Many of my straight-haired friends admit they rarely gave much thought to the care and maintenance of the strands atop their heads. Sure, they bought bottles of shampoo and occasionally used conditioner. Maybe they complained when humid weather zapped the curls they created that morning with a curling iron.
Other than that, it seemed like a wash, brush and go existence — until a curly-haired child entered their lives.
Learning curly hair care for different textures can seem like a daunting experience, especially when a parent realizes the regimen that worked on her own hair wreaks havoc on her child’s. Although there have long been a few lone curlies in families of straighties, the growth of multiracial families (both biological and adoptive) across North America is helping more parents recognize the importance of establishing an effective hair care routine as part of a child’s healthy growth and development.
Most advice is often geared toward straight-haired parents and their curly-haired children, but the learning curve can be steep in the other direction as well. I’m a perfect example — once I mastered caring for my own kinky-curly hair, I looked forward to using that knowledge on any future “mini-mes” that might join my family.
I ended up with a little boy whose hair was almost stick straight for two years. A few waves — calling them curls would be generous — eventually popped up when his hair got extra-long or on a humid day, but besides adding a bit of leave-in conditioner to his wet hair, I’m still trying to figure what works best. If I’d had a girl with longer hair like his, I know I’d still be scrambling to find a routine.
Here are some tips to keep in mind as you learn to care for your child’s hair, whether wavy, kinky or somewhere in between.
Forget the old rules: Many an older curly has a tale of woe from childhood when a well-meaning parent kept telling her to “brush her hair” to get rid of frizzy curls, not understanding that the friction just made it worse. Yes, you might have brushed your straight hair daily for maximum smoothness and shine, but a brush will be your curly child’s sworn enemy, while wide-toothed combs will be their best friends. For parents possessing curlier textures on their own heads, understand that too much moisture or use of heavier products could weigh down your not-so-curly child’s locks and make them stringy and greasy.
Experiment: For product junkies like me, this is the fun part. While I don’t run to the store (or the Internet) to buy every product recommended by a YouTube guru or a specific website, I do try ones that come up frequently in online or in-person conversations. I always check labels as well to see if the ingredients are beneficial to my child’s texture. Moisture is essential for curly hair, so a straight-haired parent might use more conditioner on her child’s hair in a month than she did on her own hair in a year (and less shampoo). Take some time to see what works.
Ask for help: Do you admire the halo of ringlets on your neighbor’s daughter’s head? Ask mom (or dad) how she gets them looking so great. People are usually eager to offer product and styling suggestions, especially if they’ll help a young child look and feel her best. Check out adult heads as well and don’t be afraid to ask the woman in Aisle 3 what she uses on her hair. Chances are she’ll enjoy talking about products and offering ideas for your child.
Get professional advice: If you’re looking for tips on caring for natural curls, find a professional stylist who specializes in textured hair and ask him or her for a consultation. Also, consider making contacts through multiracial family groups, many of whom can recommend a great salon or stylist. Some stylists offer clinics on curly hair care geared toward adoptive parents of black/biracial children or biological parents of biracial children with Afro-textured hair.
Love their hair: It sounds simple enough, but sometimes in our frustration, we can convey negative messages to our children that something is wrong with the way they look. Always compliment their beautiful curl patterns (or lack thereof), especially during the washing and styling process, and teach them to proudly embrace their gorgeous locks.
What other tips do you use when styling your child’s curls?
Written By: Shannon Shelton Miller
Since going natural in college more than 10 years ago (wow, time flies), Shannons hair journey has taken her through life in humid and dry climates, product junkie-ism, hair show modeling, wedding-hair styling and now, the world of “mom” hair. Shannon lives in Ohio with her husband and 1-year-old son, and continues to enjoy exploring the world of curly hair.