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Salons closed? Here's how to care for your child's natural hair at home

Easy tips for a gorgeous mane.

Mom combing daughter's hair Credit: Getty Images / Marilyn Nieves

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One of my favorite tasks as a parent is taking care of my child's natural hair: washing, styling, and generally keeping it neat. Sadly, my children do not share in my enthusiasm and always resist any attempt at taking care of their hair. Since an unkempt head of hair could be harboring critters like lice, it's important to adopt a regular hair care regimen for your child. But with salons closed and kids feeling less-than-enthused about having their natural hair tended to, what's a mom to do?

Here are eight tried-and-true tips for keeping your child's natural hair at home.

1. Make hair time fun

Mother doing daughter's hair
Credit: Getty Images / Stígur Már Karlsson /Heimsmyndir

Letting children play or watch TV while you do their hair can make the experience more enjoyable for everyone.

Children, especially very young ones, could care less about their hair and would rather not be bothered. In fact, they'll often do anything to avoid having their hair done. Avoid tantrums by making hair time fun: Distract them with games on a tablet or let them watch their favorite TV show, while munching on snacks. I've also found that taking regular breaks when kids get wiggly can make a huge difference. If they need an extra incentive, let them child choose their hair accessories and style so that they're more invested in the final result.

2. Know your child’s hair type

Father braiding daughter's hair
Credit: Getty Images / RyanJLane

Understanding the type of hair and curl pattern can help you give it the proper attention and care.

Knowing your child’s hair type is important because it impacts the products you use, how often to use them, and which styles are best. Natural hair is classified into four types:

  • Straight hair
  • Wavy hair
  • Curly hair
  • Coily hair

Every hair type falls into one of these categories. What works for one may not work for the other so you need to know her hair type and do what works with it. Curly and coily hair need more oil and moisture, while straight hair may need to be shampooed more often.

3. Avoid harmful chemicals and heat

While it can be tempting to resort to chemical hair relaxers or hot combs to spare your child discomfort and to make their hair more manageable, they are damaging for your child’s hair in the long run (plus, natural hair is beautiful). Relaxers and hot stretchers change the texture of the hair and cause shedding, breakage and thinning. Your child’s scalp is very tender at this age and may get scalded in the process. An alternative—and all natural—way of softening the hair is with regular moisturizing with water and natural oils.

4. Moisturize regularly

Natural hair easily loses moisture, therefore constant moisturizing is important. Moisturize by sprinkling a combination of water and moisturizing oils onto the hair two to three times per week. You can make your own spritz bottle or get a good, child-friendly moisturizing product. These help moisturize the hair and scalp, get rid of scales and flakes, and leave the hair glittering and soft.

5. Detangle hair before washing

Mother brushing out daughter's hair
Credit: Getty Images / RichLegg

Use a wide toothed comb to detangle hair before washing.

Washing further tangles hair and could make detangling more difficult. Moisturizing the hair with conditioner before and during detangling makes it less painful and easier to comb through.

Detangle gently by using your fingers or a wide toothed comb. Work on each tangled knot individually until it is completely loose. Start at the tip of the knot and gently work your way downwards. To avoid tangling, ensure that your child does not go on braids and twists for too long. Avoid hair styles that twist her hair, and if the hair is not braided, moisturize and comb daily. Sleeping in a satin bonnet will also reduce friction and tangling.

A good detangler can also be helpful to dislodge stubborn knots and tangles. I like Aunt Jackie's Knot On My Watch Instant leave-in detangling therapy, as it works effectively and softens strands naturally.

Get Aunt Jackie's Knot on My Watch detangling spray on Amazon for $6.97

6. Condition hair for easy management

A good quality hair conditioner can enhance luster and hair health. It also makes detangling and styling easier, and it softens and moisturizes hair. Leave-in conditioners can be used regularly—simply apply it after shampooing, and don't rinse it out—and are beneficial to all hair types. I'm partial to Cantu Shea Butter for Natural Hair Leave-in Conditioner will leave your child’s hair moisturized, healthy, soft and easily manageable.

A regular deep conditioning treatment is recommended for texturized hair, as it helps repair, moisturize, soften, and increase luster. Children may not be thrilled with having to keep it on their hair for 20-30 minutes before rinsing it out, but they will like how soft their hair feels afterwards.

7. Create a nighttime regimen

Child wearing sleeping bonnet
Credit: VVolf

A satin bonnet can help hair stay in place overnight.

Having a nighttime regimen is important. Have your child wear a satin bonnet at night to keep the hair in place. If the hair is not braided, comb and pack the hair lightly with a cloth-covered elastic band. If the hair is dry and coarse, you may wet the hair slightly with water before she goes to bed.

Get a 4-pack of satin sleeping bonnets on Amazon for $15.91

8. Use products designed for kids

Using kid specific products will make taking care of your child’s hair easier. The products are formulated for kids, fragrance and paraben free, with no harsh chemicals. They are tender on the scalp and skin, nicely scented and packaged to entice kids. A few of our favorite brands offer multi-packs so you can get all the hair care your children need with one click.

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