Braids vs. Dreads: Everything You Need To Know

Whether you’re trying to tune into your inner Bohemian bride or gearing up for the festival season, trendy, laid-back-looking hair choices will boil down to deciding between the duo of hippie culture hair: braids vs. dreads. Both are considered natural hairstyles, thanks to their chemical-free nature, but that doesn’t mean they’re maintenance-free.

Before you commit to gypsy plaits and twists or the organic, earthy feel of locs, we’ve got everything you need to know about convenience, cost, care, time commitments, and styling options to help you make a decision you’re bound to love.

From fishtail braids to Beyoncé’s lemonade

“Braids are not just a style; this craft is a form of art.” – Nunzio Saviano.

According to celebrity hairstylist Larry Sims, braided hairstyles date as far back as 3500 BC in Africa. By weaving two or more sections of hair together, different patterns could identify everything from your tribe to your age and wealth. They were also a great way to bond and pass on family traditions, as elders braided children’s hair and taught them the art while socializing.

You only need to look as far as fishtails on the runway or Beyoncé’s iconic Lemonade braids to see that this hairstyle trend is here to stay. Today we braid our hair for cool convenience and self-expression.

How much time do braids take?

Depending on your starting hair length, texture, and the desired result, hair braids can take as little as a few minutes or as long as half a day. As you can imagine, a full head of professionally installed, waist-length box braids will be a much longer time and more significant cost commitment than a simple DIY Dutch braid.

Caring for braided hair

After a busy day in class, at the office, or a little retail therapy, you can simply undo your braided do. If you’ve invested in professionally braided hair, your look can last up to 8 weeks with proper care.

How to make your braids last longer

  • Keep them clean! Use a clarifying shampoo to remove any buildup, moving from roots to tips.
  • Air dry before styling. Keep scalp issues at bay by ensuring your braids are completely dry before pulling them into a new style.
  • Downplay your flyaways. Don’t let baby hairs and the odd escaped strand take away from your look. Keep things polished between washes.
  • Battle frizz in your sleep. Use a smooth, satiny hair scarf or pillowcase to protect your plaits.

What are the most popular braids?

From waterfall to infinity, braided hairstyles are so versatile. Vary the number or size for different looks with the same technique. There really is a style for every look, whether you love two-strand twists, traditional three-strand braids, or four-strand plaits. Keep it romantic and loose, or pull hair into a stunning, sleek updo.

  • French Braids
  • Dutch Braids
  • Fishtail Braids
  • Milkmaid Braids
  • Halo Braids / Braided Crown
  • Braided Headbands
  • Pigtail Braids
  • Braided Updos
  • Faux Undercut Braids
  • Mohawk Braids

Locs – To dread or not to dread

Now that you know all there is to know about braids, let’s learn a little more about locs. Brought to pop culture in the ’70s with Bob Marley and to the mainstream in the ’80s by Whoopi Goldberg, locs, dreads, or dreadlocks also have a long history. This rope-like, matted, or knotted hairstyle dates back to 2500 BC in Egypt and India.

Dreads are more fluffy and laid back looking than braids. They’re also a lot more permanent. Once they are grown, you can braid them, pull them up into ponytails and buns, or let it all hang out for a free-flowing carefree effect.

What types of dreads are you digging?

Are your ideal dreads thin and more maneuverable, or jumbo ropes of cottony bliss? You can combine styles or keep things more neat and uniform.

  • Thick, Jumbo, Or Wick Dreads
  • Root-Merged Congos
  • MicroLocs / Sister Locs
  • Faux Locs / Boho Silk Locs

How long until dreads lock up?

You can think of taking your hair from strands to dreads like creating felt from wool. Unlike the instant gratification of braids, it’s a process that takes time. There are typically five phases of loc development before you get the long Insta-worthy ropes you see on stars like Zendaya.

Like braids, the time and cost associated with dreadlocks will depend on your starting hair length, hair texture, and desired results. A professional stylist or loctician can give you a more personalized time and cost-investment estimate.

The 5 stages of dreads

  1. Starter Dreads (3-6 Months): Your hair is styled and left to grow in that style. Starter techniques include crochet, free-form, rubber band, braids, twists, interlocking, loc extensions, finger coils, comb curls, and backcombing.
  2. Budding Locs (6 – 12 Months): Hair starts to become fuzzy and matted as it grows. You may need to retwist more often during this stage.
  3. Teen Dreads (About 6 Moths): Continued hair growth with less unraveling.
  4. Mature Locs (About 3 Months): Dreads start to hang.
  5. Rooted Locs: Manage and style!

Are dreadlocks bad for your hair?

Dreadlocks are considered a protective hairstyle for textured hair, but depending on whether you go the faux loc route or fully traditional, this isn’t a style for the faint of heart. Keeping your hair clean, conditioned, and free of stuff like lint and pet hair can be challenging. Think black sweater here.

After your starting and retwisting appointments, waxes, gels, and oils can add up, and ultimately, you can’t really unlock or unravel your rooted dreads. Most loc-lovers just cut them off when it’s time to try a new style.

Accessories for dreads & braids

Dressing up both dreads and braids is incredibly simple. Social media is your friend for ideas for everything from prom to weddings to everyday looks. Search for boho, gypsy, hippie, and loc culture hair ideas. Or, ask your stylist about colorful extensions and affordable accessory sources.

  • Headscarves
  • Flowers & Beads
  • Rings & Cuffs
  • String, Ropes & Wraps

Should you braid your hair or loc it up?

So, braids vs dreads. Which should you choose? If you’re looking for a pretty way to get the hair out of your face without a long-term commitment, try a few braids or faux locs. If time and cost up front are worth low maintenance hair for months to years, why not go for dreads? In the end, it’s up to you and your lifestyle.

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