Dreads vs Braids: Untwisting Hair Strands and Finding Champion


Dreads vs Braids

Bad hair days can truly feel like a nightmare, but the right hairstyle can turn that frizzy situation around. For many, dreadlocks and braids offer the perfect solution – but are these hairstyles actually the same thing? While they may appear similar, especially when dreads are intricately braided, the truth is that they’re quite distinct. Let’s unravel the differences between these two popular ‘dos.

What’s the Difference? Dreads and Braids Unraveled

At their core, dreadlocks are strands of hair that have naturally locked or woven together over time. These rope-like cylinders form as the hair grows and meshes, resulting in a rough, matted texture. In contrast, braids are the intricate patterns created by actively intertwining three or more hair strands in an overlapping zigzag.

While both hairstyles can be traced back to ancient African cultures, their historical significance differs. Anthropologists have discovered ancient mummies sporting dreadlocks, with art depicting humans adorned with these natural locks. Braids, on the other hand, are thought to have origins dating back to 3500 BC, emerging across various world cultures as versatile styles.

Visually, the distinct nature of dreads and braids is evident:


  • Cylindrical, rope-like structures
  • Rough, matted texture
  • Varied types like freeform, manicured, etc.


  • Flatter, more structured appearance
  • Distinct patterns like French, Dutch, fishtail
  • Endless styling possibilities like box braids

Formation Techniques: From Backcombing to Box Braids

The formation processes for dreads and braids are vastly different. Dreadlocks can form naturally over time through a method known as “neglect,” where hair is left to tangle and mat without interference. However, more common techniques include:

  • Backcombing: Using a comb to tease and knot hair fibers together.
  • Crochet Method: Using a crochet hook to latch and twist strands together.
  • Twist and Rip: Twisting hair fibers and allowing them to lock over time.

Braiding, on the other hand, is a more straightforward process involving partitioning hair and weaving it into various patterns. While the techniques may seem simple, achieving intricate styles like box braids or French braids can require significant skill and practice.

When it comes to hair length requirements, dreadlocks are more versatile. They can form on shorter hair as long as there’s enough length to twist and mat the strands together. Braids, however, typically require longer hair for optimal results, with a few inches being the minimum for most styles.


Styling Versatility: Matted Ropes or Intricate Patterns?

One key advantage braids have over dreadlocks is styling diversity. With dreads’ locked, matted texture, your styling options are fairly limited. Braids, however, offer endless possibilities for intricate patterns and styles that can be switched up easily.

“Braids allow you to get creative and experiment with different looks from week to week.” – Hairstylist Jessica R.

You can accessorize braids with beads, wraps, or cuffs for added flair. Or, try unique braided updo styles for a dressier vibe. The options are nearly limitless!

The Maintenance Showdown: What Does Each Style Demand?

The Maintenance Showdown: What Does Each Style Demand

Beyond the formation process, hair maintenance needs for dreads vs. braids differ significantly:

Maintenance FactorDreadlocksBraids
WashingEvery 1-2 weeks with residue-free shampooCan wash more frequently since braids are temporary
DryingThicker dreads take longer to fully dryBraids dry quicker once undone or loosened
RetighteningNeeded occasionally as dreads loosen over timeCan simply redo braids as needed
Overall RoutineRegular wax/product use, avoidance of heavy oils/buttersLess intensive routine

As you can see, the upkeep for dreadlocks is generally more involved than for braids. Dreads require quite a time commitment for their longevity.

Longevity Loyalties: Dreads for Life or Braids for Now?

One of the most significant differences between dreads and braids is their longevity. Dreadlocks are a semi-permanent hairstyle that can last for years, even decades, with proper care and maintenance. This makes them a long-term commitment that may align well with certain lifestyles or personal preferences.

In contrast, braids are a more temporary style, typically lasting anywhere from a few weeks to a couple of months before needing to be redone or taken out. This shorter lifespan allows for greater flexibility and the ability to switch up your look more frequently, suiting those with a more dynamic or changeable style.

“Dreadlocks are a journey, not a destination. They evolve and grow with you, becoming a part of your identity over time.” – Ras Muhai, Dreadlock Enthusiast

While both styles have their merits, the choice ultimately comes down to personal preference and lifestyle needs. For those seeking a low-maintenance, long-lasting look, dreadlocks may be the way to go. But if you crave frequent change and love experimenting with new styles, braids could be the perfect canvas for your creativity.


Final Thoughts

In the battle of dreads vs braids, there is no clear-cut winner – only personal preferences and lifestyle choices. Both hairstyles offer unique benefits, from the cultural significance and longevity of dreadlocks to the versatility and temporary flair of braids.

Ultimately, the choice comes down to your individual needs, hair texture, and style aspirations. Whether you opt for the matted ropes of dreads or the intricate patterns of braids, the key is to embrace your strands and rock your look with confidence.

So, are you ready to untwist your hair strands and find your champion style? Whichever path you choose, remember to care for your tresses with love and patience, and let your hair be an extension of your unique identity.

Leave a Comment