If you’ve decided to remove your locs, this 3-part series will help you understand what to expect and how to cause the least damage – and lose the least length – while removing them.
If and when you make the decision to release your hair from your locs, it is important that you embrace the process and recognize that it won’t be quick, and it probably won’t be easy. In fact, it will likely be a frustrating and long ordeal that takes days (or even weeks).
However, if you recognize the challenges you’ll likely face beforehand, you can prepare for them. While there is no single definitive set of procedures for removing locs, here are a few tips for making the process easier, gentler, and more efficient.
GET THE TOOLS YOU’LL NEED IN ADVANCE.
The right tools can help you keep the process efficient and gentle. You’ll need:
- A rat-tail comb
- A Wide-tooth comb
- Hair clips
- Spray water bottle
- Detangling conditioner
These tools offer the most flexibility when it comes to addressing some of the most challenging issues you’ll encounter while removing your locs. Not only do the right combs help you dislodge difficult knots relatively quickly, they allow you to complete the process while inflicting the least damage.
YOU’LL PROBABLY HAVE TO CUT SOME LENGTH BEFORE REMOVAL.
If your hair has been locked for years – long enough to reach your waist or even longer – your ends will probably be extremely difficult to release. Moreover, they will likely be extremely damaged no matter how well-cared-for they were. This is because locking hair is an inherently damaging process – it is extremely difficult for moisture to penetrate locked hair, which leads to brittleness and breakage of the strands within the locs. Of course, this isn’t noticeable because the shed and broken hair is trapped within the individual locs, creating length.
The ends of locs are fused, so cutting them off will help create an open end that is easier to unravel. The length you choose to cut is up to you, but the more you cut off before you start unraveling, the shorter the unraveling process will be. You don’t want to spend hours unraveling a section only to find that the length of that section was entirely shed hair.
COAT YOUR HAIR WITH MOISTURE AND LUBRICANTS BEFORE STARTING.
Locs are very compact and difficult to manipulate when dry. It’s important to keep your hair as pliable and slippery as possible before proceeding with the detangling process. Make sure your oils deliver a good amount of slip – olive oil is a good lubricant – so that you don’t tear and break your hair unnecessarily. Don’t underestimate the amount of oil you’ll need, either. If your locs are longer than shoulder-length, you’ll probably need multiple 16oz bottles of oil and conditioner, just to be on the safe side.
LOOSEN YOUR HAIR WITH THE TAIL OF THE RAT-TAIL COMB.
The tail-end of the rat-tail comb is the best tool for the initial stage of removing locs. Gently insert the end into the bottom of the loc and work to free the loose hairs from the matting. Once you’ve worked the ends completely free, insert the end of the comb an inch above the detangled portion and continue to free the knotted hair. Once you’ve released the hair from the entire length of the loc, start to gently comb the hair to remove the shed hairs and detangle completely. Once completed, twist or braid the section and begin on another loc. Because the loc removal process will likely take a few days or longer, it’s important to keep the loose hair completely separate from the locs because the hairs will want to fuse and twist into the remaining locs.
In the final installment of our loc removal series, we’ll discuss how you maintain your hair after you’ve completed the removal and detangling process. AK Hair & Healing offers a full suite of hair styling and maintenance services, giving you the tools and information you need to look, feel, and be your best.