How to Get Freeform Dreads Fast: DIY Step-by-Step Guide

African American male with a tight curl pattern is wearing freeform dreadlocks on his 4B natural hair texture.

Are you considering freeform dreads? Learning about the locking process from start to finish will ensure your dreads get a good start.

If you’ve decided to try freeform dreads, you’ve found the right article. In it, we’ll give you all the information you need to get the freeform dreads you’ve been dreaming of. 

What Are Freeform Dreads? 

Traditional dreads are created by braiding, twisting, or otherwise manipulating your dreads to take on a certain shape or size. Freeform dreads are dreads cultivated without manipulation. 

That’s not the case with freeform dreads. With freeform, you simply let your hair do its thing and loc on its own. But the process isn’t as simple as it seems at first.

At any stage of your loc journey, you can start free-forming your dreads by stopping any purposeful manipulation in favor of a hands-off approach. 

A young African American male with thicker dreadlocks that will form naturally due to his natural hair's texture.

The Benefits of Freeform Dreads

Freeform dreads are among the most carefree loc variations of them all, but that’s not the only good thing about them. If you want to learn all of the benefits of freeform dreads, this section will be super helpful to you. Let’s get right into it! 

Totally Unique Dreads

Since freeform dreads are cultivated without outside manipulation, they are totally unique to you. Your hair will intertwine with neighboring hairs in a way no one else’s hair would. This is a real boon for those who like to lean into their individuality. 

Lower Installation Costs

Many of those who opt for traditional or semi-freeform dreads have to pay for a stylist to start or maintain them. The average cost of starting a new set of dreads runs anywhere from $50 to $100 or more.

And when you tack on the cost of maintenance, the costs climb and climb; going freeform is a great way to save on your loc installation costs. 

A black man with long freeform dreads is wearing a yellow form-fitting muscle shirt while looking behind him.

Lower Loc Product Costs

Dreads are often touted as a style that doesn’t require a ton of products, but you’d be surprised at how many products those with traditional dreads spend their money on.

When you choose freeform dreads, you won’t have to spend money on twisting creams or loc gels and won’t have much of a need for edge controls either. 

Natural Locking Process

Since you’re letting your hair do what it wants as it dreads, you can fully embrace the locking process. Whenever you retwist or interlock your dreads, you’re actively changing how your locs will develop.

Freeform dreads cut all of that out, so you get to experience your dreadlock journey the way it was meant to be.

Some people aren’t interested in that type of loc journey, and that’s totally fine. But if you’re into a journey that’s as organic as possible, freeform dreads are the way to do it. 

African man with natural flowing dreads created using a YouTube video explaining the semi-freeform locs method.

How to Create Freeform Dreads 

Getting freeform dreads requires more effort than you might think. You can’t just wake up one day and decide not to do your hair ever again.

While it does seem nice to go hands-free without a care in the world, it is imperative to be intentional with how you start your freeform dreads. Here’s how to go freeform:


Wash Your Hair

Start your freeform dreads on clean hair for the best results. Contrary to what you may have heard about dirty hair locking faster and better, clean hair locks up just fine.

Start off with a good wash using a clarifying shampoo.

If you don’t have a shampoo like that lying around, you can use whatever shampoo you have, but it’s better to start off with a clean slate. 

Prepping your hair for freeform dreads doesn’t have to be complicated. All you need to do is wet your hair down with lukewarm water and apply your shampoo.

Lather the shampoo with the pads of your fingers, focusing intently on your scalp. When you feel like everything is clean, rinse your hair thoroughly. 

Follow the shampoo session up with a conditioner.

Begin by applying the conditioner to your hair by smoothing it onto every strand. After a few minutes, rinse your hair thoroughly and move on to the next step. 

African male with thicker locs that have a polished appearance after being allowed to shape naturally.

Let Your Hair Be

Once your hair is nice and clean, you’re ready to start the freeform locking process. To get the most authentic freeform locs, you’ll leave your hair alone completely, don’t apply any products to your hair, and go about your day.

But if your hair is the least bit thirsty for moisture, you should give it what it needs with a quick spritz of a leave-in conditioner spray or your favorite oil. 

Maintain Freeform Dreads

Maintaining your freeform dreads is a huge part of the loc maturation process. Your main goal should be to clean your hair regularly.

For most people, all it takes is to wash and condition your hair every week or so. If your hair gets dirty before the weekend, you can wash it again. 

Don’t Overwash

Make sure you’re not over-washing your hair. The issue that comes up with over-washing is chronic hair dryness. If your hair seems to be overly dry, scale back your washing sessions and see if you see some improvement. 

A dark-skinned African American male wearing casual weekend clothing has blooming dreads on type 4 hair strands.

Keep Them Clean

In addition to keeping your dreads clean, you should ensure they are properly moisturized. This may require you to periodically apply light moisturizing products. 

One of the best moisturizers for dreads is a mix of rosewater and vitamin E oil. You’ll mix a few ounces of the rose water in a spray bottle with half an ounce of vitamin E oil and spray the mix on your hair as needed. 

How Long Does It Take to get Freeform Dreads?

Wondering how long it’ll take to get your dreads started? It depends on several factors, such as your hair type, how often you wash your dreads, and more.

On average, it will take anywhere from three to five weeks to begin to see your dreads form. The dreads will be nowhere near mature after this time, but they will at least start to resemble dreads. 

Loc maturation is not usually achieved until after several months or even a year or more. A loc journey is a marathon, not a sprint. You’ll have to be patient. 

African male with shoulder hair length wearing thin locs on his type 4 curl pattern and a dark yellow casual shirt.

Dos and Don’ts of Installing Freeform Dreads

Installing freeform dreads is a relatively foolproof process, but there are ways things can go wrong. We’d like to help you avoid disasters by warning you ahead of time.

Here are some dos and don’ts of cultivating freeform dreads:


  • Do keep your hands out of your head. Manipulating your hair can cause superficial damage to your strands and increase your risk of damage. Unless you’re cleansing or moisturizing your dreads, your hands should not be in your head. 
  • Do be patient with your process. Freeform dreads can take longer than traditional dreads to form in some cases. So, don’t expect your dreads to form overnight. Efforts you make to speed up the locking process can be detrimental to your hair’s health. 
  • Do ask a professional about installation issues you’re unsure about. It’s never a good idea to guess when it comes to your freeform dreads. Information is your friend. Reach out to someone knowledgeable if you need help at any point. 
A young African male with a big smile has long hair and is wearing spiky dreads on his type of natural hair texture.


  • Don’t start your freeform dreads on dirty hair. Whether you’re just starting your dreads or transitioning from traditional to freeform dreads, do so on clean hair. Any dirt, grime, or build-up lurking in your hair will end up lodged in your dreads. 
  • Don’t over-apply products. Only use the minimal effective amount of any product you’re using on your hair. Any residue from these products will remain in your dreads and add weight to them. In the most severe cases, build-up can keep nourishment from reaching your strands. 

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So, there you have it–everything you need to know about starting freeform dreads. We hope you found all the information you were looking for in this article, and we wish you the best with your new dreadlock journey!

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