Is wax the best for dreadlocks?

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The hottest debate in the entire dreadlock community is the question of dread wax: Is it good or bad? Well, it turns out that as far as I can tell the answer to that is not so simple.

I want to begin first by addressing the claims made by both sides of the argument. I think that myself, being relatively unbiased and new to the dreadlock community am of an ideal position to make a sound judgement on the nature of dread wax and whether it truly is or not a valid tool to encourage dreads to mature.

Proponents on the anti-wax side of the debate believe a great varied and many bad things about dread wax. The most poignant of their arguments is that dread wax builds up inside the dread indefinitely and cannot be completed washed out. Even multiple attempts with multiple techniques of removing dread wax can and often are unsuccessful. They say that although wax can be used to make new dreads looking more mature that it prevents locking. There are images abound on the internet of dreads cut open to show white build-up in the middle of them suggesting that it is from wax build up. Another similar claim is that the wax can crystallize or permanently harden inside the dreads . There are also images of two pots, one empty and the other filled with what we are left to presume is dirty wax and water. All of the anti-wax information out there basically argues these two points.

For every argument wax-haters make against wax there is a rebuttal found by proponents for the use of dread wax. The proponents of waxing (generally companies that sell said dread wax and those who have managed to use it to grown and maintain successful dreadlocks) maintain that the low melting point of dread wax (DreadHeadHQ Dread Wax in particular) allows it to be washed out of the hair with hot water. Waxers claim that dreads waxed properly do not attract any more fuzz and dirt than non-waxed dreads because if you wax properly the wax is in the middle of the dread not the surface. Waxers further believe that wax holds the hair in the dread in place and increase the memory of the hair, encouraging it to compress and lock sooner. In response to the claim that wax can harden inside dreads, KJC himself explains that he has had a tub of DHHQ Dread Wax sitting out uncovered for a few years now that is still just as supple and pliant as it was when he first opened it debunking that claim. He suggests the white residue is just regular dirt accumulated by wax that was not properly cleaned.

Ultimately what does all this arguing mean? Well, here’s what truth I have gleaned from reading all of the hot debate:

  1. Wax does build-up in dreads even if you use it in the proper, suggested amounts even if the build-up is very little. It is still there. KJC himself did his own experiment to attest to this. He minimalized the build-up explaining that in the entire test dread the build-up was only 0.32 grams (you can fit this much and more underneath your finger nail). However, the fact is that it is all too easy to use TOO MUCH wax. The appropriate amount is so miniscule that its no wonder people are overwaxing even with reading all the directions and suggestions for use. (Here is KJC’s big rant about dread wax on the DHHQ site, LOL.)
  2. I’m sorry, but no matter what you say I find it highly unlikely that waxed dreads don’t attract more dirt and fuzz. It’s just ridiculous to suggest otherwise. Even if you blow-dry your waxed dreads to encourage it to find its way to the center of your dreads and use a paper towel to absorb extra on the surface of them like KJC recommends, waxed dreads collect more visible fuzz. Some people are very diligent about picking fuzz out of their dreads. If you are willing to do the work then go for it.
  3. On this count both sides are right. Yes, waxed hair will not lock up because it causes it to be slippery and YES, waxed, already locked hair, will stay put and increase the memory of the hair to help it lock up. This is another case where the ease of using too much is high. Does wax help dreads lock faster? Maybe, but I’m hard-pressed to find hard evidence proving this claim. I’m inclined to think it’s the same or a little longer, but I can’t be certain considering that I, myself, do not use dread wax.
  4. No, wax cannot crystallize or harden. I don’t think that wax causes crispy, hard dreads. I do think its possible and likely that the dirt and fuzz attracted BY the wax creates the hard dreads. I’m not sure, honestly, what the best way to handle this build-up is beyond cutting your dreads out and starting over. I’m sure someone out there has created some deep-clean dreadlock product that claims to get it out… let me know if you find one that works! If it IS wax that is helping to hold in the fuzz as residue or build-up in the dread your best bet is to use one of the many dread wax removal techniques you can find all over the web. Just type ‘dread wax removal’ into google and watch the crazy amount of hits you get.

I just want to make another point here before I wrap it up. Some people on the anti-wax war path have suggested that dread wax is for dummies and you’re basically stupid to buy into the propaganda that says it helps dreads mature. According to them, the only reason companies like DHHQ sell it is to make money and they don’t care if they ruin a bunch of devoted dread heads’ hair along the way. Okay. So, I’m not saying I know Knotty Johnny Clean personally here, but DreadHeadHQ is a whole of two hard-working people (KJC and Knotty Sloan) and I have to say that I do NOT believe that crap for a second. They are two dread heads who know what’s up and if they say it works, I believe ’em.

When I got my own dreads my intuition was telling me that with how easy it is to use too much wax and screw up your dreads the risk just wasn’t worth what rewards I would reap. After all I’ve discovered here I am standing by that same conclusion. Yes, you can use dread wax to make some kick-ass dreads, but why bother when its so easy to ruin them just the same. If you are willing to take the risk to have better looking dreads sooner then dread wax is for you (and I would definitely recommend DreadHeadHQ’s dread wax which has a lower melting point and more viscous texture than Knotty Boy’s). But if you are willing to wait a little longer for neat-looking dreads without worrying about accidentally over-waxing, then skip the wax and enjoy the dread journey in its organic goodness.

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