As a natural, deciding whether to loc your hair or go free-form (loose hair) can be a tough call. Well, at least it was for me.
Both styles are gorgeous, but once you get past aesthetics, how do you know which style is right for you? Based on my experience wearing locs (twice, for a total of 8 years) and loose natural hair (the last 4 years), here's my quick rundown on what I feel is great and not-so-great about both options.
More after the jump.
For your reference, my hair is highly porous, thick and mostly fine -- like a dense forest of slender trees. My curl pattern ranges from 3c at the back and sides to 4a/b at the front and crown. For more info on hair/curl types, check out this handy guide at NaturallyCurly.com.
Patience required. The process of starting locs was always the hardest part for me. Generally, if your hair is shorter, finer, or has a looser curl pattern -- I have all three whammies -- it will take longer to form a true loc. My locs started as comb coils on a TWA and it took 3-4 months to reach the budding phase. During that time, I didn't get my hair wet very often because water destroys perfect comb coils. I did a lot of the infamous patting when my head itched. Definitely. Not. Fun.
And then there's the awkward phase. I just *smh* at the budding phase. My locs looked scraggly for about the first 6-8 months because of the soft ends sticking out of halfway-formed locs. At that phase, aka baby locs, I didn't feel there were many options in styling, besides pulling them back with a headband or scarf.
Maintenance is simple. As my locs got longer, things got much easier. Upkeep consisted of (1) washing and conditioning regularly, about twice a month, (2) palm-rolling with a holding product to reset the roots every 4-6 weeks, and (3) keeping them looking lean and neat, which involved periodic vertical trims called "shaving the locs." I went to a loctician about once every four months as a luxury for maintenance. At night, I covered my locs with a silk or satiny scarf to protect from lint.
Locs are cheaper. I really didn't spend a lot of money on stuff for my locs -- not nearly as much as I do for my free-form hair, and I'm not even a high-flying PJ! For my locs, all I needed was a solid shampoo, conditioner, some gel or holding product for re-twisting, and quality oils for scalp massages. No brushes or combs necessary. I had a few hair ties, but the great thing about styling is that you can tie locs around themselves and to each other easily.
See growth quickly. After three years my locs were down my back. It's not that my hair grew any faster, but the downward pull which exists naturally with locs made it easy for me to see how fast my hair was progressing.
Virtually no shedding. New and shed hair continually wrapping around itself is what helps make a beautiful, voluptuous loc. Oh my goodness, it's soooo nice to not pull hairs from a comb, brush, or shower floor when you're loc'ed.
Flexibility. This is the main reason why I'm still wearing my hair loose today. Don't get me wrong -- you can do many styles with locs, but as a free-form, the sky is the limit. I can have tightly coiled shrunken afro in the morning, a huge blown-out fro in the afternoon, and twists the next day. You're only bound by your imagination, or, as in my case, a lack of cornrowing skills.
TWA is the ultimate easy style, hands down! I loved having a sleek little fro and will probably BC yet again one day, but for now I'm enjoying having some length.
More tools required. After I chopped my locs, I found myself needing to buy many tools to care for my fro: wide-tooth comb, brush, clips, bobby pins. Which brings me to my next topic...
More product required. Although I've whittled my product arsenal down to a faithful few, I still have more lotions and potions under my sink now than I ever did when I was loc'ed. How did I end up with so many conditioners?...
Keep in mind, what was easier or harder for me may not be so for everybody.
One thing is certain: naturally kinky-curly-coily hair is simply beautiful no matter how you decide to wear it.
To loc wearers, as well as free-form naturals - what did I miss? If you've done both, do you agree locs are easier?