Dread Maintenance
Overview of the basic problems maintaining dreads
1. Frizziness - This is caused by little hairs escaping from the main dread body. This is unavoidable. Every time you put stress on your dreads, like say, sleeping, you will pull some out. Over time they build up, and you have a pretty frizzy head of hair. This frizz is ultimately useful, because when you go in for your 3 month root maintenance appointment, I will have hairs to fix them with. In the meantime you have to control them and make them look like they belong to your head. Do not ever use anything on your dreads (especially baby dreads) that has conditioners in it. On commercial shampoos, look at the ingredients list and if you see “PEG- (number)” -  that is a conditioner. It will loosen your dreads and undo them over time. Organic products are harder to spot, but will usually state on the bottle that they “loosen, detangle, condition, straighten, etc”. Stay away from those.
2. Tightness - You need to keep your dreads tight. Once they lock up well (a nice tight core of hair that seems pretty hard and firm) they are pretty much indestructible, but you have to nurture them to get them there. Baby dreads are most vulnerable when exposed to water. Every time you wash your hair, and muss everything up by drying it, or standing out in the rain the dread bodies will start to loosen. There are pros and cons to this. If you let your hair air dry after a careful towel drying of squeezing them like delicate little sponges, the drying process will tighten the dread up. There are various products that will help tightening detailed below.
3. Smell -  The basic and obvious problem is that you have tight wads of hair, that are not well aired, holding onto what ever soaked into them last. On a day-to-day basis this is just body oils. If you are using hair products - it will be the chemical, scents, and oils from these that will be trapped in the dreads (which may be a good or bad thing). This is why you want to be careful what you put on your head, and what you wash with. Another thing to note in the smell department, is that natural oils have a natural smell to them (which may be good or bad). They also go rancid when exposed to air to long. So there is a delicate balance between using hair care products, shampooing and leaving it alone. Keep in mind that most scented products are meant to be put on loose hair, and the perfumes dissipate somewhat quickly. On dreads, they get trapped, and you live with them for a lot longer. Another thing to consider that is a real wild-card is your body’s PH level. Mine will not be the same as yours. Products that go smelling funky on me may be great on you.
4. Moisturizing - At some point your dreads will get dry, too dry. This is where you need to use some type of oil. Oils like hemp, jojoba, olive, almond, etc. go bad when exposed to air. For those of you who don’t know what rancid smells like, I’d describe it as a dusty, sharp, sour note on top of the oil smell. If you leave a stick of butter out in the air for a day or two, smell it, and you’ll probably not want to eat it. Essential oils, like lavender, tea tree, mint, jasmine, etc. (the little bottles that cost a lot) will not go rancid and will do a great job on your hair and make you smell nice. You can mix them in water in a spray bottle, and spray your hair all over and in on your scalp once a day. This will give your dry dreads the little bit of oil they need, it won’t go rancid, and you won’t overload your hair with oils, which can get kind of gross. For those of you who are having itchy scalp, tea tree oil applied to your scalp, will work wonders.
How often you wash your hair is up to you and the amount of body oils you create. If it stinks, wash it. I do mine every month. A friend of mine does hers every 7 days. Totally up to you. Everyday washing however, will be pretty hard on your dreads, and they will start to come out. Keeping your hair vaguely wet all the time could open you up to mildew problems. You should shoot to have your hair dry in a half a day. After drying it with a towel, and squeezing it out like a long sponge, let it air dry (it will tighten). If your hair is staying wet for more than a day, you’ll start to have mildew problems. Your air will smell like old books, moldy bread, damp rotting newspapers, etc. Washing it well, using tea tree oil should clear this up, and then make sure you get your hair dry. Resort to light blow-drying in the end.
BTW- when you wash your hair, do it gently. Work in the directions of the dreads, and squeeze lightly to get the shampoo into the dread bodies. Gently rinse, and squeeze the soap out. You can’t scrub your head like you used to. As your dreads mature you can be rougher on them.
Knotty Boy: Made specifically for dreads, this shampoo is a bar soap, that you wet, scrub up some suds and go at your hair. It’s fairly drying, which is good, it cuts grease well, and it rinses out residue free. It has a natural oils smell that are a bit “homesteady”. I found that the shampoo worked well.
Dr Bronner’s Natural Castile Soap: Comes in a number of scents, has no conditioners, and is fantastic. You can find it at most natural food stores. It comes with some essential oils built in. Good stuff
Commercial Shampoos: Most of them aren’t going to work. They all have conditioners in them. Even if the front of the bottle says it doesn’t, turn it over and look at the ingredients list. If you see one mention of PEG, it’s got conditioners. The perfumes they use will linger longer and stronger than you will want (unless you have no nose).
Dread wax: Both Knotty Boy and DreadHeadHQ sell this. This is not just wax, so don’t try to substitute a melted candle for it. Dread wax is filled with oils, and has a low melt temp so that you can warm it in your hand and work it into your hair. This stuff is fussy. Each dread has to be tended with it and it’s not a fast process. It’s great for baby dreads that are a bit loose. The wax will bind them up and give them more time to tangle and stabilize. It smells great. Once you have it in your dreads, use a hot hair dryer to “melt” it into the interior of the dread body for better performance. I used this to get my baby dreads going on and off for about two weeks and then started looking at other products for the quick rub-and-go in the AM. It works great for holding together those loosening dreads, but tend to stiffen the dread and make it stick out. It’s a phase, which will pass.
Knotty Boy: They make a dread conditioner that won’t unwind your hair, and will keep it in pretty good shape, and keep the frizz down pretty well. It’s a great product, except that it smells fairly strong. The top note is citrus-coconut, which is nice, but as it wears on your head over the day(s) you start to pick up the under-notes which are a bit tobacco-y. I would get some and try it out. If it works for you, your search is over, and your frizzies are tame, and the new dread itch it calmed

Leave-in conditioners: Lots of people make these, and they would be great for frizzy hair if you didn’t have dreads. They all soften and loosen your hair. Bad. No. Leave them alone no matter how tempting.
Sculpting gels, holding sprays, styling mousse, etc.: This stuff works ok if you can find ones that don’t condition, which almost all of them do. A lot of them have a silicone type additive in them which will make all your hairs slip around. Bad! The holding or styling sprays (glorified hair spray), work well for binding everything up, but the problem is that it binds EVERYTHING up. All of your individual dreads will be in a big clump on your head. I haven’t tried everything out there, and I still hold hope for this category of product.
Sea Salt spray: DreadHeadHQ sells this under the title “Dread Accelerator” and is a combo of mineralized sea salt and citric acid. I have a recipe if you don’t want to bother buying. I’ll mention this here in the defrizzing section and the tightening section because it does a great job at both. The draw-back however with using it, is that after a couple of days the salt build-up your hair gets kind of crunchy. However, this is one of my best recommendations so far for taming frizzies and keeping dreads tight.
Aloe Vera: Just plain old aloe, unscented, with vit E, will do a great job defrizzing. I alternate between the sea salt spray and aloe so that things don’t get to crusty. Aloe will also tighten your dreads as well. Great, simple product. However (there is always a however!) it will also start to go after a while. As aloe turns it starts to smell like dust. You can thin aloe, add essential oils, and all kinds of good stuff, so for you bathroom chemists consider aloe your base and have fun.
Knotty Boy: Made specifically for dreads, this tightening gel is made from aloe and citric acid. Sound familiar? It works great at tightening up your individual dreads. You can also just slather it on and rub it around. The problem is that it really, really, smells strong. Check it out before you get some. Like I said works great, see next product below.
Aloe Vera: Just plain old aloe, unscented, with vit E, will do a great job tightening. Slather it on thick or thin and it will have your dreads tightened up as it dries. You can add what ever essential oils you want for your own smell-tastic odor.
Lock Peppa: This is a cool product sold by DreadHeadHQ. It’s a collection of very finely ground clay/mineral powders that will help lock up your hair. You shake it on a clump of hair, like baby powder, and then twist and scrunchel it up. It sticks, and binds and then clay products stay in your dreads to give them body. It works really well on longer hair. However the closer you get to your scalp the oils in your hair will kind of render it useless.. Once you wash your hair the lock peppa will wash out. Cool stuff and worth a try.
Sea Salt spray: See above for discussion.