The Great Debate—Palm rolling vs Interlocking. Is one better than the other? Which one locs hair faster? Will my hair be damaged from switching? The list goes on with questions circulating amongst the natural hair community about palm rolling vs interlocking. Whether you’ve arrived here for reasons of repair, longevity, or just curiosity, I’ll share with you the advantages and disadvantages of each technique to help you decide what’s best for your hair.
The Difference Between Palm Rolling and Interlocking
What is Palm Rolling?
Palm rolling is a maintenance technique in which the palms of your hands roll (or twist) the hair into a circular formation. This technique is mainly used on traditional and semi freeform locs.
What is Interlocking?
Interlocking is a maintenance technique in which the end of the loc is pulled through the root to tighten the nugrowth to the scalp. This technique can be achieved with a tool or with fingers; and it is commonly used in the Sisterlocks™ and micro locs hair locking systems.
Fundamentally, the two techniques— palm rolling and interlocking— are very different, but let’s explore the advantages and disadvantages of each technique to help you understand which method would be best for your hair.
Advantages of Palm-Rolling
Time-Saving. On average, a Loctician can complete your palm-roll maintenance within 45 minutes-1 1/2 hours, whereas interlocking maintenance can take upwards of 3-4 hours when professionally maintained.
Simple. By using your hands to cultivate the locs, the palm-roll maintenance is simple enough to be done on your own. However, any professional Loctician will tell you there are specific angles that help prevent unraveling, clip organization will keep your maintenance in longer, and maintaining the parting system is not easily replicated at home without training.
Advantages of Interlocking
Longer Lasting Maintenance. The time that you wait between maintenance sessions is considerably different when you maintain your locs with interlocking. On average, you’ll have your locs maintained every eight weeks, compared to once a month with palm-rolling.
For all hair textures. Interlocking is a technique that can be used to start and maintain any texture of hair because it prevents the hair from unraveling and encourages the hair to stay in place to begin the locking process.
Disadvantages of Palm Rolling
Over manipulation. With too much retwisting / palm-rolling you can drastically thin out your locs or even trigger baldness in an attempt to “keep your locs neat”.
Unraveling. Often times with DIY Loc Maintenance, not protecting your hair at home, or while working out can cause your locs to unravel at the roots.
Related Article: Scalp Care After Working Out
Disadvantages of Interlocking
Smaller locs. Interlocking is better suited for smaller locs, both in size and density. What this means is that it is very rare to see thicker sets of locs that are maintained with interlocking.
Potentially Damaging. There is a specific technique that is used with interlocking and when it is not executed proficiently it can produce holes in the locs which can lead to breakage and thinning. Also, if the correct amount of tension is not used, this can cause locs to thin at the roots or trigger traction alopecia.
So, is palm-rolling better than interlocking? In my professional opinion, I don’t think so; rather I believe that the maintenance technique is dependent upon the expertise of the individual executing it. If you’re not trained on interlocking techniques, you can cause irreversible damage, but you can also create problems with improper palm-rolling. I encourage you to consider your lifestyle, budget, and accessibility to a professional when determining which method would be best suited for your hair. Seeking advice from a Professional, if only through a consultation, and asking very detailed about concerns you may have will allow you to be proactive (instead of reactive) with healthy hair care.
Next week, I’ll be sharing the answer to another common question “Can You Switch Between Palm Rolling and Interlocking?“.
June 28, 2016 at 6:37 am
Thanks a million
June 28, 2016 at 7:04 am
I’m glad you enjoyed the article! Come by again next week 🙂
June 29, 2016 at 7:29 am
Just starting my locs. My hair is very fine and very curly. But when wet go completely straight. Big problem when trying to loc.
Any suggestions on best way to get started?
July 15, 2016 at 11:38 am
I am in the process of creating a course for people with soft, fine hair that want to get locs which will be available in the NuGrowth Academy. In the meantime, you can reference an article I posted a few months ago, “The 7 Methods for Starting Locs“.
June 30, 2016 at 2:31 pm
My locs are about a month old and I’m considering getting them interlocked.. I play basketball 4-5 days a week and I have a physically demanding job. I feel like with my lifestyle its best to get my hair interlocked so I can worry less about my hair unraveling at the roots. Thanks for this, it was a big help. Do you have a specific method you recommend using to interlock? I’ve seen a couple of youtube videos but they all pretty much had different techniques. One guy in particular, Chris McDread, seems very knowledgable and he suggests the 9-12-3 method when interlocking.. Do you have a specific technique that I can advise my loctician to use?
Thanks for your time
July 15, 2016 at 11:36 am
I am so glad that this article helped you; you definitely sound like you’re a great candidate for interlocking. If your Loctician does not understand or know how to properly interlock hair, I would NOT use them for that service. You can do a lot of damage if you’re not knowledgeable about the technique.
July 3, 2016 at 6:12 pm
I use the interlock method to maintain my locs. I only maintain my hair every 2-3 months, and may do a light retwist in the 2 weeks before my interlocking to gather loose hairs together. After 6 years, my roots are strong, my hair is mid-back length, and where a few loc roots have thinned, I have combined them with success. I love my hair!
July 15, 2016 at 11:33 am
Thank you so much for sharing your experience! I love when people can share positive experiences with interlocking because I think interlocking gets a bad connotation by people that don’t understand it.
July 6, 2016 at 5:34 pm
I have very very thick 4c hair and I chose to Interlock thick dreads. Most ppl tell me they can’t tell they Interlocked. With my thick locs I have as many on one side of my head as most ppl have on their entire head. I have been locked for 9 years and I love it
July 13, 2016 at 6:29 am
I visited a loctician today and your article helped clarify exactly what I needed to know. Thanks
July 15, 2016 at 11:31 am
Yay! I’m so glad that it helped you make the right decision!
July 25, 2016 at 3:56 pm
I started my locs after retiring from the Navy and love it. My hair hated chemicals and has grown so much better now that I’m natural. I have thin hair on top, so my locs are small, and I tend to palm roll, but I have also used the interlock method. I do exercise and swim in the summers so my roots loosen and are shaggy so I interlock to hold the look better for a longer period of time. I palm roll in between interlock sessions to keep the look neat as possible. My roots are strong and I haven’t seen any problems in doing both. I just use which ever works best in the situation. As you said in the article, interlocking works better if you need to shampoo often. I trim my locs to stay just past shoulder length due to my thin top, but it’s thickening up and starting to fill in so I may let it go a bit longer. Yay! I only use water, tee tree oil and black castor oil on my hair now and it has worked wonders.
Thank you for your articles and good luck with your new set of locs.
July 31, 2016 at 9:09 am
I maintain my Husband s locks and I actually mix the methods. I palm roll the front and interlock the back. This helps keep the front really neat for his conservative workplace.
August 12, 2016 at 8:08 am
Thank you for sharing your experience! It is true you can mix or alternate the methods to meet your needs.
October 30, 2016 at 1:32 pm
I have a question about budding….when the locks begin to bud, is there anything special that needs to be done? For instance, when retwisting locs using the palm rolling method, does the whole loc need to be manipulated or just the New growth?
November 7, 2016 at 2:31 pm
The entire loc should be maintained, not just the roots.
November 4, 2016 at 12:19 am
Thank you for this great article ! I have been palmrolling for the past two years and I recently started to interlock to keep them from unravelling since I workout more. Do you think it’s a good idea to combine both techniques ?
November 7, 2016 at 2:33 pm
I’m glad you enjoyed it! Please take a look at the follow-up article “Switching Between Palm-Rolling & Interlocking Without Causing Damage” or if you prefer to know specifically about how it is affecting your locs, please visit NuGrowthSalon.com to setup a “Virtual Consultation”.
March 31, 2017 at 11:58 am
Omg looove this article so much. I get so many negative comments from people that think they know it all about the different methods of locking our hair. I’m very active and tend to sweat a lot fairly easy so I chose the interlocking method. I watched all kinds of videos and practiced and researched it before I even started mine. I’m over 5 years in now and loving it. I get so many compliments on my hair from more people than not. I love my interlocking journey. I also interlock my brothers hair because he plays basketball regularly. We haven’t experienced any thinning or breakage at all. Thank you! I am glad I just found your site.
March 31, 2017 at 12:40 pm
Thanks so much for sharing your experience (and your brother’s)! I’m happy interlocking has allowed you to continue your active lifestyle! xo
April 9, 2017 at 9:36 pm
I have interlocks and I’ve been thinking about getting rid of my locks, it’s been 8 awesome years but I want a change.
Can you comb out interlocks or do I have to cut them off?
April 9, 2017 at 9:49 pm
Hi Karen! You can definitely comb them out!
May 9, 2017 at 2:30 pm
I’m very happy to have found your blog! I started my locos with two-strand twists back in November 2016, and recently realized I was doing everything wrong (like washing my hair with my locs loose) so they haven’t really loced yet. I wanted to stick with semi-freeform because I want thicker locs, and because I have sensitive edges with breakage I’m trying to repair, and felt interlocking would be more stress on them.
My question is whether or not you feel I should stay away from interlocking, and if so, how can I keep my locs from unraveling when I’m active.
May 9, 2017 at 2:45 pm
Hi Denise! I’d love to help you! Schedule a virtual consultation at your convenience so we chat get you on the right path!
May 17, 2017 at 10:39 pm
Hello, I really enjoyed this article. I was just wondering if interlocking shorten the loc? I have only been at this for a month now and I don’t believe I got the palm rolling down just yet.
May 18, 2017 at 4:38 am
Thanks for checking out the article! Interlocking elongates that hair but in the beginning stages of locking, you will experience “shrinkage” with both methods.
If you need help with Palm-Rolling at home and what to be sure you’re cultivating your locs properly, I have an online class for you: http://bit.ly/retwistathome
January 6, 2018 at 11:57 pm
You said the locs can be combed out? I thought they were permanent and had to be cut off! I want locs but didn’t get them because I was afraid that if I wanted change, I’d have to cut my hair off?
Thanks for the information!
January 7, 2018 at 11:36 pm
Yes, you can comb out locs… I’ve personally done so twice. First set I combed out my Sisterlocks after two years, second set were traditional locs after 3 years…
April 14, 2018 at 6:51 am
I was going to start locs with two strand twist My hair dresser said I don’t need to start with two strand twist, I shld interlock instead, as my hair is ok, what does this mean, thought both ways were ok to start, my hair is about 7inc long while twisted, semi thick back and to, thinner at sides
October 22, 2018 at 8:57 pm
I Like How You Break it Down.Thank You.
January 21, 2019 at 11:24 pm
I’m glad it was helpful! Thank you for reading and commenting.
January 1, 2019 at 1:51 pm
I started my locs with 2 strand twist. After 1 month I decided to interlock because my hair is so soft. 10 days after my 1st interlock/2nd wash I noticed a lot of me locs had almost 3/4 inch of new growth. My hair does not grow that fast. Is this an indication of unraveling? Should I interlock them now or wait until 6/8 weeks? I’m afraid of thinning my roots and causing issues before my hair evens locs.
January 7, 2019 at 10:44 pm
I am going to assume that you’re interlocking your hair yourself… What happened is known as slippage and it is very common when you start locs with twists then try switch to interlocking. Hopefully, you are aware that interlocking will produce a thinner loc than what you see with your hair in the twists, so when looking at your roots they will appear to be “thin”, but they (hopefully) will not be thin to the point of breaking off.
Less than an inch of nugrowth is no cause to do another interlocking session right now, wait the 6 weeks and then correct the issue, but make sure that your tension is correct.
If you need help with DIY interlocking, I would highly recommend the “Interlocking Fundamentals” workshop for you.
October 30, 2019 at 7:24 pm
Great explanation!! I was debating on switching to interlocking but I’ve had my love for almost 3 years and they’re far from thin. Palm rolling it is lol.
January 22, 2020 at 10:23 pm
Glad I could help, good teamwork!
January 8, 2020 at 9:32 am
Thank you sooo much for this information. It was so help, I’m thinking about getting locs and been trying to read all the information I can about how and what I should do. Thanks sooo much!!!
January 22, 2020 at 9:48 pm
Thank you for reading! Best of luck on your upcoming loc journey!
February 2, 2020 at 2:20 am
Hi! This really clears up a lot of my questions; thanks for the clarity! I wanted to ask if there’s anything on the site that I should peruse if I wanted to know more about which method is best for my hair type??
May 17, 2020 at 10:17 pm
I’m glad you found clarity with the article! I would not necessarily categorize locs by hair type, they are more dependent on your type of lifestyle. Check out the “7 Methods to Start Locs: Drawbacks & What to Expect” for more information about the different methods.
September 20, 2020 at 1:03 am
Love the blog. I’m new to the loc community. Have you heard of Starter loc method to interlock at the roots and instant loc the ends? With having those locs how often can I was My hair and what to wash with? Thanks
September 22, 2020 at 8:29 am
That’s possible. You should wash your hair as often as you want, but do not wait longer than 3-4 weeks. And you should always use a clarifying shampoo at minimum. I share more specific product recommendations in the “Shampoo & Deep Cleansing Guide“.
October 28, 2020 at 1:27 pm
I started out this year (February) with a “professional” install of sisterlocs on my 9-12inch 3C hair. They were certified, but the results had me questioning their ability. I faced several challenges through the install (slippage, bunching between sessions) as well as an asymmetric grid; despite following all instructions to the letter. This, along with the significant sum spent, and a refusal to teach me any self-care led me to leave the loctician.
I love this style but need to learn (along with my husband) how to care for it successfully on my own, and am more than happy to pay appropriately to learn from an experienced professional.
My key questions are as follows:
– Is interlocking, given my hair type and the loc sizes ever going to be a successful mid-maintenance hairstyle for me?
– Should I increase my loc size? Switch to palm rolling?
– What does appropriate regular retightening look like?
How do I do common “repairs”?
Any assistance will be greatly appreciated.
February 12, 2021 at 5:18 am
The questions you have for you and your husband’s locs will be answered in the class HOW TO RETWIST LOCS AT HOME at NuGrowth Academy.
December 9, 2020 at 7:43 am
Thanks fir this article! I played a big part in my decision to interlock. Last night I started my interlock journey! My stylist and I didn’t realize how much my hair had grown. I just went natural 3 years ago and had been doing coils/ two strand twists. I know it’s the beginning but I feel excited already!
February 8, 2021 at 11:33 am
The beginning of a natural journey is an exciting time, happy to hear the article assisted with your decision. Thank you for your support
January 11, 2022 at 10:48 am
I love your website I find it very helpful. I have a question. I find that when I wait 3 months to interlock, I tend to get this bulge or bubble between the last interlock and the new interlock. Is it because I’ve waited too long to interlock? Thanks in advance for replying.
January 14, 2022 at 11:20 am
Peace Diane! I appreciate you reading my blog and adding me into your journey! And yes you are correct, the short answer is because it has been too long been grooming sessions which causes that bulging.
January 14, 2022 at 4:17 pm
Hello again Jocelyn,
Thank you so much for responding to my comment and concern. Take care.
January 30, 2022 at 10:17 am
I started my dreads March of 2021 and it’s close to my 1 year mark and I chose the interlocking method to use because I always heard it’s great with any hair type and my loctician does a great job sometimes my hair fuzzes out after a few weeks whst can I do to stop this??
February 3, 2022 at 7:44 am
Happy almost first locversary! Frizz is apart of the process and definitely something to embrace vs get rid of. If you’re able, come to the Q&A With a Loctician live and we can discuss more about what the frizz means!