Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Dear Sugar: Hair, Oh, Hair, and Skin, Four years and Two Kids Later

Several years ago, I wrote this post that became my second most popular blog post ever.  To this day, I get the most questions about hair and skin care routines.   So:  ask and you shall receive!  

Here is an update on the kiddos’ hair, product recommendations, storage, hair resources, and more.  Fair warning, this is a long post, so I tried to create headings so you can read what applies to you and what you're most interested in, and I also included a lot of links so you can easily find the things we're using:   

1:  My oldest.

My oldest daughter has 4A hair: shrinkage, tight curls.  She gets her hair professionally braided every month:  beaded cornrows with extensions.    In her hair, I use a spray consisting of jojoba oil (1/4) and aloe vera juice (3/4); this is put in a cheap-o spray bottle found in the travel-items section at any store.   For the leave-in (the moisturizer I put in before she gets her hair braided), I make a mix of shea butter and coconut oil (refined, because I don’t like the smell of coconut).   When her extensions come out, her hair is STILL moisturized.  (For those new to Black hair, we use the LOC method:  liquid, oil, conditioner.  Some use the LCO method:  liquid, conditioner, oil.  Experiment and see what works for your child.)

I wash her hair with shampoo and conditioner once a month, when her extensions are removed.   I moisturize her scalp when the extensions are in with the spray I described above.   
I know some parents-by-adoption do not want to pay the money to have their children’s hair braided, especially white parents who might be a bit shocked by the cost involved.  Furthermore, some parents prefer to do hair themselves for bonding and convenience.

I think it’s great for a parent-child to bond over the act of doing hair; however, I also think it’s important that our children have relationships with people of color, and one way foster relationships and instill cultural values is via the hair-styling process.  And obviously, you pay the stylist.   (We tip 20%, always.)    
We usually trim both girls’ hair twice a year.  Beads and bands can damage hair-ends.  And swimming certainly can take a toll on ends, too.   Trimming involved sectioning hair off into small sections, using my (sharp) sewing scissors, placing the hair end between two fingers, and cutting just above the sides of my fingers.   I might snip a ½ inch to an inch depending on the damage to ends.   I know this is hard for some parents to do because growth can take a long time, but it’s important to keep hair healthy and strong.    If trimming the hair yourself makes you nervous, see a professional.  

2:  My second.

My second daughter has 3B hair: fine and long.  She’s tender-headed and doesn’t like when her hair is “big” (aka:  free).  She’s pretty athletic and doesn’t like her hair interfering with her activites!  So we only do free hair for family pictures or special occasions.   Her go-to style: box braids with beads or Gabby Bows on the ends; this usually lasts us about a week.   We use several different products, as I’m not currently committed to one.  We’ve used Mixed Chicks leave-in, Organix coconut leave-in, Curls (smells like cake---yum!), and currently we’re using Cantu.  I almost always do her hair.
For shampoo and conditioner (and we very rarely shampoo), we are currently using Organix coconut.   It’s affordable, it smells nice, and it gets the job done!  

With this daughter, I remove her bands with nail clippers and any hair accessories, wash her hair with her braids IN (because she has SO much hair that washing free hair is a complete tangled mess), and then take the braids out, detangle, spray and moisturize, and re-style.   Once every 4 washes, I take the braids out to get at her scalp better, but this is really hard on a tender-headed kiddo!  

She has a lot of baby hairs, so I use a cheap toothbrush (usually the ones they get free at the dentist) and gel.  I put a dollop of gel in the palm of my hand, rub the toothbrush in it, and then comb her baby hairs down with the toothbrush, adding gel as needed.  She's recently been taking on this task herself!  

3:  My third.
My son has 4C hair, and we keep his hair in a short fade and have it cut at the Black barber shop just two minutes from our house.   We detangle, moisturize with Curls, or and use a sponge to coil his hair.   I’ve seen some fabulous longer hair styles on boys, but my son is very active and a sensory seeker, so he wouldn’t sit to have his hair styled, nor would the style remain kept for very long.  Short hair is definitely the way to go with him.  I co-wash his hair 1-2x a week; because of his sensory seeking, he doesn't shy away from putting things in his hair or rolling around outside!  

4:  My youngest.

At only five months old, her hair is pretty long, and is a 2C!   We detangle and moisturize with Curls and the style with a barrette or headband.    This is a tough age.   Babies who sleep on their backs can rub out a lot of their hair, which we’re definitely seeing right now.  Also, car seats, pack-n-plays, etc. can rub hair out too.   It is just a stage, and parents need to remember that a baby’s safety is the priority.  Hair will grow back in! 

Another struggle of ours right now is that she LOVES her binky and when saliva gets trapped between her binky and her skin, it’s causing discoloration.   Though there’s no way to completely prevent this (except take the binky away, which we will NOT do), we have found that nipple cream (yes, like the kind moms use when nursing) is incredible.  It’s safe for digestion (obviously!) and doesn’t contain all the nasty chemicals that Vaseline does.   Nipple cream is great for very chapped lips (in winter, especially) and on chapped cheeks too. 

Product storage:
We continue to keep hair products organized with shower caddies.  They have several deep sections, perfect for holding combs and product bottles, and each child has his/her own.   I also love that it has a handle, so it’s easily carried.    Additionally, the durable plastic never breaks and holds up to being wiped out or washed.    

When we travel, the caddies to with us so the products remain upright and organized.   They sit nicely in the bottom of one of the large 31 bags. 

Bows and headbands are in jewelry organizers hung in the closet.  The clear jewelry pouches make it easy to keep pairs of matching bows together.  And headbands stay put by straddling compartments with the ends tucked into the compartments.   This helps headbands stay visible and hold their shape well.  I like to buy these at TJMaxx or Marshall's for $8-$10 each.  They are double-sided, so they hold A LOT of hair accessories.  

Beads are in large baggies by type.  All our jumbo beads are together, all our medium sized beads are together, all our Gabby Bows are together, all the ballies together, etc.   We used to separate by color and size, but it got to be too many containers, they got dropped and mixed up, and it was just too time consuming to sort in this manner.  


When my girls were younger and their heads were smaller, we used sleep caps from Africa Sleeps.  They lasted SO long.  We still have caps from four years ago.  Now that their heads are big enough, we use the cheaper satin sleep caps.  

When swimming in chlorinated (such as a hotel) pool, my girls wear a tight sleep cap with a swim cap over it.  This keeps most of the water out.   Using a swim cap alone does more harm than good.  The material rips at hair.    When they swim at our house in the summers, we don’t use swim caps.   Honestly, the girls hate them and we don’t see many kids wearing swim caps anyway.  


My girls each have a small “beauty” kit in their school bag:  hand sanitizer, a mini bottle of lotion, lip balm.   I encourage them to use what they need to throughout their day.  

I carry non-scented lotion in the car and in the baby’s diaper bag.  

The kids all have satin pillowcases over their booster seats.  They are inexpensive and easily washable.  (We use the same ones on their bed pillows).  

Skin moisture:

We have tried several different lotions for the kids.   One of my children has eczema which can be aggrevated by certain products (since eczema, allergies, and asthma go hand-in-hand for many kids).  Some brands we like include Avalon Organics, Jason’s, Burt’s Bees.   Straight up coconut oil doesn’t really work.  I feel like it doesn’t absorb well and it does leave skin a bit greasy.   We also like the Sugar Plum Fairy (sparkle) lotion from Africa Sleeps, though it is seasonal (Christmas, usually.  So when you buy it, be sure to get a few before they go out of stock).     

We are more picky about the ingredients in lotions than hair products, simply because skin is a person’s largest organ and it essentially “drinks” what is put on it.    The more natural, organic, and green, the better.   Though arguably, the healthier lotions do not work as well as the tried-and-true products.   We tend to err on the side of caution and believe “pay for it now or pay for it later.”   Healthier products are more expensive, but not putting lotions on the skin that have hormone-disrupting qualities may pay off in the future. 

Hair picture books for kids:

Reading books about hair is SO important.  The more we can affirm our children, the better.  Here are our favorites:  

And of course, who can forget that incredible Sesame Street segment I Love My Hair?  We know it word-for-word! 

Overwhelmed?   Take a deep breath!  If you’re new to Black hair or you are preparing to adopt a Black child:

1:  Talk to your friends of color.   Get tips, ask for demonstrations, product recommendations, etc.  You can also ask what styles are age appropriate, and geographically appropriate, for your child. 

2:  Take your child to a Black hairstylist.  Get professional help!   

3:  Do your research.   YouTube and sites dedicated to Black hair are helpful.  Pinterest, too!  I learned to cornrow watching YouTube, because I couldn’t get it just watching a friend do it live.  I needed a video to re-visit many times.  

4:  Do not feel like you need to be a professional or aim for the most intricate styles.  Simple styles and healthy hair are more important than you focusing all your energy on intricate styles while neglecting hair health.   Also, not all styles are meant for your child’s hair.  Black hair is beautiful and versatile.   Knowing your child's hair type can help you determine appropriate styles.  For example, my second child's hair doesn't hold styles for nearly as long as her older sister's because her hair has a looser curl and her hair is silky and fine.  

5:  Nail down a routine.   What helps your child be able to sit for a haircut, a detangling session, a styling session?  Make it as fun as possible.   Have special toys in the tub just for hair washing time.  Let the child help you pick out her hair bead colors/patterns.   Offer to let the child watch a favorite movie or play a favorite game while you style.  And don’t shy away from offering rewards and incentives, because they usually work!    Do hair when you have the time, patience, and energy.   And you are NOT a failure if you opt to have it professionally done.  Remember, having a Black man or woman do your child's hair is an excellent opportunity.  

6:  Practice, practice, practice.   For me, because my kids have pretty different hair types, practicing on a mannequin head, which some parents do, wasn’t helpful.   I needed to do MY child’s hair.   Practice really does make perfect.  

I post our kids’ latest hairstyles fairly often on Instagram, so keep up with me there!  

-This post contains Amazon affiliate links.  

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