The Ultimate Guide for Sisterlocks: All You Need to Know

When Sisterlocks first came into the scene of hair care, there were mixed reactions towards the hairstyle. However, as time went by people learned to appreciate this natural and versatile hairstyle. Today, Sisterlocks is a go-to hairstyle for women with afro-textured hair. It can be a roller set, colored, braided or you can opt to wear it wild and free.  It is also used as a transition hairstyle for those looking forward to letting go of relaxed hair and embrace the afro texture.

But unlike other hairstyles that you can easily walk into a salon and have set, Sisterlocks are acquired through a unique technique and it is always best to work with a well-trained consultant to ensure that the trademarked hairstyle is executed correctly.

What are sisterlocks?

The name “Sisterlocks” implies a relationship with the well-known traditional because the hairstyles have some similar characteristics. Sisterlocks are very much like dreadlocks, only that they are much smaller/thinner. They look more like loose hair when compared to dreads, which makes them so versatile to wear.

The technique to achieve them is also different from that used in dreadlocks. The tiny locks are created using an interlocking technique. A special tool makes the process possible. It takes an experienced technician to install Sister locks with minimal damage to the hair and ensure the best possible outcome.

The origin of sisterlocks

Sisterlocks are a creation of Dr. Joanne Cornwell, who was committed to establishing a way for black women to wear their hair without the use of extensions or chemicals. She created the style in 1993 and since then, it has grown to become a popular natural hairstyle for people with afro-textured hair.

According to the founder, developing Sisterlocks to what it currently is was a process that involved multiple trials and errors. She would experiment with different techniques on her own hair before finally establishing a set of techniques that yielded good results. It took her about two years to get on the right track.

Dr. Cornwell is a professor, entrepreneur, and beauty specialist. She combines her knowledge and talents to understand African cultures and the role hair issues play in cultural identity. This is why she markets Sisterlocks not just to be a hairstyle, but a lifestyle too. It is a form of self-empowerment through embracing a natural hair-care system that is both beautiful and self-affirming.

Sisterlocks is a trademarked brand, protected under a patent. It therefore should only be installed by a certified consultant. It takes 4 days of intensive training to become a certified consultant. The brand focuses on three areas that include hair services, training, and the product inclusive of accessories. Through it, Dr. Cornwell hopes to help women improve their self-image and awareness. It also creates a business opportunity for those interested in becoming Certified Sisterlocks Consultants.

To facilitate her educational mission, the creator of Sisterlocks has authored two books: That Hair ThingOpens in a new tab. and The Sisterlocks Book: A Tapestry of DreamsOpens in a new tab.. In one of the books, she provides detailed information about Sisterlocks while in the other she highlights some of the historical and cultural reasons that make hair an issue within the African-American community. She also created a hair system for men known as Brotherlocks that are much smaller than Sisterlocks, but slightly larger.

Difference between sisterlocks and traditional locks

The obvious difference between Sisterlocks and traditional locks is size. Dreads tend to be thicker while Sisterlocks are thinner. As mentioned earlier, the technique used in the two also varies. Traditional locks are built from the root using the palm rolling method or crocheting. Sometimes a product like dreadlocks wax is used to hold the hair together. However, with Sisterlocks, an interlocking tool is used to build the locks from the ends of the hair to the root.

Another thing that sets apart the two hairstyles is the duration and cost of the process. Traditional locks can be created in about 3 hours depending on the technique used. Sisterlocks on the other hand can take a day or even more to install, especially if you have thick and long hair. Some consultants may choose to split the installation process into two sessions because of how time-intensive it is.

When it comes to cost, you will definitely be paying more for Sisterlocks than you would for traditional locks. Depending on your location, the cost for getting Sisterlocks can go as high as $800. If you are lucky, you can get a consultant that allows for a flexible payment plan to ease the dent in your pocket.

The level of versatility between Sisterlocks and traditional locks also varies. There is no doubt that they are both beautiful in their own ways but traditional locks can be a little difficult to style. Their weight and size often get in the way of styling. But because Sisterlocks are thinner and lighter than traditional locks, they can easily be styled in a variety of ways. Additionally, Sisterlocks can be done on both natural and relaxed hair, although natural coarse hair always gives the best results.

The style can be achieved with hair that is as short as an inch and a half. Dreadlocks on the other hand are mostly done with natural hair only. There are techniques to help achieve locks in straight hair but the process requires lots of patience to achieve the desired results.

Considerations to make before getting sisterlocks

Before you begin the journey with Sisterlocks, it is important that you are aware of the commitment it takes. A hairstyle is a good option for those that do not want to go through the stages of locking their hair but want much faster results.

Unlike traditional locks which take time to mature, Sisterlocks give you the convenience of locking immediately without the frustration that comes with traditional locks. To find out more if this is the hairstyle for you, consider the following factors:

Cost and time commitment

Sisterlocks are not cheap, although the price varies with a number of factors. In the end, they cost much more than everyday hairstyles. Most consultants price the installation at a standard price for a certain number of inches and then any extra inch beyond that is charged at a different rate.

The density of your hair can also influence how much you eventually spend on getting your Sisterlocks. You also need to factor in the cost of retightening. Some people may need more frequent reties than others, so make sure that you are comfortable with committing your finances to this journey.

Another thing you need to take into account when choosing Sisterlocks is the amount of time it takes to have them installed. It can take an entire day or even more to fully install Sisterlocks. In addition to that, there is frequent retightening that can be after every 3 to 6 weeks.

So, if you thought this was something you just walk into a salon and walk out a couple of hours later with a new hairstyle, you need to think again. Be sure that you are willing to commit to the extended hours to have the style fixed.

Lifestyle change

If you are used to having your hair stay open, tools like combs, brushes, and flat iron are considered essential. However, once you have Sisterlocks installed, they are no longer necessary. You will also not be using hair products, especially within the first six months of having the locks.

Hair products can interfere with the coils and curls of your Sisterlocks and you should avoid them until your stylist gives the green light. You also have to learn how to dry your hair with heating tools like the blow-dryer. You have to readjust to air-drying your hair. Once your Sisterlocks are about 6 months old, then you can use really low heat.


Caring for Sisterlocks is slightly different from your care for open hair. Your consultant will run you through the basics of caring for your Sisterlocks, especially when it comes to washing, based on the needs of your hair. You may be given a kit with some essential tools to get you started with grooming and shampooing.

Whenever you are washing your Sisterlocks, they need to stay as tight as possible. Generally, you need to bundle up your hair before washing it. Then proceed to apply Sisterlocks Shampoo directly onto the scalp and then work it from the root to the tip, using your fingertips as opposed to your nails.

In addition to washing your locks, you need to have them re-tightened every 3 weeks in the initial stages and then every 3 months thereafter.

It’s supposed to be permanent

Sisterlocks are intended to be a lifelong hairstyle. Ideally, anyone getting Sisterlocks has the intention to keep them forever. You will of course require regular maintenance to keep them looking their best. However, they are not like regular protective styles that you can simply cut off the extensions and brush your hair.

Although the idea with Sisterlocks is to have them as a permanent hairstyle, they can still be undone. The process is however tedious and most people often choose to just cut them instead. Nonetheless, the idea with this style is that you will love it so much that you may never have to consider wanting to undo them.

You need to find a certified sisterlocks consultant

The process of installing Sisterlocks is so specific that not anyone can do it. It is not something you can decide upon in a spur of a moment and walk into any beauty shop to have it set up. There are trained and certified Sisterlocks consultants that have the relevant skills to help you install Sisterlocks properly.

You can check the website to identify individuals that are certified. Also, as part of ensuring you get the right person for the job, you can ask for references and reviews to help you decide on which Consultant is best for you.

How to install sisterlocks

It is obvious by now that the first step to having Sisterlocks installed is to find a certified Sisterlocks technician. Once you find a technician, the service Is offered as a package that includes three visits.

First visit: consultation

The consultation process is important for both you and the technician as it ensures that your Sisterlocks are done in the best way possible for you. During the visit, you will discuss any questions and concerns you have about the hairstyle. The technician might need to know more about your hair care history, your preferred styling methods, and your lifestyle, to help determine if the style suits you.

A cluster of sample locks will also be installed. These can be about 8 to 12 Sisterlocks that are used to determine type average amount of time needed to complete installation as well as to see if your hair will hold. Sample locks also help in verifying the size of the locks and choosing the best interlocking pattern for your hair type.

Second visit: locking session

This is when the full installation takes place. It is the longest part of the process and sometimes may be divided up to manage your sitting time. It estimated that you can end having between 375 to 475 locks once everything is finished up. This is however just an estimate, some people end up with more locks. The total amount of time it will take to install Sisterlocks will depend on the length of hair you are starting with, the size of your head, and hair density.

At this stage you will also be provided with a ‘Starter Kit’, to help with the care and maintenance of the Sisterlocks. The kit typically includes an appropriate shampoo for starting your locks, some tiny rubber bands, and a sheet with useful information on how to groom and shampoo your locks. Your technician will also advise you on the best time to make your follow-up visit.

Third visit: follow-up appointment

In most cases, this happens after about a month of having your Sisterlocks installed. It should be scheduled after you have at least two shampoo sessions. During the visit, your technician will check to see the integrity of your locks so far. They will then be retightened and you will be further advised on how much longer the settling-in in the process will take. You can also discuss future styling options.

After this initial follow-up, you will still be making regular follow-up visits to your technician to retighten the locks. For most people, the appointment is made every 4 to 8 weeks.

Is there a right type of hair for sisterlocks?

The best thing about Sisterlocks is that they can be installed on almost any type of hair. Be it that you have natural or relaxed hair, they can be installed without any trouble. When it comes to length, your hair should be at least an inch and a half. To make styling easy for short hair, you can add Sisterlocks Extensions until your locks grow to a comfortable length.

When working with relaxed hair, Sisterlocks are only installed on the new growth while the relaxed part of the hair is left open. You will continue to style your hair as you would normally do and occasionally cut the relaxed part of the hair as your Sisterlocks grow. You need about 1.5 to 2 inches of new growth for the installation to be done.

There are 4 types of hair textures, and while all will work with Sisterlocks, coarse hair textures tend to thrive best with this hairstyle. Coarse hair texture makes the locks have more body and fullness to them and also makes the installation process easier.

How long does it take for sisterlocks to lock?

Many people that are beginning their journey with sisterlocks are often curious as to how long it will take for their hair to fully lock. Truth is that there is no fixed amount of time that is set for sisterlocks to form. It all depends on factors such as hair texture and how you maintain the sisterlocks. Coarse hair textures tend to lock faster than straight and softer textures. Additionally, if you take proper care of your sisterlocks to minimize unraveling, your hair will lock faster. It could take anywhere from 18 months to 3 years or more to have fully matured sisterlocks.

The stages of sisterlocks

Just like traditional locks, Sisterlocks go through a number of stages, before they can be described as being mature. There are four main stages of your hair locking to form Sisterlocks. They include:

Pre-locking phase

This is the first phase you will experience immediately after having your Sisterlocks interlocked. The partings of hair are clearly visible and the locks look more like tightly coiled curls or fine braids. It is the infancy stage of your new journey and the most delicate. If you fail to observe the precautions and advice given, you may ruin how your Sisterlocks eventually turn out. Do not rub the scalp too hard or use heat as this may cause the hair to unlock.

Budding phase

At this phase, your Sisterlocks will have started to thicken or swell. Your locks may appear fuller, thick, and fluffy. The locks lose their tightness and become loose. It is like it is trying to rebel against its initial tight and thin form. This phase is sometimes referred to as the ‘teens locks stage’ and marks the onset of the matting process.

To know if your locks are in the budding phase, you will notice a tiny bud-like knot along the shaft of the lock. This is usually within 2 inches of the end of the loc. Do not try to pick the buds loose as they are through to be the center point at which the matting process takes place. In the end, the buds will seal the end of your loc, making it impossible for the loc to unravel. In short, be happy when you spot a bud because it marks the way to finally having your hair completely locked.

Shooting phase

This is the stage at which the entire lock becomes more matted. You will notice that your hair becomes dense from the point of bud toward the bottom end. There is more interlocking happening within the loc and this will happen for quite some time before you get to progress into the next and final phase. However, as you near the scalp, the hair is loose and not locked, since it is new growth.

Contracting phase

This is the last phase your locks will go through before you get to enjoy rocking ahead of fully mature Sisterlocks. The density of the locks is now very solid and tight as your hair continues to increase in length. The hair strands within each lock are complexly intertwined to form mature and established locks. It will take you about 2 years, depending on your hair type to reach this stage. The locks are now looking thinner but feel firmer and are evenly matted all through your head.

Once your Sisterlocks mature, they will look neat and uniform. You are also able to achieve more styling methods. You will still need to be going in for retighten sessions to lock any new growth.

Caring for sisterlocks

The regular care for this hairstyle is quite straightforward and effortless, which is one of the things that make it very desirable. There is little need for product and you just have to do the basic and go for frequent retightening appointments.

Just like any other hairstyle, you will still need to wash and condition regularly. Always follow the directions given by your technician to prevent breakage, frizzing, or loosening of your locks. Before you start to wash your hair, braid the Sisterlocks into large braids to secure them. You can do 3 to 5 braids depending on the volume and length of your Sisterlocks.

Next, shampoo each large braid using the squeezing method rather than a massaging motion. Once you are done, rinse the hair in parts again. Always try to limit washing your hair to a few times a week to allow your locks to stay tighter for longer. Giving your scalp time in between washings allows the production of natural oils to nourish both the scalp and hair.

Limit heat to your Sisterlocks as they can sometimes cause your locks to break, especially if you lack the skill to properly use them. Let your hair air dry and when it impossible, use the lowest heat setting on the blow-dryer.  When styling, consider getting heat-free styles too.

Besides washing, other ways to keep the scalp clean include applying witch hazel using cotton balls. This prevents the buildup of dead skin cells and oils. additionally, when sleeping, make sure to use a satin bonnet or scarf to reduce friction between the hair and bedding while your sleep. Covering your Sisterlocks reduces frizz and keeps them clean by keeping lint away.

Are sisterlocks high maintenance?

The whole idea behind the creation of sisterlocks was to come up with a convenient and less demanding way for African women to wear their hair. But just how easy is it to maintain sisterlocks? The truth is that sisterlocks are not completely maintenance-free, especially in the initial stages.

You have to commit to retighten them every 4 to 6 weeks. In addition to retightening, you have to follow a strict washing technique. It is not just a matter of hopping into the shower and walking out with clean hair. You also need to pay attention to daily care to avoid issues such as build-up, which happens when you use the wrong products or too much product.

If you love to do-things-yourself and you were hoping that sisterlocks would save you a trip to the salon, then you are wrong. You need to have a certified sisterlocks specialist to help care for your sisterlocks if you wish to get healthy-looking sisterlocks.

So, the simple question to whether sisterlocks is a high maintenance style is that it all depends on what you were hoping to achieve. If you are looking for a hairstyle that allows quickly get ready in the morning without a lot of work, then this might work for you. Also, if you compared it to other styles that require weekly visits to the salon, the commitment that sisterlocks require is worthwhile.

Do sisterlocks break easily?

Since sisterlocks are thin, there is always a concern that they can easily break off. This is however not the case, if your locks were installed by a certified expert using the correct technique, you should worry about them breaking off. Just ensure that you do not put unnecessary strain on the roots when styling and your locks will bloom. Wear a bonnet or wrap a satin scarf on your head when you sleep to reduce tension on the locks as you toss and turn at night.

Most people that experience breakage is usually either because they over-style their hair or they did not have the locks installed with the right technique and ended up being too tight. Using wrong products can also make the hair start thinning and eventually the locks may break off.

Styles you can try with sisterlocks

By now you know that Sisterlocks are much more flexible when it comes to styling when compared to traditional locks.  To add some personality to your Sisterlocks and spice up your look, here are some of the styles you can try:

The High Bun

This is a classic updo and super-chic way to get your hair away from the face. It is an all-day style that goes especially well for those with long locks. It is great for everyday wear for functions like weddings or even a formal look. To achieve this, gather all your locks at the center of the head and wrap them into a ponytail. Wrap the extra length around the base and then secure with bobby pins. Other bun styles you can try include low buns, messy buns, and half-up buns. You can use different accessories such as scarves and hair clips to add an edge to the look.


It is also possible to add some curls to flatter your locks. Although some people using heat to set curls on their Sisterlocks, it is much better to opt for non-heat styling methods such as using foam rollers. You can also braid your Sisterlocks overnight and unravel them in the morning to form curls.

Side Swept Sisterlocks:

This is perhaps the most common style for Sisterlocks you will see on the internet. It puts your stunning facial features on display while securing the locks stylishly on one side of the head. It frames well almost any face type and is quite an effortless style to achieve.

Other styles

There is a lit more you can do with your Sisterlocks depending on your creativity. Just be sure that the styles you wear are not pulling so hard on your roots as this could lead to damage. Styling should not be painful or uncomfortable in any way.

How to color sisterlocks

As part of styling Sisterlocks, you may want to change or add color for a different and interesting appearance. It is possible to color your Sisterlocks, but only after they are fully matured. This is because the shampoo used to wash away the dye from your hair can disturb the locks, destroying any progress you will have made. It is therefore best to consider coloring your hair before having them installed if you are not willing to wait for them to mature.

Before you apply any type of dye to your entire head, make sure to first test it on one lock and watch out for any side effects. Thereafter, you can saturate all your locks with the dye and gently work it into the roots or the areas of the locks you wish to color. You will need to leave the dye in for longer than you would on open hair so that it can penetrate into the loc. This should take between 45 to 60 minutes. Once it is set, you can wash out the dye and dry the hair and style as desired. You can use a clarifying shampoo to ensure all the dye is out.

It is recommended that you continue to regularly moisturize and condition your Sisterlocks after dying. This is because most coloring products strip the skin of its natural oils, leaving the hair and scalp very dry. A moisturizing shampoo during washing can also help to keep the locks soft and moisturized.

Is this style for you?

Sisterlocks is not just a hairstyle but a lifestyle change. If you are looking for a hassle-free way to wear your natural hair, then this style might work for you. It lets you enjoy some of the benefits of open hair such as styling options but without the stress of daily combing and brushing. Although the initial time investment is a big deal. In the end, you will be saving a lot of time in making your hair look nice. Your salon visits are lessened and so is the amount of money you spend on hair products. So, although you spend a lot in the beginning to install them. Sisterlocks thrive on minimal products and you could end up saving more. Especially considering that the style is meant to last a lifetime.

This style is for you if the convenience it offers is something you desire, and you are also looking for a graceful way to embrace your natural hair. If you are still struggling to decide, you can get a firsthand review for those that are already rocking the hairstyle to find out how it is working for them.


My name is Ben, when growing my beard I had a lot of questions. Now that I have been able to grow a beard, I started this blog to share answers to the research I did to the many questions I had. I also share tips on how to maintain and grow dreadlocks and general tips to looking guide. I am all about looking good.

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