How to Soften Synthetic Dreadlocks

Synthetic dreadlocks are so popular and stylish. People love them because of their versatility, affordability, and availability of various colors and styles. If you keep up with the latest trends, you know the synthetic dreadlock wave is not slowing down but gaining momentum as newer and trendy styles emerge. 

Celebrities like Fetty Wap, Meagan Good, Ciara, Rihanna, Lady Gaga, and Zendaya have rocked this protective hairstyle so well that we all want to try it. However, synthetic dreadlocks’ initial stiffness is one issue that deters some people from wearing them.

Two years ago, I wore synthetic dreadlocks for the first time. But despite the beauty, my first two weeks were filled with regrets. They were so painful and stiff. I thought of removing them multiple times, but my friend talked me out of it. That’s when I started researching how to soften synthetic dreadlocks. Since then, I have fallen in love with this protective hairstyle and have worn it many times. 

So, if you love synthetic dreadlocks like me but are skeptical due to the initial stiffness, read on to learn how to soften synthetic dreadlocks without causing any damage to your hair, plus other care tips. 

What are Synthetic Dreadlocks?

Synthetic dreadlocks are also known as faux or fake dreadlocks. They are artificially made hair extensions designed to replicate the appearance of natural dreadlocks. They are made from synthetic materials like Kanekalon or Toyokalon fibers, which provide the desired texture and look. Synthetic dreads come in various lengths, colors, and thicknesses. This allows for creative and customizable hairstyles.

Are synthetic dreadlocks the same as instant dreadlocks? No. Instant locs, or instant dreadlocks, are real dreadlocks. They can be worn forever. The difference between instant locs and normal locs is the installation method. While typical dreadlocks may take many months or years to lock fully, instant locs lock immediately during installation. They are installed using the crochet method.

On the other hand, synthetic dreadlocks are a protective style worn for a shorter period [1 to 3 months]. They are installed by wrapping the synthetic material around your hair strands to create a rope-like dread that mimics real dreads. They are also easier to remove, unlike real dreads.

Are Synthetic Dreadlocks Good?

Yes, synthetic dreadlocks are one of the best protective hairstyles out there. Once done and maintained correctly, they offer so many advantages:

  •  They are more affordable than human hair extensions
  • They are a protective style – They don’t need the physical modification of natural hair
  • They are similar to dreads – They are ideal for people who love dreads but cannot commit to real dreadlocks.
  • Easy to maintain
  • They provide versatility -Allowing you to experiment with different colors and styles without making a long-term commitment.
  • They are lightweight –  making them more comfortable to wear for extended periods.
  • You can add synthetic dreadlocks to add volume and length to short dreadlocks or some color without dyeing.

Why are Synthetic Dreadlocks Stiff?

Unlike most protective hairstyles that look better when newly installed, synthetic dreadlocks can be very stiff. They are also painful, and it can be uncomfortable to sleep. This initial stiffness is primarily due to the manufacturing process and the synthetic materials. The fibers are often coated with chemicals during production to maintain their shape and structure. This coating can give the dreadlocks a rigid and stiff feel, making them appear less natural.

Moreover, the stiffness may vary depending on how tightly the synthetic material is wrapped around your hair. 

Do Synthetic Dreadlocks Get Softer Over Time?

Yes, synthetic dreadlocks tend to soften with regular wear and proper maintenance. As you wear them, your natural oils and the movement of the dreadlocks will help break down some of the chemical coatings, leading to a more flexible and softer texture. However, this process may take some time.

How to Soften Synthetic Dreadlocks:

While synthetic dreadlocks will soften over time, the period can feel like an eternity. To expedite the softening process and achieve a more natural look, follow these steps:

1. Dip the Hair in hot water

 Hydrating your hair allows it to loosen up and boast elasticity. Immediately after installation, dip the synthetic dreadlocks in hot water. But you’ll need help because the hot water can spill and burn your skin. So, how do you do it? 

  • Boil at least three liters of water. You will need more water if your hair is longer. 
  • Put the water in a basin and then place it on a comfortable flat surface
  • Place a towel close by 
  • Soak the synthetic dreadlocks in the hot water for 30 seconds. Soaking longer will make it fade. 
  • Remove the hair from the water and catch it with a towel
  • Wipe the water gently. Vigorous wiping may cause frizziness.

2. Shower with Shampoo and Condition

If the above method is too risky, shower with shampoo and use a conditioner. So, how do you wash synthetic dreadlocks with shampoo? 

  • Get into the shower and allow water to run through your hair 
  • Apply 1 to 2 capfuls of synthetic-safe shampoo 
  • Massage the hair for 5 to 10 minutes
  • Rinse with clean water to remove shampoo and gently dry the hair.
  • Apply a small amount of leave-in conditioner or hair oil to each dreadlock, focusing on the ends. This will help add moisture and reduce stiffness.
  • Repeat as necessary: Depending on the stiffness of your synthetic dreadlocks, you may need to repeat the soaking and conditioning process a few times until the desired softness is achieved.

How to Make Synthetic Dreadlocks Look Natural:

To make synthetic dreadlocks appear more natural, consider the following tips:

  • Choose the right color: Select a shade that closely matches your natural hair color or complements your overall look.
  • Blending techniques: Combine synthetic dreadlocks with your natural hair at the roots to create a seamless transition.
  • Crocheting method: Use a crochet hook to pull loose hair strands from the base of the dreadlocks, giving them a more organic look.
  • Dip the hair in hot water to soften and minimize the unnatural shine

How to Soften Synthetic Dreadlocks with Fabric Softener

You can also use fabric softener to soften synthetic dreadlocks. I have used it before, and it left mine feeling so soft and smelling nice. Specifically, I used Downy, but I believe any fabric softener is safe on synthetic dreads. So, how should you do it? 

  • Put Lukewarm water in a basin l
  • Add 100 ml of fabric softener 
  • Dip the hair for 10 minutes
  • Remove and wrap a towel around

Does Your Hair Still Grow with Synthetic Dread Extensions?

Yes, your hair will continue to grow even with dread extensions. However, the rate of visible growth may be less noticeable due to the locked structure of the dreads. Synthetic Dreadlocks are one of the best and most stylish protective hairstyles. 

Do Synthetic Dreadlock Extensions Damage Hair?

When installed and maintained correctly, synthetic dreadlock extensions should not cause significant damage to your natural hair. However, improper installation, excessive tension, or neglecting regular maintenance can lead to hair breakage or thinning. To minimize the risk of damage, consult a professional stylist specializing in dreadlocks and follow their aftercare instructions diligently.

How do you Sleep with Synthetic Dreadlocks? 

Sleeping in the first few days will be uncomfortable because of the initial stiffness and pain. This gets even worse if the synthetic material is wrapped too tightly. My first night with synthetic dreadlocks was crazy. I kept tossing and turning, trying to get a comfortable position. However, it will get better if you manage to soften the dread with the steps discussed above. In fact, your stylist should soften the dreadlocks after completing installation. 

So, how do you sleep with synthetic dreadlocks? Wear a bonnet. This will minimize frizz, especially at the roots. However, wearing a bonnet on day one might be impossible. So just wrap a scarf and allow the hair to hang, especially long ones. You can wear a bonnet once the hair starts to soften. 


Synthetic dreadlocks are a fantastic way to experiment with a new hairstyle and express your unique personality. Though initially stiff, they soften over time with proper care and regular wear. By following the steps mentioned in this guide, you can effectively soften synthetic dreadlocks and achieve a natural and beautiful look without causing any harm to your hair. Always prioritize proper maintenance and consult professional hairstylists for the best results.

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