Sisterlocks Comparisons: Loc stages and changes

How do locs change over the course of 365 days? 2 years? 10 years?

Depending on to whom you speak, locs enter 3-6 phases from birth to maturity. 

For example - here's an infographic that has done the rounds so much I am not certain of the original source.

click to enlarge and read it properly :)

I don't stick to this terminology ad verbatim but I'll try to tie my classification (based on experience) back to their terminology above.

Phase 1: Newbie, Starter or Baby Locs 

  • Locs are neat and clearly defined but look more like fine braids than locs. 
  • Partings are clearly defined and perfectly visible giving a neat but scalpy look - which some newbies hate, lol  :)
  • The shaft of the newly created loc is several times smaller than the parted square at the base of the loc.

Installation Day, Skinny little locs
July 2012

Phase 2: Swelling, Thickening or Expansion

  • Interlocked micro locs (such as Sisterlocks, Nappylocs etc) will double in size. Remember, the loc was originally several times smaller than the parted square at the base of the loc. 
  • After several washes the shaft of the loc has swollen: this is a result of the contraction and expansion of the individual hair strands as they absorb and expel water which causes a gentle loosening of the individual interlocked loops used to create the loc framework.  The amount of swelling is governed by your hair texture and how tightly the loops were packed together during installation;
  • The amount of swelling can to some extent be managed or controlled by braiding and banding. Read this post for information on the importance of braiding and banding.

Full, thick and fluffy
Sep 2012

Phase 3: Budding

  • As the locking process progresses, a tiny bud, bead or knot of hair (like a pea) forms along the shaft of the loc, usually within 2 inches of the tip (end of the loc).
  • Never pull these off or try to pick them loose.
  • Sometimes these locs form at the very end and fall off. Don't panic or worry - this is ok, a new bud will form and the process will continue.
  • These buds can be thought of as the nucleus around which the matting (locking) process will occur.
  • In time, these buds will be what seals the ends of your locs - at which point it will no longer be possible for unravelling to occur. Defintion of Unravelling: where the loc loops or 'stitches' come loose from the tip (end of the loc) in a rootward direction. Loosening that starts from the base or root of the loc is known as SLIPPAGE.
  • When you see the budding, you know you are definitely on the way to lock-dom :)

Swelling and shrinkage.Still soft and fluffy,
and there are a few visible buds at the ends of some locs (at least 3 good ones in this photo)
Dec 2012
Fuller, thicker, fluffier
Dec 2012

Phase 4: Super Frizz, Encasement, Teenage, Unruly, Sprouting

  • More budding and some good sealing of the ends.
  • Locs are looking fuller and fluffier.
  • Individual locs look frizzy i.e. it looks as though there is a hairy halo around each loc shaft:
    DO NOT CUT, SHAVE OR TRIM THIS OFF. It is an indication that the matting or encasement stage is underway.
  • Locs look less like little braids, interlocking pattern is not longer as readily visible.
  • The frizz can be tamed - to some extent - by 
  • continued braiding and banding at each wash, especially if you have lots of unsealed ends.
  • always shampoo and rinse your locs in a DOWNWARD direction ie from root to tip to avoid unwittingly pulling more hair strands out into the halo or completely out of the halo.
  • Wrapping and covering your locs overnight to avoid friction from your pillows and sheets while tossing and turning in your sleep.
  • Try braidouts: braiding and even twisting the locs together will help the halo appear smoother, and you'll have the added bonus of a cute hairstyle.
  • Don't fuss too much though - this IS still a normal part of the process and remember I told you to enjoy the JOURNEY :)

A well defined bud on a sealed end, amidst a sea of unruly teenage locs
Example of the loc halo

July 2013,
Encasement Phase: Locs are beginning to mature, looks frizzy and can be unruly :)


and not bothered
Sisterlocked and loving it. Frizz and all!

Phase 5: Uniform Matting, Sprouting

  • Areas of compaction (dense, uniformly matted hair) can be seen sprouting in either direction from the loc nucleus (or bud).
  • They are like stems sprouting downward toward the end of the loc and upward toward the root of the loc.
  • The hair closest to the root or base of the loc will always be the softest as it is unlocked or still a newbie loc (this is because it's comprised of your new growth).
  • The longer your starting length at installation, the longer you will spend in this phase i.e. the longer it will take to become fully locked simply because the matting stems have so much further to go/more hair to work through. #BePatient.

Example of unlocked end. Nucleus has formed higher up (near my fingers) and
 the stems/sprouts haven't yet reached this far down the loc
 (which is currently over 12 inches long).

I've folded this loc back on itself so that you can clearly see the differences along its shaft.
The tip is still quite skinny and if you look closely enough you can see that the locking pattern (loops or stitches) are still fairly clearly defined. 

As we work our way up the loc (towards the root or the base) we see the effects of swelling and encasement; the loc halo is clearly visible but the locking pattern is not.  

In the closeups below - you can see that the thicker part of the loc looks matted while the thinner end is a bit more loosely defined. 
NB - the flash was playing tricks in pic below on the left, there is no build up or grey residue in the loc. 

 Phase 5: Maturity

  • Hooray! You made it!
  • Loc ends are sealed. 
  • NB: if you have a looser curl pattern you may still have curly qs on the ends of your locs, this is OK. If you want blunt ends (or nubs as I call em) similar to those with more tightly coiled hair you can dead-end them (i.e. clip the curlies off). If you choose to do this make sure you really are locked because if you cut into an unlocked section of your loc you will get a bit of unravelling .. and a whole new set of curly qs lol!
  • Locs have condensed: they look thinner and feel firmer.
  • The loc halos are gone: they look neat and uniform. 
Taken in July 2011,
This client's locs were between 18 and 20 months old
Ignore the big ends of the top locs - there's another post coming on that. I want you to look at the 2 locs closest to the tips of my fingers, nearest her gold earring. These are condensed and matted uniformly (kink and all) 

April 2012
Sealed ends (lower third of the loc) ....
loc halos & encasement (middle third of the loc) ....
tight and skinny newbie portion (highest third of the loc, closest to the root)
In this photo, the portion of the loc closest to the tip is mature, the rest is playing catchup :)
Notice how the fat ends are gone? No, we didn't cut them off, over time they have condensed. That's why I keep telling y'all to be patient! :)
March 2013,
Fully sealed ends and mature locs

June 2013
Mature locs, uniform matting, sealed ends, good to go!
"AT LAST!!!"

So there you have it!
These are all pictures of my clients. If you choose to repostor share these images (I know you shouldn't but people do it anyway), please remember your manners and give us credit for our work "copyright" underneath or next to the image would be fab!

I hope this helped - if you found it informative - lemme know!

Til next time, BE Well xx

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