How Long Does It Take Comb Coils to Lock?

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Key Takeaways:

  • It can take 4-6 months for comb coils to start locking and up to 2 years to reach full maturity.
  • The locking time depends on factors like hair type, maintenance routine, and individual hair growth rate.
  • Keeping comb coils well-moisturized and having regular retwisting helps encourage locking.
  • Locing with comb coils creates defined, uniform locks compared to free-forming.
  • Having patience is key as achieving mature, locked comb coils can be a lengthy process.


Locs, dreadlocks, or dreads have become an increasingly popular hairstyle choice for many. Creating locs with comb coils is a neat, organized technique that results in defined, uniform locks. However, a common question for those new to the locing process is – how long does it take for comb coils to actually lock?

This comprehensive guide will evaluate the factors that affect the locking timeline for comb coils. It will analyze the process from start to finish, outlining what to expect at each stage. Readers will gain insightful knowledge regarding the time commitment and maintenance requirements to achieve fully mature, locked comb coil locs. Discover realistic timeframes, tips for encouraging locking, and what “locked” comb coils look and feel like. Become better informed on what goes into locing with comb coils from start to finish.

The journey to locked comb coils varies for everyone based on individual differences. However, understanding general timelines and benchmarks can set proper expectations. Continue reading to uncover the locking process for comb coil locs.

How Long Does the Locking Process Take?

The locking process occurs in stages for comb coils. Here are some general timeframes:

  • 4-6 months – Comb coils begin to lock and bud
  • 6-12 months – Locking progresses, coils start to mature
  • 12-24 months – Coils reach full maturity and are completely locked

Note these are rough estimates only. Locking times fluctuate per individual. Now let’s break down what you can expect during each stage.

Budding Stage (4-6 Months)

This beginning stage is when comb coils start on their journey to becoming locks. Around 4-6 months, coils will begin budding, meaning the base starts swelling and collagen hardens to form the foundation of a lock.[1] Budding signals the first step in the locking process.

During this stage, coils hold their form but are not yet fully locked. You may notice some frizziness between twists as the locking process causes hair to naturally mat and mesh together.[2] Be patient – budding means coils are developing, but they still have a journey ahead to mature.

Locking Progresses (6-12 Months)

From 6 to 12 months, coils transition from budding to exhibiting more progressed locking. Locks start to tighten and condense. You’ll notice coils start to stand straighter rather than looser curls.[3] The locks’ diameter becomes thinner as strands condense together in a loc.

Locks also begin holding for longer between retwists. Though not fully mature, your coils enter an exciting middle stage where locking noticeably progresses.

Mature, Fully Locked Coils (12-24 Months)

The longest stage, 12 to 24 months mark when comb coils complete their locking journey. Locks tighten and shrink to their fullest extent, becoming dense, compact, and perfectly cylindrical in shape.[4] Mature locks feel hard, tight, and fibrous to the touch versus loose curl coils.

Fully locked coils require less maintenance and hold their form for months between retwisting. Congratulations, around 1 to 2 years later your coils now represent mature, long-lasting locs!

Factors That Affect Locking Time

While the above outlines general timeframes, many variables affect an individual’s locking timeline:

  • Hair type – Coily hair with tight curls locks faster than looser curl patterns or straight hair. Kinky, tightly coiled hair can loc faster.[5]
  • Hair length – Shorter hair usually locks quicker than longer hair due to having less weight and volume.[6] Long, heavy hair takes more time.
  • Hair texture – Fine strands may take longer to tangle and mesh than coarser, thicker hair.[7]
  • Maintenance – Regular retwisting and upkeep encourages locking versus neglecting hair. Proper moisture also prevents breakage.
  • Hair growth – Faster growing hair needs retwisting more often to prevent unraveling. Slower growing hair locks with fewer touch ups.
  • Method – Backcombing versus free-forming can achieve faster locking than comb coils. However, backcombing causes more frizz.
  • Gel or wax use – Products create slickness which can slow locking. Limiting products after establishing coils allows faster matting.[8]

As you can see, many factors shape timelines – there is no “one size fits all” for locking with comb coils. Let your coils lock at their own pace. Focus on maintenance and enjoyment of the journey.

Locking Maintenance and Care

While patience allows coils to lock over time, some proactive maintenance can encourage the locking process:

  • Moisturize – Dry, brittle hair resists locking. Use natural oils or moisturizers to condition locks.[9]
  • Retwist – Regular retwisting every 4-8 weeks prevents unraveling as locks bud and form.[10]
  • Avoid buildup – Use a clarifying shampoo once a month to remove residue that causes slippage and slows locking.[11]
  • No wax – Limit waxes or styling products after the budding stage since slick hair won’t lock as quickly.[12]
  • Gently separate – Separate coils as needed, but avoid excessive combing or brushing.
  • Get trims – Trim dry, split ends that resist locking and cause breakage.

Proper care makes all the difference in keeping coils intact while the long locking journey runs its course.

What Do Locked Comb Coils Look and Feel Like?

How do you know once comb coils reach full maturity? Here are the tell-tale signs of locked coils:

  • Appearance – Fully locked coils are cylinder shaped versus loose curls, may shrink in length, and have a bumpy or ridged exterior.[13]
  • Texture – Mature locks feel hard, dense, wiry, and fibrous to the touch versus soft coils. The stiffness comes from collagen hardening within the loc.[14]
  • Maintenance – Fully locked coils require less frequent retwisting, only needed every 3-4 months.[15] New growth easily incorporates into the loc.
  • Feel – Located coils do not unravel or loosen when gently pulled on or washed. Mature locks maintain their compact cylindrical shape.[16]
  • Longevity – Properly maintained, fully locked mature coils can last for years with consumers reporting locks lasting 5-10+ years.[17]

Seeing and feeling the hardened texture, shrunken length, and reduced maintenance needs helps confirm when comb coils reach their locking potential after 1-2 years.

Locing with Comb Coils vs. Free-Forming

Some may wonder – how does locing with comb coils compare to free-form locs in terms of timeline?

  • Comb coils take longer – They require forming defined parts and sections. But this meticulous approach creates uniform, cylindrical locks versus free-form’s randomness.[18]
  • Free-forming can lock faster as hair naturally tangles and mats without manipulation. But the process is less controlled and leads to irregular shaped locks.[19]
  • With comb coils expect 4-6 months for budding, up to 12 months for locking, and 12-24 months for maturity.[20] Free-forming can take 2-6 months for initial locking.[21]
  • However, regular maintenance like retwisting makes a big difference in encouraging locking for either approach. Maintenance is key!

Ultimately there are pros and cons to each method. Comb coils prioritize uniformity. Free-forming emphasizes the natural matting process with more randomness. Choose your locing method based on your priorities and be ready for at least 12 months of the locking process.

Maintaining Patience Through the Process

Achieving fully locked mature comb coil locs is not a quick process. It requires:

  • Patience to allow natural matting and locking to occur over months
  • Consistent maintenance like re-twisting and moisturizing
  • Letting hair naturally lock on its own timetable

While rapid locking may sound ideal, slower locking means coils are less likely to unravel later on. Embrace the journey as an opportunity to enjoy your hair as it progresses.[22] Thriving, healthy locks are the ultimate goal.

Focus on gently encouraging the locking process through proper maintenance over time. And remember, all good things come to those who wait. Allow your coils the time they need to reach their locking potential.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the most important factor for locking time?

The most important factor determining locking time is an individual’s hair type. Tight, kinky curls that naturally tangle fast will lock quickest. Loose waves or straight hair that resists tangling takes longest. But proper maintenance helps any hair type lock over time.

Do shorter comb coils lock faster than longer coils?

Yes, shorter comb coils often lock faster since they contain less bulk and volume for hair to mesh and condense.[23] The heavier weight of long coils puts more tension that can resist locking. Trimming ends periodically helps combat this.

Can you speed up the locking process?

Outside of hair type, there are no definitive ways to drastically speed up locking. Some natural methods like rinsing hair in salt water or tea may encourage matting, but results vary. Focus instead on maintenance like retwisting and moisturizing to support steady locking over time.

How often should you get retwists for locking comb coils?

Get retwists every 4-8 weeks during the budding and initial locking stage, about the first 6-12 months.[24] Afterwards, mature locked coils only need retwisting every 8-12 weeks to maintain neatness as growth accumulates.[25] More frequent retwists aren’t needed and risk weakening locks.

Is it bad to combine or trim comb coils while locking?

No, as needed you can carefully combine two skinny coils or trim to reduce bulk and encourage locking. Avoid over-separating or aggressive cutting. Trimming damaged ends actually helps locks tighten up. Be conservative and gentle to protect your progress.[26]


Locing with comb coils requires dedication as it can take 4-6 months for coils to bud, 6-12 months for significant locking, and a full year or longer for full maturity. Individual hair factors greatly influence timeframes. Creating defined, uniform locks versus free-forming’s organic approach means allowing ample time for coils to mesh into cylinders.

But the payoff is achieving neat, lasting locs. Maintain patience through the lengthy process by practicing consistent retwisting, moisturizing, and gentle handling of coils. Refrain from overstyling and harsh manipulation. Embrace the slow locking journey and avoid shortcut methods that damage hair. With the right care, comb coils transform into perfectly locked locs worth the wait.

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