Contrary to popular belief, you can and should wash your dreadlocks. Just as with regular hair, it's important to remove oil and dirt from your scalp. The best shampoo for dreadlocks is an all-natural, residue-free shampoo with as few ingredients as possible. While washing your dreads with baby shampoo won't hurt, your best bet is a shampoo made specifically for dreadlocks.
Residue can build up in dreadlocks and cause serious scalp itch and a bad smell. Washing your dreads with a limited-ingredient shampoo that contains no dyes or conditioners is your best bet for avoiding buildup. As a general rule, if a shampoo has ingredients you can't pronounce, avoid it. Because you can't brush your locs, they trap the hair that would normally fall out. Trapped hair plus trapped residue leads to unsightly, uncomfortable dreads.
Toxic Ingredients in Baby Shampoo
While baby shampoo will get your dreads clean, it's not a limited-ingredient cleanser. According to a 2011 report in Forbes magazine, some of the ingredients in commercial baby shampoo are known carcinogens. Two of these ingredients are quaternium-15, which releases formaldehyde, and 1,4-dioxane. If you can't find dreadlock shampoo where you live, use an all-natural baby shampoo that does not contain these ingredients. Trapping carcinogens in your locs isn't a good idea, especially when there are many natural alternatives.
Beneficial Shampoo Ingredients
One of the biggest problems with dreadlocks is scalp itch. Even if you keep your dreads clean, tightening and twisting your hair can cause itching. Washing your locs with a shampoo that contains tea tree or peppermint oil provides antiseptic benefits as well as an itch-relieving tingle. If you can't find a shampoo that contains these ingredients, add a few drops to a dye-free, lye-free liquid shampoo. Lavender oil is another beneficial antiseptic with the added benefit of a pleasant smell.
Proper Washing Technique
When it comes to sudsing up your dreads, rinsing is your best friend. No matter what shampoo you use, give your scalp a good scrub and squeeze the suds through your locs as you rinse. Try rinsing twice as long as you did before your hair was dreaded and keep squeezing your locs until there are no more suds. Washing your scalp with plain baking soda and rinsing with diluted apple-cider vinegar helps remove itch-causing, dirt-trapping buildup.