A lot of people don’t think it’s possible. But it is.
Don’t Want To Cut Off Your Locs? Comb Them Out:
If you have locs, you’ve probably heard the all-too-familiar question: “So how long do you think you’re going to let them get before cutting them off?” After reaching down near your butt to signal when you will likely part ways with your locs, you probably start to wonder what life without them will be like. What styles are you going to wear again? More importantly, what will you look like with short hair if you’ve never really had a substantial haircut or big chop?
But the truth is, which I realized quite a few people didn’t know (via Instagram), is that cutting off your locs isn’t the only option available to you. It’s the easiest, of course, but if you’ve grown attached to that hair, there is a way to keep at least a large amount of it. Loc removal has grown in popularity over the years, but the truth is, it’s a tedious process. I realized this after watching my college roommate spend upwards of three weeks with her locs in a tub of deep conditioner, hacking away at them while covering what was loose and what was still matted with the biggest hat she could find to go to class. Still, the fro that was left behind after removing her locs was a pretty good size. Was it healthy? Not likely.
So after seeing people ask a wealth of questions on social media about loc removal, I reached out to gain some insight from Dr. Kari Williams, celebrity hairstylist, the creator of those goddess faux locs everyone from Meagan Good to Eva Marcille have been wearing lately, and the owner of Mahogany Hair Revolution, a natural hair salon in L.A. Here are a few things you need to be clear about before deciding to go the loc removal route.
Be prepared to do it on your own.
“It’s not really a service that is offered, Williams said. “There may be some salons, maybe specialty salons, that offer the service. But ultimately, locs are matted strands of hair that have been matting together, more times than not, for years.” With that being said, Williams noted that it’s an incredibly time-consuming process depending on how long your hair has been locking and how long your locs are.
“The reasons why salons I know of, because I know our salon doesn’t offer the service, just don’t offer it is because it can take up to a week to detangle the locs,” she said. “Again, this is matted hair we’re talking about.”
Don’t assume that your loose hair will be as long as your locked hair.
“Often times, people consider the option of combing out their locs because they’re under the impression that if they comb out the locs, their hair is going to be as long as the locs are,” Williams said. “And you know, unfortunately, in the Black community, we’re obsessed with length. So the reality is, people have to understand that locs are an accumulation–the reason they are able to get so long, is because it’s an accumulation of hair that has shed from the scalp.”
So, to be clear, she pointed out that when you comb out your locs, you will encounter a lot of hair that stayed in the loc shedding and breaking off because it’s no longer attached to the scalp. If you were hoping to drape with loose hair in the same way you had length with locs, think again.
“Combing out the locs, the length of your hair may be longer than you recalled. But, ultimately, to comb out the locs, the hair is not going to be as long as the locs.”
Be prepared for quite a few struggle strands.
Williams has had clients who’ve done loc removal on their own come in to get their hair done, and the results weren’t so pretty. Dry strands, frayed and frizzy, require a lot more work after loc removal.
“When you’re combing out the locs, the amount of friction, just from combing through that matted section, it pretty much wears and tears at the cuticle layer of the hair strand,” Williams said. “So the hair itself, after detangling this matted section, is not going to be in the greatest condition. It’s more than likely going to be extremely damaged. It’s going to require a lot of conditioning and more than likely, another cut. So again, you’re talking about cutting away length.”
She continued, “Yes, doing several conditioning treatments, a number of trims and maybe cuts, you’re able to get hair back together, but it’s really a process. It’s not like a magical, ‘Oh I combed out my locs. My hair is back in this awesome fro.’ It’s definitely a process that requires diligence and patience and like I said, a couple of conditioning treatments. You can’t completely repair that cuticle, but at least you can feel it and help it in a way where styling is easy.”
If retaining length really is that important to you, instead of loc removal, consider growing out your locs before cutting them.
As previously stated, a big reason people opt to comb out their locs is because they want to keep some of the length it took years to accrue. But there are ways to retain a good amount of it while still walking away with healthier strands.
“As you’re preparing to transition out of your locs, just allow the locs to grow out for a couple of months without retightening them,” Williams said. “Keep the hair clean, brush it back until you have a good amount of new growth–whatever you feel comfortable with. And then, just cut the loc at the point where the loc meets the loose hair. Then you’ll have length where you can transition into twists or braids or some other style that will allow you to continue to grow out your hair to a length that you feel comfortable. All that new growth is new hair, healthy hair in great condition, and you’re cutting away the matted locked hair.”
Be prepared to get some criticism for combing out your locs, but always do what works best for you.
Every now and then in forums about loc removal you will find someone criticizing people for going to such great lengths to retain their hair length. And while Williams isn’t crazy about people combing out their locs due to the lack of knowledge about the process and what comes after it, she isn’t here for the judgment.
“Everybody has a different face and head shape as well as dips, humps and bumps in their scalp. Short hair does not fit everyone,” she said. “It’s a matter of preference. I think we all have a right to how we prefer to wear our hair. Our hair is how we present ourselves in the world. If they don’t want to present themselves to the world with short hair, I don’t have a problem with that. But let’s talk about a plan on how you can retain some length and transition into a style you do feel comfortable with. At the end of the day, they have to feel comfortable and confident when they step out of the door. So for those passing judgment, they should hold the judgment. It’s our decision how we want to wear our hair. And it’s no one else’s business how I choose to wear my hair, or how someone else chooses to wear their hair. It’s just a matter of a process. What’s the healthiest way to transition out of locs back into loose hair if that’s what someone wants to do?”
At the end of the day, be realistic if you’re thinking about loc removal — and have good products on hand.
If you have already made up your mind that loc removal is the way you want to go instead of cutting your hair, Williams said it’s important to be prepared for the work, have the right products (for instance, the Ann Carol cleansing conditioner by Williams which “softens and helps to break down dirt and debris”) to help you do it and restore your hair, and to be realistic about what the outcome will be.
“I just want them to have the facts about the condition of the hair,” Williams said. “There are other ways they can transition out of the locs without the time-consuming, tedious process of spending up to a full week combing out their locs. And ultimately, I want them to see that they’re only able to retain half of the length of their locs and they then have to go through a month or two months of deep conditioning treatments to make sure the hair is healthy enough and just looks good.”