|Adoption: A Family Choice
African American Childrens'
Hair & Skin Care
My little 11 year old, Kyahna, has beautiful hair, but to be honest though, sometimes it looks a mess! I have
been collecting "instructions," opinions, hints, suggestions, etc. and hope to continue getting new ideas. My 16
year old, Sophia has softer curls, so can have her hair longer, but it gets dry easy. She had it straightened, but
after lots of months of hot irons, the ends are dry, and have broken off. She has decided to just let it go
natural, and use a cooler hot iron, but no more chemically straightening. My 8 year old son, Markus, has a "tail,"
which is a long braid down his back, and the rest of his hair is much shorter, but still more of a medium length
afro. After swimming, it will turn into gorgeous ringlets, if left alone. My 17 year old son, Izaiah, likes his hair
very, very short, so that is easy. All 4 are 1/2 siblings, but their hair is each so different from the others.
With permission, I have been collecting parents' hints and ideas. Try several things, until you find the one that
works best for your child.
An AA Mom's Suggestions
I am an A/A mom and I've been reading your site re: hair care for A/A children. My daughter is 10 years old
with a head full of THICK, long, easily tangled hair. She loves to swim and the chlorine is very
drying/damaging to her hair.
I have tried more hair products than I can name. However, we recently tried a product called Motions Oil
Moisturizer. It has a detangler in and it works like MAGIC!!!! My daughter and I are both thrilled. Prior to this
product, we stuck pretty much to one ponytail because it was such an ordeal to come her hair out. Now we try
new hairstyles everyday. I wish I had found this product sooner. It depresses me to think about all the
terrible comb-out sessions we've gone through.
Because I like a little more moisture in her hair and I'm trying to get it back in shape (the ends are brittle
from the chlorine) after it's combed out, I add a little B&B Oil Moisturizer for a finished look. Motions has a
complete line of products and I just bought the conditioner last night. Can't wait to try it. Our hair is very
fragile and breaks easily. It does require a little more attention. After shampooing, it is easier to do the
comb-out before you rinse the conditioner out.
Suggestions by: Pat B
I have 3 biracial daughters. When they were very young, I used baby care products made by Weleda and
Aubrey Organics (both lines should be available through local health & natural foods stores in Canada or USA.)
They aren't "no tears" formulas, but they are very gentle on the skin, made with very pure botanical products
and vegetable oils. I never had any skin or scalp problems at all, probably because these soaps/shampoos do
not dry the skin or hair (unlike mass market drugstore and children's products which contain some pretty harsh
ingredients....most parents are extremely careful not to get soap suds in baby's eyes in the first place. Also,
you want to use only a tiny dab of soap or shampoo - if the suds are flying around enough to drip into baby's
eyes, you're using way too much!
I gave daily baths, but only used tiny amounts of soap; I shampoo'd only once or twice a week. Play it by ear -
if your baby sweats a lot in the summer heat, then a more frequent shampooing might be in order to wash off
the accumulated sweat and grime that could cause skin rashes and infections. I never used baby oil or lotion
because their skin was never dry, even in the middle of winter living in a woodstove-heated house.
I don't know about the advice to never brush or comb hair for the first six months. My kids all had thick masses
of curls from birth, and I can't imagine the hideous mess their hair would have been without gently combing
and brushing every day, especially when it gets wet from a bath! Hair care (unless it's a boy with a
close-cropped head) is going to be a big issue, and the sooner your baby gets used to combing and brushing,
the better. I would think that after six months of never being combed, your baby's head is going to be a real
rat's nest of snarls all the way to the scalp, which can cause skin infections in and of itself, not to mention a
real nightmare the first time you try to comb it! But maybe others have another outlook based upon their own
She went over all the basics of AA hair care, including frequency of shampooing (no more than once a week,
preferably only once every two weeks); to comb out hair starting at the ends, not the scalp; to shampoo in the
shower instead of at the sink so that the water does the work of washing the conditioned hair straight down
and easing out tangles; and on and on. She showed me how to get super straight parts using the rat-tail of a
comb, and how to scrunch gel into her hair and gently dry it to set the curls if we wanted curls. And, most
importantly of all, to make sure that the hair is sectioned and secured in braids or twists every night before
going to bed so that it doesn't get matted during sleep. That way, in the morning you simply undo the hair one
section at a time, comb it, oil it, and re-fasten it. SO SIMPLE!!
For Hannah's dry, but soft and fine tightly curled hair, Chantelle recommended Soft Sheen's Optimum shampoo
and conditioner, plus Baby Love's Hair Lotion and Paul Sebastian's clear styling gel for styling.
We wound up using some different products than were recommended. Hannah hates the feel of gel and hair
lotion, so we settled on a nice, light oil: African Pride Hair, Scalp & Skin Oil. It is rich in botanical oils and
extracts, has a nice, light fragrance, and it doesn't weigh down her fine hair the way that baby oil or the
heavier lotions do. The Optimum shampoo and conditioner are good products for her hair, but I found the
fragrance overwhelming (I, the klutz with a comb, am also allergic to perfumes.) Matrix/Biolage has a
shampoo, conditioner and detangler for dry hair that are working nicely, but they are pricey salon products. I've
also found that Infusium conditioner and their Leave-In Treatment for dry hair seems to work well, and I can
tolerate the lighter scents in those products.
Suggestions and Ideas by Nancy (Mom who is AA)
I bathe all my children (we are Black) every night, and have since infancy. Kids get dirty -- the ring in the tub
proves it, LOL. I just use regular deodorant soap, whatever name brand's on sale. Also, for ashy skin, my
oldest two use lotion and it's enough, but the youngest three do much better with cocoa butter. Cheap, and
smells great, too :).
Re: Boys' Haircuts. Haircutting, cut it as soon as you can get him to hold still,he'll look adorable. The
battery-operated clippers for beards work real well on little kids, babies. They seem gentler, and are also
extremely easy to use.
Another Question for Nancy-Another page
1. I have been using Nexus Botanic Oil for my 3 year old's hair. Baby Love by Soft Sheen, works nicely also,
and even my 17 year old AA son likes to use it-it also has a great smell. Pro-Line Comb-Thru (Lite Creme
Moisturizer) is another product I use on my little ones.
2. Sometimes, I divide her hair in pie piece shaped divisions (triangles). I use tiny rubber bands that have been
soaked in the oil, and put tiny pony tails near the bottom, center of each "pie piece." If I am in a hurry, I just
add another tiny rubber band to the ends of each pony tail. That leaves cute "puffs" of hair all over. I put
barretts on the ends of each puff, and a rubber band type ball, heart, etc. close to her head. It is quick and
easy, and looks darling!!
3. If I have more time, I will divide each pony tail into two sections. I twist each piece in a clockwise direction,
then twist the two sections together in a counter clockwise direction. I put on a tiny rubber band to hold it
together, then a barrett (the rubber band also helps to keep the barrett from slipping off).
4. I always just break each rubber band, rather than trying to get it off her hair, without breaking the hair itself.
The tiny rubber bands then come right off, especially if they have been dipped in the oil.
5. Once in awhile I use the stretchy, comb type things on her hair, either as a head band or just to gently pull
the hair off her face. There are new ones that come in rainbow colors, bangles/beads, etc. and they are gentler
on the hair as compared to rubber bands. I have to be careful not to pull the pony tails too tight, because the
hair around her ears and forehead seem to break off easy.
6. Whenever I go to stores, I check for beads, hair things, barrets, etc. I buy at least 2-4 of each package. I
have a huge number now, so that she can be "color coordinated." She loves to have the "pretties" in her hair,
and leaves them in now, even at night (she will ask to leave them in, I sure can't figure out why, ha, ha). She
also loves them because she can swing them around.
AA Hair by Jeanne:
Marlisa, my grand-daughter, that I am raising is part hispanic. (Although you'd never know it with her blue
eyes and blond hair). Well, anyway she has very tight curls in the back, loose curls in the front and on top.
When she was a baby I used to use pure coconut oil on her hair. Can't find any in my state or I would still be
using it. I used to get it at one of the Puerto Rican food stores in MA. That works great. And if you can find it,
it costs a lot less than all these other products. But I did check the cabinet and the product that I use on
Burgundy and sometimes Marlisa is called Just For ME.
I think that there are alot of people who need to learn how to take care of their braids. I say this because I
braid and weave and when people come to see me I am in shock sometimes. They just don't care for them
right no matter what I say. The braids start to get this nasty odor.
As for skin care, when my children were babies I put vaseline on them. Head to toe. Especially in the winter. It
does not clog your pores and it is a great protectant (?) from that dry winter skin. Marlisa gets her booty
rubbed down with it because for some reason she has very dry skin on it. She has dry skin anyway but not like
on her booty. My oldest daughter is a cosmotologist. I will ask her for some ideas for you, also. I know she
just tried out a new tan accelerator for tanning beds and after one session she looked as if she had been out
in the sun 1/2 the summer.
Short Hair or Long Hair? by Pat B.
I have 3 daughters, all biracial (very, very light skin), all sibs. All three have different hair.
I used to keep their hair cut short. It was easy to wash, easy to brush, and those masses of short curls sure
looked cute - at least, to us whites it did. Then they hit school - and came home in tears every day because the
other black girls taunted them about looking like boys. I could see the self-esteem indexes plummeting, so I let
them grow their hair out.
The youngest (5) has silky soft hair with "white" wavy curls. She wants long, flowing tresses and is willing to put
up (tearfully) with our daily working out the knots and snarls. The middle (6) has soft hair with thick curly curls.
She too wanted long hair until the knots and snarls became too painful - then she begged me to cut it. Her hair
definitely is not what anyone would call "black" hair (people always ask if she's from South America) and she
looks great with a thick mass of curls framing her face in a halo. No one, black or white, has ever really teased
her about her hair because she is not perceived by either race as being black. The oldest (8) has fine dry frizz (but
not nappy) that kinks into tight Afro curls that looks BEAUTIFUL when kept short and conditioned with black hair
care curl activator. But she was constantly teased and taunted about looking like a boy, so we've let it grow.
My oldest daughter and I visited a black beauty shop last year to get some ideas for hair care. Ouch, was I
stepping into a place where I wasn't welcome! The tension was so thick you could cut it with a knife. We went
home and I did a home relaxer once with her - what a mess! I followed the directions to the T, but it didn't work
well; and even though I used one for children, her scalp still got chemical burns. We fooled around with hot
combing her hair straight, which she grew bored with very quickly (I was glad, because hot combing dried and
fried her hair horribly.) I don't do braids, twists, plaits, cornrows, etc. because the kids don't want them (direct
quote from my 8 year old: "Mom, that's a black thing. I'm not black, I'm brown.") What the girls do want to do is
just to pull their hair back, or up, into a puffy bun. With lots of fancy pony tail holders with bangles and baubles.
EASY! The oldest is asking for spiral curls when her hair gets long enough. Her hair might even do it naturally
when it grows out to shoulder length.
I've spent the last 8 years brushing, combing, and picking my way into slow insanity. Adoption classes should
include a lengthy segment on hair care for AA and biracial girls - and I'm not kidding! Those of us who are white
have NO IDEA what we're getting into. And it's such a deeply ingrained cultural identity issue that we NEED to
know! Good intentions aren't enough.
BTW, a wonderful book to read to your daughter is "CORNROWS". I forget the author, but it might be Eloise
something. Tells all about how the different braiding designs tell stories, and how the mothers and grandmothers
continue oral storytelling traditions during the combing and braiding process.
Thoughts of a mother who is AA
I have followed this hair discussion with interest because I have lived it as a child and an adult and now with my
daughter. I hated the hair issue because mine would never be long unless I did something artificial with it. My
curls are thick and tight. I used to hate them, but now I love them ever since a dear friend found the tiny,
perfectly round black ringlets on the floor referred to them with terms of endearment.
So here is some of what I have learned . . . If you go with an Afro, i.e., natural, the easiest and cheapest way to
comb the hair each day is wet. I should know, I have worn an afro for years--plus I have gone the hot comb,
chemical perm, curly perm, etc. etc.
I wet my hair thoroughly each morning under the tub faucet and then wrap it with a towel. After it is no longer
dripping, I put a few drops of vegetable oil in my palms, rub in both palms and then rub my palms all over my
hair, pressing down to get the oil in. My scalp is sensitive to hair products, so I have been using corn oil,
safflower oil, etc,. for years. It leaves my hair soft and without an odor.
I use a metal pick (used to be called a cake cutter), which I bought from Meijer. I systematically work from the
ends to the roots so that I do not hurt my scalp or have too much breakage. I comb my hair straight out all the
way around. Then I shape it lightly by patting it gently with my hands and then tie a scarf on it ever so lightly.
My 9 year old is bi-racial. She started wetting her hair under the tub faucet after she saw me doing it. If she
wanted curls she would let it air dry. If she wanted a frizz, she would comb it after it air dried.
Now she has extensions, which grace her face nicely. I let her have a perm (kicking and screaming, I might add,
because I loved her naturally loose curls), but she wanted to be like the white girls in her class. The extensions
were her next request. Which have saved us countless night and mornings of arguing and crying (her) about hair.
It is a bear to remove, I did it once on my own. She said she would help, but she went to sleep after a few
half-hearted attempts when she found it really was work. I vowed to never do it again, but . . .
And this is just the beginning of the hair journey for her. I try to down play it by complimenting her on
whateverway she does her hair unless it is absolutely wacko.
"Mom, I will tell you when I want my hair braided."
My 4yo AA daughter recently had exensions in her hair which took over 7 hrs, as she had to take many
"breaks". We had an appointment to have her hair braided again, and she said "Mom, I will tell you when I
want my hair braided". She is very content with her short little afro, that looks adorable. Her hair is very short
and curly, yet has never been cut. I am frequently stopped and told how "pretty" she is by people who do not
have to say this. I see many attractive black adults with very short hair, similar to hers, and this is their
choice. Personally, I do not feel the need to go with all the braids and beads, if this is what my daughter does
not want right now. If she decides she wants it done again, we will do it.
Try to use ONLY natural boar's hair brushes.
I found cholesterol at the Dollar Tree for a dollar
(what else!) a jar. I got some and I love it! It
even made my hands feel soft.
Suggestions for Kids Who are Swimmers:
What has worked well for us is a two-fold approach. Swim caps have been sorta pointless...but the best way to
use one, we have found, is to cover the hair with a pair of pantyhose (you know how to make one of those
caps, right?) and then pull the rubber cap over that...otherwise the swim cap pulls the hair. Mainly we leave
our daughter's hair braided and use a combination of a hair dressing with sunscreen, a shampoo which
deactivates chlorine (like the kind you used to use to keep blonde hair from turning green) which we work
through the hair at least once a week and then rinse out, and LOTS of oil which seems to help protect the hair
from drying out.
With my girls I leave their hairstyles in and rinse it very well. You can put conditioner in if it is getting very
dry. For my AA kids I then add Dudleys Hair and scalp conditioner everyday. I get her braided every 2 weeks.
Their hair stays healthy. For my bi-racial girls, I mix Dudleys and Nexus moisturizing conditioner. We swim all
the time. Be sure not to over wash their hair. For their skin I use Motions extra moisturizing skin creme or Soft
As Me. They add creme every time after they swim. They know the routine.
|Alternatives to braiding:
Rather then braiding, try twisting. I do this with one of my 4 year olds. She is hyper sensitive on her head, so
just to comb out her hair is an ordeal. Section it off (front to back) 3 across the front, 4 ear to ear, 3 behind that
and 3 at the neck line. I take small sections, separate it into 2 sections and twist them around one another. I
get the tiny clips to put on the ends. I do use a cream conditioner and leave it in. Wrap her head at night. If it
gets fuzzy, just undo the ones that look bad and redo them I use very bright colors, that look good on her.
I've had hair extensions on my daughter's hair several times, starting when she was 2 1/2. The first time, the
extensions were much too heavy and tight, and caused a lot of breakage. I learned how to do the extensions
myself so that I could do it more carefully without causing damage to her hair ~ but it's lots of work.
Extensions seem like overkill for a toddler. Twists are a lot easier.
I am doing the tiny little twists (two strands, not three) all over her head and sometimes do beads. I do wash
the twists as they are and leave them for a month. What do you do daily though? My daughter's hair, as is
expected, is very dry, so I've been applying Blue Magic to the twists each day. That in itself is quite a process!
|Ideas to Help Kids hold still while you’re
doing their hair:
The way that I kept my daughter still for extensions was to bring her favorite videos and have her sit on my
lap ~ however she was by no means still and she cried a lot. It was not fun!
Toddlers are the worst for sitting still. This weekend was hairwash/hairdo weekend for my 2 1/2 year old. I
spent two hours Saturday afternoon taking the then current twists and beads out, and trying to get the worst
of the woodchips, sand, and God knows what else combed out. I put it up in a single puff overnight. (I wish
that wasn't so bad for her hair...she looks utterly adorable in it.). I washed and oiled it before her nap on
Sunday. When she got up from nap, I then spent two hours retwisting and rebeading.
How did I do it?
I put her in her highchair, and plop it front of the TV with her favorite Wee Sing and Gullah Gullah videos. I
also periodically give her raisins, craisins, and M & Ms. Bribery, pure and simple. She doesn't get to watch too
much TV, or get much candy normally.
One AA lady I met suggested I get a little spray bottle and work on her hair a little at a time, spraying the
area to wet it, and then letting her go play for awhile. I do this, but it's still a struggle.
Some Hair Products by an anonymous mom:
I went to Sally's (hair and beauty supply store) and bought a few things that I have not tried before: ion.
shampoo and ion finishing de-tangler, also carrot oil.
The carrot oil I have put in the girls hair and scalp while doing the little braids on two of my little kids; also,
when I put the braids with extensions. I have to tell you their hair looks and feels great! I have never tried
either one before but if it keeps doing the job I am going to be one happy mommy. There was a lady in there
that has five full AA children and that is what she uses on them.
I went to Sally's, the woman I asked was African American. I explained my dilemma, and she had me buy the
Dark and Lovely shampoo. Told me to do the Blue Magic or some similar grease every other day and then
decrease as the condition of Ashlyn's hair improves. She also agreed with the brushing and I did buy a natural
boar bristle brush. Already had been using one of those on her, but didn't know it was called that. Anyway, she
also said to do the cholesterol about once a week and to put a plastic cap on her head and leave for as long as
she'll let it. I also bought the Dark and Lovely leave in conditioner/detangler. My helper didn't know why I
needed to buy reconstructors either, so I felt really stupid most of the time.
Short or Long Hair? A 12 year old’s experience
Our daughter, 12, had long hair when she came home to us at age 5. She loved it and would let me work with
it, braid it, etc. She is 1/2 AA and 1/2 Cauc., and while her hair is very curly, it's a very soft curl. She has
learned to care for it herself, but here's the thing: SHE now wants it cut fairly short. She loves it that way. It's
about 3 inches long or so, and she does little twists with clippies sometimes, and has a elastic hair band that
looks like black braided hair with little flowers in it--really cute on her! I worried about the 'don't cut your AA
girls hair' statement, but since she is the one who wants it short, I let her. We also have quite a number of AA
friends and I always am asking the ladies for advice. Many of them have extremely short, darling hairdos, so
now I don't feel so funny.
Sophia, with her hair "natural."
Sophia's braided hairstyle
Rozy, about 5 years old, with
braids done by Mom. At that
age she loved the beads.
Rozy-Braids & Twists
Markus, the "cool" guy
Izaiah, the handsome guy
Homecoming Dance 2013
This is what happens when you
"let it go too natural." Kyahna,
just before I conditioned and
braided/twisted her hair.
Do Not Copy, Reproduce, Publish, etc., any article, story, picture,
etc., from any part of this website, without my permission.
Chocolate Hair Vanilla Hair
One of my favorite hair style sites, because the mom has detailed video's of all the
This site has some informative pages, but this one is really great because it has pictures
of different AA children's hairstyles. When you click on the picture, there are clear
instructions on how to do the doo.