Your Complete Guide to Microlocs

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Microlocs are an offshoot of dreadlocks. As the name suggests, they are tinier and a good option for anyone who wants to achieve a dreadlock look but would prefer to cut out the bulk. Deciding to get microlocs is a journey, with phases for each stage of hair growth. And, like every journey, you need a guide. We reached out to microloc savant Zenda Walker, who graciously offered to lend her voice to this feature since she had so much to share.

Zenda is a licensed cosmetologist, beauty professional, hair educator, and author with over 15 years in the beauty industry. She is passionate about hair and having a positive impact on the beauty industry. Her children’s book,Zara’s Wash Day, is the first book in the Know Your Hairitage™ series; it is an uplifting story that celebrates the cultural hairstyles of people of African descent.

Below, Zenda shared the history of microlocs, the difference between microlocs and dreads, her tips on microlocs maintenance, and more. Keep scrolling to read her expertise!

All words and images by Zenda Walker.

History of Locs

Dreadlocks (locs, locks, dreads, Jaṭā-classical South Asian language) are rope-like strands of hair that are formed by braiding, twisting, or coiling (and in some cases with the help of interlocking tools). Some dreadlocks are formed by simply allowing uncombed, textured hair to bunch, mat, and naturally knot together to develop into freeform locked shapes. Locked styles have existed globally and have been depicted in ancient civilizations as far back as 1500 BCE. Locs are worn for spiritual, religious, cultural reasons, and have become a popular aesthetic in modern beauty, music, and fashion. The techniques and products used to form locs have also evolved.

History of microlocs | Mane Addicts
(Photo courtesy of Zenda Walker)

Microlocs vs. Traditional Dreads

Microlocs are a smaller version of the traditional loc style. Dreads range from about 10mm or larger in diameter, whereas microlocs typically range from about 6-9mm in diameter. Microlocs are like traditional locs in many ways. Both can be formed by twisting, coiling, braiding, or with a tool that allows the hair to be interlocked, a method that pulls the end of the loc through the base of the root.

Like traditional locs, microlocs go through four stages of maturity: 1. Starter/baby lock stage (established the parting and loc); 2. Budding/teenage stage (hair begins to bud or loosely mat and signs of frizz and some swelling of the locs occurs); 3. Shooting/adult stage (the locs can swell to double the original size, mat, and shrinkage where hair retracts in length which is common in textured hair); 4. Contracting/elder stage (hair is denser, ends become more sealed, minimal to no frizz and the hair grows exponentially).

Microlocs vs. Traditional Dreads | Mane Addicts
(Photo courtesy of Zenda Walker)

How to Style Microlocs

Microlocs are popular because the sizing allows for flexibility in styling options. Microlocs can be cornrowed, braided, roller set, sculpted into updos, dyed, and cut into various shapes such as layers, bobs, and one-length. The texture of the locs can even be altered with braid-outs (setting technique that creates a crimped look) and/or twist-outs (setting technique that creates spiral or zig-zag texture). The possibilities are endless!

Microlocs are great for people who desire the appearance of fullness or who seek endless styling options.

How to Style Microlocs | Mane Addicts
(Photo courtesy of Zenda Walker)

How to Maintain Microlocs

Depending on how fast the hair grows, microlocs should be re-twisted every four to eight weeks to maintain consistency throughout the loc. There is also a misconception that locs do not need to be washed often. Washing is encouraged, especially during the early stages as water promotes the matting and maturing of the loc. And it is also important to keep the scalp free of product residue and buildup. Light, natural oils or leave-in conditioner can also be used to hydrate and keep hair feeling soft.

How to Maintain Locs| Mane Addicts
(Photo courtesy of Zenda Walker)

How to Care for Microlocs

While styling possibilities are endless, it is important not to over style and create too much tension at the root. Too much tension can lead to traction alopecia. Waiting too long between maintenance appointments can also weaken locs. Locs are strengthened by the ability to encapsulate new growth. In other words, there is a fine balance between over styling and neglect.

While we’re on the topic of locs, let’s talk about dreadlock extensions. Find everything you need to know HERE!