Top tips for HEALTHY kids hair and management of texture.
Updated: May 12, 2020
For those who are new to my blog, I am a licensed cosmetologist located in the textured hair mecca, Atlanta, GA. I like to consider myself a "natural hair expert" because my years of experience, combined with my detailed and analytical mind, have allowed me to gain a great reputation with not simply styling hair, but helping people create regimens to understand and grow their hair. Simply put, I don't quite look at hair as just a styling canvas and with a "one size fits" all mentality.
There is SO much information out there, and when answering questions about hair, I don't typically fit the mold because you can't generalize tips to fit EVERYONE; people following advice and not knowing what pertains to them is why so many people are still struggling. I like to provide the who and why any of my advise pertains to.
I tend to provide a lot of advise pertaining to hair in general on my hair IG page and Textured Training Academy education site, but I want to provide some help out there for the mamas that are STRUGGLING with their children's hair. If you're currently struggling with your daughter or son's hair, or if you simply want to gain as much knowledge as possible to help manage your child's texture, keep reading!
Here are my top tips for HEALTHY kids hair and management of texture:
1. Don't stress perfection! Healthy hair is often not perfect, precise styles with daily upkeep.
We have to start here because hair shouldn't overwhelm you! I know we want our little ones to look super cute, but as moms we have SO much to do that hair should not be a stressor. If you're choosing styles that you have to maintain perfection by brushing and combing daily, laying down and applying gel to edges daily, etc. you're probably doing too much. Gain some peace and allow your child's hair to to get a little frizz. I mean, they're KIDS. Manipulating hair too much is never good for their fragile strands. If you try a new style and it doesn't work out, or the parting isn't perfect, just go with it! Hair should be a fun bonding time for you and your little ones.
2. Trims are important for kids too!
If you're using moisturizing products, being gentle, and your child's hair still isn't growing or they're having a screaming match every time you comb their hair, chances are they need a trim. Hair grows out the scalp but splits at the ends, and if you don't ever trim, those split ends get thin and create matting and tangling, especially during the shampoo process. I recommend starting to get your child's ends trimmed at age 4. If you can't find a salon that you trust, you can trim a little bit off the ends every 3 months (A little goes a long way!) by placing the flat edge of the comb or detangle brush flat on the head. The angle that it sticks out is the angle you should pull the hair to trim it. If your child has a tighter texture that shrinks 50% or more when wet, trim their hair stretched (via a braid out or blow out- if you're comfortable with mild heat). I promise trimmed ends will change your life, and your sanity, when it comes to wash day!
3. Moisture is a process of: cleansing, hydrating, moisturizing, sealing.
Hair cannot absorb moisture when its clogged with styling products, and oils are not moisture: they seal in moisture and fertilize/stimulate the scalp and hair for growth. You need to shampoo your little one's hair at least once a month (a couple of times if you go this long), a and don't skip to conditioner. The hair can't absorb conditioner if it's clogged, so if you find your child's hair keeps staying dull and dry, chances are you are overloading it with products and not cleansing it. After a good shampoo and cleanse (a purifying shampoo first and then a moisturizing), you can then you can apply a good leave in and seal it in with light oils (not heavy oils such as pure coconut and castor, shea butter, etc. These type of oils and butters need to be diluted. Add a few drops of essentials oils to enhance growth, kill inflammation and bacteria, etc, but make sure to do your RESEARCH heavily and use a carrier oil.
4. Choose styles based upon the shrinkage/the tightness of the hair.
If your child has a silky, wavy, curly, texture, your job is probably a lot more simple. For those of you who have a child with a tighter curl or kink, stretched styles are necessary to avoid tangles and dryness. Opt for protective styles or stretched styles with twists to smooth the hair out so that the product can get it. I get you may occasionally need to do a puff or pig tails, but try not to make them your go to style. I recently did knotless box braids on my daughter's hair for a stretched, protective style. I've never done them before, but I was patient and ambitious during quarantine for COVID-19. Her hair shrinks, so I knew it would do well with this stretched style because her hair doesn't grow well with puffs and mini twists. In most cases I opt for blow outs, twists, twisted updos for her hair.
5. Tools can be great, if used properly! Some textures NEED them.
So some people tend to be SO afraid of tools. I get it, you think they will rip your child's hair out, so you take way longer than needed to finger detangle (that just makes you and your child frustrated sometimes). The hair IS fragile, but some textures are harmed MORE from not using tools because it's not thorough and the tangles and shed hairs that are left reap havoc! Children with hair that shrinks 50% or more NEED tools (everyone else can finger detangle and still be good, but tools with help your sanity). You can't properly remove all tangles and shed hairs from tight textures with your fingers, especially at the SCALP, which causes more breakage and split ends over time. To detangle properly, make sure you don't enter the shampoo tangled (see number 7), use slippery conditioner, start from the ends, and use slippery tools. Start at the ends until the tools glides easily, then work your way up. Start larger: I love the coconut detangle comb, and then go smaller when styling with a Felicia Leatherwood detangle brush. Hair that is detangled well from the START will tangle LESS when it's time to shampoo again.
6. Avoid flat iron heat for younger kids, but blow dry heat may actually help.
It's just my rule of thumb, but I don't feel kids younger than 1st grade need flat iron heat (and potentially even longer if that's your choice or they have fragile hair). The hair is not at it's true strength yet, and heat just complicates things. My daughter is 8 and is just about to get her first flat iron. I have given her blow dry heat though (started at age 4), which with proper conditioning and heat protection isn't as evasive and is actually HELPFUL to her length retention. Why? Because her texture is more fragile to touch everyday and tangles, drys out, and shrinks more. When I blow dry her hair, it allows it to not dry out and tangle as much, so I can do a style that can last a month and not be afraid of matting and tangling. She does a lot of protective styling, and with her hair, stretched is better for styles that will sit longer. Also, she gets a WAY more precise trim when blow dried, which makes my life easier and keeps her ends healthy!
7. Pre-poos are great for kids when coming out of styles that have been in for a while.
So a pre-poo is when you mix some slippery element such as conditioner or leave in, with light oils, and water. When your child has had a protective style or any style for 2 weeks or more, shed hairs get trapped and dirt and products build up in the hair and and scalp. If you jump right into a shampoo, it can tangle more. Try a pre-poo! In sections, mist the hair with water and apply your conditioner/oil mixture and start with a larger tool AND then a smaller tool to get ALL tangles and sheds hairs out (all the way down to the scalp!). If you do this before shampooing, the hair will be detangled more gently, while lubricated, vs trying to detangle matted hair after a shampoo.
8. Small sections and tension are not best for protective styles.
A part of the culture of black people can often be to want very precise, polished styles. Yes, they last long and look gorgeous, but with kids (and even adults) all of that precision and braids that are precise to the edge can create tension and be hard to take down. Styles that have medium to large sections and less tension are best. Yes, they may not look as polished for long, but what's more important?!