permanent. However, both are great natural choices and convenient for everyday life on the go!

Kennedy

I have always had a love for writing and have been blogging for about 3 years now. I have a passion for teaching what I have learned over the years, especially about hair. I have had almost every hairstyle - typical of a cosmetologist’s daughter- including the big chop in 2015. With all the knowledge I have gained, I feel it is my duty to help others on their healthy hair journey. I believe education can be fun, and I strive to make it fun to learn about beautiful black hair.

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