How My Locs Journey Taught Me To Treat My Hair (And Myself) Better (2024)

Photo: Courtesy of Natalie Cruz.

As a little Dominican girl, I envied long, flowing hair — my mother’s and aunt’s beautiful soft wavy hair as well as my sister’s thick curls. I had kinkier, tighter coils that I wished were more manageable to untangle and style. At 9, I got my first relaxer for school pictures. As the white creamy mixture sat atop my virgin hair, the tingling sensation of my scalp signified the end of my childhood with kinky hair and the beginning of my life’s insecurities with my hair’s appearance.

Through years of chemical relaxers and hair straightening, I found that two things were happening: I felt ugly whenever my hair was not perfectly straight from the salon, and my hair was falling out from all those visits. Around 2010, 15 years after that milestone picture day, I flirted with the idea of going natural to give my hair a much-needed break from relaxers. I finally felt the push to do it while living in Washington, D.C., because there weren’t many Dominican hair salons to continue the regimen. This was my moment to let my hair breathe and see what my hair texture was really like.

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"I felt ugly whenever my hair was not perfectly straight from the salon, and my hair was falling out from all those visits."

NATALIE LOVE CRUZ

In 2012, I moved back to New York after a bad breakup and excitedly went to see my old hairdresser for a fresh blow dry just to give my self-esteem a boost. My hairdresser hadn’t seen me in a while since I had ditched the chemicals. I proudly told her I had decided to go natural but just wanted a temporary straight hairstyle to change things up. As I sat down in her chair, I could see her eyes examine my pajón with slight disgust. “Te vez mas bella con el pelo lacio,” she said before noting that a light relaxer would help me achieve a better blowout.

Photo: Courtesy of Natalie Cruz.

The confidence I had built to grow my natural hair out had burst like a bubble. Did I look more “beautiful” with straight hair than with the actual hair that grows out of my head? Her words wore me down. I decided to relax my hair for the sake of a “better blowout.” I received many compliments that week, but deep down inside I felt ashamed that I allowed someone else’s definition of beauty affect my appearance. That was my final relaxer and the last time I’d ever go to that hairdresser.

For the last decade, I have played around with my kinky hair in all styles. I’ve had braids, silk presses, faux locs, short blond hair, and a big afro. I have chopped it off multiple times. I have watched hundreds of hours of natural hair tutorials on YouTube and tried pretty much every product out there. I felt like I was a part of a movement that was changing the way women think about themselves. The only problem I continually saw was the lack of Afro-Latinas front and center with hair texture similar to mine. Hair influencers who worked with natural hair brands all seemed to have the same hair type — no kinkier than 3C. They promised the hair products would work on all hair textures, even ones as kinky and coarse as mine.

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"My nonconforming pajónopened up new avenues of racism that I hadn’t encountered before, which made me proclaim my Blackness more loudly."

Natalie Love Cruz

What I quickly noticed within the natural hair community was the rise of texturism, discrimination based on kinkier, tighter-curled hair. Hair care models rarely had hair that looked like mine. The kinkier the hair, the closer one is to their Blackness. As an Afro-Latina who proudly embraces my Blackness, I often found myself othered within the Latine community so much so that they automatically assumed I was African American until I started speaking Spanish. As the fast-speaking Spanish rolled off my tongue, I could see the look on the person’s face change. My nonconforming pajón opened up new avenues of racism that I hadn’t encountered before, which made me proclaim my Blackness more loudly.

Photo: Courtesy of Natalie Cruz.

Despite loving my hair and having made lots of progress, I dreaded whenever I had to wash and style it. I’d spend nearly a whole day on my hair. Washing and detangling was never less than an hour's work and braiding or twisting it into submission was another two hours. Sometimes when I’d undo the twists the next day, my hair would just become a huge frizzy puff and not resemble the style I had originally intended. Dealing with hair with a mind of its own was taxing on my soul. I started to consider chopping it completely off for what seemed like the millionth time.

"I could already feel a weight being lifted from my shoulders. My pajónhad disappeared and would be no more."

Natalie Love Cruz

Tempted by the scissors in my medicine cabinet, I turned to YouTube for hair inspiration once again. What I ended up finding were women with locs living their best lives. It gave me hope that maybe I might, too. I researched every single thing about locs from the installation, to the maintenance, to the horror and success stories. There was no rock left unturned when I was gathering information about dreadlocks. I had probably devoured days' worth of content when all of a sudden I saw my old college roommate announce on Instagram that she had taken the plunge and gotten locs. Her hair looked beautiful, and she seemed exceptionally happy with her choice. Could I be equally happy with locs?

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Since I had an old middle school friend who had long locs, I proceeded to ask her every question under the sun. With her reassuring answers, I decided to move forward. On September 5 2023, I had starter locs installed. As I walked out into the sun-filled day, I could already feel a weight being lifted from my shoulders. My pajón had disappeared and would be no more.

Photo: Courtesy of Natalie Cruz.

Locs are not a common hairstyle in the Latine community. As an Afro-Latina embarking on this journey, it has been a bit lonely. As a person who straddles two identities — Blackness and Latinidad — my locs have allowed me to explore depths of my Blackness that I don’t think I was afforded before. I don’t have to worry about how my hair texture presents to the Latine community or the rest of the world.

"My locs have allowed me to explore depths of my Blackness that I don’t think I was afforded before. I don’t have to worry about how my hair texture presents to the Latine community or the rest of the world."

Natalie Love Cruz

There are certain stigmas and negative stereotypes associated with dreadlocks. If I’ve learned anything in the last six months it’s how much my perspective on self-love has changed. Rubbing oils on my scalp and nurturing each loc has made me love my hair on a deeper level. So much of the loc process is hands-off and just letting the hair do its thing. When I wake up in the morning, I give my locs a shake and I’m ready to go. Some days they’re frizzy, and sometimes I need to pin them down with a bobby pin if I sleep on them weirdly. Instead of wallowing, I remind myself that my hair is doing exactly what I want it to do. It requires minimal intervention on my part.

Now when I look in the mirror, I marvel at the length of my hair. From time to time, I still remember my old hairdresser and think to myself that my beauty was never in my hair; it was in the love I have for myself no matter what I look like in the mirror.

How My Locs Journey Taught Me To Treat My Hair (And Myself) Better (2024)

FAQs

How My Locs Journey Taught Me To Treat My Hair (And Myself) Better? ›

If I've learned anything in the last six months it's how much my perspective on self-love has changed. Rubbing oils on my scalp and nurturing each loc has made me love my hair on a deeper level. So much of the loc process is hands-off and just letting the hair do its thing.

What does having locs teach you? ›

Over time, your locs will change their thickness, volume, and of course, length. They're in a constant state of change - just like you. Having locs teaches you to notice and appreciate that life is all about change.

Why did I start my loc journey? ›

I decided to loc my hair because I needed a change, I needed a drastic change in my life to elevate higher. My spirit needed it, I needed it, I knew it was time. I always tell people, you will know when you are ready to loc your hair. It's a feeling that you get that is unexplainable.

Are locs good for your hair? ›

Locs promote great hair growth with minimal shedding.

Because your hair is in a permanent protective style—and you won't have to manipulate your hair often—there is much less wear and tear on your strands. Your hair is free to simply grow and thrive.

How long does it take for locs to fully mature? ›

The Mature Stage of your locs journey starts approximately at months 15-18. Your locs have finally matured! This is when you have a year or so under your belt and your locs are more cylindrical in shape.

What do locs do spiritually? ›

In the Bible, there's the story of Samson, who wore his hair in dreadlocks that gave him divine strength from God. In Rastafarian belief, dreadlocks protect one's energy and keep it from escaping. And in pre-colonial Africa, it was the healers and priests who wore their hair in dreadlocks.

Why are dreadlocks so powerful? ›

Dreadlocks are perceived as a connection to wisdom, and many believe that the head and hair are spiritual energy conductors. According to the Rasta views, the locs are believed to be a part of the Nazarite vows of Leviticus, which cautioned against shaving the head's four corners.

How long is a LOC journey? ›

The time it takes for hair to lock varies based on hair texture, typically ranging from 10 months to two years to reach the mature stage.

What is the 2 month LOC stage? ›

The 'starter loc' stage is considered one of the roughest parts of the locking process. This stage is said to last from 2–6 months. The locs get frizzy, a little wild, and some would go so far as to describe them as unkempt.

How often should you get LOC styles? ›

In the starter phase, you should retwist your locs every four weeks and may even retwist every two to three weeks for the first four to six weeks. After that, retwist every four to six weeks in the budding phase, four to six weeks in the teen stage, and eight to twelve-plus weeks during the mature and rooted phases.

Does hair grow faster with locs? ›

The hair itself doesn't grow any faster than undreaded hair and at first even appears to shrink (this is just the process of hair knotting and forming the locs), but once that's over with and they do start to grow they will get longer faster than normal hair simply because the hair is protected and most likely not ...

What are the cons to locs? ›

Hair damage: Improper maintenance or installation of dreadlocks can lead to damage to the hair, such as breakage, thinning, or hair loss. Time and commitment: Dreadlocks require regular maintenance and upkeep to keep them looking their best, which can require a significant time commitment and ongoing effort.

Which is better locs or dreads? ›

Are dreads and locs the same thing? Dreads and locs are not the same thing. While both are created by wrapping, twisting, braiding, or coiling the hair, locs are more polished than dreads. Locs have a neatly defined root structure, while dreads are randomly formed and have a dry, matted look.

What helps locs mature faster? ›

5 Healthy Tips to Help Your Dreadlocks Grow Faster
  • Keep your dreads healthy and dry. ...
  • Get more blood flowing to your luscious locks. ...
  • Stay happy and stress free. ...
  • Use natural oils to boost and strengthen your hair. ...
  • Give your hair some physical protection. ...
  • Don't rush it!
Jan 1, 2021

Do microlocs get thicker? ›

Don't let nobody fool you out here. Get what works best for your hair texture.

What do mature locs look like? ›

You know you've reached the mature stage (about 15 to 18 months) when your locs are finally long enough to lie flat or hang down. Faulk asserts that "maturing occurs when your locs are firm and there's no more reforming," so you won't have to re-twist your new growth as often during this period.

What is the point of having dreads? ›

Today, Dreadlocks signify spiritual intent, natural and supernatural powers, and are a statement of non-violent non-conformity, communalism and socialistic values, and solidarity with less fortunate or oppressed minorities.

What do dreads help with? ›

What are the benefits of having dreadlocks? There are a lot of benefits to having dreadlocks—namely, they're low-maintenance, versatile, and a permanent protective hairstyle.

What is the belief of locs? ›

According to rastafarian belief, locs are a part of the Nazarite vow, rooted in Leviticus which calls out against shaving the four corners of the head. Many believe locs are connected to the Lion of Judah.

Why are locs important to black people? ›

African diaspora

In the Black diaspora, Black people loc their hair to have a connection to the spirit world and receive messages from spirits. It is believed locs of hair are antennas making the wearer receptive to spiritual messages.

References

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