Dread Perm*

Freshly permed baby dreadlocks

Freshly permed baby dreadlocks.

The dread perm is a technique that was created and made popular by the Hair Police in Minnesota. There are a few different variations of this technique out there. One variation involves perming the hair by wrapping it around perm rods and applying the perm chemical for a set amount of time and then rinsing it out to help “roughen” it up. This is usually “recommended” (not by me, of course!) on stubbornly straight, silky hair like Asian hair. The idea is that frizzy, damaged hair will lock easier and better than non-permed hair. Following this, the hair is then backcombed into sections, curled around perm rods again and the chemical is then re-applied to chemically ‘freeze’ the hair in the sectioned, backcombed position. Sometimes the hair isn’t pre-permed first; they simply skip to the second step. After the set time the chemicals are rinsed out and you are left with hair that looks like instant dreadlocks like in the picture to the right. Newly permed dreadlocks appear to be wavy or curly due to having been curled around the perm rods.

Many people who opt for the dread perm do so because they work in a professional environment where they fear that a messier look might be frowned upon or cause an issue with their employment.

While it’s not our place to say that no one should ever get a dread perm EVER, we feel that the application of chemicals to the hair to intentionally damage it is not only uneccessary, but also counter-intuitive to the entire dreadlocking process. There are ultimately three things that create dreadlocks; Friction, Compression, and Time. However when you use chemicals to ‘freeze’ the hair into position the hair has to fight against the perm shape to lock as the hair might normally. Just like every other technique out there, dread perms locks still need to be maintained on a regular basis or they get loose and frizzy. Crocheted dreadlocks, like those that we usually create in my work, look just as great initially as permed locks do and don’t need to be damaged to get that way first. No matter what technique you start with, what will keep them neat and tidy-looking is regular home AND professional maintenance.

What’s more concerning than a properly executed dread perm are those that are done incorrectly. There are some stylists who claimed to have been taught that they should leave the perm chemicals on ‘dreads’ longer than they would otherwise to purposely over-process the hair. Perm chemical works by breaking and re-forming the protein bonds in the hair to affect the shape it takes on, but when left on too long it can permanently break these bonds leading to very dry, brittle hair that has no elasticity that breaks extremely easily. As mentioned on other pages, the length of the hair fibers in a dreadlock is what gives it strength, so excessive breakage can ultimately lead to loss of dreadlocks altogether.

So, ultimately, it is our opinion that dread perms are damaging and unecessary! Check out the page on Backcombing to see a photo of what chemically damaged versus healthy hair looks like microscopically.


  • Placement is relatively quick compared to other methods
  • May help stubborn hair types lock easier


  • Extremely damaging to the hair
  • Unnecessary regardless of hair type
  • May be more expensive than other methods