Curly stylist Bianca Castillo recalls growing up as a child with ringlets in a straight-haired world.
Her mother had straight hair and stuck her daughter's hair in pigtails to control it. Young Castillo, trying to emulate the looks of her straight-haired friends, would cover her hair in mousse, sprtiz and gel.
'Had I only known what I know now,' says Castillo, who now has a large clientele of curly kids at Jackson-Ruiz Salon in Austin, Texas.
Castillo believes curly kids have an advantage these days, with greater acceptance of curls, a variety of styling options and a number of products that help kids love their hair’s texture early on..
Ò'A lot of it is whether they're taught how to work with their hair from a young age,' says stylist Lisa Garcia, owner of the The Color Salon in Austin.
It all starts with a positive attitude from the parents. Rather than viewing the hair as a problem that must be solved, they should make an effort to talk in positive terms about their child's curls.
In many cases, especially with biracial children, the mother or father may not know how to work with textured hair. They might be cutting it in a style that doesn't work well with curls or using products not designed for a child's hair.
'If you're saying to them 'Oh my God, your hair is so frizzy and difficult,' it really affects them,' said Diane Da Costa, author of 'Textured Tresses: The Ultimate Guide to Maintaining and Styling Natural Hair.' ÒIf you say their hair is tightly coiled, it sounds more positive then if you call it kinky. Let them know there are different types of textures and all are beautiful.'
Stylist Rodney Cutler, who owns N.Y.-based Cutler/Redken Salon, likes to see curls do their thing on children.
'There's a real innocence about curly hair,' says Cutler, who has two sons with wild curly hair. 'I don't think it should be controlled. It should be loose and disheveled.'
Proper care of the hair is crucial. Curly kids have virgin hair that hasn't experienced years of abuse. To keep it soft and shiny, don't shampoo it more than every second or third day.
Lorraine Massey of Devachan advocates forgetting the shampoo altogether.
'It creates more knots and dehydration if you use shampoo,' says Massey, who has children with curls. 'We're a no-poo household.'
She stresses that not shampooing isn't the same as not cleaning the hair. She suggests cleansing the hair with conditioner or a cleansing product like her No Poo or Low Poo, using the hands to clean the scalp.
In between cleansings, she recommends using a lavender mist. In addition to perking up the curls, she says it has natural medicinal qualities to keep the lice away -- a common problem for school-age children. Massey also advocates using a natural detangler, such as lavender or rosemary oil mixed with water.
If you need to get some knots out, use a wide-toothed comb and start at the ends of the hair and work your way up to the roots to reduce the discomfort and chance of breakage. Never overbrush or overcomb the hair, Garcia says. She always uses a detangler on children's hair and only combs it when it's wet.
For longer, more knotty hair, she likes to use a combination of conditioner, water and lavender mist in a spray bottle to create a leave-in conditioner that keeps the hair hydrated.
The cut depends on the unique needs of the child. In some cases, it works best for them to have a short curly cut or an afro. Others may prefer to grow their hair long. In that case, long layers can help make the hair more manageable. Castillo said a bob that's angled toward the chin can work well.
For some children with tightly coiled hair, twists or corn rows may work well. Just make sure they are not pulled too tight, which can cause the hairline to recede.
A light styling product can help reduce frizz and define curls. Castillo teaches her young clients how to take small sections of hair and twist them to give their curls a more controlled look. Some haircare lines, including Curlisto Kids, Ouidad's KRLY Kids and Curls Curly Q's, have special styling products designed for young curlies -- products that help define and defrizz without being heavy or crunchy.
Da Costa cautions against straightening a child's hair because of the damage it can cause. If you do want to texturize it to provide more manageability – allowing them to wear it both straight and curly - go to a professional, she says. She believes a child should be able to care for their hair on their own before they have texturized or relaxed.
Ouidad, who has styled curly hair for 20 years, says she's seen a definite change in attitude among her young curly clients, with less frustration and discomfort about their hair. She believes the best tool you can give a curly kid is empowerment – giving them the tools and techniques they need to style their own hair.
'They're letting it go and jumping for joy,' says Ouidad, who recently launched her KRLY Kids line to address the unique needs of curly kids. 'It's phenomenal.'
Castillo says she has many clients in their late 20s and early 30s who only now are learning how to let their hair go natural after a lifetime of straightening it.
'They say 'All this time I could have been loving my curls rather than hating them and relaxing them,' ' she says. 'It's because they never learned what to do.'
Products for curly kids
- Curlisto Kids line
- Ouidad KRLY Kids line
- Curls Curly Q's line
- Devacurl No Poo, Low Poo and Mist-er Right
- Philip Pelusi Kidz line
- Biosilk Bubble Gum Kids line
Lorraine's Lavendar Mist
(Indispensable for cleansing and reviving your curls)
- 1/2 gallon water
- 5 drops pure lavender essential oil
- 3 empty spray bottles
Fill a large pot with the water Cover, bring to a boil, and simmer for an hour to get rid impurities (Check occasionally to make sure water isn’t boiling away.) Remove from heat, add lavender oil, stir and replace lid. Let steep until cool, then pour into empty spritz bottles.