Caring for camp curls.
The end of the school year signals the beginning of summer camp season for kids. But those weeks of fun in the sun can also mean sweltering heat, high humidity, pesky bugs and cramped quarters.
Ah, the frizz of it all!
“They’re out there in the elements, and they want their hair to be easy to manage and look good,” says Inga Tritt, founder of The Original Little Sprout hair and skin care line for children.
The key is to keep it simple and fun with the right products and styling tips for the great outdoors. “I hesitate to ask a child to do too many steps for their hair because it may feel overwhelming, and then they won’t get anything done,” warns Cozy Friedman, owner of New York's Cozy's Cuts for Kids.
The first step, even before you think about packing, is a getting a great curly cut that can last through the first weeks of the steamy summer.
“Boys get a much shorter haircut - like almost a buzz on the sides and then maybe finger length on the top- so they don’t get hot,” says Kenneth Blain, owner of Kids Super Salon in Huntersville, N.C., who suggests leaving enough length for ponytails on girls.
Now, it’s time to pack. Curl experts share the essentials of a camp survival kit to ensure your tykes can easily transition their tresses for a busy summer.
Essential #1: CLEANSER
If your curly is headed to sleep-away camp, consider packing products with multiple uses.
Tritt also suggests The Original Little Sprout Two in One Baby Hair & Body Wash.
“You can use it all over if the child’s skin is dry or sensitive, if they’re prone to eczema and if they have curly or dry hair," she says.
“No-Poo will absolutely help with their tangles, since they’re in and out of chlorine and lakes," Massey says. "It can also be used as a body cleanse to keep it simple.”
There are also shampoos specifically created for swimmers.
“They should use a swimmers’ shampoo every night when they bathe because it really does take out the chemicals and makes a tremendous difference,” Friedman says.
Risa Barash, founder of Fairy Tales hair care for children, recommends a clarifying shampoo that contains fruit enzymes and citrus extracts to help remove the chlorine, sea salt and minerals, such as Fairy Tales Lifeguard Clarifying Shampoo.
Essential #2: LICE REPELENT PRODUCTS
Aside from chlorine, another challenge for kids at camp is head lice and other pesky critters. Curl experts suggest trying a natural solution to help blast the bugs, including So Cozy’s BOO! lice repel line and Fairy Tales’ Rosemary Repel haircare products.
“Kids may be on nature walks, and the Fairy Tales Rosemary Repel Leave-In Conditioning Spray will help repel lice and insects,” Blain says.
Barash recommends shampooing every few days with the Rosemary Repel Shampoo and using the spray— which contains citronella, rosemary, tea tree oil and lemongrass— every morning on the hair and on the body as a bug spray.
Friedman’s BOO! line includes a shampoo, conditioner and leave-in spray, containing tea tree, rosemary and lavender oils.
“Lice is a big deal in the summer and it can spread so quickly in camps because they’re sharing so much equipment,” Friedman says. “With our Boo! leave-in conditioner spray, you can spray it on the child’s hair before they get on the camp bus or before you drop them off.”
You should also remind young curlies not to share hats or hooded sweatshirts, and always use their own towels and blankets, suggests Friedman. “A little education goes a long way,” she says.
For more tips, check out our CurlyKids article on lice.
Essential #3: CONDITIONER / DETANGLER
A great conditioner is another must-have.
“A lot of parents don’t use conditioner on their kid’s hair, but for the summer I would recommend it,” Friedman says. “You can leave a nickel-size amount on the ends of the child’s hair, and don’t rinse it out completely for extra protection.”
Barash recommends using a light conditioner every day as well. She suggests her Fairy Tales Lemonade Conditioner, a deep treatment that includes extracts of lemon, grapefruit and pineapple and is infused with aloe and jojoba. “For summer camp, they can use it every day to help condition and protect against sun damage,” Barash adds.
Keeping a detangler handy is always important, and even more so at camp, according to curl experts.
“I think a detangler is especially key for girls with long, curly hair,” says Friedman, who makes a Fruity Delight Detangler & Leave-in Conditioner. “Kids are so active at camp that their hair gets tangled so they may need to use extra detanglers.”
The summer sun’s harsh rays can ravage curly locks, so you may want to consider extra protection.
“We have a CoCo Cabana Leave-in Sun Spray, which uses fatty oils with banana, jojoba and coconut to coat the hair, and it protects the hair from the sun and salt water,” Barash suggests.
Essential #4: LIGHTWEIGHT GEL / STYLING CREME
While you may want to pull your child’s hair back during the day for camp activities, older kids at sleep-away camp should have a styling product on hand for a simple, yet stylish look at night.
“It’s usually humid at summer camp, so using a gel or a curl calmer can help them maintain the integrity of their curls and their gorgeousness but not having it frizz with the humidity,” says Tritt, who suggests her Original Little Sprout Ultra Clean and Light Gel or Curl Calmer.
“Gel or styling creme is a key component because if they’re going to wear their hair down and curly they don’t want it to be frizzy,” agrees Friedman, who suggests twisting up the curls on each side of the head, so their locks are part up and down for an easy, stylish do.
Essential #5: SIMPLE ACCESSORIES
You’ll want to remember to pack a few simple accessories to keep your child’s curls out of their face during their fast-paced days.
“For boys, wearing a hat protects their hair, scalp and face,” says Friedman. “For girls, put their hair up in a ponytail, a cute bun, or two ponytails. I think that’s a great option and it helps to prevent tangles. Girls can look really cute in ponytails, while braids take a little more skill for a parent.”
And the time to experiment with styles is before kids go to camp, like on the weekends or in the evenings. “Practice different hairstyles and see what they like best,” Friedman suggests. “They should have time to get comfortable putting their hair up by themselves.”
And skip the fancy barrettes; they’ll probably get lost.