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Microlocs vs Sisterlocks: What Sets Them Apart & How to Decide

Microlocs vs Sisterlocks: What Sets Them Apart & How to Decide

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While you might be familiar with styling your luscious coils into fashionable locs, did you know there is more than one type of loc? Talk about versatility. Microlocs (also spelled microlocks) & sisterlocks (also spelled sisterlocs) are two popular styles that you can add to your hair repertoire.

As you continue on your journey to discovering an array of natural hair styling techniques, trying out new variations can help you figure out which options work best for your curls, hair porosity & unique style. By exploring the differences between microlocs & sisterlocks, you can figure out which method you want to try next!

Keep reading to review the difference between sisterlocks & microlocs, compare elements like their initiation & care & gain a better understanding of the methods used to achieve these show-stopping looks.  

Distinguishing Microlocs' Features & Characteristics

So, what makes microlocs different from traditional locs? Their most distinguishing feature is their size. Although locs can vary in thickness, microlocs are smaller than standard locs (note: micro is even in their name). They’re typically only about the width of a pencil, allowing you to wear more of them at a time compared to thicker locs. 

This is a styling method you can tackle on your own with a little practice, since they don’t require you to follow a specific grid pattern on the scalp. That said, it may be easier to book an appointment with a stylist if you’re new to microlocs. (No shame in either game!) 

Either way, microlocs allow the creative freedom to twist your coils into a pattern that works best with your unique scalp shape & hair density. Since they’re thinner than other types of locs, they also lend themselves a little bit better to up-dos or half-up styles, making them a versatile look for any occupation or occasion. 

Unveiling Sisterlocks' Origins & Unique Attributes

Sisterlocks are precise & intricate. Achieving them typically involves a professional stylist engaging in a coined interlocking technique trademarked by Dr. JoAnne Cornwell in 1993. This style follows a grid pattern, creating a distinct & uniform pattern with your locs. Like microlocs, they’re smaller & thinner than standard locs, so they, too, can be styled in a variety of ways.

If you want to install sisterlocks, it’s important to work with a certified sisterlocks consultant, since initiating this method requires specific training & tools. Depending on the size of your head & your hair length, they can take anywhere from 15 to 24 hours to complete. 

But take our word for it, this style is well worth the wait. With a little patience, you’ll leave the salon chair feeling like a brand-new you!

Comparing Formation & Care for Microlocs & Sisterlocks

When it comes to locs, no matter the type, it can take several months for them to fully form & settle. Whether you opt for microlocs or sisterlocks, it’s helpful to remember that they’ll only become fuller & more defined over time. 

Here’s a look at the five major stages of transformation you can expect for your locs as they develop: 


Stage 1: Starter Locs

When you first install your new mini-locs, you’ll have what are called “starter locs.”This just means you’re in the first stage of your new hair journey. This phase may last for up to six months, & it’s when your curls begin to settle & grow into the new hairstyle. 

Stage 2: Budding Begins

In the next stage, between months six through 12 of having your locs, you may notice budding, which is when new, visible growth occurs from your scalp, potentially leading to some frizz. No need to worry, all that means is you may want to pay your stylist a visit to have some of your locs re-twisted to ensure they maintain their defined shape.

Stage 3: Teenage Locs

After you’ve had your locs for about a year, they’re now in their teenage stage, which means they may seem like they’re at a more “awkward” length (just like many teens). 

Fortunately, with the right styling tricks & some helpful loc care products, you can give your teenage tresses what they’re craving to help them grow healthy & strong. You may want to consult your stylist about what loc products you need to keep your coils vibrant & thriving.

Stage 4: Fully Mature Locs

Around the 15 to 18-month mark, you will have mature locs, which usually have the most defined style & shape. At this stage, they should look how you envisioned them when you first had them installed, & they can continue to grow healthily from this point.

After the mature stage, they’re in their final form, & while they may get longer, they should maintain relatively the same shape. Implementing useful loc styling techniques & having the right products on hand can ensure you’re ready for any potential frizz or flyaways that pop up as your tresses grow. 

Styling Variances: Exploring Different Ways to Style Microlocs & Sisterlocks

One advantage of installing thinner locs, like microlocs & sisterlocks, is their versatility, & the ability to style them in several elegant, fun & chic looks. Here are some hairstyles you may want to give a try with your finer locs:

Half-Up Ponytail

Since sisterlocks & microlocs are thinner than a pencil, you’re able to style them in a variety of ponytails, including a half-up look. This allows you to highlight the length of your locs while still rocking a unique style.

To create this hairstyle, gather the top layer of your hair into a ponytail & secure it loosely with a bobble or other curly-hair hair tie. If you want to make this process even easier, you can secure the bottom layer of your hair out of the way with a clip while you’re securing your ponytail. 

Loc High Bun

If you’re a fan of chic up-dos, you won’t want to miss styling your sisterlocks or microlocs in a high bun. This classic looks elegant & cool all at once—& lets you keep your hair out of your face while showing off those cheekbones. 

The perfect style for going from day to night, you can style your high bun just like you would before having locs, carefully securing your tresses on top of your head with a gentle hair tie, such as the PATTERN Satin Scrunchies

Locking Techniques & Considerations: Understanding Methods in Microlocs vs Sisterlocks

One of the main differences between microlocs & sisterlocks is the locking techniques used to install them. To create microlocs, you or your stylist may decide to twist, braid, palm-roll, or coil different small sections of your hair. If you opt for braids, make sure you have the right products for braiding natural hair on hand before you start. 

The flexibility & freedom while styling makes this a popular option for curlies & coilies with varying hair lengths & textures. When styling them, you’ll want to begin from the root of your hair, working your way down to the ends section by section. Then, lock in the style with a wax or gel styling product, such as the PATTERN Curl Gel, to ensure it has enough hold & definition. 

Alternatively, sisterlocks always begin from the ends of your hair, using an interwoven technique to travel up to the root. By starting at the ends of your hair, you’re actually minimizing tension on the roots & scalp, which can encourage healthier, happier tresses. 

Personal Preference: Choosing the Right Fit Between Microlocs & Sisterlocks

When you’re deciding between sisterlocks vs microlocs, it all comes down to personal preference & style. To choose the right fit for your hair texture & density, here are some of the perks of choosing microlocs for your next look:

  • Skip the salon visit – If you’re a DIY hair enthusiast, you may want to opt for microlocs, since this is a style of locs you can nail all on your own. While a stylist may make the process a little easier, you know your coils best, so you can use your insider understanding of your tresses to complete this fashionable style yourself. 
  • Choose from a variety of loc methods – If you opt for microlocs, you have a variety of methods to choose from to create your own unique look. This gives you the freedom to choose the technique that works best for your curl pattern & density so you can create a lasting natural style. 

If you’re more interested in sisterlocks, here are some of the benefits of this style:

  • Create a symmetrical look – For a vibe that’s symmetrical & uniform, sisterlocks are the way to go. With a specific grid-like pattern, you can rest assured that your new mini-locs will be evenly lined up & distributed across your scalp, creating a beautifully balanced look. 
  • Stay chemical-free – Since certified stylists install sisterlocks using specific tools & interlocking techniques, there’s no need for them to use any products on your hair during the process. This means you can have a long-lasting, chic style without adding any extra product build-up to your coils. 

If you’re comparing microlocs vs sisterlocks, remember that both of these are long-term hairstyles. While not impossible, they can be hard to reverse after they move past the starter loc stage (about six months in). 

Find the Perfect Style for Your Locs with PATTERN

Whether you’re opting for microlocs, sisterlocks, or another type of locs hairstyle, give your coils the care they deserve. At PATTERN, we have a range of styling products for curly hair so you can nourish your tresses no matter their length, density, or curl pattern. 

You can rest assured you’re giving your curls the best with PATTERN by using the highest quality ingredients meant for your natural texture. No matter whether you have waves, curls, coils (or a mix of all three!) we’ve got you covered. 


  1. Healthy Hair Connection. What Are Sister-Locks? https://healthyhairconnection.com/what-are-sisterlocks/
  2. Its_tontay. https://www.instagram.com/p/C10MGkAyF8P/?igsh=MzRlODBiNWFlZA==
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Reviewed by Ashley Ludgood

With over 12 years of experience in the beauty and fashion industry, Ashley Ludgood brings a wealth of expertise to her current role at PATTERN. Her insights have been featured in reputable publications like American Salon Magazine, American Spa Magazine, and Skin, Inc. Ashley has also shared her knowledge at conferences, including Face & Body, demonstrating her ongoing commitment to contributing to the industry. Having been an integral part of the team at PATTERN for nearly 4 years, Ashley continues to make significant contributions. Holding a degree in Journalism from Northwestern University, she remains passionate about her field. Among her favorite products, Ashley turns to the PATTERN Styling Cream, Moisture Milk, and the Cleansing Shampoo as her go-to essentials.

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