Sunday, March 17, 2013

What's the Difference Between Locs and Sisterlocks?

Traditional locs

What's The Difference Between Locs & Sisterlocks??

By:  Lauren Francis-Jackson

This is not a post about traditional locs or sisterlocks being better than the other!  Get that debate foolery out of here, because both forms of locking are beautiful and stunning in their own way!  This question of how are locs and sisterlocks different is a common question I get frequently after telling people that I have sisterlocks.  So let's break this down in terms of origins, how they are created and maintained, cost, and maintaining locs/sisterlocks.
Traditional locs have their origin in religious and cultural roots.  Originally, traditional locs were a sign of someone trying to get closer to God and explore their spirituality.  There are links back to biblical times of people wearing locs.  In addition the Rastafarian culture looks at the style of traditional dreadlocks as an expression of culture.  Frequently, this is in the form of freeform locks which are not maintained regularly and are formed with varying sized locks.  Over time, people of various races have taken a liking to locs!  Now, locs are worn by men and women in different walks of life from entertainers to the UPS warehouse. 
Sisterlocks were created as a trademarked  locking system by Dr. Joanne Cornwell in San Diego, California in 1993.  Frequently, sisterlocks and nappylocks are confused for one another, however they are different in technique and tools.  Sisterlocks are now worn by African American women from the United Kingdom to the United States.  All consultants who install sisterlocks are trained by Dr. Cornwell in classes all over the world. 
How do you begin Locs or Sisterlocks?
For traditional locs, they can started by a loctician or by a DIY gal or guy.  Starter locs can be started by two strand twists, gel twists/coils, braids (called braidlocs), or retightening a braided style with extensions.   It does not take long to create the base for this style-- no more than an hour or two depending on the speed of the loctician.  You can also begin the starter locs yourself using any of these methods.  Locticians are not required to be licensed cosmetologists, however requirements do vary state to state. 
Sisterlocks are very extensive in terms of installation, whether you begin with natural or relaxed hair.  Because these are small, tiny locks created in a precision grid-- it takes a long time to install these 400+ locks on someone's head.  In addition, part of the sisterlock package is to do a consultation before beginning the locks.  There are sisterlock consultants who are trained in the sisterlock process, and may be certified consultants or trainees. The consultation is a time for one to ask questions about sisterlocks, see previous work of the consultant, assess the client's hair, gather information about the client's hair history, and to learn more about the process.  During the locking session, the client's locks are installed beginning the precision parting grid.  Then, three weeks later the client comes back for a follow up visit to assess any potential slippage and the overall condition of the client's locks.  Lastly, if you love color, you should color it before the locks are installed.  You cannot color again unitl your locks are settled. 
Traditional locs (starter locs) usually begin at $60-90 to begin these locs at a salon, depending on the region where you live.  Maintenance may be monthly or 6-8 weeks depending on rate of hair growth and recommendation of the loctician.  The maintenance cost usually $50-90 as well depending on if a style is done or not.  Pricing for maintenance may also vary region to region. 
Sisterlocks are very expensive to begin the process.  It typically costs anywhere from $600+-1000+ depending on the length of your hair and where you live.  This cost includes the package of three visits: the consultation, locking session, and follow up session.  Then the frequency of retightenings can be anywhere from 4 to 8 weeks, depending on rate of hair growth.  The consultant will let you know at your follow-up how frequently you need to come back for retightenings.  Retightenings usually are charged by the hour with minimum required.  There may be an additional per hour charged.  In additon, there are sisterlocks products.  You are given a starter kit including the Getting Started Sisterlocks Shampoo.  More shampoo can be purchased through the sisterlock website (or perhaps your salon or consultant sellls them as well) for about $13 for a 8 oz. bottle. 
With all locs, you say goodbye to the product world because less is more with locs and sisterlocks.  With locs, you begin maintenance by keeping your scalp clean and helping the twists and coils in their place to begin that cylinder formation of the loc.  Depending on your hair texture, you may wash with a dry shampoo to keep the hair clean.  The new growth can be palmrolled (most common)using a gel or cream or interlocked using a tool every 6-8 weeks.  Shampoos should not be creamy as they can cause buildup.  Also no creamy things like conditioner and butters should be used on locs.  Later on you can moisturize with natural oils. 
Sisterlocks maintenance in the beginning is quite easy on the day to day.  You cannot use oils and conditioner anymore.  You can mist it with water for moisture, and up your water intake to moisturize from the inside out.  You can cleanse the scalp with Seabreeze.  Lots of women have trouble with dry scalp in the beginning.  The hair is getting used to a different way to moisturize.  Usually it is a minor change such as increasing your water intake to help with moisture.  You can style it like loose natural hair in curls, updos, twist outs, braid outs, etc.  Sisterlocks should be washed twice a week (once a week if you work out a lot) with the Getting Started Shampoo.  Hair is retightened on a schedule based on what your consultant says.  Eventually, you can take the retightening class to save money and learn how to retighten your own hair.  Also, for color lovers you will have to wait until your locks are settled to color again.   
Locs and sisterlocks may not be as labor intensive as loose natural hair because you don't have to "do" a lot to it to wear it in a certain style, however they are not maintenance free.   One must still take care of their locs and sisterlocks-- it is just different maintenance than loose natural hair.  If you would like more information about sisterlocks, please see the website
~The Sisterlocked Diva


  1. Thanks for the post. It is very informative.

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