This may seem like an answer to a question that has already been answered so many times before, but I am still being asked, “What is the difference between Standard Locs and Sister Locks”. So just for the record here we go:
Standard Locs are typically created using either the Comb Method/ Single Twist Method a.k.a Starter Locs or a Two Strand Twist Method. There are some clients who even lock their hair starting with extensions, of braids, twists or Loc extensions. The Starter Loc look, can also be worn as a style without actually locking, just as long as the hair is combed out completely, in-between grooming sessions.
Typically the Comb or single twist method is recommended for those with short hair, normally one to three inches long. The hair is twisted using a comb every few weeks as a method of training the hair to be in a rolled or twisted formation. During the shampoo process the hair will un-twist, but after several months (depending of the texture of your hair) the hair will eventually lock. The softer your hair is the longer it will take to lock. Kinkier textures will lock quicker 4-6 months, whereas straight, softer textures can take up to a year or more.
Once the hair locks, the Palm roll method is using to maintain neatness at the roots and to assist the Locs to form in a uniform manner. This is considered having your Locs groomed. If that new growth, the hair at the roots becomes wet, the twists will unravel and need to be re-twisted, groomed again for neatness and uniformity. Hair at the roots should never be twisted while the hair is dry. The hair should be shampooed and conditioned along with a hot oil treatment, before twisting/ grooming the roots. Twisting the hair at the roots while the hair is dry can cause breakage and traction alopecia.
This is one of the up sides regarding Sister Locs; even if your new growth gets wet, the hair does not unravel at the roots. After a Sister Locks grooming, know as re-tightening, your hair remains neat at the roots for a few weeks until it actually grows out.
But getting back to standard Locs, the Two Strand Twist is another option for locking the hair. If your hair is kinky enough, the twist won’t come a loose even with shampooing. After a few weeks, you would just return to the salon to have your new growth groomed for neatness at the roots and to make certain your Locs are progressing in a neat and uniform manner. Again, the shampoo, conditioning and hot oil is recommended for each grooming session.
The same is true in terms of locking from any type of extensions including Loc Extensions. Once the extensions are put in, you would return to the salon every few (4-6 ) weeks to have your hair properly groomed and the new growth re-tightened. Once your own hair reaches your desired length, you can have the extensions cut off.
Sister Locks a.k.a. SL are a great alternative to Standard Locs. The biggest difference between Standard Locs and Sister Locks are the size of the Locs and the method for creating them.
Sister Locks are created using a patented tool and technique developed by Dr. Joanne Cornwell. The method is much like crochet or macramé. But from my understanding, the knotting techniques used to create SL are really one of many knotting technique used for creating navy ropes. Because of these knotting technique used to create Sister Locks, the SL can be made very thin without popping. Often times, regular Locs will break and pop if created as thinly as Sister Locks are created.
Once your SL are put in, your hair isn’t actually locked, it will still take a number of months for the hair to actually lock. In the interim, your forming Sister Locks need to be braided each time you shampoo to make certain, that you don’t have slippage (the loosening of the knotting technique). I repeat, until your SL actually lock, your hair should be braided and secured at the ends for every shampoo, to protect the formation of the SL and to protect your investment into this style. Once your hair has dried, then the braided SL can be un-braided causing a crimping look. Just spritz the hair lightly with water or leave in conditioner if you don’t care for the crimped look.
To make certain that your SL maintain proper formation, the hair at the roots should be re-tightened every four to six weeks depending how quickly your hair grows. The longer you wait, the longer the touch up will take and in the beginning it could cause problems if you wait too long in-between re-tightening sessions.
The other upside of Sister Locks is the fact that because they are so thin, you have more and easier styling options such as roller sets, rod sets, curling iron (which I don’t recommend because of the heat on the hair) Nubian knots and other methods of curling the hair. Also, Sister Locks are lighter than regular Locks and tends therefore, to not to put a strain on the neck in the way that the weight of standard Locs can.
I have had both Standard Locs and Sister Locks. I like both, but when I do lock again, I will use the SL technique.
The down side of Sister Locks for some is the initial price of having them installed. The installation process is very time consuming and therefore the price is rather hefty. And the longer your hair, the longer the process takes and therefore the more the cost.
The other potential downside is if your new growth re-tightened to tightly, you could damage the hair at your roots a.k.a. traction alopecia. So I always recommend that clients not insist on tightness at the roots. Your re-tightening can be snug but not tight.
So long story short, Sister Locks are much thinner than Standard Locs, easier to style, weigh less and can cost considerably more to get started. SL are often recommended for those with very thin hair who want to lock, as opposed to the heavier Standard Locs.
Standard Locs can also offer an array of styling options and can be styled in beautiful up do’s, crimped, curled, or cut in to Bobb and other shapes. The consensus it though that Standard Locs can look more like braids or twists, Sister Locks can look more like loose hair.
It’s just a matter of the overall health and resilience of your hair and of course, your preference.