How To Care For Your Child’s Natural Hair

By Hollis

Have you been struggling with your child’s curly/coily hair? You’re  not alone. It can be a real challenge. On one hand you want to embrace the beauty of their natural texture, but on the other, you have a hard time bringing out its true beauty.

How To Start Your Child’s Healthy Hair Regimen:

Have a talk – You have made the awesome decision as a parent to improve on your child’s hair care regimen. This is a journey and your child should know that you are embarking on it together! Explain that her hair is beautiful and you’re going to start trying different things to make sure it grows even healthier and longer than it is now.

Trim - Start fresh with a trim. The ends are the oldest, driest, and most fragile part of your hair. Hanging on to the split or damaged ends of kinky/curly hair will make detangling a nightmare. If you notice little hair balls hanging on the ends of your child’s hair or if you hear a snap, crackle and pop every time you detangle – it’s time for a trim. *Note that a TRIM and a CUT are not the same thing. Only take the minimum amount needed to get rid of split ends, usually less than half an inch. Feel free to see a professional for this (I do.)

Washing - People think that water hair dries hair out, but this is totally untrue! Water  = moisture and hair loves it. What it does NOT love is the drying shampoos you might be using to wash it. Cut back on shampooing, way back. Try co-washing instead. Most commercial conditioners have enough detergents in them to get the scalp and hair clean, just not enough to make them lather like shampoo. Which means co-washing is gentle enough to do daily, weekly, or as often as you choose.

Section - It helps to divide hair into sections of four before washing. This keeps hair from tangling on top of your child’s head in one big heap. Secure each section in a twist, braid or ouch-less elastic and co-wash one section at a time. Do not rinse the conditioner out because this is what’s going to give you enough “slip” to detangle her hair and glide a wide tooth comb through it without pain and unnecessary hair loss.

Detangling - For children with tightly coiled hair, hair should ONLY be detangled while it is wet and soaked with conditioner, and ONLY with a wide tooth comb – no brushes, no small tooth combs. When you feel the comb hit a snag, do not rip through it! Put the comb down and work the tangle out with your fingers. NEVER attempt to comb or detangle your child’s hair while it is dry! It hurts and you will break healthy strands of hair that would not have broken otherwise. Once you have detangled a section braid it up or secure it with an elastic before moving on to prevent re-tangling. When done, carefully rinse hair, being sure to not ruffle it up or re-tangle it.

Seal in the moisture - The washing process has just infused your child’s hair with the moisture it needs, now you need to lock that moisture in by “sealing” the hair while it is still wet. If your child has fine hair, you will want to avoid weighing it down. A water based leave-in conditioner or light oil will be enough. Something light and creamy like Giovanni Direct Leave-In Conditioner, will add moisture without making hair limp or greasy.

If your child has thick coarse hair, you will want to seal in layers. Start by adding a water based leave-in conditioner. Then follow that up with a hair oil like Coconut oil, Jojoba oil, or any oil of your choice. Some people even prefer the softening properties of Shea butter instead of oils. Cantu Shea Butter Leave In Conditioning Repair Cream is a good product for dry or coarse hair.

Stretch to Dry - Once you’ve washed and detangled your child’s hair,
style it in braids, two strand twist, or plaits to dry. Otherwise the hair will shrink right back up and tangle again, defeating all your hard work. Just look at the picture below. Who would have guessed that this child has such long hair? The use of braids and two strand twist help hair retain its length. Retaining length means you can actually see your child’s hair grow and get longer because it is no longer breaking off faster than it can grow.

Low Manipulation Styles- Are hairstyles that, once created, require no up-keep or effort on your part for the next week. This is another reason why twist and braids are perfect for your little one. They protect the hair and allow it a chance to rest and grow without being manipulated everyday. Every time you interact with your hair, it increases the chance of damage or breaking strands. So naturally, if hair is worn in styles that don’t require daily handling, the chances of hair breaking is greatly decreased.

Beware of the pony/puff – Ponytails and Afro puffs are one of the cutest and easiest styles to do on little girls with curly hair. However, be mindful of the tension these styles put on their edges. I notice that many kids have thinning hairlines from constantly being pulled into tight slick ponytails and Afro puffs. Sure, you want it to look neat, but avoid making ponytails too tight.

No Cotton - Cotton and natural hair don’t mix well. Cotton pillowcases suck the moisture from natural hair and can even cause breakage and split ends by the constant friction of sleeping on a them all night. Buy a satin pillowcase for your daughter or get a satin sleep cap with elastic that will help it stay on her small head.

Let it loose - Practice makes perfect. So keep trying and you will get the hang of it. But when you do, don’t get too caught up in the protective styling madness. Although these are helpful aids in maintaining healthy natural hair, it’s important for your child to wear her hair free on occasion and be proud of its beauty just like other kids around her!

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