It’s essential that you purchase a residue-free shampoo. Personally, I feel that liquid shampoos are best for dreads because you have greater control over the amount of product you use and can dilute it before putting it on your hair if necessary. You want to only use a teaspoon of shampoo for your entire head! I stock Dollylocks liquid shampoo at the studio in a variety of scents to suit all tastes. The solid shampoo bars also contain Hawaiian sea salt to help with the locking process, but I would personally recommend you opt for a liquid shampoo since they are easier to rinse out after use.
After your initial installation, I recommend that you don't wash your hair for at least two weeks - if you can make it to four weeks, that will be even better for your dreadlocks maturation. After this point, I recommend that you wash your hair approximately once a week. You want to ensure that you wash your hair in the morning as early as possible so that it can dry before you go to bed. Sleeping on damp dreadlocks is not only uncomfortable, but it can cause problems with mildew later on. Please see my page on drying your dreadlocks to read more on how you can keep your dreads happy!
Washing Your Dreads
When you wash your dreadlocks, keep in mind that a little product goes a long way. If you live in a hard-water area, it might even be benficial to dilute your shampoo before you apply it to your head in a squeezy bottle. With dreadlocks, you are primarily focussing on washing your scalp to break down sebum that has accumulated on your scalp. So, thoroughly wet your hair and scalp (beware: your dreads will hold much more water thank your loose hair did, so you might notice that your hair is much heavier than in it's pre-dreadlocked form!) Apply your shampoo to your scalp as best you can. Give your head a really good scrub, working your fingers in between dreadlocks to ensure the whole scalp is clean.
Once you've done this, it's time to rinse! The key here is to rinse for as long as you can. Some people like to rinse each dreadlock, working through them all. Others like to imagine their head as a clock and work around, ensuring each part is clean. However you do it, ensure that you rinse for a while, squeezing your dreads to help water pass through them. As you do this, the shampoo applied to your scalp will filter down through your hair cleaning it. Generally it should take you around 15-20 minutes to completely rinse out all shampoo from your hair. It's important that you do this properly, since even when using a residue-free shampoo you can accumulate residue within your dreadlocks from improper washing. This can slow down the drying process and in the longer-term, prevent your dreadlocks from maturing correctly or even cause dread rot.
There is no need to apply conditioner to your dreads at all. This will hinder the locking process and so should never be used. If you have partial dreadlocks, you will need to use a residue-free shampoo for all parts of your hair, both loose and un-dreaded. If your dreadlocks feel a little dry, particularly if you have extensions, the use of conditioning oils such can leave your hair feeling softer and smelling beautiful but these are better suited for use with mature dreadlocks.
For young dreadlocks that are feeling dry, or for young dreadlocks with extensions particularly in lighter colours, using a tightening gel whilst palm-rolling can be really beneficial.