For 6 weeks I had my hair in faux locs – a protective style that creates the illusion of real dread locs using extensions twisted around your own hair. The response was fantastic; my family, friends, colleagues AND students all seemed to love them, and I LOVED the versatility of having long hair. But what was it really like carrying 9 bags (no exaggeration) of extra hair on my head? Would I recommend it? And most importantly, would I ever get them again? Read on to find out the truth about faux locs.
Realistic looking dreads
Now I love protective styles, and I have dabbled with braids and havana twists over the years. However, although people would compliment me on my hair in these styles, people never mistook them for my own hair. In contrast, the method hair stylist Ama Monique used to put them in (see below) was so intricate that I regularly had people asking me if it was my own hair – even people with beautiful real dreads themselves!
Even back when I wore my hair in weave, I always stuck to using hair that was the same colour as my natural hair, as I much prefer the natural look over anything too eccentric when it comes to extensions. Therefore, I was really happy that others agreed that the locs looked incredibly natural, and as it grew out and got more frizzy around the edges, the authenticity of the look grew. Frizz is definitely not something you would want when you’ve just had neat braids put in! Therefore faux locs have the potential to have much more longevity than other styles with extensions.
Added length = versatility of styles
As you may know, I had a large amount of hair cut off in November, leaving me with hair much shorter than I was used to. I decided to protect my new, healthier hair throughout winter by using the LOC method while keeping my hair covered underneath head scarfs and turbans.
By Spring, I knew I wanted something different without compromising the health I had maintained in my protective styles. Therefore faux locs seemed like the perfect solution – covered hair that gave me the length that I had been missing!
The added length meant that I could style my hair in all of the long haired styles that I had been craving since giving up my straighteners and weave, and the thickness of the locs allowed each style to be as dramatic and as large as I wanted it to be. Check out my ‘classy front bun’ in the video below, for example!
More respect from men
Please don’t revoke my feminist card, as I know this sounds superficial and stupid! However I genuinely noticed a positive difference in the way men approached me and spoke to me. As I explained in my #MenOnNaturalHair video (see below), men that spoke to me on the street were more inclined to refer to me as ’empress’ or ‘queen’ rather than the ‘babez’ you will often hear echoing around the streets of London.
However, although there were various positives to having my hair in this style, there were also numerous negatives which I think it is important to share with you. The first, and most inhibiting being…
Back and Neck Pain
9 bags of hair – I mean, it goes without saying. However, when I first left Ama after having them put in, I told myself that I would get used to them after a few days – just like I would when I first had braids put in or a new weave. However, in all of the years I have had my hair braided, the maximum amount of bags of hair I would use was 4, and 9 was simply too much weight for my neck to handle.
So much weight in fact, that I actually suffered from neck and back pain while wearing faux locs. As I have a previous back injury from a gymnastics incident when I was growing up, the added tension on my neck and upper back made my whole back stiffen up, resulting in my me looking like a tin man. Even my students commented on how robotically I was moving, especially as I had to turn my whole body around to look in someone’s direction, rather than simply being able to turn my neck.
It may all seem melodramatic, but I can only describe it as constantly carrying a weight on top of your head – just like our sisters in Africa. My respect for them is never ending, as not only do they carry a large amount of weight on their head each and every day, but some walk miles at a time with all that extra weight on their shoulders!
I, on the other hand, was a lot less mobile with my locs. I’m ashamed to say that due to the added weight on my head, and my inability to put it in a style where it wouldn’t get in the way (when it was down) or wouldn’t make me feel like I was about to topple over (in a headwrap), I avoided exercise while having my locs in. Now, ordinarily, I go to the gym 4 or 5 times a week, however in the whole 6 weeks of having my hair in locs I went 3 times. Three. Along with the gym I also play netball once a week, but again, due to the weight and the stiffness in my neck, not only was running incredibly painful, but even looking up to aim for the hoop was a strain on my neck. Typing this actually makes me see how ridiculous it is that I put myself through this, all for the sake of beauty, but we live and we learn.
Strain on the Scalp
This I find even more shameful to reflect on, because I actually risked baldness by keeping my faux locs in so long. There are various horror stories and images of women who suffer from traction alopecia due to wearing styles that are simply to heavy for their scalps to handle. Naomi Campbell being the prime example:
Although weaves, braids and faux locs can be used as protective styles, putting your hair in styles that create too much tension on the scalp due to tightness or weight can lead to permanent hair loss.
Now, not all of my scalp hurt – the back of my hair actually felt pretty comfortable, as long as I didn’t somehow sit on my hip length locs – however, the front of my head was constantly in discomfort throughout the six weeks. One of the reasons why I continuously changed how I styled my locs was because I found that when I left my hair in a style for too long, my scalp would literally feel like it was being pulled apart at the parting. Wearing the front of my hair up in a bun or top knot looked great, but it was also the only style that gave my scalp a rest throughout the day; I just had to focus more on balancing instead.
It got to the point where I convinced myself that when I took my hair out, half of my hair would come with it. However, I am lucky that not only is my hair strong but it is also thick, meaning that the inevitable shedding I experienced after taking them down didn’t leave my hair looking any thinner. If your hair is of a finer texture or your hair is less dense, I would definitely recommend using a lot less hair, just in case!
Unfortunately, there was another consequence to the constant tension on my scalp… build up. But what is build up? To be specific, a mixture of products, dirt, dry skin and scabs – bet you wish you never asked, right?
As I avoided applying sticky oils (such as castor oil) to my scalp, I actually experienced very little build up within the first few weeks of having my faux locs in. However, something changed around week 4. I found that every time I looked in the mirror, I could literally see parts of the skin on my scalp lifting due to the strain. At one point, the scalp around my crown was red raw due to so much skin being raised.
When it finally came to taking it down, my hair was left with a solid clump of build up around the root. Luckily, I had been warned about this. Therefore, rather than trying to detangle the clumps and risk pulling out my hair, I applied an apple cider vinegar rinse as soon as I took the locs down. And let me tell you, it was the biggest weight off my shoulders to finally see them go. Literally.
Would you ever get Faux Locs again?
No hairstyle is worth causing yourself permanent damage. When I reflect on my faux locs experience I feel like they have helped me learn a lot about myself as a person. Superficially, I know that I love the look and that my hair grew a lot in the style. But I also feel I have grown as a person.
I would have never described myself as a shallow person, however, clearly I placed my aesthetic beauty over my overall health and well being. I now look back on my faux loc experience and laugh, as my actions seem so far fetched from my normal outlook on life. From spending well over 3 months with my hair constantly covered in head wraps and turbans, I am shocked in myself that I kept a painful and potentially damaging style just for my own self confidence.
I now know better.
If you are considering getting faux locs, please consider their length, thickness and weight. Your hair and health is way more important than any amount of likes on the gram.
With love from London,