Dreadlock Buildup Guide

Dreadlock Buildup

If you’ve done any research on the internet about dreadlocks, you’ve probably heard about dreadlock buildup. It’s one of the biggest enemies of clean, healthy dreadlocks. At best, it’s a minor inconvenience that requires you to perform more maintenance on your hair. At worst, it makes your dreadlocks unmanageable, dirty, and can force you to cut your dreadlocks. Thankfully, buildup gives us plenty of time to adjust our hair care routine before the worst-case scenario happens.

So, in this post, we’re going to talk about what dreadlock buildup is, why it happens, how you can prevent it, and answer a few common questions that come up around buildup.

What is dreadlock buildup?

In the most simple terms, dreadlock buildup is an accumulation of stuff in your hair that’s not intentional.

So what do I mean by stuff? “Stuff” can be something as small as lint from putting on your favorite sweater or as big as mold/mildew. Fun fact: mildew is a type of mold

Here’s a list of things that commonly cause buildup in dreadlocks:

  • Shampoo & condition
  • Hair gel, oils, or grease
  • Scalp conditions (like dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis)
  • Lint
  • Food
  • Mold/mildew

Why does buildup happen in dreadlocks?

Buildup feeds off of the spiritual energy produced by dreadlocks in order to defeat the demons in the 5th dimension…

Nah, I’m just messing with you. Dreadlock buildup happens when we put more stuff in our hair (or stuff grows – think mold/mildew) faster than we clean it out.

That’s it. It’s not magical, but it’s definitely annoying when you look in the mirror and see buildup in your locs.

How to prevent dreadlock buildup?

Preventing dreadlock buildup is one of your top priorities (in addition to maintaining healthy hair and scalp). Because there are several different types of buildup that can happen in your dreadlocks, I’m going to give you a few tips for preventing buildup (because there’s not solely one way to prevent it).

  1. Always make sure your hair is completely dry before sleeping. The longer your hair stays wet, the more likely you are to cause mold/mildew growth. Now, there are plenty of people who go to bed with damp dreadlocks and have “no problems”. And while you may be fine to do this every now and again with no noticeable problems, please keep in mind that you won’t be able to see the mold/mildew growth until it gets bad.
  2. Use a scarf or durag when sleeping or putting on clothes. This will help prevent lint from entering your dreadlocks. However,  most people with dreadlocks just deal with the occasional lint entering their dreadlocks and don’t wear scarves or durags when putting on clothes (including me). But, most of us do sleep with some type of scarf or durag.
  3. Minimize the number of hair products you use in your hair. The more products you use, the more likely you are to cause buildup.
  4. Wash your dreadlocks.

Side note: If you do get buildup in your dreadlocks, don’t stress. It is possible to get rid of buildup in dreadlocks.

Common questions about dreadlock buildup:


How can I tell if I have buildup in my dreadlocks?

The easiest way to tell if you have buildup in your dreadlocks is to view them in the mirror and look for any spots that have a different color than the rest of your hair. This method isn’t 100% accurate because you won’t be able to see if there’s any buildup inside your locs. However, if you can see buildup on the outside, you likely have it on the inside as well.

Another way to tell is to handle your hair and see if it feels stiffer or harder to manage than normal. If so, you likely have buildup that should start trying to get rid of.

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