Whether it’s frizz, a knotty nest or just a horrible haircut, there are surefire answers to fix your curly’s top tress troubles.
Here, experts offer solutions to the most common curly kid dilemmas.
1. FLYAWAY FRIZZ : Frizz, by far the biggest complaint among curlies, happens when the cuticle of the hair is ruffled or unsettled.
Fast Fix : If you reapply gel or styling cream, you’ll keep the cuticle from rising up so curls look smooth and shiny, rather than frizzy and damaged, says Cozy Friedman, owner of New York's Cozy's Cuts for Kids. No products in sight? Wet and scrunch frizzy tresses with water, but that’s only a temporary solution. “Unfortunately, if you only use water, when it dries you’re back to the same problem," Friedman says. "So keep a small bottle of styling creme or gel to have on the go."
Prevention Plan : “The key is to keep curls moisturized all the time,” Friedman says. Use a conditioner and pre-detangling treatment every day, and only comb curly hair in the bathtub using a wide-tooth comb. “When you’re done in the tub, wring out the excess water, then scrunch in a styling creme or gel,” Friedman says. “Always use a diffuser and then hands off! Never brush curly hair. That’s what makes it frizzy.”
2. KNOTTY, MATTED MANE : When you don’t detangle the hair completely, especially at the nape of the neck, the result is a knotty nest, especially for active curlies.
Fast Fix : “Use your fingers and a cream conditioner to work through the tangled tresses in the tub, but don’t cut out the knot or it can leave a bald patch,” warns Margo Bower of The Hair’s Lair in Austin, Texas. If all else fails, see a curl-centric stylist who can use texturizing shears to cut into the matted mane a little at a time, from the bottom up.
Prevention Plan : Detangle every day. Aside from a daily conditioner, also use a detangling spray (for looser curls) or a leave-in cream conditioner (for tighter coils and kinks) and work it through with your fingers or a wide-tooth comb. Braids and ponytails also prevent tangles while sleeping or at play.
3. HORRIBLE HAIRCUT : A bad cut often comes from a stylist who unwittingly cuts too many layers or makes a feeble attempt at bangs. The result? A profusely poofy do!
Fast Fix : Use barrettes or other accessories to stylishly (yet gently) pull their textured tresses back as you wait for it to grow out. “Cutting it again will get you nowhere," says Cathy McNamara, a stylist at Zippity Doo’s, a children’s hair salon in Rosyln Height, N.Y. "You can’t rush curly hair to grow. Be sure to use a good leave-in conditioner, and then you have to live with it.”
Prevention Plan : Seek out a stylist who knows how to cut curly hair. Skip the layers and bangs. “Be very specific about that,” McNamara says.
4. DRASTIC DAMAGE : If you constantly pull your curly’s hair back tightly, in the same position, it can cause damage and breakage. Research has found that it even can cause permanent hair loss -- a condition called “traction alopecia."
Fast Fix : Go to a curl-savvy stylist for a great cut and keep it healthy with a trim every three months. A leave-in conditioner and styling product is a must. Softly pull the hair back with a cloth scrunchy or plastic barrette to safely keep curls out of their face without pulling it back to tightly. You can always switch the position of the ponytail or give curls some much-needed breathing room by letting them flow freely as often as you can.
Prevention Plan : Condition daily and use deep-conditioning treatments on a regular basis. “It’s not a luxury, it’s a necessity,” says curl expert Christo, Global Artistic Director of New York’s Christo Fifth Avenue Salon. “It could be every week, every other week -- or for wavy, loose curls it could be once a month -- but the treatment has to be done.” As for shampoo? No more than twice a week.
5. CRUEL COMMENTS : It’s still far too common than we’d like to think - Your child comes home from school feeling crushed by curl-bashing comments.
Fast Fix : While you can’t stop kids from being cruel to your child, you can certainly inspire confidence in your curly’s textured tresses. “Right away, tell your child that the comments were wrong and that their special texture is beautiful,” Christo says. “You have to embrace their curls and your child, immediately! Make your child feel special.”
Prevention Plan : Always reinforce the beauty of textured tresses so your curly has a strong foundation of confidence that’s not easily shattered if they face hurtful comments in the future. “Show them young actors on television who have curly hair, and find examples from everyday life,” Christo says. Also, tell your curlies that you’ll work with them to make their curls even more beautiful.
Want help? Attend one of Christo’s free New York seminars on how to manage curly hair by contacting them. Or, you can receive complimentary advice by e-mail when you send your dilemma and a picture of your child’s curly locks to the same address.