Among the most popular protective hairstyles is dreadlocks, which have lived in popularity since their conception in the Minoan Civilization during 1,500 BCE. This style is known for its twisted look, and some wearers let their hair grow in locks until they reach past their hips.
They’re as much of a commitment as they are a fashion statement and need consistent upkeep and high-quality products to keep them looking their best. When putting locks together, one needs a high-quality gel.
But what makes a locking gel the best for dreadlocks? The strength of the gel and its ability to hold a style is paramount, as this is a hairstyle you shouldn’t need to touch up every single day. It should hold nurturing properties, so a clean formula is best. It also shouldn’t leave residue behind.
While that may sound like a lot to keep in mind, we’ve shouldered a bit of the heavy work. Read on to find our best picks for locking gel and why they make the cut!
Using A Locking Gel
If it’s your first time styling dreadlocks, you simply need to twist your hair as you go, smoothing it down with the locking gel with each twist.
Use a drier to dry the gel, as it will give your strands a tacky texture that will keep your hairs in place. From here on, if done correctly, your locks will grow in in style, and will only need semi-frequent retouches to keep them looking neat.
Re-twisting involves the same technique, but you’ll likely need to call on someone else for help to ensure there are no stray hairs that haven’t found a dread to call a home.
There are variations of locks that require different forms of styling and upkeep. Freeform locks are known for their non-uniformity, appearing more natural than styled. Then, there are uniform, more meticulously styled dreads that have smoother roots. Both of which involve the use of locking gels.
How To Choose A Locking Gel
A locking gel that has strong hold properties will make yours, and anyone else styling your hair, lives easier. Not only will these gels keep you from needing to restyle the same lock over and over during the styling process, but they’ll also prevent any unwarranted unraveling while you sleep or go about your day.
Since you’ll basically be drenching your hair in locking gel, it wouldn’t hurt for your gel to have some nurturing or strengthening properties. Remember that dreadlocks are a protective style, so settling for products that could actually be damaging your hair makes it a counterproductive process!
In the same breath as finding a nurturing formula, finding a gel with a clean ingredient list can allow you confidence in applying it throughout an entire lock of hair.
Too often do we find haircare products with a formula list full of ingredients we can’t even pronounce. These products can dry out hair in a single use and should never be used when forming protective hairstyles!
Opt for a clean, short ingredient list. Not only will your hair thank you, but the environment will too!
Due to their sticky finish, a lot of gels leave hair with an almost adhesive type residue, or leave your hair studded with white flakes.
The last thing you would want after hours of hair styling is for your hair to look dirty, sticky, or like you have dandruff- so make sure to do thorough research and see if your locking gel has a clear finish and dries down well.
Best Locking Gels For Dreads
|1.||Stylin’ Dredz Mouldin’ Gel Wax||All-day hold, scalp smoothing, tea tree oil|
|2.||Lion Locs Hair Locking Moisturizer||Moisturizing gel finish, organic, frizz-control, buttery texture|
|3.||Lockology Aloe & Tea Tree Gel||No build up or residue, all natural ingredients, conditions hair|
|4.||Blax Black Wax||Non-sticky, naturally derived honey, temporary color|
|5.||Jamaican Mango & Lime Locking Gel||No stickiness and residue, nourishing ingredients, repairs and strengthens hair|
|6.||Rastta Locs Locking Gel||Hydrating locking gel, no buildup or residue, good for dry hair|
|7.||African Pride Black Castor Gel||Black castor oil nourishes scalp, fills in grey, no chemicals|
|8.||Cantu Moisturizing Twist & Lock Gel||Silky smooth finish, keeps frizz under control, 100% shea butter|
|9.||Joie Naturals MyGel||Stimulates hair shafts for growth, conditions hair, naturally derived ingredients|
|10.||Tropical Roots Firm Locking Gel||Extremely hydrating, fruity scent, promotes hair growth|
|11.||All Day Locks Braid Gel||Extreme hold, tea tree oil, good for all types of styles|
1. Stylin’ Dredz Mouldin’ Gel Wax
This product is extremely affordable, but don’t you dare let that price tag fool you!
Too often do we find ourselves using gel that ruins the health of our scalp, leaving us with build up and flakes that need more than just a clarifying shampoo to clean up.
This gel leaves you with an all-day hold, and is among some of the most highly rated gels on the market. Though it has holding ability, this type of gel won’t dry down into flakes, and it won’t leave your scalp or hair feeling sticky!
This can easily be worked into fresh hair or retwists, and with continued use, your hair will retain shine and health.
We love this gel because of it’s scalp soothing formula. The added tea tree oil helps sooth an irritation, while the addition of glycerine moisturizes the scalp and keeps the hair from pulling at your follicles.
To protect your current growth, this gel softens the hair and eliminates any dryness, keeping your natural lengths intact and making for less breakage and hair fall! This brand has an entire line of haircare products made for dreadlocks, so you can keep your hairdo looking healthy 24/7!
2. Lion Locs Hair Locking Moisturizer
Revitalize tired or dry locks with this moisturizing gel from Lion Locs- a revolutionary form of hair gel that’s made specifically for dreadlocking hair.
If you suffer from an itchy or dry scalp, you may find that the condition worsens when wearing your hair in protective styles.
This locking gel is ultra-moisturizing, so much so that this formula is actually marketed as a moisturizer even though it does have locking properties.
With its priority being hydration, you can rest assured that your scalp and existing growth are being nourished from application and then on.
This product is strong and penetrates into the hair shaft to control frizz at the source and to tame any potential flyaways. This is a benefit that sets it apart from other gels and a big reason why it made our list!
In terms of ingredient list, you really can’t beat this formula! It’s made up of 100% natural and organic ingredients (that are cruelty free and vegan), making it a compatible for all hair types.
Do you have issues with the feel of gel, or do you wish that you could truly feel the nourishing properties working their magic in your strands? This gel feels like butter and its creamy texture is emphasized by the additions of jojoba oil, argan oil, and aloe vera leaf juice for extra protection.
3. Lockology Aloe & Tea Tree Gel
Looking for something tried and true? Lockology has been in the business for over 20 years, so you know that they’re doing something right!
The most annoying things about a bad locking gel is the build up, potential residue, itchiness, and of course, the potential stiffening of the lock that just makes you want to take them all out and start fresh.
Lockology empathizes with those issues and worked hard to make a gel that combats each one of those problems (and more!).
What we love about this brand is that each formulation is small batch tested, so you can rest assured that quality is of utmost importance.
The rockstar ingredients of this gel is the lemongrass (which contain anti-irritation and anti-inflammatory properties) and the aloe vera gel for moisture!
For maximum results, use this gel while your hair is freshly cleaned and damp from the shower. The gel will preserve all that hydration and enrich your locks even further so that you’ll feel nourished until your next retwist.
As for their formula, it is super clean- made up of all natural ingredients found in the US and the Caribbean. Not only that, but it’s paraben, sulfate, and gluten free, and enriched with vitamin B5 for extra conditioning benefits!
4. Blax Black Wax
If your hair is particularly stubborn or doesn’t like holding styles, you’ll need something heavy duty to keep it in check!
Looking for a gel with a thicker consistency usually does the trick, and this wax/gel duo from Blax definitely gets the job done!
The main ingredient of this wax is petrolatum- which is a derivative of petroleum, giving this gel a thicker, more Vaseline type consistency. It’s also tinted, making it a great pick for those with mature hair who are looking to cover some grays.
Because it has such a thick consistency, this wax is incredible for those struggling with hydration.
If you find that your hair is falling or breaking due to heat styling or lack of moisture, styling your hair in locks with this wax can help preserve hydration and health in your natural hair.
It’s alcohol and paraben free, meaning it has absolutely no drying ingredients that suck moisture out of strands.
Among the potential downsides of this product is that the tint of the gel can unfortunately transfer onto bedding. While you should be wearing a bonnet when wearing protective styles, this can be a problem if you don’t want to wash or switch out your bonnet every single night.
5. Jamaican Mango & Lime Locking Gel
This next gel features one of our favorite all natural nourishing ingredients: manuka honey.
Manuka honey has incredible antibacterial and healing properties, making this gel the perfect choice for those suffering from a dry or easily irritated scalp.
A lot of the time, we confuse having a strong hold with having stiff locks. This gel proves that that is absolutely not the case.
Not only is this brand beloved for its strong hold, but it’s also beloved for preserving the softness and malleability of your locks, so they never feel stiff, dry, or dangly.
You’ll get all that hold with absolutely no buildup or residue either! For those with particularly frizzy strands, make sure to focus product on the cuticle of your hair (near the root). This gel has wonderful penetrative ability, smoothing the cuticle of your hair down and keeping flyaways and stray hairs at bay!
If you are starting off with particularly damaged locks, we can only recommended being extra selective of your locking gel.
Since you’ll be using it from root to tip on your entire head, it has to have restorative properties, which is exactly what this gel has! Thanks to the powers of manuka honey and moringa seed oil, this blend will prevent breakage and restrengthen your tired locks.
6. Rastta Locs Locking Gel
Love is definitely in the hair with this locking gel from Rastta! Why? Because of their incredible ingredient list of course!
Some of the standouts in their formulation include avocado oil (to lock in moisture and prevent breakage), aloe vera gel (for deep conditioning), argan oil (to protect from heat), wheat protein (to retain moisture), and shea butter (to soothe your scalp).
The addition of all these ingredients is more calculated than one might think. Not only do they help retain moisture and hydration, but the added biotin actually stimulates hair growth.
If you feel that your scalp has been lacking in the health department, or that you’ve seen very little new growth since you’ve started wearing your hair in locks, your hair may be lacking in ingredients that keep it healthy and thriving- consider this gel the superfood combination to combat that.
The best part about this gel is that it has all of that good stuff, and absolutely nothing that could do damage in the long run. That’s right- this gel is paraben, sulfate, silicone, peg, phthalate, and beeswax free. You may be wondering why the expelling of beeswax is noteworthy, considering it is an all-natural ingredient.
Unfortunately, beeswax can cause a lot of buildup and residue, leaving you with white flakes over time, so it has no place in a strong-hold gel!
7. African Pride Black Castor Gel
Those with thinning hair might feel self-conscious with their hair in locks, especially since the style accentuates the space in between growth. This can be difficult, especially since dreadlocks are a go-to protective style for so many people.
Thankfully, African Pride has formulated a black castor gel that nourishes the hair, promotes new growth, and is tinted so that those gaps don’t draw too much attention.
This gel provides long-term coverage and an equally long-term hold on dreadlocks, earning it a salon quality label.
The nourishment comes from the addition of black castor oil, a beloved ingredient that stimulates the scalp, and coconut water, which helps thirsty hair retain moisture and hydration.
African Pride is a brand that is dedicated to ensuring the longevity of their products and the quality of each formula they have in their line. That means that this gel was made with you in mind!
This is showcased through their products being paraben, sulfate, and mineral oil free. In lieu of those potentially harmful ingredients, you’ll receive a gel made with a naturally formulated ingredient list so you can use their products with peace of mind.
8. Cantu Moisturizing Twist & Lock Gel
Who says that good hair care needs to cost a pretty penny? Certainly not Cantu! Coming in at just under $5, their locking gel is just as high quality as other gels on the shelves- and at this price point, you can stock up in just one click of your mouse.
One of the most appealing features of all Cantu products is that they are incredibly moisturizing, and that the brand is all about preserving your hair’s natural health and shine, regardless of thickness of hair or curl pattern.
Because of this, virtually all hair types can use this locking gel with no issues and without the crunchy feel you get after using other types of gel.
The secret is in the addition of 100% naturally derived shea butter, which nourishes even already healthy hair with an extra bit of moisture to keep your locks manageable and frizz free.
You’ll be able to notice how much love was put in this product upon first use, but if you need to read it to believe it, just check out the ingredient list!
There, you’ll be able to see that this gel was made without parabens, sulfates, or phthalates. Instead, you’ll find things like argan oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, mango seed butter, and carrot seed oil – all ingredients that feed your hair with smoothing, hydrating benefits.
9. Joie Naturals MyGel
If you have a naturally thinner hair type, putting your hair into dreadlocks can place emphasis on how flat your natural strands are.
But don’t let that possibility scare you away from trying locks out for the first time! To give your locks some extra life and a voluminous boost, use MyGel.
Not only does it stimulate healthier hair growth due to a myriad of naturally derived ingredients, the natural sheen and hydrating ability of the gel actually make each individual lock look thicker and healthier.
A lot of people claim that this is their go to locking gel for a clean, natural finish rather than one that looks too perfect or smoothed down.
made with lemongrass, cucumber, and chamomile oils, there’s no wonder that this gel is beloved for its soothing abilities. Putting hair into dreadlocks can be quite rough on the scalp, so picking a gel that’s extra soothing is a necessity (especially if you have sensitive skin or fine hair).
One little jar of this product can last you an upwards of a year, especially since such a small amount of product goes a long away!
To use, warm up a dime sized amount of product in your fingertips and distribute throughout the hair, paying extra attention to thinning areas or spots where you’d like to stimulate the most growth.
10. Tropical Roots Firm Locking Gel
A little goes a long way with this locking gel by Tropical Roots. Because it’s consistency is so wet and traditionally gel-like, you may be tempted to use a lot of product to cover your locks. Be forewarned, you don’t need a lot of this formula to saturate your scalp and existing growth!
This gel is uber light and boasts a natural, moveable finish to the dreadlock that a lot of other formulas can’t seem to perfect.
It has a strong, all-day hold (even for the most resistant hair types), is perfect for starting or retwisting dreads, and leaves virtually no residue.
With overuse, you may find that your hair does flake, so use a small amount of product at a time and build it up as you go for best results!
Thankfully, your hair will stay hydrated and healthy regardless of the amount of gel you end up using, as this formula has no artificial dyes or colors, and is made up of all natural ingredients.
11. All Day Locks Braid Gel
For extra stubborn hair, and we do mean extra stubborn, this last product can be a miracle worker.
The color is mildly reminiscent of superglue, and we definitely find that fitting, since this product will undeniably ensure your locks last all day.
But don’t worry, your hair will feel nourished post-gel, and crunchiness and stiffness will be the furthest worry in your mind.
For best results, use this gel during the locking process, and then seal the final style in place by distributing the gel around the circumference of the lock to keep your style in place.
That may seem like a lot of product, but you can rest assured that you won’t be left with any buildup in your roots, nor will you deal with a sticky texture and white flakes around the lock itself.