Hair Care 101 for Curly-Haired Tots
While Amalah is easing her way back to work from maternity leave, we have asked some internet friends to step in with their words of wisdom on some Advice Smackdown questions that have been out of Amy’s area of first-hand knowledge. Casey Mullins from moosh in indy is our guest contributor today.
First I want to offer my condolences on the loss of your father. I am hoping that this question will be an easy one for you, even though it has me stumped. But since it is about babies AND hair, I thought you would be the perfect person to ask.
My daughter is about two and a half, and has adorable curly hair. Straight out of the bath it’s ringlet-y curls all over, and then as it dries the curls get a little bigger.
It’s adorable, but it’s also hard to manage. If I brush it in the morning it tends to get kind of frizzy, but I can’t NOT brush it. She sleeps on her stomach and apparently rubs her head on the mattress or something, because lately she gets these huge rats-nests of tangles around her face. I’ve started putting her hair in pigtails during the day to keep it out of her eyes and a little more under control. The way it’s growing is also kind of weird… along the edge of her hairline it’s still pretty short, but the hair on the crown of her head is much longer. As in, hair from the top of her head actually comes farther down her back than hair that grows near the nape of her neck. Of course, the long part is what gets the most tangled, but it’s hard to put just that part up in a ponytail. Anyway, I’ve never had curly hair so I don’t really know how to work with this. We wash it about twice a week and I’ve started using adult conditioner on the ends. Should I try any other products? I’m not sure what to use on hair that’s still baby-fine. Should I have someone cut it so it’s all more one-length? I don’t really want the Little Orphan Annie look. What do you think?
At Least I Don’t Have to Cut Bangs Yet
So you birthed a baby with curly hair, come, sit close, let us commiserate and celebrate the joys of kinky headed children. I know for me one of the greatest joys is just how easy a curly head is to pick out in a sea of straight haired little girls. However the commiseration begins with all the comments. ZOMG THE COMMENTS.
“Is her hair naturally curly?”
“She’s going to hate that hair when she gets older!”
“Where did she get that curly hair?”
“AWW SHE’S A LITTLE SHIRLY TEMPLE!”
Look, people, I know you’re just trying to be nice, but “IS HER HAIR NATURALLY CURLY?” She’s three and do I look like a pageant mom? I’m pretty sure painting a badger’s toenails would be easier that curling a toddler’s hair. The good news is that us moms with curly haired progeny can bond together over products, techniques and styles that most moms never have to worry about. Having a child with curly hair could easily be considered a lifestyle. That is unless you don’t really care, because I know there are days when I let the haircare slip and my eldest runs around society looking as though no one really loves her with her wild tangle of frizzy hair.
So today I impart to you the wisdom I have learned over the past six years of dealing with my daughter’s head full of golden ringlets.
1. Trim and trim often. I know when it came time for Addie’s first haircut at around two years old I was petrified that her curls wouldn’t come back. I think many moms worry about this and put off a haircut as long as possible leaving their little kids with unruly mullet looking rats’ nests. Curly hair needs trims just as often (if not more often) that straight hair simply because it can dry out much faster, especially at the ends where it is more prone to breaking since it tangles so easily. *deep breath* The curls will come back, even if they don’t a neatly trimmed head of hair looks much better than a somewhat curly mess. Addie has wanted long hair forever, but it’s much easier to keep her curls short and layered and if I had it my way she’d sport a short curly bob like she did back when she wasn’t allowed to have an opinion on her haircut.
2. Go to a real salon. Cutting and trimming curly hair is an art, and not just anyone can or should be doing it. Especially when it comes to bargain haircutting places. Curly hair grows at different speeds and in different levels of curliness on the head so it’s important to find someone who can balance everything out and make everything play nicely together. Occasionally you can find someone who is skilled in curly hair (generally it’s people who have curly headed children) at a cheap place but if you’re serious about maintenance, call around until you find someone skilled with curls. I’ve had the most luck with Aveda trained stylists. And while you may be taking your kid to a grown up salon, generally a kid’s cut in a fancy place won’t cost you a whole lot more than a mediocre cut in a strip mall. Not to mention a regular stylist for your curly headed child will get to know how your kids hair grows, making each visit easier and each haircut better than the last.
3. Do not brush. Ever. Brushes are not meant for curls. Wide toothed combs and fingers are meant for curls. Stock up on them and leave one in every room of your house if you must so you’re not tempted to use a brush in a hurry. Curls have their own pattern and a brush does nothing but mess with the way a curl naturally wants to curl. Keep a spray bottle in each room as well if you need to, because just using your hand and the faucet will land you with a very damp kid and unevenly damp hair (which = frizz.)
4. Do not wash curly hair every day. It dries it out. In fact some curly heads can get away with never actually shampooing their hair, or only shampooing the greasy parts occasionally. I however have to shampoo Addie’s hair at least twice a week or the little kid A) smells like a wet dog or B) ends up with cradle cap. It’s very important that when you do shampoo curls you don’t mess with them too much, don’t rub and tangle them, instead scrub the scalp with your fingertips and gently work the shampoo through with your fingers as well.
5. Even if you don’t wash curly hair every day, it should be conditioned during every shower or bath. Use a moisturizing conditioner meant for kids (more on specific products later.) Again, don’t rub and tangle, simply run it through allowing the curls to maintain their own pattern. When you dry the hair don’t rub it with the towel, instead blot it, comb it from the nape of the neck up (allowing for more volume) scrunch on product and finish styling with only your fingers. Allow it to air dry (or use a diffuser if you must.) Even if the curls look clumped together don’t mess with them until they are dry, and once they are just do some light puffing up with your fingertips at the roots.
6. Prepare for a lot of product trial and error. Six years ago there weren’t the products for curly headed kids like there are today. And over the course of those six years I used an awful lot of adult products on a little girl. I’ve learned that it’s more important how you wash and handle the curls than it does how many products you use and how much they cost. Some of the best advice I got was from another mom of a curly headed girl, she said that she uses kid’s ethnic hair care products on her towheaded baby. They are super moisturizing like a grown up conditioner but safer for little faces. My current favorite products are by Curly Q’s, a line for “multi-ethnic women and girls.” Not only are they organic and all natural, they also have sulfate free options. They are not heavy or greasy, nor do they leave gobs of build up. Not to mention they smell like delicious cake batter. I found it at Target for around $10 a bottle…it may be slightly more difficult to find than other brands depending on where you live. The Curly Q site also has more excellent resources for curl care. The best news is that the products work well both in the humidity of Indiana (where I live) and the dry air of Utah (where we’re currently visiting.) Other products I’ve used that I feel comfortable recommending are Ouidad KRLY Kids (not as moisturizing but very gentle) and Circle of Friends (some of the smells are nauseating and the packaging is…well…let’s just say I’m a graphic design major and am heavily influenced by package design. *ehem*). While they don’t have a specific formula for curly hair their more moisturizing products are in fact quite moisturizing, however many are 2-in-1 which isn’t always ideal for curls.
One final thing is not to try new products on hair that hasn’t been recently cut or trimmed, even trimming off a half inch can make an enormous difference in how curls behave and by trying new products on an old haircut you won’t get a real idea of how the product is supposed to work. (That being said, keep receipts and return what doesn’t work, otherwise you’ll end up with a giant product graveyard.)
The 30 second wrap up?
-Call around until you find a stylist who is skilled in curly hair.
-Get your kid a real haircut.
-Don’t wash too often and when you do don’t scrub or tangle the curls.
-Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize.
-Wide tooth combs and fingers only.
-Don’t mess with drying curls, fluff only at the roots once dry.
Caring for curls will get easier as your baby gets older and his or her hair grows in thicker, what works now may not work this time next year or even when the weather changes in winter. Ah, the joys of curls. But honestly? I wouldn’t trade them for anything.