It’s hard to believe, but it’s that time of year. Back to School. Most parents have their lists: school supplies, clothes, shoes, jackets. But parents of children with coils, waves, and curls have to figure out “The Hair Plan.” When August and September roll around, it gets hard to fit styling time into the family schedule.
Natural hair stylist Amber Starks, owner of Conscious Coils hair salon in Portland, Oregon, recommends a few tried and true braided styles that will save time and protect the hair. Starks began her business as a volunteer effort to help families who foster children of African decent. She also began the push to change Oregon laws governing natural hair salons: the Natural Hair Care Act was passed in 2013 and allows stylists to braid, twist, or dreadlock hair without having to obtain a traditional cosmetology license.
Here are the stylist's favorite braided styles for kids this back to school season.
Photos courtesy of @ConsciousCoils
1. Box Braids
“Box braids tend to be the most popular style I do around the time school starts,” Starks says. “I suggest bigger braids, so your child is only sitting for 2-3 hours at the maximum.”
Box braids can last about 6-8 weeks, but make sure to avoid getting them wet. The reality of being natural is that the moment it touches water, the strands will start to curl. When showering or bathing, Starks says wearing a scarf with a shower cap on top will prevent moisture from seeping in.
But with this low-maintenance style, how do parents keep their child’s scalp clean?
“I don’t recommend dry shampoos, because a lot of them have alcohol in them, which can be drying,” Starks says. “Use an astringent, like witch hazel. Lay a washcloth over an open bottle, tilt it, then very gently rub the cloth in between the braids, going in the same direction, not back and forth. Repeat that using water and then lightly oil with your favorite oil.”
If you don’t have any witch hazel on hand, you can use shampoo. Get a bowl of water and put just a drop of shampoo in it, then take a washcloth and do the same routine just described, following up with plain water, then lightly oiling.
2. Double-stranded twists
If you’d rather style your child’s hair without extensions, double-stranded twists are a good option. Twists don’t offer as much as box braids in longevity, but they make up for that with more flexibility.
“After a week, you can take the twists and redo them yourself,” Starks says. “If your child is younger, you can put beads on the ends, too.”
3. Basic cornrows
“There are lots of different, fun styles you can do with cornrows,” Starks says. “You can tie the back up into a bun or add dreadlock cuffs onto the cornrows at the top. I’ve also done a ton of decorative braiding with cornrow strings, which is a really fun style for kids.”
Frizz can appear more visible with cornrows. Starks tells parents to make sure their child wears a scarf every night, including during showers or baths.
“If it does get a little frizzy, you can take a bit of conditioner, rub it in your hands and smooth it on the hair from the top of the head to the base of the head,” Starks says. “Put a scarf on it and blow dry for 2-5 minutes. This will help prolong the style for a few days to a week. Just don’t do it daily because it could cause build-up.”
4. Braid out
Some kids might like to wear their hair loose more often. While it takes a little bit more prep time in the evenings, knowing exactly what to do helps.
“Do a couple of large double-stranded twists, braids, or a French plait and then in the morning take it out and wear it big,” Starks says. “You can also do cornrows in the front, and double-stranded twists in the back. In the morning take out the twists and wear the back loose and curly, while the front is maintained with cornrows.”
Transitioning to the colder months
“For any time of year, moisture should be a big focus. You should moisturize hair every 1-2 days,” Stark says. “If your hair is less textured or less dense, you don’t need to do it as often, maybe every 3-4 days.”
Everyone has their favorite moisturizing regimen in between washes; the best techniques will vary from person to person. But Starks recommends using water, plus a combination of a favorite oil and conditioner.
“Start with a quarter-sized amount each of oil and conditioner, rub them in between your hands, then apply it to the section of hair you’re moisturizing, from root to tip, and spritz with water,” Starks says. “If you find you’re using too much oil, use less. Play with the ratios and assess how your hair looks and feels.” Experiment with different routines during the summer so that while the family gets back into the swing of things, you can cross your hair plan off the checklist.
What kinds of styles work best for your children?