What is a good maintenance routine?

Ok here we go step by step style. You have your dreads in, they look cool but you can't wait for them to get tight and smooth. Here's the fastest way to get them there:

1. Assuming the dreads were just done you won't need to wash them for around a week. They are newly waxed and probably hurt a bit cause they are so tight. You have some nylons (pantyhose) to wear when you sleep to keep frizz away from your dreads. If your dreads get a little bit itchy towards the end of this week it's ok, that's natural. If the itch drives you mad, get your hands on Knotty Boys Soothing Scalp Spray. It's has a Peppermint Oil base and relieves an itchy scalp.

2. Ok, it's been about a week and you are ready to wash your dreadies. It's a really good idea to have rubberbands on the roots and tips of your dreads when you wash them, at least for the first few times. Wearing rubberbands makes the maintenance a lot easier. You won't have to always wear them but in the beginning they are pretty important. You will also loosen a lot less hair if you wash your dreads through a nylon. Use the same kind you sleep in but you will want to use a different one cause you can't sleep in a wet nylon. Washing your dreads through a nylon is pretty straight forward. Soak your dreads with water in the shower, squirt or rub in some Dread Empire Shampoo through the nylon, work it into the dreads, especially at the roots, and then rinse them really really well. You don't want to leave any soap in the dreads or on your scalp. If you want to slip of the nylon and check to make sure you rinsed all the soap that's perfectly fine, you won't loosen much hair by rinsing, especially if you have rubber bands. I'm not going to tell you that you have to use the Dread Empires Shampoo but I will tell you that if you do use it your dreads will get tighter, stronger and you hair will grow thicker...no kidding.

Now you have to dry them. The best way to get them dry is to lean over, letting them all hang down in front of you and squeeze as much water out of them as you can. As your dreads get really tight, and they will get really tight, getting them dry will be really important. Tight dreads can hold water and mildew can grow inside them. This is the second most common reason why some dreads get stinky. The first is not washing!! After you squeeze as much water out of them as you can squeeze some more...it just keeps coming. When it stops, or you just get sick of milking your dreads, spray them down with some Dread Empire Locking Accelerator. Squeeze the excess off so they can dry. Now throw a towel around them and wrap them up in it. Let the towel suck the extra water out of them for like 15 min. Now you can let them air dry, put them in a tam, or put the up in a dread band.

3. Now they are completely dry, all clean, and full of Accelerator this is the very best time to dread ball loose hairs, palm roll your dreads (Palm rolling is when you roll the dread back and forth between your palm like you are playing with Play-Doh®), and to use the clockwise rubbing method. Your dreads will knot and tighten easily now because their is a lot of friction between the hair strands. They may get a little frizzy while you work on them but that's totally cool, just dread ball the frizzys and work them into the nearest dread. You can leave your dreads fizzy like this for a day or two while you palm roll and rub them as often as you can. After you are all rubbed out treat your dreads to a small coat of Dread Wax. Work it in real good and smooth out any frizz. You can use a Hair Dryer to heat the dreads and melt the wax in really good, although be careful not to overdo it as it can dry your dreads out. If you prefer, the Knotty Boy Tightening Gel can be used as an alternative to Dread Wax or if you need extra help in smoothing down loose hairs, use in addition to wax. Your dreads will look and feel supa nice. They should be fine for up to a week.

4. About a week later you'll want to wash them again, same as before. You can continue this pattern or something similar for the duration but every 5th washing or so you can use nice hot water and melt all the old wax out of the dreads. Using this routine your dreads should get nice and tight in just a few months. After they have matured you won't need the rubberbands on the roots or the tips. It's a good idea to continue to wax them a little at least every two or three weeks or whenever you notice them getting really dry. Bleached hair especially has a tendency to dry out too much and that can lead to breakage. The wax has hempseed oil and vitamin's which give the hair nutrients and help it stay strong and flexible so you don't have to worry about them snapping off or anything. Other than that you should be good to go. Just don't sleep with your dog and get ticks or fleas and make sure you get them dry every time you get them wet. If you put wet dreads up in a tam and leave them there, there is a really good chance you will be growing some mildew.....eeewww....so always squeez'em dry.

Most small lumps will work themselves out as the dreads tighten and smooth out. Bends appear if the dreads tighten really fast. Some hairs lock and tighten at different speeds, since the dreads shrink as the tighten. If one side of the dread tightens faster than the other side it will be smaller and tighter and the dread will bend. Fortunately the other side will eventually tighten and as it does the dread will straighten itself out.

For really severe lumps that you have to do something about you'll need to comb them out. Just start at the tip and comb the hair out with the dread comb working your way towards the bump. Comb it out and then redread it. Work your way back to the tip. Use a rubber band and some wax to hold the tip tight while it re-dreads. Some loops and lumps add character or at least I think so, dreads are not supposed to be absolutely perfect and symmetrical.

The amount of hair in the dread determines how thick they are so you need to put more hair in them to make them thicker. Assuming you are using all your own hair, which I highly recommend, the only way to accomplish this it to increase the size of your sections. Combining dreads is the easiest way to do this. How mature your dreads are determines how you might go about combining them. If your dreads are real new (less than 4 weeks or so)you can probably just comb out two dreads, starting at the tips working towards the roots, and then redread them together as one larger dread. You may also be able to just rubber band two dreads together and leave them alone for a few months and they will merge but that only works if the dreads are pretty new, and if they are new you might as will comb them out and dread them together.

If you dreads are more mature combing them out will take too long and you will loose a lot of thickness from each dread when you comb it out. The best thing to do here would probably be to rubberband the dreads together at the root as they grow out. The tips and body of the dreads will probably never merge together but you can always trim that part off later if you let them grow out. You might also use a peyote stitch to hold the ends together to make it less obvious there is a split or "Y" in the dreadlocks.

Use the clockwise rubbing method and palm rolling (rolling the dread back and forth between your palms) to help the body of the dreads and the roots tighten. Tighten the tips by tip rubbing. Keeping them clean and free of residues helps them tighten tremendously. Of coarse spraying them with Locking Accelerator or using a light sprinkle of Dread Dust helps too. The Accelerator increases friction between the hair strands by separating the tiny shingles that make up each strand. This increased friction tightens them super fast. Sun helps the process too, spray the Accelerator in your hair and allow it to dry in the sun. Lightly sprinkle Dread Dust onto dry hair.

Palm Rolling Video

The fastest way to tighten roots is to use the clockwise rubbing method. Keep in mind that having an inch or so of straight hair at the roots is natural. When dreads are new you may have more loose hair at the roots but as the body of the dread tightens the roots will tighten much easier. The roots are always the last part of the dreadlock to dread and actually never fully dread because the hair continues to grow. Besides the clockwise rubbing method you can also palm roll your dreads to help hair at the roots tangle and dread. Palm rolling is when you roll the dread back and forth between your palm like you are playing with Play-Doh®. Rubber bands also help the roots by holding the hairs very close together.

Clockwise Video

What you want to do is dread the loose hairs together into their own little dread ball and then join the little dread ball with the big dread it's closest to. If you get the loose hairs really clean with the dread soap you can roll them in your fingers and they will form a little dreaded ball. Having the loose hairs clean and dry is important and the use of Dread Dust will make this so much easier. Get the ball nice and tight and then try to tie it in or get it stuck really well inside the larger dread. This is a little fiddly and it's a good idea to use the Loose Hair Tool rig now. After its stuck inside add a little wax. the larger dread tightens the ball will be dreaded inside. No more loose hairs!

Dread Balling Video

While your dreads are maturing you will want to use the wax after you wash and use the accelerator. The wax is also handy for smoothing down loose hairs or frizzy hair when you don't have time to dread ball it and fix it. After your dreads are mature you will probably use a lot less wax, just a bit here and there to smooth stuff down or help a tip come together. It's important to use it once in a while to give the hair nutrients so the dreads don't dry out and get damaged.

The most common problem with waxing dreads is overwaxing. You only need enough to hold loose hairs down and keep everything together as it dreads. The best way to wax dreads is to start at the roots and work it in as completely as possible. Then work your way up the dread adding just a small amount at a time and working it in completely. After you finish you can use a blow dryer to heat the dreads and allow the wax to soak in. This also eliminates whiteness caused by the wax sitting on top of the hair which is sometimes visible in darker hair.

You will know....trust me. They feel like cotton ropes. You can bend them and flex them but you can't squish them flat no matter how hard you try. It's also harder to see the knots they are all packed together and form a surface of hair.

Never backcomb mature dreads unless you want to undread them. Backcombing is used first to start the dreadlocks and just after to push towards the roots. Keeping the hair at the roots knotted helps it dread as it grows but backcombing hair that has started to lock up will undread it. It's a good idea not to backcomb any more after the 2nd week or so. Rubberbands will hold it tight. It's natural to have an inch of hair at the root even 2 inches when the dreads are new. This is where the new growth decides to knot and lock up. If you want to help this tighten use the clockwise rubbing method. You can also alternate wearing and not wearing rubberbands right at the root. Both will help the roots lock.

If you don't mind a little extra maintenance you can start them at about 8cm. You'll have to tighten them by back combing and wax them pretty regularly. Rubber bands will help keep them together until they start to lock up. Starting dreadlocks short takes a bit longer but when they grow out they will be super nice and very smooth.

Usually the hair is about 20% shorter after its dreaded. So if your hair is 15cm long before you dread it, it will be about 12cm after you dread it. Thinner hair shortens more, thick hair shortens less... also the fatter you make the dreads the more it shortens the hair.

The following are modest averages. This will vary from person to person depending on your hair type and your daily routine. If you follow the instructions on this page, chances are your dreads will tighten faster.

Ok, enough of the disclaimer, here is an approximate time line:

Day one - Happy birthday dreadies! They look like.....well pretty much like dreads! Depending on the length your hair was when you started some of them may be standing straight up. Don't worry, wearing a nylon over them when you sleep will train them to stay down.

Week 1 - They look about the same. They might not be standing up as much. If the excess wax wasn't worked in at first it probably has by now or it's been rubbed off by all that palm rolling you've been doing. You may notice them looking flat or squished where you sleep on them. This is not a problem, you can palm roll them to make them round. Being flat doesn't hurt them. Keep the rubber bands on the roots and tips as long as possible. They will make the first few washings a lot easier on your dreads.

Week 2 - They are looking a bit ruff, a bit frazzled. Some hairs that seemed tight initially are now obviously looser. This is normal and shouldn't worry you. Dread ball these loose hairs and find homes for them. Wash the hair, spray it with the accelerator, dry it, and then dread ball for the best results. A small amount of wax smoothes frizz out.

Week 3 - The bodies or middles of the dread are tightening ever so gradually but it's hard to tell. Keep palm rolling them, it will pay off. Seems like every loose hair that could pop out is popping out. Just dread ball them and work them into the nearest dread. Wash the hair, spray it with the accelerator, dry it, and then dread ball for the best results.

Week 4 - Your dreads have good days and bad days but they are noticeably tighter. The roots are looking long, clockwise rubbing will help. Stay on top of loose hairs.

Week 6 - The bodies of the dreads are starting to smooth out and if you've had the rubberbands on the tips they are getting tighter too. Looking good.

Week 8 - As the dreads tighten they shrink a lot. They might get lumpy and crooked if one side shrinks faster than they other. That's ok, they will even out, have faith. Your dreads are going through dread puberty.

3 Months - They are smoothing out and feel tighter everyday. Even Mom thinks they look pretty cool. Less wax is needed. Using clockwise rubbing and keeping them clean and free of residues will help the roots dread themselves instead of growing out straight.

6 Months - Yea, you know they look phat. The shrinking is over, now you'll start to get some length. They feel tight, like little ropes, but they are still tightening and smoothing out. They can hold a lot of water, make sure you squeeze them dry.

1 Year - After a year the only thing that isn't tight is the new growth that's always growing. You may have a retarded tip or two but other than that it's all good. You'll want to continue your washing routine and stay away from other soaps with residues. If it has residues it can kill your dreads by loosening them from the inside and preventing them from drying properly thus beginning to grow mildew. Keep rubbing the roots clockwise to help the new growth dread and wax them once in a while to prevent drying and breaking.

So your son/daughter wants dreads and you don't feel it's in their best interest. Well dreads, contrary to the beliefs of some, are not an inherently unclean or unsanitary hair style. They are washed and cared for in much the same way that braids are. They will not make your child smelly or dirty and won't damage their scalp or the roots of their hair. Unlike tattoos dreads can be removed quickly and inexpensively by cutting them when your child grows tired of them. Most workplaces accept well maintained dreadlocks and those that don't are usually content with an all black dread tam (hat for holding dreads). Dreads are not associated with any cults or illicit behaviors, however they are associated with vegetarianism, veganism and other natural and heath conscious life styles. Dreading forces one to look inward for strength and assurance and promotes spiritual growth as well as pig headedness....I mean determination. Dreads are very inexpensive to maintain compared to normal hairstyles which require maintenance by a salon. Pomade, mousses, gels and expensive conditioners are replaced by a highly biodegradable, environmentally friendly wax.

So they are sanitary, actually healthy for the hair and scalp. They are socially liberal rather than conservative, but not offensive in any way. They build self confidence and promote spiritual growth. And they allow your child to express themselves in a natural and non-permanent way.

It's your call.

Yes, blonde dreads look amazing! Dying or bleaching the hair is easier before its dreaded and the dying and bleaching process will leave the hair a bit dryer and more fried which will make it dread faster. So if at all possible bleach or dye before you dread. If you dye or bleach it after its dreaded wait till the hair is good and locked, about 10 to 12 weeks. Wash out all the wax with hot water so the color will stick. After you bleach or dye, do not use the conditioner that comes with the kit as it will ruin your dreads. Don't over bleach it because the dreads can get dry and brittle and possibly break off. After you bleach your dreads they will feel dry and tight, use a little Dreadheadhq or Knotty Boy wax to smooth them down and replace the nutrients.

You can swim with dreads. Chlorine won't hurt them and salt water helps the hair dread faster. New knattys that haven't tightened up yet will probably loosen up a bit every time they get wet. Its ok, doesn't mean your doing anything wrong or that they are never going to lock up, it just means they are not real tight yet. If you are going to be doing a lot of swimming with new dreads you should really put rubberbands on the roots and tips of the dreads. This will prevent a lot of loose hairs from slipping out. Always squeeze your dreads and get them as dry as possible. Don't let them sit with water in them or they will smell like a wet towel. I thought I'd mention this here cause if you swim a lot your dreads will be wet a lot : )

Yes you can! It's a little difficult, well I'd say it's more than a little difficult, but it's been done and you can do it to. If you're having trouble finding someone to dread your hair, you can go ahead a dread 3/4 of your hair and beg someone to just finished the back. If 3/4 of your hair is already dreaded the back really doesn't seem like much.

The sweat won't hurt your dreads at all, it's just salt water really. Lots of sweating though means lots of showers and those can loosen new dreads. Running water over dreads to rinse them won't loosen them much but repeated scrubbing and pulling while they are soapy will usually loosen more than a few hairs. This is natural and usually isn't much of a problem unless your shampoo has conditioners, moisturisers, or scented residues. If your hair is very short wearing rubber bands at the root and tip of the dread will hold the hair secure giving it time to dread and tighten. Also not to beat the nylon thing to death but wearing a nylon (panty hose) stretched over your dreads while in the shower and washing the dreads through the nylon will usually prevent a lot of hair from coming loose from the dreads.

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Dreads are not a hairstyle that you undo every night before bed, once they lock up there pretty tricky to undo. This doesn't mean your going to have them for the rest of your life. Knotty Boy have introducted the 'Dreadlocks Removal Kit' with deep penetrating shampoos and conditioniers that attacks the Dread Wax and loosen your dreads. There is also the option to cut your hair short, not shaved, but short, probably around 6cm or 8cm when you want them out.

Now let's say you dread up your hair and neglect to tell your parents. (I'm not saying this is a good thing to do or trying to give you ideas, if your parents are against it have them read the "note for parents".) When they arrive home from their vacation in NZ they freak and want it gone. Well if it's only been dreaded for around a week, you could undread it. A hot shower to melt out all the wax and a lot of conditioner would get it undreaded unless it's really long and fine, then it may take a little more work.

After importing and supplying DreadheadHQ and Knotty Boy to the dread heads of Oz for some years, we started on a quest to find the ultimate in dread products. That led us to designing our very own dreadlock product range, Dread Empire. Not only is Dread Empire made in Australia, but it embodies the awesome characteristics from both the DreadheadHQ and Knotty Boy products. But which one should I chose? DreadheadHQ represents great value for money with serving sizes being a little more generous. Everything from the Knotty Boy is packed with all natural ingredients and sweet smelling essential oils ranging from peppermint to hemp to name but a few. And finally, Dread Empire strives to capture the best qualities of both. Free from Lauryl Sulphates and packed with nutrient goodies and essential oils, these products also smell delish! In a nusthell, you can't go wrong with any of the products. We've tried to expand the line up to simply give you more choice and it's all up to personal preference. We are committed to selling only premium products designed especially for dreads.

Google this topic and it won't take long before you'll see that the dreadie community is really divided when it comes to using wax. Some say the neglect method is the only way. We recommend the use of wax if you want healthy, well groomed dreadlocks. Wax will nourish the hair, bind and tighten the dreads and keep them smooth. We always advise that a little goes a long way and if you are concerned about waxy build up then a good soak in hot water every 6 months or so to melt the wax will do the trick nicely.

So, if you prefer the messy look and don't mind how long it takes for the dreads to tighten and mature then perhaps wax is not for you and that's ok too. Products such as the Tightening Gel and Dread Balm offer a lighter, wash out alternative to wax. Most importantly though is that you use a Dreadlock Shampoo which is free from conditioning residues which normal shampoos leave behind. This will keep your dreads clean and won't inhibit the locking process.

Dread Balling is a great way to take care of loose hairs!

Dread Balling

Here\'s the problem... loose hairs. It happens to even the most mature dreadlocks.The good news is they are easy to fix.

First you want to gather the hairs and figure out which dread they are closest to, which one they belong in. This can be a tough call. If you have a couple mirrors handy they can be useful. After you get a group of them that you know go together, roll them between your fingers as shown.

Try to fold the wad of hair as you are rolling. This will help them knot faster. In the second rolling picture you can kinda see the ends folded over looped back under the thumb (use your imagination!).

Continue to roll this hair until it knots into a small ball. This may take some time at first but once you get it down you\'ll be able to do it in less than a minute with your blast shield down. Strong with you the force is...

If you are having trouble make sure the hair is oil free. Wax does not help this process either. You will use wax soon but not yet. Right now clean dry hair is what you want. Clean dry hair sprayed with Locking Accelerator given a chance to dry will make knotting easier.

So after you get your ball, find a place in the base of the dread and stick the ball in. Twist and wrap it around the other hair as much as you can so it doesn\'t pop back out. Use a little wax to glue that bugger in there. You can also fire on a rubber band for a few days to hold the ball in the dread. As the dread grows the dread ball will dread in with the rest of the hair. Yippie no more loose hairs!

Palm Rolling

Palm rolling is used to help dreads tighten and get loose fuzzies matted into the dread. It works much better than twisting with the fingers. To palm roll you simply grab the dread between the base of your palms and rub it back and forth vigorously. It's a bit like rolling Play-Doh between your palms to make it long and skinny. Rub the dread where it's loose, usually at the roots. Palm rolling works well anytime but the best time to palm roll is right after washing your dreads and spraying them with Locking Accelerator and letting them dry with Accelerator on them. The hair will feel dry and fuzzy and it will tangle really easily. After a good palm rolling session, you can work a little dread wax into them to smooth them out.

Clockwise Rubbing

Finally the key to tight roots!! This seems to be the MOST effective way to lock up roots. Even mature dreads have some unknotted hair at the roots but clockwise rubbing makes an "instant" difference. In 10 minutes of rubbing you will notice results. Just grab a dread at the root about 1cm from the scalp. Squeeze it lightly between your scalp and the tips of your fingers rub it in clockwise circles, switch hands if you need to but remember to stay with the same clockwise direction. Why clockwise? Because nearly everyone's hair grows in a clockwise whirl pattern on their scalp. Rubbing the hair around in this direction works with it's natural "grain" rather than against it.

After a couple minutes the dread should have a little "poof" or wad of knotty hair at the root. This is what you want. After all the roots are like this you can palm roll a tiny bit of wax into each one. These poofs will quickly tighten over the next week or so. Help them along by finger rubbing them and or palm rolling them.

Products can either help or hinder this process depending on when and how you use them so it is important to get this part right. Here are some tips to get the most out of clock wise rubbing and the products:

Clockwise Rubbing is a way of making knots. When you are trying to make knots you want clean hair with as much friction as possible. Locking Accelerator is great for improving friction, especially in clean hair. If you don't have Accelerator, freshly washed and dried hair is much better than dirty hair. You always want to create knots when you have the least amount of wax in the hair. If you try this right after waxing it's not gunna work. The wax can be used after the knots are created to help them lock. Only a small amount is needed.

Clockwise rubbing can be done in the shower as well. For best results wash and rinse your dreads like normal. Then soap them up all over again, you'll get mad suds. Now with the soap all over the hair clockwise rub the dreads...When you're done rinse them well. They will feel tight and fluffy when they dry...shweet!

Rubberbands and Clockwise Rubbing

Rubberbands actually make the clockwise rubbing easier . The hair you are rubbing is usually unlocked growth right at the scalp, and since the rubberbands are about 1cm from the scalp they mark the perfect place to hold it. This will give the hair enough room at the root to form knots easily. You should always have any rubberbands at the roots snug but not tight. They should be tight enough that they will stay where you put them but if you attempt to roll them up or down the dread it should be possible to move the without much effort. The reason for this is that the hair needs a little room to form knots and adjust itself as it\'s dreading. If it\'s locked down too tight it can actually work against you.

Tip Rubbing

Grab the dread about 1 1/2cm from the tip (the tip is end that is opposite the root) and squeeze it between your thumb and forefinger. Now press the tip that extends past your thumb and fingers firmly into the palm of your other hand. While pressing, rub the tip against your palm in a circular direction about 50 times or until you get tired. You should notice the hair at the tip start to tangle and tighten and maybe flare out a bit. After you've rolled it and gotten it as tight as you tight and as tangled as you can, roll it in a circular motion between your fingers, much like finger rubbing. This will help tighten the knots a bit. If it doesn't feel very knotted you can go back to rubbing it in your palm and repeat. After you get it nice and knotty it's time to finish it off. Roll it back an forth a few times with a little wax, it will flatten just a little and you'll end up with a nice looking tip. Now you can leave it as is if it feels like it will stay or you can use a rubberband to hold it. The rubberband should be tight enough that it's not going anywhere.

Finger Rubbing

Finger rubbing is great for making knots in the roots, tips and even the body of a dread. It can be used as an alternative to palm rolling in thinner dreads and it's the best way to make dread balls out of loose hairs that need to be stuck back into their dread. Again you're rubbing the hair in a circular motion, clockwise if possible, to create knots. How you hold the hair and the size of the circles will vary and that's fine. You'll figure out what works best for you with some practice. You'll probably do the majority of the rubbing between your thumb and forefinger (pointer finger) and you'll no doubt switch off hands as your fingers get tired. Of course the same ideas apply hear as far as products go. Clean is great, clean and Accelerator is even better.


This is a method for tightening up the loops on mature dreads. Please note that crocheting should not be used for tightening roots. The problem with using it to tighten roots is that the hair at the base of the dread that you have crocheted will be twisted instead of dreaded. Loose hair at the roots can eventually get knotty and dread up but twisted hair will continue to lay twisted since it will be held at both ends. The roots will look much better right after you crochet them but the hair in the twist will never have a chance to get knotted and it will never dread. The long term effect of this will be dreads that look much thinner and bend more easily in some areas than others which makes them appear broken or weak in areas. And it kinda looks like a braid in the middle of your dread. So don't do it! :)

Used correctly however, crocheting is still great for tightening up the slack in dread loops that appear in the body of the dread. Remember that ALL dreads are supposed to have a little loose hair at the root, about an inch or so. This is where the dread will eventually start to dread itself. Crocheting this hair will make the dreadlock look tight but it will prevent it from dreading itself as it grows. The dread needs that area of loose hair to form tangles and knots which will eventually tighten to become new dread.

So how do you avoid these problems and get the most out of this technique? First only crochet mature dreads that are really loose in one area but tight in the others. One sign of this is a loop of hair to sticking out of the dread. Use the crocheting to tighten the loop by sticking the dread through the loop and pulling it tight.

A dread that needs crocheting.

A dread crocheting itself.
Dreads almost never do this in captivity.

You should only need to pull the dread though once to take up the slack in the loop. Over crocheting a dread will also cause it to twist or turn up instead of laying down with the rest and it can thin the dread as mentioned before. I would recommend giving the dread plenty of time to suck in the loop by itself. Only when you are sure that the loop is permanent should you crochet it.

The twist looks way better than a flap or loop of hair any day.