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What Are Freeform Dreads? The Complete Style Guide

What Are Freeform Dreads?

Freeform dreads are also known as freeform locs or dreadlocks, which come in various styles and sizes. Freeform dreads are comprised of hair that has been locked together.

Girl with freeform dreads

Freeform dreads can also be formed in a variety of methods, including backcombing, twisting and ripping, braiding, and so on.

However, freeform dreads can occur naturally and are a natural hair texture for many people. Hence why their called freeform dreads! And once they’ve formed, they typically need little to no manipulation in order to maintain your freeform locs.

In the end, it depends on your natural hair texture to determine if you can create freeform dreads.

What Are Semi-Freeform Dreads?

Unlike freeform dreads, semi-freeform dreads involve a bit more precision and effort in their creation. Freeform locs don’t require really any effort to start, except for twisting that hair and letting it form small locs on its own.

Semi-freeform locs, however, can be a great way to pick up the process a little!

semi freeform locs

Every four or six months, instead of letting the locs form on their own, you would retwist the hair regularly. With this method, you will help to encourage this hair growth pattern.

However, when creating semi-freeform locs, you will commonly encounter needing to separate congos. This is a term used to describe what happens when two separate dreads start to fuse together.

How to Start Semi-Freeform Dreads

Semi-freeform dreads start similarly to standard freeform dreads, with freshly washed hair.

The second step is parting your hair to determine the size of locs you want to make. Then, you will want to choose the locking technique, either twisting, braiding, or palm rolling.

Remember to avoid hair styling products during this process, as they will make the installation process take longer.

Semi-freeform dreads typically require a bit more involvement in the installation than fully freeform dreads because you will want to retwist your locs semi-regularly.

This will help to speed the formation process along, but locs can take anywhere from three to five weeks to form.

How Long Do Freeform Dreads Take to Form?

The length of time it takes for freeform dreads to form greatly depends on the type of hair you have. For example, if you have a tight curl pattern, freeform locs will form faster.

If you have a looser curl pattern, freeform dreads can take longer. But in general, freeform locs can take anywhere from three to five weeks to form. However, you might need to be more patient, as they can also take upwards of two or three years before completely forming!

dread up in a ponytail

How to Maintain Freeform Dreads

Aside from how easy it can be to start freeform dreads and semi-freeform dreads, both require little maintenance as well!

With freeform locs, you only need to wash and condition them a couple of times a week, at least once or twice.

Wash Hair With Sulfate-Free Shampoos

Avoiding sulfate in your shampoos helps to avoid exposing your freeform dreads to unneeded extra weight. Sulfate-free shampoos are also better options for those with sensitive skin and scalps or those who have bleached or colored hair.

Sulfate-free shampoo is easier on most hair types

Using a sulfate-free shampoo is also great if you struggle with dry hair, as sulfates can have a drying effect on some hair.

Now, it’s important to mention that sulfates aren’t that bad for hair. So, if you already have a must-have shampoo that happens to contain sulfates, it’s not a big deal.

Incorporate a Scalp Care Routine

Scalp care should be on everyone’s radar, regardless of their hairstyle, because keeping your scalp healthy equally helps to keep your hair healthy.

Caring for the scalp is also caring for the hair

With freeform dreads and anyone who styles their hair with styling products, a build-up of product residue, dead skin, dirt, and oil can begin. Keeping your scalp clean will prevent your hair from being weighted down and becoming greasy.

One type of product you may want to consider removing from your routine includes those that contain silicones. Silicone ingredients can lead to dryness and breakage.

Hair oil can help restore shine

Another way to keep your scalp clean is to try exfoliation and rinses. Simple sugar scrubs are great for gently exfoliating the scalp. You can use diluted apple cider vinegar or essential oils to create a homemade hair rinse.

Apple cider vinegar is a recommended ingredient because it contains both antibacterial and antifungal properties.

Moisturize Your Freeform Locs Regularly

Water-based products help to maintain your freeform dreads’ natural moisture levels, but leave-in conditioning products are helpful for hair that’s on the dryer side.

Moisturizing is key in maintaining hair health

While most would assume oil-based products are the best way to go, professionals recommend using them less frequently than water-based products.

This is because oil-based products tend to weigh hair down more. The excess weight placed on your freeform locs can lead to breakage and unnecessary strain on your scalp. The oils can also lead to a faster build-up of product residue.

There are many oils to choose from

How to Get Freeform Dreads

To start the freeform dreads formation process, simply follow these few steps!

Start With Clean Hair and Part Into Sections

By starting with clean hair, you have a fresh slate to work with and can avoid trapping any dirt or grease in your dreads.

Using a comb can help during this process

Parting your hair into sections will make the formation process easier and allow you to manipulate how the freeform dreads will take.

Create Single Braids or Twists

It’s important to follow this step without using any hair products. Hair products can interrupt the process by making it more difficult for your hair sections to take hold of each other.

The tighter the braid or twist, the closer the loc will be

Without product, your hair can create locs without struggle, depending on your hair type. Palm rolling can also be used to gently fuse the braids or twists at this point.

Let the Hair Breathe and the Dreads to Form Naturally

If you are going for the absolute freeform dreads method, then you can simply let your freshly washed hair take form on its own.

Freeform Dread Styles

There are multiple ways you can form your freeform dreads or semi-freeform dreads. They can vary in length, size, and curl pattern.

Traditional Locs

Traditional locs are the first version of dreadlocks that people think of when they hear the word. They tend to be longer and thicker in width.


Layered freeform dreads include pinning your dreads up to add even more dimension and volume. This look creates a great visual appearance as well!

An example of layered dreads

Free Flowing

Letting your freeform dreads hang loose and free is a classic way to wear them. Some choose to accessorize their dreads with bandanas, head scarves, or beads.

An example of long, free flowing dreads


This style is similar to a layered look, but you only pin the front dreads up and toward the back of your head. This way, you can wear most of your hair down without it being in your face constantly.

An example of half-up dreads

Highlights or Dyed

Getting highlights on your freeform dreads and semi-freeform dreads is pretty common! You can opt for highlights, or you can dye entire sections of your hair to add some fun to your everyday look.

Highlights can be natural or bold and colorful


Hairstyles that include a fade mean that the top of the hair is cut, while the rest fades into the desired length. You can add a fade to any dread style, whether you have long or short locs.

A fade can be interesting focal point when you put your hair up

Updos (Ponytails, Buns, etc.)

A standard updo is a go-to for many people with dreads. These include ponytails and buns, mostly.

Throwing your hair into a bun is a quick and easy hairstyle


You can choose to let your freeform locs form into the thicker congos mentioned earlier! This freeform dreads style offers a lot of volume if you have the right hair texture!

Thread and Yarn

Headscarves and metal cuffs are popular accessories to add to semi-freeform dreads, but this is a solution for those who don’t want to dye or bleach their hair.

Experiment with colorful silk thread or yarn for any occasion

You can twist some colored thread or add yarn dreads to your hair to add a quick pop of color to any hairstyle. Both are easy to change and remove as well, so you don’t have to commit to a specific color, either!

Do I Have to See a Stylist to Create Freeform Dreads?

Stylists can offer useful advice

It’s not necessary to see a hair stylist if you don’t feel like seeing one. The great thing about freeform dreads is that they typically require very little effort to create, so you can start them on your own.

However, stylists can be incredibly helpful, especially if you aren’t too familiar with the ways to get freeform dreads. They can also offer advice on how to style your hair once the dreads have started to form, as well as help you learn more about your hair texture and type.

Can Freeform Dreads Damage Your Hair?

Traditional locs that involve extensive twisting and braiding are more likely to create breakage. Freeform dreads don’t involve these processes as heavily, or at all, so the breakage caused by both freeform dreads and semi-freeform dreads is heavily reduced in severity.

How Often Should Semi-Freeform Locs Be Washed?

Depending on your hair type, your locs could require washing more frequently than others. The standard time frame is washing your hair every other day, or at least three or four times a week.

Wash and condition hair for optimum health and appearance

Washing your locs semi-regularly and thoroughly helps to let your hair grow naturally and healthily. However, if you lead a more active lifestyle (going to the gym, doing morning runs, etc.), you will want to wash your hair every day.

Consider Using a Scalp Scrub

Scalp scrubs are also a great way to help clean your hair thoroughly to avoid an excessive build-up of product residue and sweat. Scalp scrubs can be made at home or bought, but DIY scrubs will let you control what exact ingredients are being used.

DIY scrubs will exfoliate your scalp more, clearing your pores of any trapped dirt, sweat, dead skin, and product residue. You don’t need to exfoliate your hair and scalp every time you wash your hair. At most, you should only use a scalp scrub once or twice per week.

Consider Using a Hair Rinse

Hair rinses are great for cleaning your hair and scalp as well, if you don’t want to use a scalp scrub. Most DIY hair rinses often include the use of apple cider vinegar, but they can also include diluted essential oils such as rosemary, lemon, lavender, or eucalyptus oils.

Green tea and black tea are also great choices as they contain caffeine which can stimulate hair growth. Tea is also easier on every hair type, including sensitive skin.

If you’re interested in brightening your locs, try using a hair rinse that includes lemon juice. Lemon juice is a common DIY ingredient used for at-home lightening because it’s gentle on hair compared to highlight or bleaching kits.

Other ingredients you can experiment with include baking soda, honey, aloe vera gel, chamomile tea, coffee, and coconut milk.

What’s the Difference Between Freeform Locs and Traditional Locs

Unlike freeform locs, dread locs, or dreadlocks, involve higher maintenance and styling process. Classic locs require the use of styling products, typically a gel or wax, to set them.

Classic dread locs are also far more controlled than freeform locs, which can be a plus. However, these locs also require you to visit a salon far more frequently, involve more styling products, and can involve the need to buy the supplies for locking.

Freeform locs, on the other hand, require very little maintenance compared to classic locs! Any products that you might use for freeform locs also don’t cost much, and you can embrace the unique natural texture of your hair.

But you won’t have as much control over how your locs form either with the freeform approach. This process also takes longer than traditional locs, as long as two years.

Does the Choice Between Freeform Locs and Traditional Locs Matter?

The answer depends on your hair texture and type, mostly. Your lifestyle will also play a role in what you decide on.

Freeform options offer more styling choices, are easier on the scalp, and don’t require you to go to the salon, so the freeform choice is better for those with busy schedules and who want to embrace a more natural texture.

However, some workplaces may take issue with the freeform choice as they view freeform dreads as “unruly” in the workplace.

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