Are you thinking of getting dreadlocks but don’t know where to start? You’ve got a ton of options to kickstart your loc journey – you could start with instant locs, or you could go the traditional way and begin with starter locs.
If you want to get familiar with the differences between instant locs vs. starter locs, keep reading! By the end, you’ll be able to make an informed decision about which route is best for you.
Table of Contents
- 1 Definitions: Instant Locs vs. Starter Locs
- 2 Instant Locs vs. Starter Locs: The Differences
- 3 Pros and Cons of Instant Locs
- 4 Pros and Cons of Starter Locs
- 5 Which Is Better: Starter Locs or Instant Locs?
Definitions: Instant Locs vs. Starter Locs
Let’s begin with the basics: what are instant locs and starter locs?
Instant locs refer to a method of creating fully formed dreadlocks with a specially crafted crochet hook. When they’re crocheted in with pre-made locs for added length, they’re called loc extensions.
Starter locs, on the other hand, are dreadlocks started using traditional methods like twisting, comb coiling, braiding, or free forming – not crocheting.
Are Instant Locs Real Locs?
The answer is yes and no. On the one hand, because they’re instantly made instead of naturally cultivated, some people might say they’re not “real” locs.
On the other hand, because they’re still locs composed of human hair, one could argue that they are real locs. It ultimately comes down to personal opinion. If you’re happy with your instant locs and feel like they’re a part of your identity and journey, then they are real locs for you!
Instant Locs vs. Starter Locs: The Differences
You’ve got the basics of instant locs and starter locs down. Now, let’s get into the differences between the two:
Instant locs tend to have a more polished, smooth appearance than starter locs. They look mature from the moment they are installed.
Starter locs, on the other hand, don’t take on the appearance of actual locs at first.
If you get two-strand twist starter locs, they will look like two-strand twists until they begin the locking process. Only after several months will they start to look like actual locs. The same applies to other starter locs methods like braids and interlocks.
Since instant locs are created one by one with a crochet hook, they take a very long time to install. For a head of instant locs, you can expect to be in the chair for eight hours or more.
The process requires you to complete the below steps:
- Wash and condition your hair. Your hair should be completely free of dirt and debris.
- Part your hair in as many sections as you’d like. The number of sections you create is how many locs you’ll end up with.
- Hold the roots of one of the sections with one hand and stick the crochet hook in and out of the section with the other hand.
- Begin to twist the section between your fingers to create a cylindrical loc shape.
- Continue crocheting all around the section until a loc begins to form. It could take several minutes to finish one loc.
- Repeat the above process for all of the rest of the sections.
Starter locs usually don’t take as much effort to create. The quickest method of all is freeform locs, where you just let your hair do its thing until it locs.
Then you have twist locs, braid locs, and comb coil locs – these simply require you to twist, braid, or comb coil your hair in sections. Interlocked locs take a bit more time than the previously mentioned starter loc types.
You’ll spend hours pulling sections of hair through themselves with the interlocking tool to create the inner structure of the locs.
Instant locs require a bit less upkeep than starter locs.
With starter locs you’ve got to be careful not to wash your hair too often. This is because frequent washing can cause the locs to unravel. You also should be cautious about the products you use on your starter locs.
Some products can cause them to separate as well. And if they do unravel, you have to re-braid, re-interlock, or otherwise redo any unraveled locs.
In addition, you should ensure that your locs aren’t combining (by pulling them apart here and there) and that they’re getting enough moisture by spraying them now and then with a water-based moisturizer. All of this maintenance can be time-consuming.
*This doesn’t apply to freeform locs.
On the other hand, since the structure of instant locs is already formed, you don’t have to worry about them unraveling. That means you won’t be doing any re-braiding, retwisting, etc. You may need to separate your locs from time to time, but nothing major. Your primary focus should be to keep them clean and moisturized.
Starter locs are generally less expensive than instant locs. If you go for an instant loc install, you’ll pay a lot ($250 to $1,000+) since they take a long time to install.
Starter locs are typically less expensive($150 – $300+) because they don’t take as long to install. The process is faster since all you have to do is braid, twist, or interlock the hair and then wait for it to loc on its own.
The initial investment may be higher if you go to a high-rated salon to get your starter locs done. But overall, the cost is lower since they are relatively easy to install.
And if you opt for freeform locs, the upfront cost is $0. You’re simply letting your hair loc on its own, unmanipulated.
Pros and Cons of Instant Locs
Now that we’ve gone over some key differences between instant locs and starter locs, let’s look at the pros and cons of each method.
Pros of Instant Locs:
- You can have a full head of mature locs in a matter of hours, whereas you’ll have to wait months or even years with traditional starter locs.
- You don’t have to worry about your locs coming undone or unraveling.
- They require less maintenance than starter locs.
Cons of Instant Locs:
- They can be expensive.
- The process can be damaging to your natural hair.
- They take a long time to install.
- You don’t get to experience the spiritual journey of watching your locs grow from starter locs to mature locs.
Pros and Cons of Starter Locs
Let’s look at some of the benefits and drawbacks of starter locs below:
Pros of Starter Locs:
- They’re less expensive than instant locs.
- The process is quicker and less damaging to your hair than instant locs in most cases.
Cons of Starter Locs:
- You have to be very careful whenever you wash your locs, or else they may unravel.
- You have to constantly check for loc marriage (when locs begin to fuse together).
- They require more maintenance than instant locs.
Which Is Better: Starter Locs or Instant Locs?
At the end of the day, it comes down to personal preference. Consider your budget, your hair type, and how much time and effort you want to put into your locs. If you want a full head of locs quickly and don’t mind spending the money, then instant locs may be the way to go.
But if you’re on a budget or don’t want to pass up the spiritual component of growing locs, then more traditional starter locs may be the better option for you.
So, there you have it – a comparison of instant locs versus starter locs. We hope this article has helped you better understand what differentiates instant locs from starter locs. Whichever route you choose, we wish you the best of luck on your loc journey!
Kenneth Byrd holds a BS in Accounting and Management Information Systems and an MBA from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. With over 15 years of experience, Kenneth has been dedicated to hair care since 2008, when he co-founded Curl Centric® and Natural Hair Box alongside his wife. As a team, they promote healthy hair care practices through their comprehensive platform, Curl Centric. Curl Centric is a website operated by a husband and wife team that encourages healthy hair care. At Curl Centric, we aim to help our readers take control of their hair care journey and make good decisions about products, hairstyles, and maintenance techniques. We also have strict editorial integrity; here’s an explanation of our editorial guidelines and how we make money.