Natural (A.K.A. “Neglect”, “Freeform”, or “Organic”)

Freeform / Neglect DreadlocksOkay, everyone. We have a secret to tell you. To dread heads worldwide it is a source of great celebration. Are you ready? Here it is: clean, dry hair will dread ALL BY ITSELF!!! That means in no uncertain terms that the only thing you need to do to get dreads is wash your hair. That’s it!

Although clean hair will dread by itself, it does take some time for your hair to truly LOOK like dreadlocks. Although some sites say this can take as little as a few weeks, it more commonly takes closer to 2 – 3 years for all your hair to lock up using this method.

There is a lot of variation within the realm of ‘natural’ dreadlocks. Some people literally do exactly what I mentioned; Just wash. However, others also incorporate some (or a lot) of maintenance to help them along. The most common of which in natural dreadlocks is separating the dreads. (It’s also know as “ripping” or “popping”, too.) When first forming natural dreadlocks, separating the hair as it begins to mat is what will eventually create each individual dreadlock. Simply leave the hair to its own devices and once it starts to knot, pull the knotted, gnarly hair into individual sections.  This is the only way in this method of cultivating dreadlocks to control the size and quantity of dreadlocks you will end up with. Once you have solidly formed dreadlocks, you must continue separating them to prevent congoing (dreadlocks growing together), if you want to maintain the same size dreadlocks. OR, there are plenty of folks who stop separating at this point and let them combine with one another at will. As with all things dreadlock-related; it’s a matter of personal preference.

To separate established dreads most folks just take two dreads  and pull them in opposite directions to make sure they don’t start growing together. OR, a more thorough method, involves running your fingers along you section lines/parts and pulling out bits of hair that are crossing into the wrong section. If done regularly, this method is actually much easier than it sounds! To learn more check out the page on Separating.

When locking your hair naturally (in any way actually), usually the hair in the back of your head locks up first (since it gets the most friction when sleeping on it at night). People dreading naturally will sometimes also wear a tam (hat) at night to increase friction and make it a little more evenly spread around their head. Natural dread heads may also incorporate other maintenance techniques, too, but tend to keep things minimal.

Of course, just like every other method of dreading, using a residue-free shampoo (or homemade version) is a MUST to facilitate the locking process and prevent dread rot (mold growth in the dreads). For an explanation of the criteria for SAFE dreadlock shampoo(s) and general advice on washing dreadlocks check out the Washing page!


  • Little to no maintenance
  • Usually have a very distinctive appearance from other types.
  • Tend to be the most ‘respected’ dreadlocks due to spiritual connotations.



  • It may take longer for hair to look like dreadlocks.
  • Often natural dreadlocks appear less groomed and tidy. (If that’s your thing, of course!)
  • Less control over size and quantity of dreadlocks you end up with.
  • Irregular section sizes can make maintenance difficult in later stages if you choose to start doing it/more.