The Sister Locks Dilemma

Dr. Joanne Cornwell -Sister Locks Founder

Sister Locks are a great locking option.  One thing that’s really cool about them is, once they’ve locked, you can get them wet immediately after grooming (re-tightening) and your hair will still look fresh. Unlike traditional locks, Sister Locks won’t uncoil at the roots when exposed to water or moisture.

The dilemma is, what’s great about Sister Locks (the re-tightening process) can also be what causes you to lose your hair,  if the re-tightening is done too tightly.  The grooming should not be tight to the scalp.  It’s true that when the hair is tightened to the scalp it will last longer, But when the hair is too tight it can pull the hair right out of the follicle, causing traction alopecia /balding.

While some clients understand this and never want their hair tightened all the way to the scalp (it can also show more scalp than hair), other clients insist on the hair being as tight to the scalp as possible.  This is not a good option.  Please consider the long-term effects of this if you wear Sister Locks, or for that matter, the long-term effects of any hairstyle.  It is our goal for your hair to be styled in a way that is not only attractive, but also safe and healthy.

If you want to aspire to have long, luscious and healthy Sister Locks, like the ones worn by Dr. Joanne Corwell, seen above, then you would want to avoid having your Sister Locks excessively tightened.


20 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Lelia Hall-Smith on November 3, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    I love this look. What does she do to curl her sister locks? My sister locks are getting rather long (half way down my back), but shorter on the sides. I have been debating whether to cut my hair short, again.
    This may be an alternative because my hair would not have to be an even length all over and would still have the versatility that long hair offers.


    • Hi Lelia,
      I don’t know how Dr. Cornwell curls her hair. There are many options including flex-rods. Or when I had my Sister Locks I once curled my hair using brown paper bag strips. Remember that technique? Since her hair is so long, I would think that the rods would be the easiest. But she might even use hot curlers since she often speaks them as an option for curling Sister Locks. I personally never added that kind of heat to my Sister Locks. But the options for curling are endless.


  2. Posted by Roz on November 3, 2010 at 9:21 pm

    Hello Anu,

    Do you do Treebraid Weaves and if so whats the cost?


  3. Posted by Kesha on November 4, 2010 at 8:37 am

    Yes, I have this problem! I am going bald on the sides and I never thought this would happen once I gave up perming my hair! So since I am faced with this again I will keep this advice in mind- no more tightening to the scalp. Thanks for the info, Anu.


    • Hi Kesha,
      This is something that each woman should be conscious about, protecting her hairline, no matter what style it is or who the Stylist is. Natural hairstyle can be just as damaging as chemically processed styling, if not done properly. I’ve worn my hair natural all my life from braids, to twist, to Locs, to Sister Locs, etc. Once I notice a style is taking a toll on my hairline, I immediately change the style or ask the Stylist to make an adjustment. Consequently, after over 40 years of natural hairstyles, I have no hairline loss. I tell Sisters all the time, braids (or whatever) doesn’t take your hair out, but hair handled, styled improperly will.

      Hope to see you soon.


  4. Posted by heather boyd on February 4, 2011 at 11:38 pm

    Sea salt loc accelerator spray by nappy locs. Is this ok to use on sister locs. How does it effect your hair. Sounds like it simply dries it out causing it to loc faster.

    Thanks in advance


    • Hi Heather,
      I’ve never heard of sea lock spray, but if it is sea water, we all know that it’s salty water. And salt or saline water is drying to the hair. Yes, drying could make your hair lock faster but at the expense of drying your hair out, I don’t think it’s such a great option.


  5. Posted by Junie on February 23, 2011 at 11:23 pm


    I would like to know what’s the differences between Loc’s and Sister Locks? I have natural hair and I’m thinking of having my hair loc.




    • Dear Junie,
      The difference between traditional Locs and Sister Locks comes down to the techniques used to create them and the size of the Locs. Traditional Locs are created by a palm roll technique that trains the hair to be in a cylindrical formation. This technique often starts out being done with a comb and as the hair grows the Stylist then transitions from the use of the comb to using the hand to rolls the Locs into formation.

      Sister Locks are created using a patented tool created by the Sister Locs founder. The tool is very much like a crochet hook. The hair is parted in tiny box sections and knotted or knitted using this tool. Because of the technique the Locs don’t snap or break despite their thinness; unlike traditional Locs which can snap when created too thin. The great difference between Sister Locks and traditional Locs is that once your SL are formed, the new growth doesn’t come undone when your hair is exposed to wetness, so SL stay looking neat even if you workout or go swimming or shampoo the hair. With traditional Locs once they are exposed to wetness, the twisted new growth is likely to unravel and look fuzzy. For information check out the Sister Locks website.


  6. Posted by Althreasa Foster on April 1, 2011 at 9:24 pm

    Hi my name is Reese.
    Im really thinking about making the transition to Sister Locs, however I was wondering how does the texture and length of my hair my effect the initial process.
    I have shoulder length hair, that is semi natural (meaning my ends are permed and from the scalp to about half the hair shaft down isn’t). Do I have to cut my hair? And/or will the locking process take longer because of the half permed half unpermed texture of my hair.


    • Dear Althreasa,
      The hair that is permed will take longer to lock and it will have flat formation. My suggestion is to cut off the permed hair, but of course that is your decision. Most SL techs charge by the length and you will have to pay for all the length that you have. Also, the permed part with look a little like (excuse the expression) rat tails. Hope this has been helpful.


  7. Posted by Chrissy on June 3, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    Hi Anu,

    I recently went to Khamits Kinks for the first time since my big chop. I was so empowered by the wonderful group of natural hair stylists. I’m loving my natural hair and find myself gravitating towards sisterlocks. I have researched this locking method and have some questions. Is it common for traction alopecia to occur from monthly retightenings. I have also read of locks thinning or falling out, did you experience any of these side effects. Can you recommend an experienced sisterlock consultant in the NYC area. I appreciate your advice.


    • Dear Chrissey,

      Glad to know you enjoyed your Big Chop experience at Khamit Kinks. In terms of Sister Locks, the traction alopecia only occurs when the hair is re-tightened too tightly, and it’s not necessary to re-tighten to that degree. And of course, I would recommend the fabulous and very much experienced Sister Lock consultants at here at Khamit Kinks. Let us know when you’re ready.


  8. Posted by Mercy Nagel on June 23, 2011 at 10:55 pm

    Hi Anu,

    My name is mercy and I have had sisterlocks for three years. after my locks were installed, i moved to an area without lockitians. i travel 3 hrs to get my hair re-tightened. i have noticed that my locks have changed and I do not love them like i used to before i moved i have so much frizz hair sticking out of my locks. some trainee consultant suggested that i cut all the frizz hair and it will look clean. is there any products you might recommend and what do you think about cleaning the frizzes, is that a practice done? help, i am really disappointed with my locks right now


    • Hi Mercy,
      Have your Sister Locks ‘manicured’ to trim away the fray hairs that are sticking out is a good idea. But it has to been done by someone with patience who will take their time and not inadvertently cut into your SL. If you are not pleased with the services provided by your current SL tech, I would recommend finding another ‘highly recommended’ tech and decide to make the sacrifice to travel to her no matter how far it is.


  9. Posted by Jem on July 3, 2011 at 12:49 am

    Hi Anu,
    I have had my sister Locks for just about 2 years… They are giving me a lot of trouble. I went to the re-tightening class and have been maintaining them for about a year on my home getting an occasional re-tightening from my former SL consultant. My locks have not shown much growth, they are stubborn to lock, and the ends are super frizzy causing me to chop off any growth, because it looks so frizzy. Someone I went to said I should chop them off and start fresh because the grid was done improperly during installation. I really don’t want to do that. I need help, do you have any recommendations for me? I live in Northern NJ btw. Thanks for your help in advance.


    • Dear Jem,
      Please pardon my delay in getting back to you. I don’t know why I am just seeing your comment for the first time.

      You’ve done a good job explaining the condition of your hair. But in order for me to give you an informed response, it would be best if I could see your hair in person. The second best option would be for you to send me pictures of your hair. You can send them to

      I look forward to hearing back from you.


  10. Posted by Trisha on July 8, 2011 at 1:18 pm

    Hi Anu,

    All my life growing up my hair has been permed fall out grow back, but now its growing back slowly in the parts it fell out badly, im going natural bcuz im tired of the tricky perms out there in these salons,
    I have new growth about 3 to 4 inches and the rest is permed,
    If I get the big cut, I wanna know how could I get sister locks or would I have to start from (scratch) or should I wait until the big area where the hair fell out to grow back before I get the big cut
    Thanks for your advice


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