Your questions

Q. How do I go about getting small locks such as Sisterlocks or Microlocks?

As these locks can be more expensive than the other types, please do your research. Read as much as you can and speak to other people you know or even online.

You will then need to find a reputable practitioner and have a consultation so that he/she can assess your hair’s type and condition and explain the whole process to you in person.  If you are very patient what I like to describe as ‘experienced and practically hands-on’ you may fancy starting off micro-sized locks on your own without a practitioner using any number of methods such as braids, twists, extensions or any other method.

Q. Do I have to attend a consultation? I live far away and don’t want to make multiple trips. Can I have the consultation and installation on the same day?

It is not at all advisable to have your consultation and installation on the same day! You should view the consultation as part of your initial investment into getting locks – it is time worth spending. If you live far away, think about making the most of your trip by combining it with other activities such as shopping, sightseeing, visiting friends and family, going to the theatre, etc.

The consultation is like a job interview. You wouldn’t leave your current job and take up a new one without first going to the interview, meeting the people, reflecting on the experience afterwards to decide if it felt ‘right’, and then waiting to receive a written confirmation of the job offer. Imagine being offered a job in a location you may never have visited before; you have no idea how long it takes or what it costs to get there.  You’ve been given a vague idea of salary, but that too is unconfirmed. Do you bring your own lunch? Do you even get a lunch break? What about company benefits? You’ve no idea what your office will look like, how many other people will be sharing your space and equipment, or who your manager will be. You certainly won’t know if you’re going to gel with your new manager or co-workers.

Your consultation is vital because this is usually your first opportunity for you to meet face-to-face with the person who will be installing your new locks. You need to know whether you feel comfortable working with this person intimately for the foreseeable future.

You should also get an idea of the setting you’ll be in and decide if it feels right. You no doubt will have a list of questions to ask the practitioner – and you yourself should also be prepared to answer questions about your hair and lifestyle.

You will have some sample locks installed and your hair assessed to help both of you decide on the size of locks that are most desirable or best suited to you. Of course, it’s essential to find out how much your installation and ongoing maintenance will cost, too.

Q. Are small locks permanent?

You should consider them as being a permanent part of your lifestyle and not just a hair-do.  In theory, they can be unpicked in the beginning if the hair is not yet locked; however, whether locked or not, most consultants doing small locks do not offer a take-down service. Also, should you decide to undo them, you must be prepared for it to take a long time with some likely breakage and hair loss along the way.

Q. How much do small locks cost to install, how long does it take, and how do I avoid being ripped off?

A. Here’s the deal. The installation of small locks can be expensive primarily because of the time it takes to install them.

The factors to bear in mind are:

  • How long your hair is
  • How thick your hair is
  • How large your crown is
  • The size of locks you are installing
  • How many hours/days are available for the installation
  • How many people are doing your hair
  • The speed of your practitioner
  • Your consultant’s daily rate

Firstly, do your research and make sure your loctitian is TRAINED in what you are looking for. Get the proof if necessary and speak with other clients. There are lots of charlatans out there who aren’t properly qualified, yet are quite prepared to take your money. Be warned!

Let’s say you have found your fully trained consultant; now, let me briefly run through the above factors.

If your hair is very long, very thick, or your crown is larger than average then you’ll already be used to paying your hairdresser more than the person who has short hair, light hair density and a small head.

Equally, if you are installing micro-sized as opposed to the average or large sized locks then your installation will take longer.

At your consultation, ask your consultant how many hours and/or days she is allocating to your installation. Is he/she only able to work certain hours of the day, and is this the reason you need extra days?  This will be a major contributor to the overall fee. The vast majority of experienced consultants are able to install average-sized Microlocks and Sisterlocks within one to two days.

I’m sorry to say it, but if your consultant claims to be very experienced then it should not take one person three days to install four inches of locks. A genuinely experienced practitioner can install twice that length in two days!

If your locks are going to take longer than two days and your hair is, say, around 6 or so inches in length, find out if you are getting the ultra-micro-sized locks (in thick hair this can be 600-800+ locks). Don’t be conned into unknowingly getting smaller locks (at a seemingly great price) which you will forever be paying for, otherwise you will find yourself sitting in the chair every few weeks for 6 or more hours at a time for maintenance.  Besides, if you want to eventually re-tighten your own locks, you may well struggle to keep on top of it all.

If on the other hand your consultant is newly trained and has not yet gained her speed, then it is to be expected that she will be slower, but she may choose to compensate for this by giving you a discounted rate.

What, then, if you are blessed with 12+ inches of long and very thick hair?  Then the chances are that your installation will take more than two days and it may be better for efficiency’s sake to have more than one person installing your locks at the same time.  Under those circumstances it would be reasonable for you to pay them for the privilege!

Yes, you may have to save up to pay for your installation, but it should be an investment you feel is worth making.  Ultimately the onus is on you to do your research and choose well.  The most expensive is not necessarily the best, nor is the cheapest the worst for you. There are other important things to bear in mind besides just money.

Q. How much do re-tightening sessions cost?

This is a question to which there are many answers depending on where in the world you are, which city or rural area you’re in, and which consultant you ask. Again, call around to get an idea of fees in your area. Some consultants charge by the hour, some charge a flat fee per session and some charge for a set amount of hours which rises on a scale. The average client with well-maintained hair can get her hair re-tightened within 2-4 hours max and the best way to keep your costs down is to keep your hair in good condition and schedule regular appointments.

If your curl pattern is longer and your texture softer in addition to having micro-sized locks, AND you shampoo your hair often, you may need more frequent appointments.

Q. I still have a perm on the ends of my hair. Can I still have locks installed? Do I need to cut off my ends?

The first answer is yes, you can have locks installed in the new growth at your roots.

However, if your permed ends are not in a good condition, e.g. bad breakage, your consultant may suggest that you cut the perm off. She will tell you how many inches of new growth she would prefer to start working with, although around two inches and above (with permed ends) is considered sufficient to start locks and minimise slippage.

Q. I have always had very fine, low-density hair. Would my hair be suitable for small locks?

A. Many women have had small locks installed on hair they thought was too fine/thin or soft.

This is one of the reasons to have a thorough consultation. Your consultant will have a good look at your hair and she should have pictures of, or may even introduce you to, a client who has a similar hair type to yours to put you at ease. Having locks installed does not guarantee that your hair will begin to ‘grow’ thicker or faster, but what they can do is give the illusion of greater volume, once they have settled.

Q. I currently dye my hair to cover greys. Will this affect my ability to get small locks?

It won’t affect the actual installation, but in the short term, if you are not prepared to put colouring on hold for a while, you will encounter problems.  When you colour your hair, you have to rinse the colour out until the water runs clear.  That is a lot of manipulation for new locks, which will cause fraying along the length and slippage from either end.

Think about it like this… you’ve braided your short hair into small plaits and have had them for in for a few weeks. Imagine washing out the colour in those small plaits which have been in for a month. Your hair may look more like an afro at best, and you will then need go through the installation process again at your next re-tightening session. It will take more time and cost you more money.

Ultimately you need to be very patient whilst growing out greys so that your locks get time to settle in. Once your locks have matured, of course, you can go back to colouring your hair at reasonable intervals.

Q. I already have locks but I’m having problems. My consultant is not listening to my concerns. What can I do?

If you feel uneasy about it, consider getting a second opinion from another consultant and perhaps one who may be more experienced. Sometimes a new set of eyes can help make sense of a situation and put you at ease with what’s going on with your hair.