Caring for your little one's natural hair is one way of showing your child that you love them. But like many parents, you might struggle with understanding the best way to care for children's natural hair. Questions like: "Which products should I use? How often should I wash my kid's hair? Sulfate or sulfate-free shampoos?" All of these questions can leave you in a state of limbo over how to care for your child's hair. Read on to find answers to some of the most common child hair care questions, alongside some nifty natural hair tips and tricks.
Knowing your child's hair type makes all the difference
Understanding hair types is the first step to caring for your child's natural hair the right way. Check out our blog on Understanding Your Hair Type for a crash course in all things hair type and texture! Hair type will influence which routine to adopt, products to use, and even the styles to do. When looking at hair types, you want to identify the texture first. Is it fine, medium, or coarse? You'll also need to determine the porosity— the amount of moisture necessary to keep hair hydrated. All this will help you create a routine that works for your little one and their hair.
For types 3-4 hair, pre-cleansing can set the path to a successful wash day. For best results, use penetrating oils, like coconut or olive, to pre-poo. Not only will this prevent frizz, but by the end of cleansing, your child's hair will be shiny and soft to the touch. Adding oil to your pre-cleansing routine prevents hygral fatigue and protects the hair from stripping of natural oils during wash days. The oil should be applied a couple of hours before wash time to allow time for absorption.
Even though there are many myths around it, shampooing your child's hair plays an essential part in healthy hair. Shampooing cleans out residues and dirt, allowing moisturizers to penetrate hair follicles for stronger hair strands. Experts recommend shampoo-washing your child's hair at least every 7-14 days, or sooner for hair types 1 and 2.
The cleansing schedule you choose will depend on factors such as your child's activity level and the nature of their hair. If the child is prone to getting dirt on their hair often, then twice a week maybe more realistic. To dry hair after a cleansing routine, use an anti-frizz microfiber towel.
Consider a co-wash if shampoos are drying your child's hair. A co-wash is basically cleansing hair with only conditioner. Like shampooing, you apply gentle strokes to remove dirt and then rinse as you normally would. Co-washes are a two-in-one process: You cleanse, but you also moisturize the hair. You can alternate co-washes with a regular shampoo wash after two weeks to get rid of any residue and oils the co-wash may have missed.
Here's one hard truth. Detangling is never fun - for you or a child. But this doesn't mean that you should skip it. Detangling makes wash day easier, not to mention what a breeze it is to style detangled hair. Here's what you can do to make detangling less of a struggle:
- Detangle in sections, so you don't miss any part. Plus, it's easier to detangle when the hair is in sections compared to a whole mass.
- Start from the ends, and work your way to the roots. Remember to do it in sections.
- Be gentle and avoid yanking out tangles as it may cause unnecessary pain and make the detangling process unenjoyable for your child.
- Always use a moisturizer for tangled hair. This can be simply water or a detangler product to soften the strands.
- Detangle before shampooing and after conditioning for best results.
You can use a store-bought detangler or a homemade one. A combination of 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and a cup of water is an effective homemade detangler. For an easy shine-enhancing and smoothing product that helps to detangle as well - try RevAir's Bright Spot Detangle & Shine Spray.
Moisturizers are natural hair's best friend. Children's hair is more prone to drying than adults. They'll be out playing in the sand, swimming, sweating, and putting their hair in all manner of updos. This makes moisturizing such a vital part of your child's hair care. Moisturizers can come in many forms, including gels, creams, serums, oils, and butter. Oils like jojoba, coconut, and olive oil work wonders by keeping a kid's natural hair moisturized.
For even better results, choose shampoos and conditioners with moisturizing ingredients. Don't forget to pay special attention to the ends and baby hair—especially the ends since they get the biggest share of breakage.
Three ways to moisturize natural hair:
- Liquid only: You can use a water-based moisturizer which can be a cream, leave-in conditioner, or spray. This works best for lighter curls and fine-textured hair.
- Liquid then oil: If the hair is curlier and medium textured, use water-based moisturizers and add an oil such as coconut or jojoba.
- LOC method: Use liquid, oil, and then cream for porous and coarse-textured hair to lock in the moisture and maintain shine.
If moisturizers are natural hair's best friend, then split hairs are the enemy! They tangle easily and give an overall negative experience of haircare. So, make sure to trim the edges regularly or enlist a professional's help. If you decide to do it at home, remember to moisturize and comb through after a trim.
Some extra tips for trimming natural hair
- Do it with the hair dry to make sure you're clipping the desired length.
- Trim at an angle, and start at the neck nape.
- Use professional shears, not kitchen or office scissors, since they are not as sharp.
- Explain the reason for the trim as it will help your child stay calm.
Protective styles are lifesavers for child naturalists! They protect your young one's hair from breakage and help hair grow much faster. That said, don't leave in a protective style for more than two weeks. Doing so can lead to breakage, fueled by oil and residue build-up. Styling will also depend on hair type. If they have too soft a hair type, then braiding may cause breakage. Some simple twists may work better in this case. Here are some tips for pre-installation.
- Stretch the hair using low-heat techniques for easier installation, like the RevAir Reverse Air Dryer
- Moisturize and condition to keep hair moisturized throughout the protective style.
- If elastic bands are part of the protective style, soak them in oil before use to reduce breakage, or use cloth hair ties.
Deep conditioning will protect the hair and provide your little one's hair with all the nutrients it needs for growth. It also strengthens and softens natural hair. Some hair types require more regular deep conditioning routines than others. For instance, kids with 4c hair may need deep conditioning at least once a week. Other hair types can get away with at least twice a month deep conditioning schedules.
Using a children's heating cup will allow the conditioner to penetrate the hair strands and work its magic. We recommend leaving a deep conditioner at least for 20 minutes.
Nighttime Natural Hair Tips
Because of the shifting kids do overnight, hair left open is prone to breakage and tangling. You can quickly solve this by wrapping their hair in a satin scarf or using a satin bonnet. If you are concerned that the bonnet will not hold, let them sleep on a satin pillowcase.
Also, it's a good idea to have their hair in a loose overnight hairstyle to prevent excessive friction and pulling.
Have the Right Hair Tools for Natural Hair
A wide-tooth comb is a necessity for caring for naturally curly hair. Wide toothed combs will be great for styling and detangling curly hair without inflicting pain. If you prefer brushes, select brushes with soft, pliable bristles for ease of use when the hair is wet. Think about switching to cloth-wrapped hair ties instead of rubber bands as they can cause breakage when tying and untying.
Likewise, spray bottles will come in handy during moisturizing, while bobby pins and hair clips will make styling so much easier.
Invest in Hair Products That Fit a Child's Hair Type
While you can use adult hair care products, we advise you to use products designed for kids. The reason? They are more gentle and specifically formulated to care for delicate hairs, textures, and scalps. Kid shampoos should be sulfate-free, while conditioners should be natural. Steer clear of petroleum jellies and mineral oils as they might clog pores resulting in itching and flaking. For moisturizers, go for those with wheat protein, glycerine, keratin, and natural oils.
Let Them Choose
Often, parents can get carried away with the best styles and forget to understand what their child may want. If your child is old enough, get their input on the styles they would love to try. Letting your kid choose will help them learn to take care of their hair from an early age. What's more, it will help them appreciate their naturally curly hair no matter what society says about it.
Yes, caring for a child's natural hair is hard work! But it's also an opportunity for you to bond and teach them to be confident in their beautiful natural texture. Appreciation is as much a part of caring for natural hair as is moisturizing. So, let them experiment, and remember to use positive words when discussing your child's natural hair.