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How to Color Your Locs

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Shanicia Boswell

Locks, locs and dreadlocks...we partnered with Shanicia Boswell at Black Moms Blog for a tutorial on how to color thick, beautiful, long loc’d hair.

When I decided to go natural almost 10 years ago, there wasn’t much information out there when it came to maintaining my hair. When I say “natural”, I am referring to hair that is free of perm and straightening products. As a Black woman, this was a huge step for me. Bone straight hair and extensions had become a part of my mainstay but such a struggle to coerce my hair to a style that it was not meant for. So off I went, on the natural yellow brick road towards hair liberation. It was a fun journey, and even more exciting when I decided to loc my hair four years into my natural process.

Loc’ing your hair refers to the process of dread locking, or matting your hair by foregoing combing or using any devices such as brushes. This results in tangling the hair to create rope-like strands. Since my hair texture is coarse, this process is fairly easy and takes about 6 months to fully loc.

Contrary to what you may have heard, locs are easy to maintain, clean, and can be handled just like loose hair. That’s why I was so excited to partner with Madison Reed to show the simple and easy process of coloring my locs. The process is almost identical to coloring loose hair but requires a little extra attention. I have broken it down in 5 easy steps, and included a video tutorial at the end of this post.

How to Color Dreads While Avoiding Breakage

  1. Just like loose hair, you want to part your locs into four sections. If you have shorter locs (0-4 years), one Radiant Cream Color kit should be enough to color all of your hair. For longer locs, however, I recommend using two kits, as you need to saturate your locs to ensure consistent color. For this tutorial, I chose the Trieste Red shade to warm up my dark hair.
  2. Once your hair is split into four sections, go ahead and apply the included barrier cream to the skin around your hairline. This will prevent the hair color from staining your ears and hairline. Once your barrier cream is applied, put on your gloves and mix your color. Unlike loose hair, you will not use a comb to evenly distribute the color. You can use a tint brush if you like. You want to soak your locs in the color, using the scrunching method to properly saturate your dense locs. The color needs to settle deep into the locs or it can result in a spotty dye job. 
  3. Once your color is applied, apply a cap to your hair. Most hair care boxes will suggest leaving the color on for 30-40 minutes. For locs, I suggest 45–50 minutes. Since your hair is matted, it will take longer for the color to penetrate. While you are waiting for your color to take, use your Cleansing Wipe (included) to remove all the additional color from the skin around your hairline, hands, and ears, being sure not to remove the color from your hair.
  4. Madison Reed will provide with really great shampoo and conditioner for washing out your hair color. You want to rinse your hair until the water runs clear–normally two washes. With loc’d hair, I suggest following up with a deep oil conditioner to properly nourish the hair. You can apply coconut oil or Jamaican castor oil. Madison Reed also has a Style serum that works great to increase the sheen to the hair.
  5. Once your hair is washed and conditioned, go ahead and retwist your locs to style. Coloring locs require a lot of moisture and attention. Madison Reed hair color is great because it does not dry your hair out like many hair coloring kits, but you still want to take the extra step in making sure you are properly moisturizing your hair daily to reduce any amount of breakage.

Go ahead and watch my full hair coloring tutorial below. You can also check out my personal blog, Black Moms Blog, where we talk parenting, culture, and lifestyle from a Black mom’s point of view. 

With love,

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