Dread perming is a chemical treatment that is used both by beauty salons and do-it-yourselfers to create or maintain dreadlocks. The hair is exposed to chemicals that bind the hair together to form the dreadlocks. Perming is a time honored process to break the protein bonds in hair and reform them so the hair takes on the shape you wish it to be. It can be a smelly messy process but women and men have been doing it since early last century, all surviving and thriving to tell about it. (ask your Mom or your Grandma, who may have had it done scores of times throughout their lives, obviously not perming to get dreadlocks but to add natural looking curl or body to their hair. African American hair is taken from curly or kinky to strait with a similar hair protein chemical restructuring process.)
Dread perms usually cost in the range of $450–550 at a salon, and although pricey, often prove to be the easiest and most professional way of creating dreadlocks. The process can take upwards of six to ten hours to complete (Depending on the thichness and length of your hair). Maintenance is a necessary and essential responsibility you must plan for, or you will end up with a huge mess on your head possibly resulting in the feared DREAD LUMP SYNDROME. There is a plethora of information on the internet about maintaining dreadlocks yourself or you may wish to employ the continued help of your stylist. (while you are getting the perm process done your stylist will be happy to talk to you about the maintenance process. But coming to your appointment having done a good amount of research on the internet will ensure that you and your stylist start out speaking the same language and ultimately come up with the best maintenance program for you.
The process works especially well on hair that is more difficult to dread, especially Caucasian or Asian hair. The dread perming technique begins with at least 6 inches of hair. The hair is then separated into appropriately sized dreadlock sections. Each individual section is then backcombed, or teased, to knot the hair and create a dreadlock shape. Depending on the method used, the dreads will either be tightly back combed, or more loosely formed. The new dreadlocks are either permed in as is, twisted, or wrapped around curlers to achieve form.
Once the chemicals are applied to the hair, each strand of hair begins to swell. This swelling causes the hair to forget its original form. The hair then begins to shrink back to its normal size, permanently taking on the current shape of the hair.
Dreadlocks created with a dread perm can take on the shape of the method used to set them- curled if they were wrapped around curlers, twisted or kinky. The perm also serves to 'rough up' hair so that it will more easily tangle. A natural look begins to occur a few months later when the hair loosens somewhat. Within the time-span of several weeks to months, depending on the setting method, dread-permed dreadlocks will look nearly indistinguishable from naturally grown dreadlocks.