5 Different Stages of Locs: Starter, Budding, Teenage & More

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Stages of Locs

As at the time of writing this article, my locs are in the budding stage, 8 months in.

There are several things I have learnt as my locs transitioned from the starter locs stage to the budding stage that I will share in this article.

In addition, we will look at all the 5 different stages of locs to understand each phase and how to take care of them in the different stages.

There are 5 main stages of locs,

  1. Starter locs stage
  2. Budding stage
  3. Teenage stage
  4. Maturity phase
  5. Rooted stage

I am sure you are curious to learn about how to grow locs through various stages.

Stages of Locs

1. Starter Locs

Starter Locs

This stage is also known as baby locs or infancy stage of locs.

It is the shortest stage of the loc process and lasts anywhere between 3 to 6 months depending on your hair type and growth.

Starter locs are small in size, neat, and clearly defined. This is what my locs (pictured) looked like for the first few weeks.

They look more like small fine braids than dreads.

When starting locs you have the freedom of choosing what type of locs you want. You can decide on sponge twists, comb coils, or palm rolls.

At this stage, you also need to decide if you would like to have a parting pattern for your locs.

How to care for locs in the starter locs stage

  • Keep your hair moisturized to avoid an itchy scalp
  • In this stage, wait at least 2 weeks before your first wash
  • Wash your hair with a clarifying shampoo of your choice to ensure your locs are clean
  • Do not detangle the dreads
  • Let the locs grow at their own pace with no manipulation
  • Cover them with a satin scarf when sleeping to prevent frizz

2. Budding stage of locs

budding stage of locs

The budding stage also called the sprouting stage, takes roughly 6 to 12 months during the loc journey.

Here the hair does not unravel when you wash it and you notice your new growth, which will look a bit puffy, fuzzy and fluffy. 

As you can see in the picture, my locs are very thick and puffy, they look like they doubled in volume!

The hair starts intertwining at the top of the coil and the locs get thick as well.

It’s during this phase that you incorporate retwisting into your routine. This aids in keeping the original partings you had maintaining the style of your locs. 

The lines in your hair become less defined as your baby locs transition to much bigger patterns.

Do not be worried as this is part of the loc process when you see a lot of frizz on your hair.

How to care for locs in the budding stage

  • Shampoo consistently and properly with a residue-free shampoo to avoid product build-up
  • Moisturize to prevent any hair breakage
  • Be careful when shampooing the hair not to unravel the locs
  • Maintain a gentle retwisting schedule to promote new hair growth
  • Do not over twist the locs as over manipulation  leads to thinning and breakage of hair

3. Teenage loc stage

Teenage loc stage

Also known as the locking stage, it lasts between 12 to 18 months of your loc process.

The hair stiffens and appears like traditional dreadlocks. The teenage loc phase is characterized by unruly hair giving it its signature name.

Here the locs grow rapidly almost twice their original size and are uniform in length. The good news about this stage is you can play around with your locs by accessorizing with beads and different styles.

Teenage locs are more difficult to maintain than baby locs and budding locs due to the rapid growth.

How to Care for locs in the teenage loc stage

  • Wash with a sulfate-free shampoo. Ensure you wash the locs properly to avoid any product buildup
  • Style your teenage locs
  • Wrap the hair overnight with a satin scarf to avoid friction from pillows and sheets
  • Deep condition the locs to minimize hair loss and breakage
  • Re-twist the hair occasionally and you can try styles such as curly sets and ropes twists to help manage the new growth.

4. Maturity phase

Maturity stage of locs

Getting to the maturity stage takes 15 to 18 months and it hugely depends on some factors such as your hair care regimen, hair texture, and hair products you use.

People who have tighter hair reach the maturity stage faster than those with looser hair textures.

This stage is characterized by firm long locs that can lie down flat easily, are more dense, uniform in shape, and cylindrical in shape.

What is amazing about the adult stage is you can finally style your dreads by twisting, braiding, interlocking, or coiling them in different ways. How beautiful is that!

How to Care for locs in the maturity phase

  • Regularly trim the ends to control any deterioration at the ends. Trimming reduces any split ends, frizz and of course, your locs remain healthy
  • Wash your hair with clarifying shampoo and condition as usual with products that get rid of any build-up
  • Moisturize well
  • You do not have to re-twist your hair as often as in the other stages above. However, when re-twisting, do it carefully and properly to avoid hair loss and damage.

5. Rooted stage of locs

Rooted stage of locs

This is the final stage of the locs process commonly referred to us the Adult Stage.

It takes 18 months plus for your dreads to get to this stage. Your hard work and patience finally pays off as you rock your dreadlocks head held high.

This final stage is characterized by new growth and thickness.

The locs hang differently and usually are about the same length.

At this rooted stage, your locs are more slender and quite strong. They are equally easy to maintain than the other stages. You can decide to trim the locs to make them more manageable.

How to care for locs in the rooted phase

  • Moisturize regularly
  • Deep condition your dreads every 2 weeks
  • Regularly trim the ends to avoid deterioration at the ends
  • Sleep in a satin scarf to prevent loss of moisture and hair breakage
  • Ensure your locs dry completely when washing to avoid bad odor

What is the ugly stage of locs?

The Teen stage is the ugly stage of locs and is the most challenging stage. The name comes from the behavior of your hair.

The locs look unruly and you get the illusion that hair is shrinking and not growing. This is so far from the truth.

Your hair is becoming denser and tangling on the inside. Do not be discouraged by this stage as this is part of the loc journey.


Locs need to be properly moisturized in all 5 stages as we have learnt above. Patience is the key as you see the magic happen in the long-run.

Loc are a versatile, protective style to wear natural hair. Getting the perfect locs requires a lot of dedication and patience.

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