Girls and Grown-Up Hairstyles|
Think your daughter is old enough to wear a relaxed style or extension braids? Read this article first
Image provided courtesy of SoftSheen-Carson
Whew! Now that the school year has started, your schedule is more hectic than ever. If you have a daughter, add to your list the daily chore of fixing a squirming child's hair. Although this ancient ritual can strengthen the bonds between a Black mother and daughter, it can also devolve into a tear-inducing rush to yank a comb through thick and unruly hair before the school bus arrives. It's no wonder that you're tempted to make it easier on the both of you by relaxing her hair or getting her neat, stylish braids.
Before you call the stylist, however, check out the following advice from two hair-care experts we consulted. Here's their advice for easy and appropriate hairstyles for young girls with extremely curly locks.
Dry Those Tears With Moisture
Hair-care experts agree that the best state for your child's hair is natural, because it is at its strongest and most elastic. Processed hair is weaker and more likely to break off.
Roslyn Echols-Baker, a health-and-beauty-aids consultant for Pro-Line Corporation, says that if your child's hair is coarse, the best approach is to use products that will soften it and reduce friction, making it easier to comb and style. "The main thing is to make the hair manageable so it's not so frizzy and wild," says Echols-Baker. Use shampoos, conditioners, detanglers, and hairdressings with plenty of moisture for your child's delicate hair (see below for styling suggestions).
Keep Braids Simple and Loose
Although braids are a simple styling option at practically any age, Echols-Baker warns that children have tender scalps. It is easy to damage your child's hair follicles if too much tension is applied to the hair. "People really need to get away from wearing tight braids, especially around the hairline. Once damaged, the hair won't grow back," cautions Echols-Baker.
She also advises parents to avoid hair extensions, because this will weigh down your child's hair, promoting further breakage around the hairline--damage from which adults can suffer as well.
Straighten With Restraint
Likewise, chemical straightening can be too taxing to a child's tresses. Jacqueline Tarrant, senior education manager for SoftSheen-Carson, says that although she has seen mothers relax the hair of daughters as young as 3, she recommends waiting until a child is at least of school age.
"Once you start relaxing a little girl's hair, you become locked in. When the new hair grows out and is more resistant, you have to continue the maintenance," says Tarrant. In addition, hair relaxing can weaken hair, and very young children are more prone to injury from burns if the relaxer comes into contact with their delicate skin.
Cheryl Morrow, a New York City-based cosmetic trichologist, suggests waiting even longer. African-American hair can go through several stages of maturation before the child enters puberty, she explains. "You don't want to interrupt those stages at 8 or 9 years old. I would prefer that parents wait until African-American children are in the last stages of getting their adult hair," generally around ages 12 to 13.
If you've decided that your child is old enough, and you can handle the maintenance routine of touch-ups for the new growth every 6 to 12 weeks, then look for a mild straightener. If you plan to do it yourself, opt for a relaxer designed specifically for children, such as Africa's Best Kids Organics Organic Conditioning Relaxer System ($5.49) or Dark and Lovely Beautiful Beginnings No-Lye Children's Relaxer System ($4.99). "Beautiful Beginnings is less aggressive than lye-based straighteners, it has a milder effect on hair and skin, and it's user-friendly for the mother," says Tarrant, whose company makes the product.
For a step-by-step video guide for applying a relaxer, take a look at the Just for Me! Texture Softener demonstration by Pro-Line.
Go Natural: Just Twist and Release
If your child is too young for the above-mentioned hairstyles, or you simply prefer a "natural" girl, Echols-Baker offers these two easy and healthy styling options:
Step 1: Shampoo your child's hair with a moisturizing shampoo such as Knotty Girl Drama Queen Marshmallow Moisture Balance Shampoo ($8).
Step 2: After drying, apply a detangler such as Soft & Beautiful Just for Me! Detangler to remove knots and tangles, making the hair easier to comb.
Step 3: Apply an oil moisturizer such as Soft & Precious Moisturizing Creme Hair Dress ($3.99) or Soft & Beautiful Just for Me! Creme Conditioner & Hairdress to add shine and eliminate frizz on the ends of the hair.
Step 4: Take two locks of your child's hair when wet and loosely wind them around each other, forming a double-strand twist. Repeat this process until all of her hair is twisted, and then place her under the dryer on medium heat for up to 20 minutes. When her hair is dry, separate the twists into individual strands, but do not comb them out. Voila! Your little girl will now have cute, full, spiraly twists!
Another quick and easy style is to loosely cornrow your child's hair (wet or dry) back in six large cornrows, then roll the ends with small, rubber, twist rods. Let hair set naturally or under the dryer. When you take out the braids, her hair will have a soft, manageable, wavy style.