Dread Wax: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The hottest debate in the entire dreadlock community is the question of dread wax: Is it good or bad? Well, it turns out that as far as I can tell the answer to that is not so simple. I want to begin first by addressing the claims made by both sides of the argument. I think that myself, being relatively unbiased and new to the dreadlock community am of an ideal position to make a sound judgement on the nature of dread wax and whether it truly is or not a valid tool to encourage dreads to mature.

Proponents on the anti-wax side of the debate believe a great varied and many bad things about dread wax. The most poignant of their arguments is that dread wax builds up inside the dread indefinitely and cannot be completed washed out. Even multiple attempts with multiple techniques of removing dread wax can and often are unsuccessful. They say that although wax can be used to make new dreads looking more mature that it prevents locking. There are images abound on the internet of dreads cut open to show white build-up in the middle of them suggesting that it is from wax build up. Another similar claim is that the wax can crystallize or permanently harden inside the dreads . There are also images of two pots, one empty and the other filled with what we are left to presume is dirty wax and water. All of the anti-wax information out there basically argues these two points.

For every argument wax-haters make against wax there is a rebuttal found by proponents for the use of dread wax. The proponents of waxing (generally companies that sell said dread wax and those who have managed to use it to grown and maintain successful dreadlocks) maintain that the low melting point of dread wax (DreadHeadHQ Dread Wax in particular) allows it to be washed out of the hair with hot water. Waxers claim that dreads waxed properly do not attract any more fuzz and dirt than non-waxed dreads because if you wax properly the wax is in the middle of the dread not the surface. Waxers further believe that wax holds the hair in the dread in place and increase the memory of the hair, encouraging it to compress and lock sooner. In response to the claim that wax can harden inside dreads, KJC himself explains that he has had a tub of DHHQ Dread Wax sitting out uncovered for a few years now that is still just as supple and pliant as it was when he first opened it debunking that claim. He suggests the white residue is just regular dirt accumulated by wax that was not properly cleaned.

Ultimately what does all this arguing mean? Well, here’s what truth I have gleaned from reading all of the hot debate:

  1. Wax does build-up in dreads even if you use it in the proper, suggested amounts even if the build-up is very little. It is still there. KJC himself did his own experiment to attest to this. He minimalized the build-up explaining that in the entire test dread the build-up was only 0.32 grams (you can fit this much and more underneath your finger nail). However, the fact is that it is all too easy to use TOO MUCH wax. The appropriate amount is so miniscule that its no wonder people are overwaxing even with reading all the directions and suggestions for use. (Here is KJC's big rant about dread wax on the DHHQ site, LOL.)
  2. I’m sorry, but no matter what you say I find it highly unlikely that waxed dreads don’t attract more dirt and fuzz. It’s just ridiculous to suggest otherwise. Even if you blow-dry your waxed dreads to encourage it to find its way to the center of your dreads and use a paper towel to absorb extra on the surface of them like KJC recommends, waxed dreads collect more visible fuzz. Some people are very diligent about picking fuzz out of their dreads. If you are willing to do the work then go for it.
  3. On this count both sides are right. Yes, waxed hair will not lock up because it causes it to be slippery and YES, waxed, already locked hair, will stay put and increase the memory of the hair to help it lock up. This is another case where the ease of using too much is high. Does wax help dreads lock faster? Maybe, but I’m hard-pressed to find hard evidence proving this claim. I’m inclined to think it’s the same or a little longer, but I can’t be certain considering that I, myself, do not use dread wax.
  4. No, wax cannot crystallize or harden. I don’t think that wax causes crispy, hard dreads. I do think its possible and likely that the dirt and fuzz attracted BY the wax creates the hard dreads. I’m not sure, honestly, what the best way to handle this build-up is beyond cutting your dreads out and starting over. I’m sure someone out there has created some deep-clean dreadlock product that claims to get it out… let me know if you find one that works! If it IS wax that is helping to hold in the fuzz as residue or build-up in the dread your best bet is to use one of the many dread wax removal techniques you can find all over the web. Just type ‘dread wax removal’ into google and watch the crazy amount of hits you get.

I just want to make another point here before I wrap it up. Some people on the anti-wax war path have suggested that dread wax is for dummies and you're basically stupid to buy into the propaganda that says it helps dreads mature. According to them, the only reason companies like DHHQ sell it is to make money and they don't care if they ruin a bunch of devoted dread heads' hair along the way. Okay. So, I'm not saying I know Knotty Johnny Clean personally here, but DreadHeadHQ is a whole of two hard-working people (KJC and Knotty Sloan) and I have to say that I do NOT believe that crap for a second. They are two dread heads who know what's up and if they say it works, I believe 'em.

When I got my own dreads my intuition was telling me that with how easy it is to use too much wax and screw up your dreads the risk just wasn’t worth what rewards I would reap. After all I’ve discovered here I am standing by that same conclusion. Yes, you can use dread wax to make some kick-ass dreads, but why bother when its so easy to ruin them just the same. If you are willing to take the risk to have better looking dreads sooner then dread wax is for you (and I would definitely recommend DreadHeadHQ’s dread wax which has a lower melting point and more viscous texture than Knotty Boy’s). But if you are willing to wait a little longer for neat-looking dreads without worrying about accidentally over-waxing, then skip the wax and enjoy the dread journey in its organic goodness.

((Images taken from http://www.dreadlocktruth.com))

7 Response to "Dread Wax: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly"

  1. Anonymous Says:

    I've been wondering this for a while. I used wax for the first month then i stopped. It just made me feel too oily and uncomfortable. I really kind of believe that not using it is best. I can totally see how it would prevent hair to lock up by making it sleek. I personally stick to using DreadHeadHeadQuarter's(DHHQ) locking accelerator, Lock Pepa, Dread tool and lots of palm rolling. Dry coarse hair seems to make better locking conditions as far as long term.

    Brandan Leiter

  2. ld Says:

    When I first started my dreads, I went with DHHQ from the beginning. I essentially bought a starter kit +\- a few things. I used wax from the first day and LOVED how wax made my dreads look. To the untrained eye, they looked very mature. But I always hated the waxy feeling all over me. I wore hats all the time to keep my waxed dreads out of my face. (I was over waxing). Then I stumbled upon the groups of anti-waxers. I decided that since I've had my dreads for awhile (7 months) I would stop waxing completely. ((After the first 4 months I stopped waxing as often, maybe once every two or three weeks.)) Anyways, I made sure to rinse my hair in hot water plenty of times and start organic. Since I haven't used wax my dreads have continued to lock, but maybe not as pretty (or deceiving) as when they were waxed. I have more loose hair and more loops in my dreads, but I feel SO much better. I mean, I feel so clean and, just, right. haha

    I'm not sure why I just told you my story... but final opinion: Unless you have experienced dreaded friends with nice healthy dreads, I'd stay away from waxing. It seems way too easy to over wax. WAY too easy. I knew what DHHQ called for from the beginning, but it never covered all my dreads, or I couldn't feel it so I waxed until it was all sticky. If you do have an experienced friend, ask them to show you the appropriate amount to use rarely and sparingly. But, like you said, if you aren't in any hurry, just let them go wax free.


  3. KnottyMama Says:

    LD, your story is exactly the situation I had in mind when I wrote this entry. The amount they recommend is so small, its easy to just use a little bit more to make it feel like you have the right coverage. Although you only get 0.32g residue build-up according to KJC with correct use, imagine how much it could be if you used too much!! Best to be cautious and just steer clear, IMHO!

  4. Anonymous Says:

    I do not believe that using dread wax hinders the maturing process of dreads however I do not believe that it is necessary to use if you do not have to. Dread wax is supposed to be used to aid in the maturing process of dreads. You should not use it to actually make your dreads. When I first made my dreads, they were longs puffy fuzz balls that I was afraid would never get smaller. At that point, I thought getting dread wax would be a good idea. However I decided to wait it out and see what would happen. In two and a half months, my dreads got much tighter and the fuzz was more or less gone with only palm rolling to clean them up. I was glad I did not have to use dread wax because I did not have to deal with all that controversial stuff. But that is because I had somewhat course and curly hair. Dreading my hair was fairly easy. However, someone with strait smooth hair should seriously consider using wax because it will take longer for the dreads to mature and the wax will defiantly help in the short run. As long as this person does not apply too much wax, their dreads can look great 3 months after getting them and not have a wax build up. Then once 6 months or so come rolling by they can stop using the wax all together and let the dreads form the rest on their own. So in my opinion, it all depends on your hair type and how fast you want your dreads to look mature. The key is just not to use too much.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    OK so i started my dreads without wax i have extraordinarily greasy hair to begin with, this worked until my hair started to grow, i went to dollar store and got murrays wax. this has not made my hair greasier or harder to dread. Iv only had them for 2 months aprox.and they would look like shit if i had not used some wax to palm roll it also allows u to wash them daily.

  6. Anonymous Says:

    I have had dreads twice now, and this is my longest run (4 months strong! haha). I am a prime example of overwaxing: the first time the did dreads, I waxed. the. crap. out of them, used an entire jar of knottyboy in 2 months. I eventually combed them out around the 2.5 month mark because I hated the waxyness. This time around, I sparingly, sparingly waxed. I also got them crocheted once, which, although I regret now, has really helped in not needing wax at all. I haven't waxed since my dreadies were around 6 weeks old, and I don't notice any hard buildup in my dreads, although they are quite tight because of the crocheting. So, i'm on the fence about the whole thing. I understand the wax fear, but I think you have to really, really, overwax them - been there!

  7. Anthony Sizemore Says:

    I want to add that I have had my dreads all natural for 6 months today I get knotty boy dread wax to fight some frizzies I wanna say I used barley any like that 4 oz can will last we 10 years using this much at a time I do say after an hour my hair feels like it did before waxing I love my head is oil free and frizz free less is more with this product I probably didn't even use .37 grams of wax on my whole head ...

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