Sisterlocks: The Complete Beginner Guide

sisterlocks hairstyle

If you are considering locing your hair but you do not want regular locs, then Sisterlocks are the perfect option for you. Not only are these locs attractive to the eye, but they are also versatile when it comes to styling as you can braid them, color them, rock them in any length, or even use a roller set on them to give them some curls. If you want to know more about these locs, then continue reading this article.

What are Sisterlocks?

Sisterlocks are a type of locs that, unlike the regular locs that are created through palm-rolling or strand twisting, are weaved into the natural hair using a special locing tool.

You can easily differentiate Sisterlocks from regular locs by their size: Sisterlocks are thinner and are usually about ⅛ to ⅜ inches in width, depending on what width you prefer. Because of their small size, you can end up getting between 250 - 400 locs (or more) on your hair when installed. Still, there are more differences which I will be discussing further in this article. For now, let's discuss how Sisterlocks came to be.

What is the Origin of Sisterlocks?

In 1993, Dr. JoAnn Cornwell, a certified natural hair care expert, created the Sisterlocks hairstyle as a means for black women to appreciate and express themselves in their culture. According to the Sisterlocks official website, Dr. Cornwell states that the Sisterlocks "is not about a hairstyle. It's about a lifestyle."

Now, nearly 28 years later, Sisterlocks is one major type of locs that is rocked by many black women all over the world.

What are the Differences Between Sisterlocks and Regular Locs?

sisterlocks vs regular locs
  • Regular locs are thicker in width while Sisterlocks are thinner in width
  • Regular locs are created using the palm-rolling, braiding, comb-coiling, or two-strand twisting method. Sisterlocks, on the other hand, are created by a certified Sisterlock loctician, using a special tool.
  • Regular locs take between 2 - 3 hours to install but Sisterlocks can take as long as 36 hours to install.
  • Regular locs are installed using hair wax while Sisterlocks require no hair product.
  • Finally, Sisterlocks require that you test-install a few locs first to know which pattern is more suitable for your hair type. With regular locs, you don't need to do an installation test.

However, despite their differences, both regular locs and Sisterlocks require that you take good care of them to enable them to grow healthy.

How to Care for Sisterlocks

1. Re-tighten Your Sisterlocks

As your Sisterlocks begin to grow out, you will need to re-tighten them to keep them firm and beautiful. Your re-tightening sessions will be determined by your Sisterlocks loctician.

2. Wash Your Sisterlocks

products for washing hair

Now, when washing your Sisterlocks, you have to be as gentle as possible. This is because Sisterlocks are fragile and if you are too rough with them, they may break, unravel or even get frizz. Also, it is advisable that you wash your Sisterlocks once a week as washing too frequently in a week may cause the aforementioned problems and strip your hair of its natural oils.

To wash your Sisterlocks, braid them into four to six large sections. This will keep them from unraveling. Next, apply your shampoo to each section. However, instead of massaging or rubbing your fingers on them, simply squeeze the braids (you should do this too when rinsing your Sisterlocks). This way, you will avoid frizz in your locks. Repeat this step to condition your hair.

3. Clean and Oil Your Scalp

olive oil

Sisterlocks are basically tight at the scalp which can cause products, oil, and dead skin cells build-ups. You can clean your scalp by dipping cotton balls in your shampoo and rubbing them gently on your scalp. After that, dip cotton balls in water and rub them on your scalp to clean the soap suds from the shampoo. After cleaning, oil your scalp to prevent dryness.

4. Avoid Heat Tools

heat tools

Do not use curling irons, flat irons, or any other such heat tools on your locs. Like I have mentioned before, Sisterlocks are very fragile and these heat tools can cause them to break off.

5. Use Satin Hair Socks

satin hair socks

Most pillowcases are made from cotton and this can create friction between your hair and your pillow, leading to loss of moisture when you toss and turn in your sleep. Satin hair socks which cover your locs from roots to tips will help your Sisterlocks retain moisture.

satin bonnet

However, if your Sisterlocks are still in the pre-locking or budding stage, you can use a satin bonnet instead which is a perfect fit for your hair. You will find some African print reversible satin bonnets, like the one in the picture, here.

The Different Stages of Sisterlocks

Sisterlocks are in four main stages and they are:

1. The Pre-locking Stage

Also known as the baby lock, starter, or newbie stage, this is the stage when your Sisterlocks are freshly-installed. At this stage, your locs are small and tightly coiled with their parting lines looking neat. However, locs in this stage are still in a fragile state. Therefore, you have to be extra careful when washing as they may unravel.

2. The Budding Stage

Also known as the teenage stage, this is when your hair starts to lock properly and small buds of hair start to form at the shaft and ends of your hair. As they do so, your locs will become more secure and you do not have to worry about them unraveling.

It is also at this stage that your locks begin to thicken or swell.

3. The Shooting Stage

Also known as the adult stage, the buds that formed during the budding stage now become the foundation for which an interlocking process happens. This interlocking process happens when your hair begins to matt from shaft to tips and back. However, your hair roots do not matt and this is where you will get new growth.

At this stage, your locs begin to grow longer and more noticeable.

4. The Contracting Stage

Also known as the elder locks stage, this is when your locks mature. Here, the ends of your locs are sealed and secured. Also, there is uniformity in length.

Now, how do you do Sisterlocks? You can visit a professional Sisterlocks loctician to install your Sisterlocks or you can DIY. However, it is recommended that you visit a professional as DIY-ing will cost you time, energy, and may still not turn out perfectly well.

To see how Sisterlocks are installed, I have selected this video tutorial by Katya Sandrine:

Step-by-step Guide

What you need:

  • A sizing tool for measurement
  • A wide-tooth comb
  • Hair clips/elastic bands
  • Locing tool

Step 1: Stretch out the hair

woman unraveling African threading
woman combing hair out
  • Stretch out the hair with African threading or any other heatless stretching method at least a day before you create your Sisterlocs. This will make it easier for your hair to get loced.
  • After taking out the threads the next day, comb out. Also, make sure the hair is product-free.

Step 2: Part the hair

woman showing hair partings

  • For the middle section, part from ear to ear. For the front section, part into four. For the back, part into six sections.
  • Use your hair clips or elastic bands to hold each section in place.

Step 3: Measure and twist

woman measuring and parting hair
woman flat twisting hair
woman showing off sectioned hair
  • Using your sizing tool, measure half an inch to section each of your lines on the front section of your hair. Then flat twist.
  • The lines in the middle of your hair should be horizontal while the ones in front and the back should be vertical.

Step 4: Loc it

woman showing hair in equal parts
  • Unravel a line of flat twists. Furthermore, part that lines into smaller horizontal lines of half an inch. Pick one line and further divide it into equal parts.
woman twisting hair ends
  • Twist the hair around the ends as shown in the GIF. This will keep the hair from unraveling at the end as you loc.
woman doing the four-point rotation method
woman doing the four-point rotation method
woman doing the four-point rotation method
woman doing the four-point rotation method
  • Using your fingers, do the four-point rotation method. This means passing your fingers through the hair in four different directions.

woman doing the four-point rotation method

woman doing the four-point rotation method
  • Continue doing this until you are almost at the roots of the hair. When you're almost at the hair roots, it will become impossible for you to pass your hand through. Here, you'll need to use your locing tool to pass the hair through until it is firm (not tight) at the roots.
sisterlocks finished looks
  • Repeat for all the other lines.

Frequently Asked Questions About Sisterlocks

Do Sisterlocks Cost a Lot of Money?

Yes, they do. Their cost estimate is between $500 - $1000, minus the consultation fee. However, their beauty and longevity make them worth the price.

How Long Will My Sisterlocks Last?

Your Sisterlocks can last a lifetime. Basically, they last for as long as you want them to.

How Long Will It Take My Sisterlocks to Mature?

Although this depends on the hair texture, Sisterlocks usually take between 3 months to 2 years post-installation to mature.

Will Sisterlocks Break My Hair or Cause Them to Thin Out?

No, as long as you take proper care of them.


While Sisterlocks are great, installing and taking care of them can be quite exhausting and expensive. So, if you still want to rock the locs hairstyle howbeit temporarily, you can try out this collection of faux locs.