Prev Next
Natural Hair Care for Preschoolers

Haircare Products for Preschoolers

By Amalah

Hi Amy,

It seems like you don’t get many of these anymore, but I have an old-fashioned beauty question for you.  My daughter is 4 years old and has the most beautiful long blond hair (a true towhead).   The only problem is that it’s just like mine – straight, superfine and unbelievably prone to tangles.  For the longest time I’ve used the Johnson’s 2-in-1 shampoo/conditioner plus the leave-in detangler, but it is just no longer working on her hair. It’s not as soft and by the end of the day it can look like a stringy, tangled mess.   I could brush it every hour, but let’s be honest – that’s just not going to happen.  We generally wash it every other day, and by the end of the second day it’s really a mess, even if it’s been in a ponytail all day.  

Since she’s so young, I prefer to stick to a natural product, but I’m really clueless as to what to look for. I use a regular store-brand and using that seems like overkill, but the baby products clearly aren’t appropriate anymore.  Can you provide any recommendations?


Hey, how about that! Your daughter’s hair sounds just like mine! And an awful lot like my kids’ hair — ESPECIALLY Ezra’s. While Noah seems to have inherited a LITTLE wave and natural texture from his father, poor Zah got his mother’s wispy-fine super-straight hair. Both of ’em, however, are prone to the tangles and that sort of stringy look you’re describing.

But, of course, allow me to state the obvious: They’re BOYS. With short hair. Or…short-ish, depending on how long I feel like going between haircuts. Even when I’ve let their hair grow “long” we’re still not really dealing with hair length like your daughter’s. Therefore, take everything I’m about to say with a grain of salt and a side of “I Don’t Think Amy Really Knows What She’s Talking About.”

If I could take a wild guess, I’d say that it probably isn’t the BABY shampoo bit that’s the problem for your daughter — it’s the 2-in-1 shampoo/conditioner combo deal. I despise those on my own hair, as they seem to exacerbate every problem I’m prone to: Not condition-y enough to deal with the tangles and keep my hair manageable all day, but still product-y and heavy enough to weigh my hair down and leave it kind of dull and stringy and oily.

We still use a baby shampoo on both boys — and Noah’s going on six! They simply aren’t ready for a non-tear-free formula (especially since hair-washing has only JUST become less of a battle), and I am not ready to stop being generally wigged out and suspicious of every unpronounceable ingredient in “real” grown-up shampoos and haircare products. So for now, that all still trumps any quibbles I may have about whether I’m using the absolute best product out there for their particular hair type.

Not that I’m going to let them run around with stringy-looking rats’ nests on their heads, though! We use California Baby Calming Shampoo and Bodywash on all three boys. It’s a really nice lightweight wash that rinses away super easily and doesn’t leave any residue behind (that’s a killer for us ultra-fine hair types). Then I like to use the separate Calming Conditioner, since I feel like it packs a more longer-lasting punch than the combo dealies without being too heavy duty for young hair and scalps.

For Ezra’s wispy, baby-fine hair, I let it sit on his hair while he plays in the tub and rinse it out right when bathtime is over. For Noah’s longer, stringier, tangle-prone hair, I use a little less product, apply mostly to just the ends, and then I don’t rinse it out. You could maybe experiment with both approaches for your daughter and see if one works better for her, and yes, California Baby does make a spray-in detangler. And it’s a detangler that can be used on wet OR dry hair, so in between washes you could use it to help keep things from getting so messy. (I’m thinking of trying it on Noah before school, because the kid is waking up with INSANE-O bedhead and howwwwwwls whenever I try to brush it and encounter even the barest of knots.)

For the record, I have used the California Baby stuff on myself, in a pinch, and was pleasantly surprised at how soft and clean it left my hair, even for a “baby” shampoo. And while I insist on 100% natural everything for my kids, I’ve typically been less than thrilled with the results when I try to go that route for my hair. So. Again, I don’t have experience with long little-girl hair (other than remembering using the classic brownish-orange Johnson & Johnson’s baby shampoo on myself until practically junior high), but I can attest that it works very well on my kids’ hair AND my own long, temperamental, annoying, high-maintenance, arrrrggh-why-don’t-I-just-cut-it-all-off hair.


About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

icon icon
chat bubble icon


  • Monica

    September 12, 2011 at 6:30 pm

    Does the Calming California Baby stuff have lavender oil? I’ve tried looking it up, but can’t find the full, exact ingredients list.

    Isabel says: In reading the FAQs at California Baby, they refer folks over to for the full ingredient lists of their products. Here is the link to the Calming Shampoo/ Body Wash. And yes, it does contain french lavender essential oil.

  • Jenny

    September 12, 2011 at 8:03 pm

    For my little girl (who has long, straight, VERY FINE hair that falls to her bottom) I actually prefer to use a heavy adult conditioner, and A LOT OF IT. Since switching to, say, pantene silky and shiny or whatever that mess is called, her hair is much more smooth and actually silky and shiny. I don’t think a heavy conditioner on a little girl is a bad idea since they aren’t styling their hair every day with heat and the such and generally aren’t caring if their hair is maintaining volume on the playground. As long as it slides in and out of braids and ponytails and little hair bands easily, I’m happy. Much less breakage, too.

  • Ashley

    September 12, 2011 at 8:27 pm

    I love the California Baby soap! We’ve used it on my 2 yr old since birth. I also use it in my wipe solution. I also use the conditioner b/c her hair is a rats nest in the morning if I don’t. The spray is great for getting the little tangles in the morning and after nap. Plus it refreshes her curls so they are bouncy again. The lotions and creams are good too. Their stuff is a little pricey but it’s quality and last forever!

  • Elizabeth

    September 12, 2011 at 9:58 pm

    My daughters have lots of thick hair. Right now the California Baby stuff (we use the Super Sensitive because my first had extremely sensitive skin as a baby, and lavender makes me sneeze) works fine on the 20 month old still. Sometime after the older one (now 4.5) turned two I used my conditioner on her while we were traveling, and I was amazed at how much easier her hair was to comb, and how nice it stayed for several days. These days we’re using the Alba Botanica brand. It smells like coconut, isn’t terribly expensive, and does a great job.

  • Ali

    September 12, 2011 at 11:40 pm

    My 2yr old has slippery longish hair. tangle prone of course. We use the California shampoo and then I use my conditioner on just the back of her head and comb out all the tangles while she plays in the water. Works for us :o)

  • Nora

    September 13, 2011 at 2:04 am

    The leave-in adult conditioner is totally the way to go, and Pantene’s are nice and not too pricey.

    I’d also look at how you’re washing her hair … with a bunch of conditioner, you can work the tangles out in the bath, and then brushing / combing afterwards is a breeze. The only challenge can sometimes be getting all the conditioner out, but it’s totally worth it in the softness and healthiness you should see.

  • Olivia

    September 13, 2011 at 8:42 am

    My 2 yr old has very long, fine hair, but it’s also very curly. Her hair tends toward dry and coarse so I use a baby shampoo, whatever I get on sale, and my adult conditioner. I put a lot of conditioner in, let it sit, comb it out and then rinse some of it out. After that I use a moisturizing hair cream to smooth it out, and on her non-bath days I spray a moisturizing, curl-enhancer  and pick thru it to bring back the bounce. Both of those are actually marketed for adults. Of course, with straight hair I probably wouldn’t use the last two products.

  • Sonja

    September 13, 2011 at 10:54 am

    It’s not exactly natural, but I find a small amount of the “Garnier Fructis Style Sleek & Shine Anti-Humidity Smoothing Milk, Strong” then a wet comb works wonders. Use it on my 2-year old with uber-fine blond hair every morning.

  • Brooke

    September 13, 2011 at 12:08 pm

    Have you gotten her hair trimmed recently? I’ve found my hair tends to get tangled really fast when it needs a trim.

  • annabelvita

    September 13, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    My mum used to plait my hair in two plaits every day to keep it neat all day (unless it was a special occasion or something)

  • Kate

    September 13, 2011 at 2:05 pm

    My daughter has fine, long hair.  We’ve used plain ol’ Johnson’s baby wash in her hair but recently switched to a kids’ shampoo because it was given to us by my in-laws.  Her hair is usually tangle-free the day after her shower (no need to comb/brush) but becomes a rat’s nest shortly after that.  Spray-on detangler has worked wonders for us but my daughter still hates having her hair brushed/done, so we finally made the decision to cut it.  This is actually going to happen tonight and I’m trying not to be sad that her beautiful long hair will be gone!

  • Katie

    September 13, 2011 at 4:38 pm

    I echo a couple of other moms on here–up until just a year or two ago, we still used “tear free” kids shampoo on my little girl (who’s now 8, and only recently switched to sharing shampoo with me). Conditioner wise, though, I switched to adult stuff when her hair started getting some serious length and volume–probably right around four-ish. Tear free/kids just isn’t heavy duty enough. I didn’t do her roots—just the ends, and we never had a in-the-eyes issue. Combing it out after the bath got amazingly easier as soon as we switched.

  • Wallydraigle

    September 14, 2011 at 12:32 am

    I never grew out of my baby hair. My three year old’s hair has the same texture as mine. Speaking of which, she has my hair, only LOADS of it. Girl is going to haaaate the next thirteen years, and then all of a sudden, she’s going to understand my weird jealousy. Her hair is annoying now, but one day I’m pretty sure it’s going to be hair model-like.
    Ahem. All that to say that I have experience with hair that tangles easily. And I say go with two things: wash it as little as you possibly can, and put it in braids. I also suggest leaving a small amount of conditioner in the ends of her hair after washing it, but I might only do that if the other two don’t work. I’m finally working up the nerve to grow my own hair long again, and the braids and the less frequent washing has made a huge difference. I still have to take extra care to comb it (gently! and not too often!), but it looks–if I do say so myself–amazing. I never realized I could pull off long hair, and it turns out it all comes down to proper hair care and bangs.

  • cagey (Kelli Oliver George)

    September 14, 2011 at 8:24 am

    My daughter is 4 and LOVES using my shampoo & conditioner.  I let her pick whatever she wants, which adds to that special ” I’m A Big Kid” Feeling.  

    And also this: My daughter has “just past the shoulder” length of hair because we’ve always regularly trimmed it – even as a baby.  We have the India Thing going on here anyway and that’s how they do baby girl hair (short in the early years, then they let it grow long)  Honestly? Does the reader regularly have her daughter’s hair trimmed?  When my daughter’s hair has issues with tangles, that’s a sign that she needs a light trim. Even if the reader is trying to grow her daughter’s hair out, she might want to consider a light trim. Just my 2 cents.  And my hair stylist’s.  🙂

  • Ree

    September 14, 2011 at 4:28 pm

    My 3.5 year old daughter has fine, curly blond hair. We had to give up baby shampoo early on because of the tangles. I actually went online to learn about caring for her hair because none of us have curly hair. Now we use an organic adult conditioner to “wash” her hair most nights, and a moisturizing adult shampoo a couple times a week. No more big tangles and her hair is shiny and much less frizzy. Another big help is using a spray bottle of water to mist her hair before combing in the morning (bath at night), which I think would work for straight hair kids as well. It makes the tangles come out more easily. I don’t use detangling spray because I don’t like the idea of leaving so much product in her hair. Good luck!

  • Cathy

    September 16, 2011 at 2:56 am

    I found the most helpful thing for my little one when it’s getting impossible to brush is to have a hair cut. Sad, but true. And plaiting it before bed, and keeping in a pony tail keeps to from tangling too much at those “high-tangling times”