Skip to Main Content

How to Color Locks Without Damage: Guide to Dyeing Locs

by , featuring Shanicia Boswell February 14, 2024

How to dye locs without damage

Shanicia Boswell

Locks, locs and dreadlocks...we partnered with Shanicia Boswell at Black Moms Blog for a tutorial on how to color locs without damage and keep your loc’d hair thick and beautiful. Read on for her tips and tricks to dyeing locs, plus our professional colorists add a few of their own dreadlock tips at the end. Let the beauty begin...

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.

What are locks?

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 Dye Locs: a Video Guide


Free Color Consultations

Visit a Hair Color Bar

Learn More

How to Color Locs Without Damage? 5 Steps


1. Part Your Locs into 4 Sections

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. Apply Barrier Cream and the Color

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. Apply a Cap and Wait

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. Wash Out the Hair Color

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. 

5. Retwist Your Locs to Style

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,

Thanks Shanicia! We hope you loved her tips for maintaining her gorgeous, natural hair and coloring her locs as much as we did. We just wanted to add a few of our own tips for coloring dreadlocks or locs, straight from our professional colorists…

Hair Color Quiz _ Madison Reed

Find the Perfect Shade

100% Gray Coverage

Go Now

Pro Tips for Dyeing Locs:

  • • If your hair is already colored and you are touching up your roots, only apply the color to your regrowth area. One tube of color should be enough. If your regrowth is longer than 1" you may need an extra tube of color because, as Shanicia said, saturation is key to penetrate your dreadlocks.

  • • If you are coloring your hair for the first time or changing your overall hair color, you will need extra Radiant Hair Color so that you have enough to fully saturate your hair all the way through the ends. We recommend using 2 tubes of color for dreads that are shoulder length, and 3 tubes of color for dreadlocks that are elbow length or longer. Luckily, there is an easy way to add an extra tube to your Radiant Hair Color order at checkout.

  • • Shanicia also spoke about dreadlocks and Black hair in general requiring more moisture, and our colorists agree, especially if you lighten your hair or use bleach. They suggest using a color depositing hydration hair mask, such as Color Therapy. This will help maintain your hair color and fight fading, while adding a huge boost of extra hydration. And remember—if you use bleach, you will need a lot of added hydration!

  • • Our colorists also recommend using a cream specifically formulated for curly or coily hair, such as Let’s Bounce™ curl defining cream. You can use this alone, or cocktail it together with Tame for extra smoothing.

And there you have it. How to care for and color your locs for rich, deep, seriously gorgeous hair.