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Five Tips for Caring for Curly Toddler Hair

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At 5, I knew that I was supposed to be a hair stylist when I grew up. I mean, I really “knew” this. I didn’t have any hair stylists in my family and my mom never, ever went to the salon but I knew hair styling was my calling because I loved styling (read: cutting until they were bald) my Barbie dolls’ hair so much.

Curly Hair

Recalling memories of “caring” for my Barbies’ hair, I was excited to have a real-live baby to enact my grand schemes of hair domination. (Insert tyrannical laughter). And while things were mostly fine and fun in the beginning, with time, my first daughter’s mostly straight hair became curly and, with that, she became the staunch opponent of my old friend, the comb. And with this, I began to dread doing her hair. I hated chasing her around the house. I hated hearing her cry. I hated not feeling like I really knew what I was doing.

But with time and some education on curly hair, I learned how to care for my toddler’s curly hair (and my own curly hair). And this made doing her hair an enjoyable experience for us both. So, if you have a curly-haired toddler and are at your wits end, then consider my five tips for caring for curly toddler hair.

OK, now before I begin with the tips, let me first say that everything that you’ve likely been taught about hair in general is mostly wrong for curly hair. OK. That sounded harsh. But it’s true, kind of. Curly hair is unique, it’s different from straight hair and has different needs. It’s beautiful. It can appear frizzy, bushy, and very big. It can be wavy or kinky. It varies. So when caring for it, remember that you should be prepared for some or many things to be different than you may have done them in the past. You should be prepared to love your child’s curls.

OK. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s start with the tips:

Tip #1: Throw out your combs and brushes.

I know. It sounds so wrong. But with curly hair, it’s so right. Along with messing up your child’s curl pattern, combs are just unnecessary for curly hair. Instead of using combs and brushes, I detangle my daughters’ hair with my fingers. It’s called finger combing.

Tip #2. Detangle when distracted and wet.

Curly hair is easiest to manage when wet or damp. So to prevent too many ouchies, I make sure to keep a Spritz bottle nearby to spray her hair with water while detangling (with my fingers, of course). I also find it easier to detangle/”comb” after washing and applying conditioner to her hair. When I detangle her hair (which really only takes a couple of minutes), I will distract her with a book or toy or something else to get the job done.

Tip #3: Don’t use traditional shampoos.

Curly hair seems drier than straight hair because moisture/oils don’t always travel as easily from root to tip. With my daughter’s curls, I aim to wash, at most, once a week using a low-poo or no-poo (i.e., no suds) shampoo, or, sometimes, I co-wash with a conditioner. And I leave conditioners (leave in conditioners) in my daughters’ hair. This is one of my favorite conditioners:

It’s Nature’s Baby Organics Conditioner & Detangler in the Vanilla-Tangerine scent.

 Tip #4: Learn about curly-hair.

This sounds basic, but it’s so important, especially if your child’s hair is different than your own. One of the most awesome books that I’d recommend for curly hair is Curly Girl by Lorraine Massey.

 Tip #5: Buy hair products that are friendly to curly hair.

With curly hair, the key is to look for products that retain moisture, that contain the kinds of ingredients that are friendly to curls (i.e., water soluble, silicone-free, no -cones, etc.). I like the Nature’s Baby Organics line most, but there are other great companies and products that are out there to choose from.

Parents with curly toddlers, what tips would you add?

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