As a naturally curly mama with two naturally curly kiddos, I’ve realized that no matter how much I thought I knew about tending to my natural tresses, caring for my kids’ curls is a completely new undertaking. There are some basic tenets of curly hair care that I’ve applied with my children— we don’t use sulfates and silicones, we don’t wash daily, we avoid heat and we never dry brush— but there are a few other considerations we’ve had to make.
Caring for curly hair— especially when it has some length to it— is a process and kids just don’t have the same patience for these things that grown-ups do. So first off, it’s important to make hair care and styling as streamlined and peaceful as possible. I remember my mom and I both crying over my hair when I was little and I’ve tried to avoid that as much as possible with my children. Of course, they still whine, complain and get a bit teary over especially tough tangles, but I’ve found some useful methods for making it a relatively quick and pleasant experience for all of us.
Make haircare a natural habit.
With my first child— a boy— I really didn’t know what I was doing and I made the mistake of only really doing his hair a couple of times a week. That meant detangling and styling took longer because there were more knots and he hated it because it felt like a disruption to his day rather than a regular part of it. Needless to say, now that he’s in elementary school, we keep his hair shorter. When I had my second child— a girl whose hair I plan to grow out long — I made a conscious effort to style her hair daily and I’ve done so since it’s been long enough to put a bow in. We skip days here and there, but she knows that getting her hair done before we leave the house has to happen and she’s much more accepting of it. It’s important to make it a part of the routine, just like getting dressed and eating breakfast, so that kids know what to expect.
Nothing causes a mom more stress in the morning than running late. Don’t forget that styling curly hair — even an infant’s or toddler’s curly hair— takes time. It’s important to be gentle when caring for your child’s curls so that he or she doesn’t build negative feelings toward the process. If you find yourself rushing and not being gentle and patient, you’ll only make it harder for yourself and your child. Allow an adequate amount of time so that you can care for your child’s hair with as little pain and stress as possible. Plus, curls, in general, need a tender hand so that the hair doesn’t break and/or frizz.
Give your kid a distraction.
I try my best to avoid excessive amounts of screen time for the kids— especially when they’re really little — but, I’m also a big fan of using the tools we have at our disposal as modern parents. And let me tell you, YouTube is a great way to distract your child when you’re doing his or her hair. I used to play short Sesame Street videos for my son and he loved it, and my daughter really enjoys watching other toddler’s hair care routines as well as Baby Shark. If you have a bigger job on your hands, don’t feel guilty about putting on a movie or TV show on for your little one. It’s better than dealing with a cranky, tearful child. Toys and books work really well for babies,whose hair only takes a few minutes to comb through and moisturize.
Detangle hair while it’s wet.
I always suggest detangling on wash day after hair has been cleansed and lots of conditioner has been applied. Use a wide-tooth comb or molded plastic detangling brush to gently detangle from ends to roots while the hair is sopping wet and full of conditioner. This absolutely the most painless way to get out knots since the water and conditioner loosen up tangles and help the comb or brush glide through the hair more easily. If I have to do any detangling while styling, I use leave-in conditioner or water and a bit of conditioner mixed in a spray bottle to douse sections and work the tangles out without having to wet the entire head.
Moisturize like crazy.
All curly hair needs lots and lots of moisture. Keep in mind that you will likely have to try out a variety of products to see which works best for your child’s curls, just like you would for yourself. Aside from that, remember to only rinse out 80 to 90 percent of the conditioner you use on wash day, re-wet with water or a water/conditioner mixture when styling and use a good quality curl cream to style. Depending on the texture and density of your child’s hair, you might also consider sealing in products and moisture with oil like 100 percent coconut, almond or jojoba oils. I needed to do this with my son’s hair since it’s thicker and more prone to frizz, but oils weight down my daughter’s finer hair so, for now, I avoid them with her.