Rockin' the Rubber (Bands)

As someone who used rubber bands to successfully help my roots lock up, I was surprised the first time I read anything indicating they might actually be damaging. The claims range from them damaging the hair to preventing it from locking altogether, which is the entire supposed purpose of them to begin with!

DreadHeadHQ recommends rubber bands at the roots and tips of new dreadlocks to help things lock up at the root and to help knots migrate out the end of your baby dreads at the tips, and suggests they be worn for at least four weeks. However, there is a right (see image above at left) and wrong way to go about using rubber bands. Bands at the roots should never be tight or restrict the dreadlock as this can cause weak spots. However, bands at the tips can be fairly tight with little risk.

Several different resources I found in my research suggested that rubber bands can damage the hair. It’s true that they CAN damage the hair, but, in my opinion, only if worn too tightly. If worn too tightly (see photo below at right for an example of bands that are too tight around the roots) one risks creating weak spots in the dreads, but also risks breaking hair which weakens the dreadlock over time as well. I propose here that this is only true if they are used incorrectly. Rubber bands at the roots should only gently hold the roots in place, but not squeeze or restrict them.

Another claim is that rubber bands can melt into the dreadlocks creating a gooey messy that’s impossible to remove. My research showed that the melting point of rubber if 262 degrees Farenheit and the only chemicals that are capable of melting rubber (acetone and methyl ethyl ketone) are ones that are not exactly found in common dreadlock products. I would have to conclude that the possibility of rubber bands melting into a dreadlock are slim to none. What IS more likely and better documented is the rubber bands getting ‘sucked into’ the dread during the locking process. That is normal and expected, which is probably at least part of the reason it’s only recommended to wear them for 4 weeks. Another possibility (liklihood) is that the rubber is heat damaged over time by the repeated use of hair blow dryers. If that happens to you the best thing you can do is to (1) air-dry, or (2) replace the bands every 2-4 weeks.

The third and final claim I’ve heard a lot is that rubber bands restrict movement of the hair inbiting the locking process. This, like the first claim involving bands damaging the hair, is due no doubt in fact to individuals who used rubber bands incorrectly. Sure, if you place the bands so tightly around the roots that they are constricted, no there will be no movement. This is a big part of WHY they should be placed relatively loosely. It’s very true that friction and movement is what causes dreadlocks to knot and lock up. (Which is why pinch rolling is so effective!) So, keep ‘em loose and you’ll still get plenty of knots!

If after reading all of that you still have your reservations about using elastics or you are concerned about rubber bands ‘melting’ or getting ‘sucked in’ to your dreadlocks you have a couple of different options.:

  1. This is the most simple one: don’t use them! Rubber bands on new dreads are entirely optional, although I use them on all my new clients and recommend them even.
  2. Use silicone bands instead. Silicone sometimes breaks a little more easily having less elasticity as most rubbers, but it has a much higher melting point of 932 degrees Farenheit. Also, if you have an allergy to rubber/latex you would want to use something else anyway.
  3. Replace your bands every 2-4 weeks to prevent them from being ‘sucked in’. (Thanks to David Collision for this suggestion!) This could be a good preventative step regardless of whether you use rubber, silicone, or anything else.
  4. Finally, some sites suggest to instead use something that is less damaging and gross in the event they get sucked in such as string or hemp. This can be a good suggestion if you’re wanting to try it, but I would think they would be less likely to stay put than rubber or silicone since they lack the tacky/rubbery surface that helps them stay in place on the roots.

Do I think rubber bands are good! Darn tootin’ I do! I recommend them and I use them on my clients (unless someone requests otherwise). However, just because I am a fan and think they are worth it doesn’t mean you have to use them yourselves. Just like everything else in the world of dreadlocks: only you can decide what’s right for you, philosophically and physically.

12 Response to "Rockin' the Rubber (Bands)"

  1. Anonymous Says:

    I love my rubberbands even now i still use them at times specially when my dreadZ start to do the heart shape thing and starts to poke out like hearts in the dread so they come in handie i just tie the elastics around the dread until its completely flat and after a few days i take it off or it comes off by its self and the heart thingy is gone and my dreadie looks like a dread again.

  2. KnottyMama Says:

    I wish I knew what you meant by 'the heart shape thing', LOL.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    Actually, the bands CAN melt into your dreads. I started my dreads at the beginning of summer and due to the heat and bright sun, my rubber bands melted into the tips of my dreads. I've taken them all out, but I can't get the gunk out of the tips still. Any suggestions?

  4. KnottyMama Says:

    I have edited this entry since to reflect that bands CAN melt into dreads due to heat damage from blow drying especially (and sun apparently). The only thing I can think of to try is to continue blow drying and hope it will eventually melt out completely... Are your tips wispy and loose or blunted? I have edited this entry since to reflect that bands CAN melt into dreads due to heat damage from blow drying especially (and sun apparently). The only thing I can think of to try is to continue blow drying and hope it will eventually melt out completely... Are your tips wispy and loose or blunted?

  5. Anonymous Says:

    Well, I've been doing a lot of research on wax and I've decided to take my locks out and use the patience method (without any products, including bands). My tips are wispy, so the bands are coming out as I comb.

  6. KnottyMama Says:

    Good luck on your journey! I hope you continue to follow my blog!

  7. tiger98111 Says:

    this website sucks

  8. KnottyMama Says:

    I'm sorry you think so. Can I ask what makes you say that?

  9. Anonymous Says:

    I think it is plain wrong of you to claim that freeform dreads are "dreadful" and "cannot produce good looking locks" that is just plain untrue. It is also untrue that they are that much slower to mature than other starter methods. There are many people who have beautiful freeform dreads with straight hair. white people, asians, blacks, and everyone else. Anyone can freeform dreads. That turned me off about your website. Go to youtube and look at some freeform dreads i bet some of them look better than your overly manicured fashion statement of what dreads are "supposed" to be. It makes you sound just like Dreadheadhq downplaying and outright ridiculing the beauty of natural dreads (probably for profit). People like you are the reason so many people have to cut their locks out for reasons like crocheting, felting, interlocking and waxing. Because so few dread sites are actually willing to sacrifice the profit they could make by selling unnecessary and destructive tools.

    Dreads are made in time. They are a process.
    they are not made. They are grown.

    failing to realize that will likely cause people to do destructive things to their hair and fail to realize they are even causing damage until they lose their locs entirely!!!!
    their is beauty in the lessons learned while going through the process of growing locs.

    Im not saying freeform/organic/neglect is for everyone but dont bash a dread method simply because you are ignorant.

    (not anonymous)

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