For many children, the thought of summer camp fills them with joy — days filled with meeting new friends, swimming and playing, without the burden of homework.
But for curly kids who spend the year trying to tame their curls and kinks, the joy of camp may be tempered by the fear of tangles and frizz.
"Curly kids cannot bring all their hair accoutrements with them to camp, and they wouldn't have time to use them even if they did," says Amber Wylie, spokeswoman for DevaConcepts. "Camp can become a prison in which a curly kid is doomed to day after day of bad-hair-day humiliation."
So while you're labeling their clothes and packing up the bug spray, make sure you've developed a plan to keep your curly camper looking her best.
First, consider getting a cut before camp, says Risa Barash, creator of the Fairy Tales line of products.
Make sure you talk to your stylist before the cut to communicate what exactly you are looking for — a short wash-and-wear curly cut or a trim that provides different styling options.
"It's always good for curly kids to keep their curls long during the summer so that they have versatility," says Christo of Christo Fifth Avenue, a New York salon catering to curls.
Make sure you're stocked up on the right products to deal with the demands of an active camper. If your child must shampoo every day, make sure the cleanser you choose is gentle. Some good ones to try include Fairy Tales Super-Charge Detangling Shampoo, DevaCare Low-Poo and Little Sprout Children's Natural Shampoo.
"Applying a conditioner to your hair will fill up the gaps in your hair shaft and act as a barrier to the chlorinated water," Dellinger says.
Make sure they rinse their hair with water after swimming. You might want to include a clarifying shampoo in the mix that removes chlorine and saltwater, such as Curls Pure Curls Clarifying Shampoo, Fairy Tales Lifeguard Clarifying Shampoo and So Cozy and So Cozy Green Apple Swimmer's Shampoo. This will prevent the hair from turning green.
A conditioner is a must after a long day of camp activities. Teach your child how to use a comb or brush to run it through her hair and remove tangles.
"The first thing a curly kid should understand is that conditioner is her friend," Wylie says. "A child should go to camp armed with ultra-creamy conditioner. Lots of it."
Fine curlies may prefer a spray-in detangler like Curlisto Kids Leave-in Conditioner. Pay special attention to the ends during the summer months. Dellinger suggests mixing a little Curly Q Coconut Dream conditioner with a natural oil, combing it through to the ends and leave it in for extra protection.
The right styles can take the angst out of the camp experience for your curly kiddo. Ponytails and braids are always a cute, easy option. Or pull the hair back with clips or a bandana.
"They will look cute and keep their curls intact," says Christo.
Dellinger's favorite curly style for campers are "swinging ponies." The style can last seven to 10 days with little maintenance. Start with freshly cleansed/conditioned hair and detangle. Then apply Curly Q Milkshake or Curly Q Custard evenly through the hair, from the base to the ends. Part the hair down the center of the hair and use elastics to secure two ponytails. Braid the loose hair in each ponytail, creating up to eight swinging ponies. Secure the ends with elastics.
"You're ready for camp!" Dellinger says.
Don't forget the styling products, which can make life easier, keeping the curls defined and frizz-free. Barash stresses that the product should be worked into each layer of hair. Section off the hair and comb through each layer to ensure the product coats each layer of hair. Try Fairy Tales Curly-Q Natural Curl Maker Gel..
Before they head off to camp, help your child learn their new routine. Condition her hair, apply a clear conditioning gel (if needed) to wet hair and then blot it dry.
"As with anything, preparation is the key, and practice makes perfect," Wylie says. "And as any reader of Judy Blume can tell you, stop trying to be what you're not and embrace who you are. If you are curly, be curly!"
Milk & Honey Hair Smoothie (pre/post swim conditioner)
1 can of pure coconut milk
1 ripe avocado
2 tablespoons of pure honey
2 tablespoons of olive oil
Mix it up and apply liberally to the hair. Leave on for an hour. This delectable delight will restore moisture and sheen into lifeless summer hair.
— Created by Mahisha Dellinger