I've had my sisterlocks 10 years this March and it was during a tough season where I was between locticians and money was tight because of a failed startup, that I had to either lose my locs or figure out how to retighten them. This was 9 years ago. There were not as many great DIY content videos and very few consistent sister- and mico-loc bloggers, but I was able to figure it out and saved my locs. I eventually found a new loctician and restarted my career but I still would retighten my locs from time to time.

I had a 6 week retighten appointment booked for the weekend after the shelter in place mandate was issued by the California governor because of COVID-19. So I found myself leaning on my DIY skills to save my locs again. Full disclosure, I didn't get to even start retightening until 2 weeks later, so my locs were dramatically overdue and I ended up merging at least once to save some of my really thin locs in the front, but I don't feel the stress and hopelessness I see being voiced in Sisterlocked's group by newbies who don't yet know how to self-maintain their locs.

Here are some basics on self retightening and some great how-to videos to start your journey.

Full disclosure: I have never taken a Sisterlock training course and I am not a licensed cosmetologist. If you can, discuss with your loctician and proceed at your own risk. This is just knowledge accumulated via trial and error and conversations with professionals.


I have purchased, created and misplaced so many locs tools it is laughable. Though my favorite go-to tool has remained blunt Steel Yarn Knitting Needles ($2) or the Nappy Loc Tool ($24) there are so many to choose from nowadays. These knitting needles were the only thing I could find a decade ago before you all these awesome loc tools on amazon for less than $15, see a list of some options I found online:

Other supplies

  • Spray bottle - to moisten locs you are working on and prevent breakage. I love this continuous water mister, it's a little fancier than usual and I keep distilled water in it. The silver bottle pictured above has my special moisture mix.
  • Hair Clips - to isolate locs and prevent the accidental merging of locs. I got lazy and didn't use it recently and accidentally merged two locs.

To start

  1. Deep clean locs, I usually use a clarifying shampoo right before retightening so I don't lock in more dirt and oil into my locs by retightening on dirty hair
  2. Towel dry excess moisture 
  3. Section hair into four or more sections, leaving the first section you plan to work on out
  4. Use hair clips to section off the first loc(s) you want to work on and begin
To retighten locs

Let's start with this video of interlocking traditional locs, which is very similar to how I retighten my sisterlocks. 

Always visualize the loc pattern as the face of a clock, so for sisterlock pattern three you enter at 9 o'clock, 6 o'clock, 9 o'clock again, and 12 o'clock. I don't pay attention to patterns anymore and I don't even remember what mine was or if I was ever told (my first consultant was no about empowering or educating). So I just focus on rotations. A rotation would be entering from the left side, down, the right side, and up. Similar to the video above and repeating until retighten to the scalp.

Remember to 

Always enter the loc at the scalp. As you pull your loc through, always push loop down towards the loc to eliminate gaps in your lock. Repeat until you are at the scalp and cannot complete another rotation. Your retightening should resemble a fishtail and feel like a tight cord.

What not to do!

Learn from my novice DIY mistakes in this video below. I did not isolate my locs and almost merged them (more than once). I was retightening on dry locs, which encourages breakage. My eyebrows were too thin and I was not taking my time. (LOL)

What you should be doing...