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Do Sisterlocks Retightenings Cause Thinning And Breakage?

Jacque e-mailed me the following:

I am about 5 months into my sisterlock journey, and I am starting to have some serious concerns about the long term health of my hair and scalp with sisterlocks. Yesterday, I met a very high level senior executive that has sisterlocks. I found her to be very inspiring, because against all odds, she has been able to achieve a high level position as a black woman with sisterlocks–I want to be like her when I grow up. LOL! As much as I admire this woman, I could not help but be disappointed in the condition of her locs. They were very thin, and she even told me that sometimes during re-tightenings her consultant struggles to catch the hair without breaking the hair at the root.

My last re-tightening was about a week ago, and my head was very sore to the point that I could not even style my hair for a couple of days afterward. I guess my question to you is. How healthy are sisterlocks in the long term. I currently have a full head of beautiful sisterlocks, but I do not want to go ten years and realize that my hair has thinned from re-tightenings. The Sisterlocks hair management system is supposed to prevent the damage that many women cause by using chemicals, braids and weaves in their hair, but I can’t help but feel like the constant re-tightenings may be just as damaging.

Can you give me some advice on how to avoid hair loss with sisterlocks?  I have not come across any information that can support or refute the fact that sisterlocks may cause hair thinning.

As always, keep up the good work! Your advice is always appreciated!

First of all, know that I am not a trained professional of any sort. The higher ups made sure to make this clear when my Sisterlocks retightening video was shut down.  But I would love to give my 2 cents!

Common, yes; normal, no

A sore scalp is very common after retightenings.  I found that I could not get a retightening without taking a dose of Aleve.  The actual retightening was a painful experience. I would not dare try to style my hair for a few days after my retightenings.  In fact, my pillow reminded me of my sore scalp when I slept at night.

I believed that this process was normal until I met one very gentle Sisterlocks trainee.  She only retightened my hair one time.  I was awestruck by her gentle hand.  I had absolutely no need for pain reliever.

She, in turn, was shocked to hear how rough my retightenings had been and informed me that they should not be painful.  She instructed me to feel my scalp to note that she was actually doing her job correctly and retightening down to my scalp.  After that retightening, I could feel that my locs were tight, and the new growth was interlocked.  I had very mild soreness.

Since I’ve been retightening my own hair, I have noticed that my retightenings are no longer painful.  I do have mild soreness and still prefer not to style much the first couple days.  However, there is a marked difference between my personal retightenings and the ones I used to get with my consultant.  I could not style at all after she retightened.

Consultants’ skills and hair types

Consultants and trainees are not all the same.  They are at different levels of expertise.  While one consultant 10 years in the game can retighten nearly flawlessly, a new trainee might have trouble maintaining the grid and catching stray hairs.  This might be part of the issue with the woman you mentioned.

Also, you said that her locs were very thin.  It sounds like very thin locs were not best for her hair type.  Perhaps a thicker micro loc would have alleviated possible damage.  The root would naturally have been stronger with more hair.

She might also have a predisposition to thinning hair, with or without Sisterlocks.  Very fine hair, like my own, would not do well with extremely tiny locs.  Low density (which is the number of hairs per square inch) would not necessarily be best for a very thin loc.  In that case, there naturally would not be much hair in the first place to create the loc and give it a strong base.

A number of factors could have made her Sisterlocks the way they were.

What about your hair?

That’s what you really wanted to know!  Obviously, countless women have Sisterlocks and other forms of micro sized locs and grow a long, healthy head of hair.  An image search on Google proves lots of healthy lockers.  To achieve this, a woman would need:

  1. A skillful individual to maintain her hair.  That could be an official Sisterlocks consultant or trainee.  It could be the woman herself.  Many ladies go the DIY route and manage to care for micro locs successfully.  In your case since I assume you aren’t maintaining your own hair, you would want to make sure that you have a professional carefully guiding your hair through the locking stages. This person should be able to answer any and all of your questions about your hair and remedy any issues that occur along the way.
  2. To avoid super tight and/or super frequent styling.  Especially in the baby stage, tight and frequent styling will slow the locking process.  Once you reach maturity, it still isn’t a good a idea to constantly pull your hair in the same, tight pony tail day after day.  The area of the locs that hits the pony tail holder will weaken.  I’m not saying to never style your hair.  I just finished styling my locs every day in February!  I believe it was Lonnice Brittenum Bonner who said to treat your locs like a fine piece of silk. Be gentle.
  3. To retighten on time.  I retighten my hair every 5 to 6 weeks.  Some do so every 4 weeks, while others wait 8 weeks.  Your hair will tell you when it’s time.  And when it needs to be done, get it done!  Waiting too long to retighten causes new growth to mesh together into a fro.  Pulling and stretching the hair back into the grid can cause hair loss, weaken locs and thin them out.  Regular retightenings will prevent this.

Sisterlocks can be a way to have a healthy head of natural hair.  But if they are not cared for properly, they can look a mess.

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