Globe Salon How-To: Removing Dreadlocks & Maintaining Length

Anyone who has visited Globe Salon knows our Salon Director, Staci Linklater, sported high-fashion dreadlocks she called “glamlocks.” After wearing them for years, the end of the year brought a desire for change. Since the most common method of dreadlock removal is to cut them off, Staci considered some options. One was to either closely clipper or shave her head. Another was to grow out her locks for a few months, abandoning the frequent palm-rolling and crochet-hook maintenance they required. That would provide enough “unlocked” new growth for a cropped ‘do, something she’s worn before. But after growing her hair for five years and wanting to maintain some length, neither seemed satisfactory. So, Staci devised her own answer. Read on to find out how she removed the dreadlocks and see an amazing before-and-after:

After five years of rocking my beautiful dreadlocks, the time finally came for a change. I considered the obvious options. Shaved head? No! Pixie haircut? Not this time! Instead, I proceeded down the unknown path of combing them out. Now, you might be thinking … That can’t be done! Well, I’m here to tell you, yes, dreadlocks can be combed out, especially ones that have been properly cared for during their life, including regular shampooing and conditioning. This is very important!

If you decide to comb out your ‘locks, it’s critical that you approach the process with much patience. This is neither an easy nor quick solution. Then again, neither is locking the hair to begin with. As it began, so it must end. You also must understand that your hair will go through various stages of, well, challenges once the combing out is complete.

Through trial and error, below is the method I devised for successfully combing out my dreadlocks. Note that this method worked for me, but it may not work for you. The results greatly depend on the condition of your hair and the skill in applying these techniques. Neither myself nor Globe Salon can be responsible for your results. We recommend leaving the process up to a experienced professional. Got that? Okay:

1. CUT: The best way to start is to first remove some length. No matter how well you cared for your dreadlocks, the ends of your hair will not be pretty. It will likely be damaged and split, and will need to be cut anyway, so save yourself some time and do it now. My dreads were almost to my waist, and we began by cutting off about five inches from the bottom. If your locks are shorter, you can get away with cutting off less. The goal is to remove the most damaged portion of the hair and give yourself a loose, “open end” of the dreadlock to work with.

2. SATURATE WITH OIL: Using a high quality hair oil, work plenty of it into the trimmed dreadlock until it is well saturated about an inch above the end. Don’t skimp; I used three bottles of Kerastase Elixir during my process. Oiling the hair is critical; not only will it aid in the removal, but it keeps the hair pliable. If you don’t do this, you could end up with hair broken off in many places.

3. DAMPEN: Using a spray bottle filled with water, keep the dreadlock wet during the process. This also aids in untangling.

4. COMB: Here’s where the dreadlock removal begins.  Your goal is to gently pick and poke directly into the end of the freshly cut lock with a highlighting comb, freeing the hair from the knots it has accumulated. You may know a highlighting comb as a rat-tail comb. It has a long point, like a thin knitting needle, on the handle end. Using this point, poke into the center of the cut lock and untangle the hair. Work in sections about one inch long. Once you get one inch fully unlocked, gently comb out that portion, add some oil, and move up. Got it? Keep doing this all the way up the lock until it is fully untangled to the root.

5: BRAID: For years, my hair had been “trained” to be in knots, so after learning the hard way and watching some tangling return overnight, myself and the Globe Salon team decided to oil and braid each unlocked section, tying it off with a rubber band. This helped keep my unlocked hair under control while we worked the rest of my head.

6: CLEASE & CONDITION: Once all of the dreadlocks have been unlocked, now is the time to lay back in the shampoo bowl and let your hairdresser treat your hair and scalp to a nice, long, gentle shampoo and deep conditioning. It had been so long since I felt that relaxation… Ahhhhhhhh! We used Kerastase products: Bain Magistral shampoo and Fondant Magistral conditioner, along with a Ciment Instant Treatment boosted with Nutrition.


7. CUT (AGAIN): Once the cleansing and conditioning was done, my hair was dried and flat ironed, and my hair was again almost to my waist. Immediately, another 12 inches were cut off. After that, my hair was still past my shoulders, and the end result was a surprisingly healthy and resilient head of hair.

This deceptively simple process requires extraordinary patience. I had 105 locks on my head, and after five years of growth, each one took 30-45 minutes of tedious work to unlock. The entire process required around 100 man-hours by professionals. This is not an exaggeration. There are no shortcuts and I did not find an easier or faster way to reach my goal of healthy length. Your hair could take more or less time, depending on how long the locks are and your technique. But the end result speaks for itself: Me and my team were able to maintain a lot of length while having a lovely head of hair in the end.

Wearing dreadlocks is a serious commitment that requires time and effort to maintain. Removing them requires the same commitment — and in my case, time and effort.  It may seem silly, but the journey to leaving my dreadlocks behind began with a journal entry. I asked myself things like, How have my dreads served me? How have they impacted my life? How do they make me feel? What am I missing by not having “normal” hair?

I loved having them, but everyone needs change. You will know when it’s time. Now that they are gone, comments and questions of all kinds roll in. The most common is, I didn’t know you could comb them out! And my answer is always, Neither did I… Until we gave it a try!

Many thanks to all of the Globe Salon staff who put their time and effort into helping me achieve this hair goal.

So, are you ready?