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White girls and dread perms.

topic posted Wed, June 29, 2005 - 1:59 PM by  Mel
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I'm growing my hair out to have my dreads started (it's currently varied from 2.75" to 7"). I have a medium amount of fine, straight hair (it's fine, but not super-thin). I've been looking for someone experienced to start them for me so they're uniform and tidy and even, and I'll need to use the backcombing method. I have been doing a TON of reading.

I appreciate that I'm a tougher candidate for getting dreads to lock and stay locked. I am willing to do the work to get them going and maintain them. WHY WHY WHY does every stylist tell me they want to do a dread perm on me, and act like I'm a bit looney for wanting to avoid it? I keep reading horror stories of people's hair breaking off - why don't stylists want to admit this?

Tell me your stories... did you do a chemical-free start with fine, straight Caucasian hair? How did it work for you?
posted by:
Mel
offline Mel
Portland
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  • I had fine soft hair and wanted to do dreads. I did it about 6 or so years ago without a dread perm. You just have to be more dilligent in the beginning about backcombing and rolling more than most people. Keep on backcombing the hair all the way to the scalp for a while. Then rolling it tight with dread wax. I had a huge window where I could have combed my dreads back out. But eventually they took and became VERY beautiful. For me, it became a spiritual practice to tend to them. And each dread developed their own character. I did not bleach my hair either. Left the hair goop and beeswax stuff in a lot in the beginning. When they finally took I started washing them with water, no soap. Eventually when they were well established, I began using soap to wash, no conditioner, and blowdryed them to help them shrink up better. The tending was for about a full year. The latter part of the year was pretty stress-free. The beginning time was very busy with tending. If you are willing to put in the time, they can be beautiful. If not, they may look like messy white girl dreads. But know.. they will always do their own thing even if you don't want them too! You will also go through a phase of ripping and separating your dreads as they try to attach themselves to each other. Eventually they just grow nicely and you don't have to do anything. ::smile:: That is all my experience with my dreads.
  • i have fine curly hair. it was a little longer than shoulder length when i started my dreads (i'd say the *shortest* hair was 7", and that i lost several inches by the time it was done), and i had someone do them for me, using back-combing and then tightening each dread with a crochet hook.

    i never used wax, never used bleach, and though i do dye my hair, i've never used anything other than a crochet hook, hand-rolling and patience to make my dreads.

    i lived on a tropical island during the first year of my dreads, though, and went into the salt water and got them wet often at first -- the salt really helped them stick together. but after a while, i stopped getting them wet because i didn't have a hair dryer and the mildew started in...

    the catch is that this all happened in thailand, where there are lots of folks who will dread your hair with a crochet hook for a cost that's affordable. and who will continue to groom them as they tighten up in that first year. i still make my first and last stop in bangkok be a visit to my dread guy, and he tightens 'em up, pulls the fuzzies inside and cleanly separates where they've started to grow together. and i do my own ongoing grooming with a crochet hook.

    and honestly, with the costs i've heard about starting dreads from the hair police and such, for just a little bit more, you can give yourself a tropical vacation and come home with a whole new head ;^)
    • leslie...!

      just readin' the last line of your post and i'm hoping you can tell me where you get your flight deals, please! when i was back living in the states last year and trying to find flights to thailand they seemed soooo expensive. who do you usually book with?

      thanks soo much xxx

      o and p.s....i'm an ex-dreadpermed london hair police affiliate
      • hey miss cherry -- i just checked flights last week, and see that the prices seem about the same -- on eva air last year, i paid 720 with taxes (i think), and i've flown china air for cheap too (china air is not the same as air china, which is the one with the terrible accidents, though i think it may have had some problems -- my experiences have been great with it).

        i usually start my search for prices using travelocity, then go direct to eva and china and maybe japan air lines to see what prices they have. united, where i can get mileage that is more flexible, is usually several hundred dollars more.
      • oh, and btw, when you go to thailand, you need to meet my dread guy, he goes by 'ali, the dread doctor' and he's a thai guy who's in his 40s (i think), waist-length dreads, the most lovely and wonderful guy. he doesn't speak much english but often has someone working with him who speaks better.

        you (or anyone here who's traveling through bangkok) can find him near khao san road -- he's usually in the little alley behind khao san to the west, near the end of the street where burger king is. he's just got a sandwich board and a couple of plastic stools... when he's run off from that spot (sometimes the store owners let clothing vendors set up there in the later afternoon), he might move over to the corner where the big street is.

        but of all the dread groomers on khao san, ali is absolutely the one worth seeking out. i know he'd love to talk to someone who does dreads in england and the states, traveling to the u.s. is a dream of his (after he gets a minivan and travels around thailand, doing hair and having adventures away from the traffic and smog of bangkok ;^)
  • im kinda anti perm just cause of the damage. damaged hair ends up in damaged dread that break later. i don't know if there are "damage free" perms but by nature i would think not.

    i am half asian. my hair is straight and kind of slick, tho not fine. but fine hair is easier to backcomb in my experience than thicker slicker hair.

    i had problems getting them started. i was backcombing and then waxing. but the backcombing wasn't taking at all. then i waxed and backcombed. that was the answer.

    i think it took a little longer for my locks to lock up but once they started, they locked very quickly and very well. it was like i caught up time wise with other more easily locked hair. and surpassed them eventually.

    im currently convinced that no hair should require a dread perm.

    but for the sake of having nice dreads and helping them lock, i agree about being extra dilligent with palm rolling and twisting. i also used rubberbands at the root for the first month or til they broke out.

    i think stylists make more money on dread perms. plus it does make it faster and therefore more immediate which makes a stylist look better.

    (side tangent: i think dreads should only be for the patient. i think patience is part of what dreads teach the dreaded.

    including a humble patience with your own ego at the beginning stages when your hair starts doing shit you didn't expect! lol

    culturally, this society demands good looks in the immediate. no such thing as leaway timewise. we either look good in that moment or we don't. people freak if the process is lengthy i think.)
    • Your side tangent is very punctual! Patience is truly part of what dreads teach the dreaded. Immediate dreads are superficial and goes against the natural Rasta way of life. However this might not be of interest to many where dreads become stictly a means of image and not a way of life.

      Blessings for your keen wisdom
      Aja
  • Well, I'm gonna stick up for dread perms a little because I am both a stylist who gives dread perms and a white girl with fine hair who has a dread perm. I've gotta say, I have never had a problem with breakage on myself or any client and I would certainly own up to it if I did. So, I'll let you know if anything changes.

    However, I also believe there are many, many ways to achieve dreadlocks, and a perm is just one of them. I understand that lots of folks in the dreadlock community are anti-dread perm, and I gotta say, I feel a bit judged for my choice to get and give perms. But, it's all good... I'm at peace with my own choices. The perm is the best option for stylists because it forms the locks in just one day instead of the client having to most of the work for weeks to form them with backcombing. So it is really the difference between the stylist doing the majority of the work or the client doing most of the work at home when I'm not around to help out. The reason I offer perms for dreadlocks has nothing to do with money, it is just the easiest way to ensure that the client has great looking dreads right from the start.

    That said, I absolutely get that someone might not want to put a harsh chemical on their hair, and that there are plenty of people who don't mind puting a lot of energy into their dreads. I appreciate that starting dreads naturally can be a beautiful experience...like gardening on your own head. And if I had a client who would rather not get a perm, I would certainly still help them start their dreadlocks, and just explain that it would be a good deal of work for them and just teach them what to do. It's just a matter of what you are looking for, really.

    Good luck getting your dreads started!
    • i am in full agreement with you, jen a. i also want to say that, imho, having dreadlocks is kinda like an OPEN SOURCE situation, meaning for me at least that it shows more tolerance to avoid a monopoly or a purist stance on how one comes by their initial head of dreads. one shouldn't have to tend one's head to the extent that most of us white folks are obligated to, just to conform to the idea that shortcuts and dreadperms are for wannabees.

      when people start attaching dogma to what makes a head of dreads acceptable or what makes one dread head better or more organic than another, i'm tellin' you, it sound a wee bit moral majority for me.

      we need not have any dualism here. we all rollin the same, playin the same game, and the true playaz always hear the summons.

      what it is: if you are meant to grow dreads, you will, perm or no perm. it is all good.

      sonia5 (may she rest in eternal peace) midwifed my dreads for me 3.5 years ago. it marked a turning point in my life that was in NO WAY diminished by the fact that it was initially accomplished through chemicals and not via me tending my head for hours each day (which is finefinefine, if you have the timetimetime, y'all)

      after my dreadperm, my dreads began to GROW ME.

      hence, it did not matter HOW they came into being.

      they are here on my head, loved, tended, heavy,long and luscious.

      sure, anyone can pay for someone else to install a head of extensions, synths, etc onto their scalp and pass. but the true dreadhead shines through when he or she is called to the journey, which only happens with the passage of much time. money cannot buy you the devotion and identification that is mandated by the transformation that kicks in when you dedicate yourself to the life sprouting out of your head, after the perm, during the years that follow.

      to hair-split (no pun intended) over dreadperms vs. slow-start is almost like saying that a baby conceived in vitro is not really the same kind of human being as the rest of us conceived in the womb. sometimes nature just needs a little help.......

      peace to all of you growin' dem locks. ;)
  • Unsu...
     
    I created my gfs dreads and she is white and had thin hair~i used the backcombing/beeswax/rolling method and now she has beautiful think gorgeous blonde dreadlocks...and they're doing fine. i personally shy away from stylists creating dreads because of the spiritual aspect of creating, living with, and maintaining locks. other people may say other things, but i am firmly against paying for a stranger to work with my energy~hope this encourages you to do it au natural. peace~kentuckyi
    • Unsu...
       
      ~CORRECTION: THINK=THICK DREADLOCKS ;)

      also~find a friend that loves you a lot to help you put your dreads in..itll take a long while but you will be bonded with them forever, i promise you that. their energy will be rolled into your locks and yours into their hands. its a magical experience.
  • i have naturally fine but curly hair, and i started my locks when my hair was no longer than 1 1/2 inches long, all around. I did it myself, by backcombing little tiny balls/knots uniformly around my head....I then wore a bandana and never washed it or let water near it for about 1 1/2 months...and no, it didnt stink! nearly everyday i would rub the wee balls between my fingers to keep them knotted and i put some wax in them once, but didnt like it. They didnt look good for quite a while, but since i kept a bandana over them anyway it didnt matter.....I had a skinhead and had to let it grow out to put them in, so I got tired of waiting...I was told it was impossible at that length, but I believe it actually helped, becuase from the very beginning they were very tight and neat, once they started growing a bit. Its been over five years now, and they are halfway down my back(the longest ones).....I used to bleach them out every so often, to keep them white but found that the bleach was KILLING the dreads, making them very very weak and breaking off, but as I havnt bleached in a LONG time now, they are growing stronger and the roots are nice and touch and tight.

    You will be able to dread without chemicals, you just have to have patience. Sometimes I wish mine were fatter but even if they were, I would only have about four of them...as my hair isnt very thick....but hey, I decided long ago to let the hair express itself as it wished, without too much interference, so I dont do anything to them now...no rolling, tightening, waxing, etc. I like the kinks and eccentricites of some of the dreads, and the way they roll up at the end into wee spirals.....its part of the process, and I dont like them to be too 'perfect'......

    everyone has their own way, you will find yours if you let the hair talk...!!!!!!

    good luck!
    puella
    • Unsu...
       
      All you dready girls black white anything----are beautiful!!!
      • Greetings, I'm highly amused by the idea of "dred perms" and bleaching, etc., since as a Rasta, dreadlocks for me have always been about being totally natural, and surrendering to being how one was created. The way I see it, is, my Creator didn't make any mistakes!!!! So it's just for our egos to get that. It's the western, commercialized cultural environment that makes people unhappy with how they were created, and feel like they have to change it. I have had my dreadlocks for 25 years now, and since I'm only 5'2', they are almost to the ground now. I have to take care when driving a car, that they don't get caught in the door! My hair is reddish blonde, very thick and naturally curly, so it went into locks naturally. I have about 8 very phat locks. Some are as thick as my arm, and others are closer to thumbs. I swam in the saltwater ocean for the first few months, which I recommend, as this makes them hard. Everyone goes through an "awkward" phase at first, but it's a great test for the ego; and to check yourself on your motive, which in my case, was spiritual. Not to cut anyone, but hairdressers are the LAST people to ask about locks, as locks are antithetical to their profession. If everyone locked up, they would be out of work!! Jamaican Rastas call these permed, backcombed, waxed, or otherwise artificially-created dreads, "Bathroom locks". They are as unnatural as any other hair "style". For InI RastafarI, the natural grown locks is a covenant, and a commitment to a natural way of living. I hope this is helpful to those seeking the natural path. Namaste'.
        • I don't have dreads anymore myself, but I've been thinking about going back to them, which is why I joined this tribe. I wouldn't use a dread perm myself because I don't need it--my hair is thick and curly and locks up real easy. In fact, if I skip brushing my hair for a day or two they're already starting to form...

          But I did just want to say that dreads are no more "natural" than any other hair style--they require care and attention to achieve and maintain in a way that looks good. In fact they probably require *more* effort in the beginning than most other styles. Most indigenous peoples didn't wear dreads. It's an artificial style, just like any other. You say your hair is thick and curly like mine, so it was probably easy for you. Even so, I'd bet you had to either seperate the strands to start out or you had to keep pulling them apart into individual dreads or you'ld likely have one single dread coming out the back of your head. (which is what I would have if I just stopped combing my hair.)

          If "surrendering to being how one was created" means just letting your hair do whatever it wants without interference then for most of us that would lead to nasty, ugly, and smelly locks. If we have to do stuff to get them to look like we want them to then I don't see how they're any more "natural" than any other style where we have to do stuff to get it to look like we want it to.

          I can easily see how people with fine straight hair who want dreads might opt for a perm. And even I will probably use backcombing and wax this time (I didn't before, which is probably one reason I decided not to keep them.) I agree with what was said before--let's not get all 'moral majority' about this and get all judgemental. Dreads are a hair style--not a religion. Rasta might be a religion, but Rastas didn't invent dreadlocks.

          Namaste'
          Mystylplx
          • Oh, and one more thought--

            Maintaining one's personal appearance is perfectly natural. Keeping yourself clean (bathing) clipping your fingernails and caring for your hair are natural behaviors. Animals wash themselves and groom themselves and each other. They scratch at things to controll the link of thier claws. There's nothing 'unnatural' about grooming and personal hygiene. It's just the opposite. Grooming and personal hygiene are about as natural as you can get...

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