Happy Locks; 3 years

Scroll through this entire blog post to see a (mostly) chronological photo documentation of my locks over the past 3 years.

Read along to find out my answers to commonly asked questions about my hair.

I began locking the entirety of my hair on June 30th, 2014.

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Why locks?
Let’s start from the beginning. My hair has always naturally been beyond tangly. I would wake up with new “dreads” or “rats-nests” every morning. My mother and I began our natural mother-daughter battles over a hair brush. I have a tough head, but that experience of being de-tangled from my natural knotty state always induced tears.

Exposed to a diverse variety of people at a young age, I couldn’t help but stare endlessly at locks of all kinds. They called to me. I even recall tying knots in my hair and twisting sections, trying to understand how their tangles formed so beautifully.

I experimented with many cuts and colors, but each reflection felt like I was playing dress-up. Not that it wasn’t me, but I was clearly not my truest self.  I tried to hide my first few sets of partial dreads/knots from my family, thinking tangles simply weren’t acceptable.

Was there a turning point where you just knew it was time to make the leap?
Absolutely. A few too many traumatic life experiences in a row led my family to encourage me to do something for myself. “What would truly make you HAPPY?” I thought about it, and even though I was terribly nervous I told my parents that this new beginning, a commitment to myself, would mean more to me than anything they could ever buy me, or any trip they could send me on. Simply having their acceptance to become who I felt was inside me all along.

Personal misconceptions:
It’s only natural to fill in the pieces of a puzzle to make sense of things in our head. Unfortunately though, sometimes when we do this we make incorrect assumptions about how things are done or how they came to be. It’s okay to have been wrong. Don’t beat yourself up. Instead, motivate yourself to learn more!

Examples of things I incorrectly assumed about dreadlocks at some point in my life:

  • FALSE: They have to be dirty to stay tangled.
  • FALSE: You can’t get them wet.
  • FALSE: The only way to stop having dreadlocks is to shave your head.
  • FALSE: They must have beeswax or some product holding them together.
  • FALSE: You have to constantly touch/ palm-roll your dreads, to get them to lock.
  • FALSE: All dreadlocks are the same.

“Forgive yourself for not knowing what you didn’t know before you learned it.” – Maya Angelou

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One of the last photos I took of myself before beginning my locking journey.

Existing condition of hair prior to start-up?

  • Thick
  • Abundant
  • Clean
  • Extremely fried and damaged (years of excessive heat and bleach)
  • * Please note that this blog post is not a “how-to” or “this is the only way” type thing, as your hair may have varying texture and abundance to it than my own, requiring different methods.

What was the start-up like?

  • Start Up: I gave my hair permission to lock up, with my mother’s assistance, by sectioning horizontal rows from the bottom up and working on one row at a time. Basic rip and twist was followed up with a sea salt wash the next day.
  • Methods: Rip & Twist / backcombing with fingers, followed up with “neglect” and the occasional interlocking of roots (to stabilize few locks that are very skinny at the root)
  • Products: @Dollylocks sponsored my locks in their beginning stages. I was quite a fan of their pomade, tightening spray, tightening gel, refreshing sprays and shampoos for daily use. (I still use a few of these products, just not as regularly.)
  • How long should my hair be to start locking it? /Shrinkage: That’s entirely up to you. Keep in mind as your hair locks & tightens, you will lose a significant amount of length. Hard to say exactly how much, it will vary person to person. — My hair is just now reaching its originating length, three years later. (I also thought I would have longer ends that I would be able to continue to curl.)

Messy stage?
Remind yourself, locks are NOT about control. Let go and trust the journey.

How do you deal with fly aways?
– Let them be.
– Curl them with a mini straightener.
– Tame them with @DollyLocks “Bee Free Pomade”

Root Maintenance
I will either trust my hair it doing its own thing and let it grow and lock on its own – OR – occasionally I’ll notice that some of the skinnier or longer roots need a little bit of encouragement. (Don’t overuse this method. your locks shouldn’t be TIGHT to your head.) Interlocking: Separate the new growth with your finger creating a “Y” shape. Thread the dread through itself and repeat BUT be sure to make a new hole every time you thread it through. The knot needs to balance itself out so it doesn’t remain a “Y” shape.


How many locks do you have?
I started with one-hundred-eleven (111)!

I haven’t had any breakage, but I have noticed new formations, so it’s very likely that number has increased.

Are they heavy?
Now at 3 years old, they are definitely starting to gain some noticeable weight. Of course, they feel extra extra heavy when wet.

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(How) Do you wash your hair?

  • I bathe regularly. This does not mean I submerge my locks every single time I bathe, however. Sometimes they stay tied up. though I do a deep dread cleanse as often as I feel necessary. Sometimes it’s two days in a row, (especially if I’ve been in an environment thats unpleasant to my senses/smokey) sometimes its a week apart, (if I’m just doing a bunch of computer work from home).
  • With intention – I find that I pay more attention to where I’m applying my shampoo and the way it gets distributed throughout that specific section of hair, where as previously I would just squirt shampoo on my hand or head and squiggle around until it lathered everything up, hoping the soap would disperse itself properly.
  • Keep your locks dry. Towel dry to absorb majority of the water. If necessary, I occasionally dry them with a diffused blow drier.

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Favorite Products :
(For my hair type & the amount of natural oils my scalp produces)

  • Lush Cosmetics makes a coarse sea salt shampoo called “BIG”. This has a coarse sea salt in it and may not be great for all hair types. I always make sure to do a warm soak to ensure the salt rinses out.
  • @DollyLocks entire line of Natural, Vegan, Residue-Free products.  For my startup I was particularly fond of the tightening spray, tightening gel, and the pomade.
  • Not using: Crochet Hooks. Rubber bands. Bees Wax. Products with residue

Do you sleep with your hair up?
Yes. I feel most comfortable sleeping with my locks tied up out of my face, but it’s not a rule, just a comfort preference.

Can you lock your hair with super thin hair?
If you have thin hair and your heart is set on locks, there are professionals that may be able to assist you, but you will likely need extensions added if you have super thin hair. Also note that with thinner hair you are more likely to see scalp and sectioning, whereas with fuller hair the sections won’t show so visibly. Please visit my friends over at @Dollylocks for more visual examples.

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Do you play with your hair a lot?
I typically wear pendants in which I choose to hold to set my positive intentions, energies and prayers into. I try not to play with my hair or touch my skin too much, though I definitely love the feeling of running my hands through my locks. I have so many locks that I do not miss the feeling of “normal” hair on my head. This feels normal to me, now.

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Can you tell by looking at someone else’s locks what methods, maintenance (or lack thereof) they are using? What do you think of locks that vary from your own?
If I make note of curiosity I can usually tell whether someone has naturally neglected locks, if they chose to rip and twist or if they had their locks crochet hooked in. Faux locks (clip-in or sewn-in) are quite distinguishable, but I’ve definitely seen some pretty convincing locks with natural hair extensions, too.

I’m really happy with the method I chose for this set of locks, but I will never judge someone for taking an alternate route. I tried to lock my hair two times prior to the set you see today, and those “mistakes” were merely lessons I had the opportunity to learn first hand. (In my experience the “mistakes” I’m referring to were: Adding Beeswax to my hair & over neglecting the back (ie. rats nest).)

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Can you sense anything special about others because of your locks (be it even other’s reactions to your appearance)?
These locks are like antennas, picking up on lots of surprising signals from every which direction. I definitely pick up on unique frequencies of energy in others, but I’ve always naturally felt connected to others in such a way, even before my locks.

Did you bleach the ends of your locks?
The tips of my locks are not bleached, but rather my entire head of hair was bleach blonde when I began the locking process, and condensed the blonde tips is all that remains after 3 years of locking. – Its clear to me that my healthier hair has locked much better/quicker than my damaged hair did.

Have you ever dyed your locks?
I used a temporary color depositing conditioner on the blonde ends of my locks a few times, which faded out naturally with washes, but I got nervous and stopped using it after I noticed it left product/ colorful residue in the middle of the lock structure.

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Do you think you’ll ever cut them off?
I would be so grateful to have locks forever and a day.  I do not foresee any date in the near future where these locks will need to leave me, (we have so much growing to do still!) but if for some reason they do, I hope to have time to grow out my roots enough to rock a short hair cut. I’ve seen some really beautiful locks that have extra long roots intentionally which inspired that thought.

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Have you faced any backlash because of your locks? How do you handle this?
The spirit within me has existed for many lifetimes. The form my soul has been gifted this time around has challenged me in many ways. I’m grateful to have found a reflection  that makes me comfortable, but definitely recognize when my reflection makes others uncomfortable (which is surely not my intent). I try to internally acknowledge that another’s life experience has led them to their quick judgement of my reflection, and remind myself that it’s only my job to return their glare or unkind words with a sincere smile. We all have bad days. We all make judgements about others to protect ourselves. It’s okay.

Do you hear the term “cultural appropriation” a lot?
I’m a geek about words. I learned about the term cultural appropriation years before I locked my hair. To appropriate culture is to adopt elements from another’s culture – which is actually a really awesome thing. I was born and raised in America, a melting-pot of diversity, raised by artist parents who have contrasting skin tones, and varying ethnic backgrounds. I’ve been encouraged to embrace all people, cultures and traditions with an open heart and mind.

The misappropriation of culture is where people rightfully have issues.

Key defining elements between the two categories.
1. Sharing and being inspired by others is great. “Cultural Appropriation”
2. Unauthorized use of a cultural tradition/symbol – OR- copying an artist and writing it off as your own, is not so great. “Cultural Misappropriation”


  • Wearing a Native American headdress is a Misappropriation of Culture. – These are beautiful pieces of artwork that have genuine cultural significance regarding a person’s status within their Native American community. Though my younger self may have mistaken this as an element of a “costume” that friends wore on Halloween, my adult brain is able to process the significance that symbol holds and with much respect for the Native American people I would not wish to offend by wearing one, in an unauthorized manner.
  • Turquoise, however, is a beautiful stone found all over the world. Wearing turquoise is not a misappropriation of culture.
  • Denim blue jeans, traditionally a piece of American apparel, has been culturally appropriated throughout Europe and Asia. (Note how we take no offense to this.)

So in regards to my hair:
Am I appropriating culture? Yes, absolutely. Many cultures, in fact.
Am I misappropriating culture? I truly do not feel so.

I have yet to take a genetic test to confirm the entirety of my biological heritage, but from basic family genealogy reports, I do know that I’m a mix of many people who saw past the boundaries of their own race/culture and found love in one another.

Historically locks have been worn by various cultures, for reasons that range from: Expressions of spiritual beliefs, pride of ethnicity, political statements, and/or representation of natural spirit.  At a quick glance, its likely that locks are a sensitive subject for some because of the depth of heart and slight variety of what they may represent per individual.

Need examples? Here’s a little list to get you started on your personal research. Please formulate your own educated opinions on this matter.

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* Focus on the positive interactions. Let those be the ones that stick with you. *
Read this story about my interaction with a woman named Rhonda that will forever stay with me. 


How have these locks helped you grow as a person?

  • The Madison you see before you today no longer wears makeup regularly. (Which was formerly a daily routine since middle school.)
  • Instead, I put effort into a daily skincare routine by @Cannasmack called LUXE. (Code: HappyTokes for 10% off)
  • I care about my body in new ways and feel motivated to ask questions about what is being put into it.
  • I have learned to have more patience for myself and others.
  • This reflection has allowed me to attract the kind of people that I needed in my life, whether it be momentary kind words from a passing stranger or a forever friend like the thousands I’ve made within the @HappyTokesTribe.


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Happy 3 years (or more)!!
This dread-iversary is extra special because it acts as a milestone, not just for myself, but for lots of friends in the tribe. Many of you have been friends-from-afar since before I locked my hair, and equally so, many of you recall my beginning stages of locks as your beginning days being introduced to the tribe.

We have grown so much together, all of us. I’m endlessly grateful for your companionship and kindness.


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