Making Dreadlocks with the Backcombing Method
Popular names for this method:
Backcombing is a very organic way of creating knots. When the backcombed knots tighten and mature they look amazingly smooth.
- Comb Knotting
Backcombing has long been popular in Caucasian and Asian hair types because it's one of the few methods that works in hair without texture. It's gaining popularity in African hair textures as well because of it's consistent results and durable knots. The only real disadvantage of backcombing is the time that's required to backcomb them initially. For this reason more delicate methods are often chosen.
Backcombing works best if the hair is 6″ or longer but it can be used to start dreads in hair as short as 3". Backcombing can be used in highly textured African hair, bone straight Asian hair, wavy Caucasian hair or any hair texture in between. This makes it an excellent method for hair that has been relaxed, eliminating the need to cut of the relaxed portion before locking. Dread size and placement can be controlled though sectioning. Dreadlocks done with this method look very decent as soon as they are dreaded. They appear a bit fuzzier than mature dreads while they are new but they soon compress and tighten. The areas of the dread that were backcombed are almost identical to the new growth which will lock as the hair continues to grow. This makes backcombing a "seamless" locking method. Newly backcombed dreads are not indestructible but they are much more durable than twists or strand twists.
- 1.Begin by sectioning the hair with a comb. Larger sections make larger dreadlocks. Square sections grow round dreadlocks. 3/4" sections are a nice average size and will create around 90 dreads. 1/2" sections create small dreads, usually around 120.
- 2.Hold the section of hair in one hand and the comb in the other. Starting about three inches from the scalp use a dread comb to push the hair towards the scalp. Only a few strands of hair will begin to move if the stroke is done correctly. The stroke should be short, only three inches. For each stroke the comb is inserted into the strand of hair about 3" from the scalp and then combed forward to the scalp. Results will not happen immediately but after many strokes some hair will start to get packed down at the bottom of the stroke near the scalp. After 4 or 5 strokes you may notice a bunch of hair starting to all move forward together. You have to correct this with the hand that is holding the hair by pulling it back towards you each time it starts to creep forward. This will straighten it out and you can continue combing. This will become a natural part of the backcombing motion. Comb Forward, Comb Forward, Comb Forward, Comb Forward, Pull Back and Repeat.
- 3. As you continue the hair getting packed together at the roots will VERY SLOWLY build up creating a knotted rope. As the knotted area builds, the un-knotted hair you are holding will grow smaller as it's slowly packed into knots. Eventually you will reach the tips of the hair and you'll have nothing left to hold. At this point your dread is backcombed.
- 4.When you finish backcombing each dread put a rubberband on the root and tip of every one. The one at the roots should just be snug, not tight. It should be about a fingers width from the scalp. This distance between the band and the scalp will keep it from pulling on your roots. If it's pulling you need to slide it away from the scalp a bit. If it's too tight to slide you have the band on too tight. You should be able to slide or roll the bands at the roots. The band at the tips can be tighter. The bands at the tips help prevent the new dreadlocks from loosing knots at the tips before they have a chance to tighten. The bands at the roots help the new growth find it's way into the dread.
- 5. After the rubberbands are all in place, smooth the dreads down with some dread cream and lots of palmrolling. This will hold down fuzzy’s and provide moisture to the hair and scalp.
Backcombing Step by Step
Washing in residue free soaps and shampoos helps dreadlocks tighten whereas washing with soaps and shampoos that are not residue free will make it harder for locks to tighten properly.
Take your time when backcombing. Rushing through is a sure way to make loose dreads that will need to be fixed later. Expect to spend 10min per dread. Longer dreads take more time. You can cut your time in 1/2 just by having two people backcomb!
Once you get your dreads in right, with enough knots to lock up tight, you should hide the comb.
Backcombing creates knots. Propper care and time will turn knots into dreads. Re-Backcombing to tighten a dread is a serious No No. Re-Backcombing is essentially re-starting the dread. Knots have to begin maturing all over. Once you get your dreads in right, with enough knots to lock up tight, you should hide the comb. You'll only need it again if one or two dreads got off to a bad start and need to be restarted.
Backcombing gives you a lot of opportunities to help your dreads tighten faster and improve the way they look right from the start. Unlike starting from twists, strand twists, or braids, the backcombed areas stat out almost exactly like they will end up. For example, Twists and strand twists lock only after hair on the surface of the twist becomes loose and then locks with other loose hair. The hair in a backcombed dread is much closer to it's final place in the dread. This is great because you can begin pulling loose hair into the dread as it pops out, keeping the dreads looking neat and it actually helps the dreading process rather than retarding it.
Bi-directional palmrolling, more effective and faster than Uni-directional palmrolling, can be used with backcombed dreads. Bi-directional palmrolling regularly with some dread cream will greatly increase the locking speed and bring about mature dreads many times faster. This agressive assistance isn't possible with the other methods.
Backcombed dreads are pretty durable compared to the other methods but if you are vary active and you find yourself washing your dreadlocks frequently you may want to cover your new locks with a nylon stocking cap that holds your twists securely, especially while they are young. Rinse or wash sweaty locks though a stocking as mentioned on the dreadlocks shampoo page.
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A strong metal comb with just the right spacing
will save you a lot of time and fustration.