Leave-in conditioners and deep conditioning treatments are a must, say curl experts.
“Some mommies make the mistake of shampooing and stop there," says Miko Branch, noting that Miss Jessie's new Super Sweetback Treatment is kid-friendly. "You have to use a conditioner.“
Never comb the curls or kinks when the hair is dry, and stay away from hair grease, adds Canfield.
“Most curls need hydration, which comes from water," Canfield says "Using a product that’s water-based is best. Grease actually blocks out the water that would be coming from the air, and it does not provide any hydration whatsoever. Natural oils do provide emollients and nutrients that can replace the grease.”
Once the child’s hair is conditioned and healthy, it will be easier to style and to see its true texture. When you’re just starting to work out the styling kinks, keep it simple.
“Right after the child gets out of the bath and you’ve conditioned the hair and applied a leave-in cream, you can put the hair in a few twists -- maybe six twists on each side of head,” Canfield says.
You can undo the twists in the morning, using your fingers to run through the hair, creating cute ringlets, Canfield says. You probably won’t need more product. Just be gentle so you don’t tug on the curls.
“It’s a learning process -- you start off doing the easy stuff,” Canfield says.
Managing the hair is only part of the challenge. It can be difficult managing the emotional twists and turns that come along with the process of working with your child's hair.
Miko Branch recalls wondering why her hair wasn’t long and flowing like her Japanese mother’s.
“I would try and express to her how I wanted my hair long and straight, so she would do things like braid it long and straight,” Miko Branch says. “Girls, especially, respond to straight hair. They look up to their moms and want to know why they’re so different.”
What’s a parent to do?
Always remind your child that her hair is beautiful in its natural, curly state.
“Parents have to prepare themselves mentally and put on a happy face so the child doesn’t realize their hair is a struggle,” Canfield says. “If a biracial child ever says, ‘I wish I wasn’t biracial. I wish I was white,’ a lot of the time that’s not what they mean. They just mean, ‘I wish I had nice hair that didn’t give you the struggle."
Etheridge agrees, and suggests using positive reinforcement with your child.
“You can tell them: ‘That’s the beauty, that no one is the same. You have your personal style and I have mine. You got the best of both worlds, you’re so fortunate!’” Etheridge explains. “It’s important to tell the child that they are loved and special. I think it takes away from focusing on their color and their hair.”
Top Dos and Don’ts
Do you know what to do and what not to do?
Don’t try to comb the hair when it’s dry or not moisturized. Do wet the hair and drench it with conditioner to detangle. Don’t use a brush or fine-tooth comb. Do try a wide-tooth comb or a pick. Don’t be so quick to turn to relaxers. Experts say if you’re not going to keep it up, don't do it at all. Do use a leave-in conditioner and moisturize daily. Don’t show your frustration. Many curlies feel guilty when they see their parents struggling with their hair. Do talk to your children. Tell them they’re beautiful and they should be proud of their heritage. Don’t panic and give up. Do educate yourself, practice and keep a positive outlook!