Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Transitioning & Healthy Hair Care for Children

Teaching our children to love themselves just as they were created to be is the first brick that leads to a road of self pride and acceptance.  We lead by example and to me, there is no better example we show our young children that we love our hair then caring for it, naturally.  As a stylist, I meet women all the time with daughters who are transitioning from chemical relaxers and texturizers.  Most of them I find turned to chemical straightening either at the recommendation of their own stylist or just a lack of knowledge on how to care for their child's hair in its kinky curly state.  Growing up I loathed hair care day. I knew it would be an all day event of hair washing, detangling, conditioning and heat press styling.  Although my hair was not relaxed and never had heat damage, I was extremely "tender headed" and couldn't stand the detangling process more than other part of my hair care day.  The fact that most kinky curly headed children squirm at the thought of having their hair combed stems mostly from the fear of pain they will have to endure during the detangling process which in return, frustrates Mom or Dad, causing them to seek alternative hair care methods to make their little ones hair more manageable.  With the abundance of natural hair products now on the market, a large majority of them have detangling benefits to them.  So, before you go out and buy a kiddie perm kit for your little one, let's discuss some alternative resolutions to make caring for your child's hair a delightful experience he/she can look forward to.  Shifting the focus on how pretty or handsome they will look as a result of their grooming process, instead of on how painful it will be, will make a pleasant experience for both parent and child.

Seeking advice from your stylists or any stylist is one way of gaining insight on how to better care for your child's hair.  Just keep in mind, not all hair stylist are equipped with the know-how on handling and caring for kinky textures.  For this reason, texturizers are often suggested and parents are falsely advised they are less harmful then relaxers.  Most of the time they are suggested simply due to the stylist not being familiar with natural hair care.  If you desire to keep your child's hair kinky and curly let the stylist know.  Be up front, chemicals are not an option and go from there.  Should you decide texturizing/relaxing is the method you would like to move forward with, you can still learn healthy hair care practices to avoid as much breakage as you can. I am strongly against this option so I'm not going to go into it in detail.  I will say, avoid heat, do not apply 6-8 weeks as recommended on the product package or by some stylists and instead stretch them out by applying them no more than 3 times per year.  Deep condition your child's hair weekly and allow it to air dry while platited in braids to keep the roots stretched, then style.  Use natural detangling products such as Kinky Curly Knot Today to help ease pain during combing new growth.  If you are reading this, I assume natural hair is your preference for your child even if you are not wearing your hair natural yourself.  I find most parents I speak to prefer their child's hair to be healthy, regardless of their texture and just don't have the information needed to keep their child chemical free.

As I mentioned, the detangling process is usually the onset of seeking chemical relaxers for manageability.  There are other reasons as well. One being we, as the parent, have a distorted view of what beauty is.  We have fed into the good hair myth and inadvertently passed on those views to our child.  Good hair is silky, doesn't shrink up, it's curly not kinky, it's thin not thick, it's easy to comb, it's what bi-racial people have.  All of the above are false. Good hair is hair that is well taken care of and shows through its density, often the length it can grow to, shine, moisture level, and overall elasticity and texture, be it curly, kinky or which ever texture the child has, naturally.  Using terms like good hair or referring to your child's hair as being nappy in a derogatory manner even if you don't mean it negatively can have a huge negative impact in the way our children view their looks.  Remember children gain their sense of pride and who they are by what they learn from their parents first.  It's important we provide them with the knowledge of self love and understanding beauty comes in various forms...and God makes no mistakes :o)

Regimen Building

What is a Regimen?
A prescribed course of medical treatment, way of life, or diet for the promotion or restoration of health.
The primary purpose of creating a hair care regimen for you child is to either maintain the health or improve the health of their hair.  Most mothers who have natural hair themselves follow the same type of hair care regimen they use on themselves.  Although the products used may be different, the consistency and attention of care given is the same.  For those of you who have no idea on where to begin here is a sample regimen you can start using on your children.  Keep in mind it will vary with age and the amount of hair the child has. For instance with my middle son, he had hair to his shoulders by age 1.  Other children may not have as much or may have more, therefore the styling options and regimen may vary. Some children have drier scalps then others as well. Also keep in mind it is the consistency of the care that helps your child's hair flourish into good hair. Most parents being seeking better ways to make their child's hair easier to manage between ages 3-7.  If your child has very course hair keep in mind that is what he/she was born with and therefore it is BEAUTIFUL.  Changing the texture to bone straight from a relaxer will not make it any more pretty, it will only feed into the cycle of misconceived notions of what beauty is.  This is a very generalized children's regimen and depending on the condition of the child's hair can be done on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, fully natural or transitioning.  One other note, if your child is not feeling up to hair care day don't force it.  We all have times when we really don't want to follow our regimen day and slack are people too! Ease up and try for another time of day or another day all together. 
1. Wash with luke warm water. If you run your wrist underneath the running water and its too hot...its too hot for your child's scalp as well.  Wet the hair first and apply a gentle sulfate free shampoo, concentrating on the scalp only. During the rinse process the cleanser will automatically run down the hair shaft and remove remaining product build up from the length of your child's hair.  Note: most "baby" shampoos are full of harmful sulfates and surfactants that create suds.  Just because it reads gentle or baby doesn't mean it wont be harmful.  Read the ingredients and labels on your child's products and when all possible stick to all natural products. Shampoo bars are another great alternative to using bottled shampoos and usually cost much less.
2. Apply a moisturizing conditioner to your childs hair concentrating on the ends. Allow the conditioner to sit on the childs hair 5 minutes or so prior to parting into 4 sections (using fingers or the pointed end of a rat tail comb from forehead to nape, ear to ear) so the hair is more manageable and detangles with ease. Since the ends are the oldest and most vulnerable to breakage it is important that they are the focus of your conditioning.  This will also help to retain your child's length and make them happy to see their hair CAN grow. Once the conditioner is applied, place a plastic cap (supervised by an adult to ensure the child doesn't remove it and try to play with it. If your little one is too feisty, skip the plastic cap and wait until he/she gets to be a little more mature) for  at least 30 minutes (weekly) to 1hr (bi-weekly).
3. Rinse the conditioner with cool water.  This can be a bit tricky. Even I don't like cold water rinses but it is best to ensure their cuticles close to reduce frizz and promote natural shine.  If your little one isn't feeling the cool water you can always follow up with Aloe Vera juice or an apple cider vinegar rinse to close the cuticle.  The easiest way however would be to simply run your hands in a downward motion throughout the rinse and you will manually close them.
4. Apply a leave-in conditioner that also provides detangling properties in it.  This is usually the part of the hair care process when little ones feel the most discomfort.  This part requires patience on your part as the parent.  DO NOT RUSH.  There are several options you can use to detangle.  Which ever way you choose ALWAYS detangle the hair in sections as described above in the condition section, starting at the ends of their hair gradually detangling up to the root.  You may use a wide toothed comb to detangle, a hair utensil specifically for detangling such as a Tangle Teaser, or your fingers.  When using your fingers be sure your nails are free of chips or tears that could potentially snag your child's hair causing pain and breakage.  After each section has been detangled, two strand twist or plait the section to avoid it from tangling again as it dries and shrinks to its normal state.

Moisturize & Seal
5.To ensure your child's hair stays moisturized for longer periods of time there is a method called sealing.  Using a water based moisturizer (first or second ingredient is water) is best.  Try to avoid using products that claim to moisturize yet when you read the ingredients, water is not on the top 3 ingredients listed.  You can moisturize using water only as well.  Keep in mind if you live in areas with hard water, your child's hair, no matter how good the product you use to seal in moisture with still wont keep the hair from feeling dry.  Once you find a good moisturizing product if you opt for that instead of using plain water, you want to follow up by using a butter like shea, mango, or avacado and/or and oil like castor oil, extra virgin olive oil or jojoba oil.  Everytime you wet your childs hair you want to follow up with some type of butter or oil to lock in moisture for longer periods of time then using water alone.
6.Not every parent is good at styling their child's hair.  For those of you who lack the confidence to style your child's hair in a way you feel is presentable, you may seek help from a natural hair stylist like myself.  The key is, you have already equipped yourself through preforming the steps above, to help your child's stylist know what works and doesn't work for your child.  You can also help the stylist with healthier hair handling of your child's hair if you  notice them reach for a small toothed comb and/or begin combing from the roots to the ends.  Speak up...don't let your baby suffer or become victimized by an untrained hair stylist , no matter how good she will make your child look in the end.  Your job as the parent is to make sure the trip to the salon is a pleasant one.

For those of you who are able to style always use 100% soft boar bristle brushes and wide toothed seam free combs.  The only thing a rat tail comb is good for is parting after the hair has been detangled.   Styles like twists, plaits, Bantu knots, cornrows, box braids, buns, and pony tails are great for little ones because they don't have to get their hair combed daily AND they still reap the benefits of looking presentable. 

This style was done by me...if you would like to make an appt for yourself or your child send and email to!
8. Once your child's hair has been styled for the week or until you decided to style it over again, even if you take your child to a salon, you will still need to maintain the look.  Making sure your child's hair stays soft and moist  is very important to ensure there is no breakage from dryness.  Covering your child's hair at night is also very important.  You can buy a satin pillow case for them to sleep on or a satin scarf, satin DuRag, or satin bonnet.  Most children tend to sleep pretty wild and there nightly hair coverings end up somewhere in the bed instead of on their head by morning.  My recommendation would be to use a child size DuRag because it has strings that wrap around the perimeter of your child's head and ties in the back.
9.If your child is transitioning from a relaxer or texturizer, trimming will be a very important part of the hair care process.  I had a client who was transitioning age 7 years old.  Her parents understandably told me big chopping wasn't an option so I kept her hair up weekly by shampooing, conditioning, and braiding her hair into different protective styles or cornrow braids with beads.  Needless to say, her hair flourished.

 Depending on your child's rate of growth, if average 1 inch every two months, I would cut 1/2 and inch every 2 months.  A trim is considered 1/4 inch. This means in one year you will have cut (depending on how long the child's hair is) 3 inches of hair.  The transitioning process is a time for your child to learn kinky hair grows just like any other texture. All it takes is caring for it and patience. 
This is the best way to stretch your childs hair without using heat; allowing it to air dry.
Once your child hair is fully natural, if you are not putting any heat on the hair, trimming 1/4 inch will probably only be necessary every 6 months or so. You will need to assess according to the condition of the child's ends.  If they are split, very light in color and thin in comparison to the color and thickness at the root of the hair, it's trim time.  If you find several knots at the ends, it's also time to trim.  You may find that keeping your child's hair stretched (braids, twists, or Bantu knots) after it has been cleaned, conditioned, detangled with moisture sealed in, will help prevent knotting ends. 

There are several ways you can trim hair. Wet, dry, or in small twists.  I recommend twisting the child's hair first into small size twists then cutting off any damaged ends you see.  You can part your childs hair into four sections, ear to ear, forhead to nape, and twist each section into several small to medium size twists.  Some prefer to trim or cut their hair on dry hair that has been blown out or straightened with a flat iron.  I don't  recommend this. You'll be taking a chance on permanently heat damaging your childs natural curls.  If you should opt for dry cutting, using grapeseed oil will reduce the chances of heat damage.

Product Suggestions

Pretty Anntoi-nets Girl's Hair Bonnets 
You can also save money by making your own products. If you REALLY want more do-it- yourself hair care options by creating your own personalized shampoo's, shampoo bars, conditioners, leave-ins, detangling rinses, herbal rinses, hair milks, and gels...pretty much anything you want to make you can will a little research and knowing what your child's hair needs by taking care of it consistently.



  1. Thank you so much for this info

  2. Thanks a bunch for the info!! My 10 year old has decided that she wants to "grow her perm out". (I am not natural, but I keep my hair cut short). I started using "just for me" texturizers since she was 6...for the last year or so, i've been using "kids organics" texturizer/softener. Last month when it was time for a "touch up" I used the kids organics relaxer since the store was out of the softener. BIG MISTAKE. Her had started coming out to where I had to clip off almost 1 1/2 inches to "even" it out. Today is the "due date" for a touch up but as I said earlier...she doesn't want it. I did wash it and yes, blow dried and flat ironed it. We shall see how this transitioning process works. Thanks again!!