Thursday, 22 August 2013

My girl's curls

When my daughter Ru (that’s an abbreviation, I haven’t named her like a pet) was born she had a beautiful head full of dark locks.  We wondered if it would fall out and grown back differently but it didn’t, it just grew…and grew…and grew into the beautiful curly mane she rocks like a diva every day!

I admit that I know how to look after my hair, but had no idea how to cultivate and nurture the kind of curly hair that Ru has.  I wanted to make sure that she was always loud and proud about her hair and didn’t find it a frustration to care for.  I wondered for a while if it was just me that couldn’t manage my daughter’s hair well or if the other mums smiling and gloating about their baby’s manes were just liars.  Was I an idiot or a bad mum?  Why wasn’t it instinctive?  Why didn’t I just know what to do?  I started asking mums in playgrounds and out and about what they used in their mixed babies hair.  How did they select the products and how did they find they worked?  You know, not one person ever said that they were satisfied with the products they were using. 

A lot of parents used products aimed at children and babies and many used products aimed at afro hair as they were unsure what else to use.  Then I started being asked what I used in Ru’s hair and I didn’t have a straight answer.  I was using a bit of this and a bit of that and I just felt that it wasn’t good enough.  I was winging it.

At first I just used good old Johnsons & Johnsons shampoo and a bit of olive oil or coconut oil on her hair to keep it from drying out and then as it got longer I used some leave in conditioner and a little bit of my Mizani Rose oil (I use this in my own hair) to keep it looking nice and healthy but after a while I started to wonder if I was approaching her hair care from the correct point of view. 

I am a pretty low maintenance woman when it comes to hair and beauty.  I am never going to win any prizes for my make up or hair styles and do basically the minimum required not to be laughed at in the street (I do not always succeed at this).  As a child my hair was ‘dealt with’.  It was tamed, handled, relaxed to make it easy to style and wash and blow dried to help it stay straight and reduce the dreaded frizz.  As I grew older I learned that the straighter my hair was the more kudos I would get.  I have mentioned before that I was bullied in school but when my hair was relaxed people thought it was a weave because of the texture and as a teenager I actually felt that those comments were as complimentary as you could get!  How warped was this view?!  It was all about uniformity and falling into line with the expectations of others and their views of beauty.  Having my hair sleek, smooth, shiny, straight, not a wisp out of place allowed me to escape some aspects of bullying and be seen as ‘normal’.   I look back and wish that I hadn’t cared about that stuff so much and had felt confident in myself so that I was happy with just being me. 
Me circa 1996 - 1998.  Aged 17 - 19.
As a 35 year old woman I am not bothered in the slightest about how straight my hair is.  My mum often still comments that I look “a right state” when I go out as I do not spend time straightening or tonging my hair on a regular basis and actually prefer my hair when it looks kind of messy.  I recently got it cut into a short style and I couldn’t work out why I hated it so much.  Then one day I just stuck my fingers in it and shook it.  Aha!  Messy hair! I loved it! Easy peasy.
Me now.  Aged 36!!!
I like not having to spend a lot of time thinking about how I am going to manage my hair and I want Ru to grow up without the burden of seeing her hair and a thing that she has to manage or cope with.  She used to dread having her hair washed and combed.  She would scream and cry and it was a stressful experience for her and me too.  It would take ages to do and it felt like a chore to me and a punishment to her and then within 48 hours it often looked very messy again and not at all like it had done when I had first washed it. 

I needed to do some research and find out how to look after my mixed girl’s hair.  I clearly couldn’t approach it from an afro hair care view point as the products I used in my hair just were not working for her and I wanted to change her perception that caring for her hair was horrible thing.  I wanted her to see her hair ad just a beautiful part of her that didn’t need to be changed or handled.  I want her to feel that her hair is cared for and most of all that it is EASY.

My aim was to work on nurturing her hair to reach its fullest potential in its natural state and once I was happy I was going to share what I was doing with other mums that may have felt like I did.

Hairy happiness
So as you may have guessed, I’m now happy! 
I found some great ideas and techniques that have allowed Ru to have a pain free, happy hair experience and has gone from screaming and crying to relaxing and choosing hair accessories while it’s being done.  Washing and detangling her hair has become a simple process that we both enjoy and now when it’s finished she no longer runs for the hills!

Learning curve
The biggest resource for help I found was a wonderful book called:

Photo source:

This book is brilliant and the hair care regime that I use for Ru is made up mainly of the ideas in this book, along with a couple of things that work well for me.  This book has basically become my bible and although I don’t actually refer to it as much now, that is only because what it taught me, is now deep rooted in my brain!  I found her style of writing easy to understand and engaging and most of all encouraging.  It really helped me to relax and see that the hardest part was really going to be taking in everything she was saying about the different types of products and not the hands on work at all.

First of all I had stop using any product that claimed that it was going to give my girl curls.  I didn’t need anything that would make her hair curly.  Her hair is already curly so the chemicals that these products use weren’t going to be of any benefit to me.  I also removed anything that claimed it could work any kind of miracle.  I was going to be the one doing the miracle working now.

The kit
First things first, I needed to assemble my precious hair care kit.

Now for a shampoo I was looking for basically anything that did NOT contain Teri’s list of danger ingredients.  The list is quite long and wordy so I took the list with me to to Supedrug and proceeded to read the back of all of the products to try and get it right.  This is what to avoid:

Click on the photo to download this page from Curly Like Me by Teri LaFlesh
 To be honest I found it very confusing as I don’t have a scientific mind and there are a lot of long science words!    If you click on the photo it should take you to a link so that you can download the page above and take it with you shopping.

I would say that if the hair is quite short, when looking for a shampoo avoid anything with too much silicone.  You will most likely be using a conditioner that contains silicone and as this ingredient adds weight, you don’t want too much on the hair unless it’s long and full enough to benefit from it.   For instance I do not worry about silicone for Ru’s hair as it is thick and long so the weight will only serve to help it hang nicely.

The conditioners were much more important to me as these are the products that will be used mostly on Ru’s hair.  One for rinsing and one for deep conditioning and combing through the hair.

Teri gives 3 areas of importance when choosing a good conditioner.  They are a weight ingredient, a slip ingredient and a moisturizing ingredient.

The weight ingredient is to help the curls hang vertically and help stop if from poofing out too far sideways.  You want to look for non greasy lubricants.  Teri cites Stearyl alcohol, cetyl alcohol and cetearyl alcohol as her favourites.  BUT do not get this confused with isopropyl alcohol or ethanol.  These are rubbing alcohols and very drying for the hair.

This is very important as this is what will make it easy to comb the hair through and what makes it super easy to de tangle my daughter’s hair.  Actually after the first time I ever did this I can’t even really call the combing detangling anymore as it is never really tangled any more at all.

Silicones are Teri’s favourite slip ingredient and they also add weight. 
Teri also lists the following as good ingredients:
  • Cyclopentasiloxane
  • Gylcerine
  • Stearamidopropyl dimethylamine

This ingredient as it says, keeps the hair moisturised, glossy, defined.  These ingredients are oils or butters like olive oil, jojoba oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, shea butter, sunflower oil and palm oil.
Teri emphasises that these ingredients shouldn’t be the first ones listed as this means that they are present in high proportions and will tend to be a bit too greasy.  So that is what we ARE looking for.  Now below is what to avoid:

Page from Curly Like Me by Teri LaFlesh

So in a nutshell:

Page from Curly Like Me by Teri LaFlesh

And NEVER go for:
  • Leave in conditioner
  • Volumizers
  • Vaseline
  • Anti frizz
  • Curl enhancers

Product selection:
Teri recommends the following products although this list is by no means exhaustive:
(Make sure you check ingredients as these different country to country)

  • Garnier frutis fortifying shampoos
  • L’Oreal Vive Pro shampoos
  • Naturelle Hypo-Allergenic fragrance free shampoos

Rinsing conditioners:
  • VO5 conditioners
  • Natures gate Organics

Combing conditioners
  • Aussie Moist conditioner
  • Herbal Essences by clairol (especially the ones for damaged hair)
  • Nexxus hydra sleek
  • TRESemme (especially the ones for damaged or dry hair)

The following are the products I decided and so far I am VERY happy with them:
  • Shampoo: VO5 Noursh me truly shampoo – Approx £4
  • Rinsing conditioner: Herbal essences Hello hydration (which wuld be good enough as combing conditioner too) – Approx £4
  • Combing conditioner: TRESemme moisture rich luxurious conditioner – Approx £5
That’s £13!!!  I had spent £14 on one tube of leave in conditioner for Ru’s hair previously so I was chuffed at the prices.

You’ll need a brush for combing through the hair after washing.  Teri recommends Denham brushes and I do too.  They are sturdy and well made and simply an old favourite.
I have these brushes.

  • D3 7 row
  • D4 9 row
  • I also have a handy handbag brush for myself!
These brushes are great for gently brushing through and easing tangles out of the hair.

You’ll also need a small pair of sharp scissors in case you get any very tangled knots (more likely in the beginning).  You WILL be able to get them to the end of the hair but if for some reason the tangle is too much you can snip it off the bottom.  This is preferable to hacking at the hair with the brushing and tearing it out.

Spray bottle
For easy application of more water to the hair if needed.

You will need clips for keep hair out of you way when you are working in sections and also hair bands.  Get snag proof bands.  Snag proof! snag proof! SNAG PROOF!!!!!!!  If you hair bands have a metal bit. DO NOT use them!

Also a bag, box or container to keep it all together!

Full kit!

Down to business

The wash

I will be referring to the subject as either Ru (my daughter) or ‘she’ for ease but obviously this is all relevant for boys too.

I always wash Ru’s hair in the bath.  She loves the bath, it’s easy and convenient and it doesn’t matter if I get the rest of her wet while I work.  I don’t put any bubble bath in and give her a wash first so that I can take her out as soon as we are done.  Hair wash time is Friday morning for us.  I like to do it at the same time of week and day to get into a routine that is smooth and easy for both of us.

First things first I never attempt a hair wash without this water guard visor.

It costs about £3 and itreally keeps the water out of her eyes and therefore stops her panicking.   I put it on and then set out the conditioners, hair bands & clips ready to go so that I can work quickly and without make her wait around too much for me to find things.  To start with I use the jug to pour the water onto her head, asking her to look up to the sky so that I can pour from her forehead backwards and away from her face just in case.  The jug I use is actually for use without a visor so it has a soft part at the front.  You could use this jug alone if you didn’t want to try the visor or you child won’t wear one.

I keep pouring to make sure all of her hair is wet.  I use my fingers to move the hair underneath at the nape of her neck to make sure the water is getting all the way through.  It is really important that all of the hair is wet.  Sometimes with very thick or curly hair the water doesn’t fully penetrate without some help.  This can also be the case if the hair is very oily.

Once the hair is completely saturated you can start by shampooing.  Now you do not actually need to shampoo, you can use your rinsing conditioner as a first wash instead if you like.  I did a shampoo stage a few times but felt that it wasn’t necessary unless she had been doing a particularly dirty activity so now I skip this stage and go straight to the rinsing conditioner.  I feel that this works well for us but if she has been to the beach or in the bushes at the park or in a sand pit or something then I will shampoo first.  It’s up to you. 

If you want to shampoo you just need to do this next instruction with the shampoo FIRST and then with conditioner the way I am now. 

SO to reiterate, if you want to SKIP using shampoo stage then just carry on following me.  But if you want to ADD a shampoo stage, then do the next instruction twice.  Once with shampoo and once the rinsing conditioner, the way I do it now.

Taking a dollop on conditioner (or shampoo if you decided to do that first) about this size,

I cover my hands then take my fingers and apply it to Ru’s head.

The main purpose of this wash is to wash the scalp so I massage the scalp a little underneath at the back of her head then move on top of her head make sure my fingers get under her hair and give her a head massage. 

At NO point do I rub portions of her hair together or gather her hair up and rub it around scrunched on top of her head.   I only massage the scalp with the shampoo/conditioner because when I rinse it out the water will carry the shampoo/conditioner down along the strands and cleanse the shafts of the hair.  Under no circumstances use your fingernails to massage her head.  Use only the pads of your fingers. 

If she has very long or thick hair and you are struggling to get the conditioner/shampoo through then clip or gently tie half of the hair up and work through one half then the other.

After massaging I rinse with water again.  I do not use my hands to rub the shampoo/conditioner out.  I just use my fingers to gently separate the hair so that the water can get through. I also lift the hair from underneath to get to the back.  You will probably find that the hair is a lot softer feeling at this point.

Next is the application of the most important product you will use, the combing conditioner.  Because Ru has long hair I separate the hair into 2 halves.  If your child’s hair is short you may feel this isn’t necessary.  If you do need to half the hair make sure that you gently ease the hair apart and do not just grab and pull it apart.  I want you to start treating the hair as if it is precious and delicate so no dragging, pulling or stretching.  Only easing.

 I tie one side away and then take a massive dollop of conditioner like this. 
Now in Teri’s book she says that it sometimes feels like too much at first and she is right, it took me a few goes before I went for it and had the right amount.  This is what I use for half my DD’s hair.  Just go for it.  If it’s too much, use a bit less next time.  Too much won’t hurt but too little will hinder your process.   

Now apply this through the section of hair.  You want to make sure that you get it on every single part of the hair.  You do not need to concentrate on the scalp, we have washed it already and it will produce its own natural oils that will penetrate the first little cm or so of hair too.  Don’t get me wrong, you don’t need to avoid it but don’t focus your efforts there. 

You want to gently poke and prod the hair to make sure the conditioner is getting through, slowly and gently easing the hair apart to be sure.

Don’t squeeze or wring the hair out.   You want the conditioner sitting in the hair so we don’t want to lose any.  A quick test for if you have enough on the hair, take it in your hand and give it a little squeeze.  If no conditioner squidges out then add more!  Trust me, if you have any excess conditioner when the hair is done you can get rid of it with a little water, promise! 

When I am done I clip or tie the section gently (conditioner often squidges out a little here too) and repeat on the other half of hair.
Now I get her out of the bath and sit her in a dressing gown (you may wish to out a towel around the shoulders or an old t-shirt of your own on your child to top the drips getting her wet) at her little table with he electronic device of choice so that she sits still for the next 20 minutes.  Do not try to pat the hair dry or rub it just leave it as wet as possible.
Combing/Brushing through 

For this stage I need the spray bottle filled with water, clips, my chosen brush or brushes & a little pot of the combing conditioner in case I haven’t applied enough (you don’t need to have it in a little pot, I just like leaving the big one in the bathroom).

With Ru sat nicely and one half of her hair still tied to the side, I use one of the clips or sometimes just my fingers to part and separate a small section of hair for me to start working on.  Remember to ease the hair apart rather than pulling.  I tie the main bulk of her hair up out of my way and begin brushing through.  Starting from the part of the section of hair closest to the scalp, hold the hair and gently begin brushing towards yourself. You will almost always hit some resistance at some point as you brush through.  It shouldn’t feel too rough though as he conditioner should have made the hair a lot easier to work with.

Do not try to pull the brush through the tangle.  Gentle brush and ease the tangle down through the section of hair.  With a gentle short brushing motion the tangle will slowly move down the section of hair to the bottom.  

When brushing, be sure to hold onto the section of hair tightly.  NOT pulling at the scalp at all but having a firm grip above any tangles so that when you ease them out the pulling is not felt on your child’s head and therefore doesn’t cause any pain.  

When the tangle is at the bottom of the hair and has nowhere to go, more often than not the brushing motion will help it to detangle but if it is a very tight knot I always recommend gently detangling what you can and then take sharp scissors just snip the tangle off.  It is better to be rid of a bad tangle than to distress the hair and scalp by tugging at it.   The first time I ever did Ru’s hair like this, there were several tangles to brush through, but now when I do it there are hardly any at all. 

When I have finished this section I separate the curls.  Now when I read Curly like me and Teri said this, I thought that it seemed like a really long a laborious task that’s surely no one really did.  But when I had brushed the section through the curls seemed to just separate for themselves. I gently eased the section apart and the hair seemed to have set itself into its own natural pattern.  I know that sounds a bit weird but the curls were not stringy and pulled apart, they just looked natural.  Teri also says that if the hair is short or you would like more defined curls you can wrap the hair around you finger for shape.  I will be honest, I don’t know much about doing that as R’s hair is very long and using this method of washing and care, her curls form easily and without 
manipulation by me apart from the separating. 

Once separated, I use a clip to keep the hair apart from the rest so that I don’t keep brushing the same bits. 

I continue to do this throughout her hair, brushing through, separating and clipping to the side.  If it’s hot and any part of her hair has started to dry, I use the water spray bottle to make her hair wet again.  You can’t make this method of care work on dry hair so spray away!  It literally can NOT be too wet.  Equally if the hair isn’t slippery and there isn’t enough conditioner on it I put some more conditioner in my hand and spray it with water and then apply it to her hair and continue.

When I have brushed it all through I decide whether I want a side or middle parting then clip the hair out of the way of her face accordingly.  As the hair dries it will dry in the general shape you clip it.  It’s not set in stone and you can just wet it and re clip it if you like so don’t worry about choosing a style.  

You may find when you have finished that you have applied too much conditioner and you can still see some white product in the hair.  If this is the case spray a bit of water on it and run your brush through that part again and it will disappear once dried.  I generally don’t judge whether I can see the conditioner until it’s drying as it disappears loads as it dries.  Sometimes I can see at the front or by the scalp that there was a little too much and I just spray water to get rid of it.

Wait it out

Now just sit back and let it dry.  It is ALWAYS best to do this in the morning because we want the hair to air dry.  I have never used a hair dryer on Ru’s hair and would always rather wait an extra day to wash her hair rather than attempt to dry the hair with excess heat. 

 The only time I did it later than the morning was recently when we were going to be so busy that I would not have been able to do it at any other time and she was having official photos taken so we wanted it done.  I did her hair in the afternoon at about 1pm and it wasn’t quite completely dry by bedtime.  It was ok the next day but I would have still preferred to have let it dry.  Luckily there was a heat wave so | wasn’t worried about her sleeping with a slightly damp head!  Oops!

As the hair dries the curls set.  They can feel firmish to the touch on that first day, probably more so than you are used to but not bristly or rough.  They will feel firm and sort of silky from the conditioner.  This coating of conditioner will continue to moisturise the hair and also provide some weather proofing from wind and rain (not torrential downpours obviously!).

TA – DA!

This is what Ru’s hair looks like when it’s dried.  Beautiful right?!

Bath and bed!
 At bath time I tie and clip her hair up so that she doesn’t get it soaked again.  

 For bedtime I halve her hair (1) and do 2 gentle braids making sure they are firmly braided so they won’t undo but not tight or pulling (2).  I also stop braiding at the very bottom and start twisting so that I do not cause a knot to form (3).   It doesn't matter if the braids are uneven or wonky (4). I use a hair band to tie them together low down so that they do not disturb her sleep (5). 

At first I thought that surely all my hard work would be undone by morning because she is an active and sweaty sleeper!

I followed Teri’s instructions and in the morning I simply undid the braids and used the water spray to spray over her hair.  I gently used my fingers to loosen the curls from the braids and for any drier patches I applied a little more water and conditioner.  As Teri says, the curls ‘woke up’ and her hair looked fine.  As each day goes on you will find that the curls will lose a bit of definition but you can reset them by wetting and conditioning the hair again.  If you finD very dry parts of the hair add more water and conditioner and brush through.

I find that by day 5 & 6 Ru’s curls are a little lacklustre in comparison to day 1 but still more than presentable.  I don’t tend to bother doing  a brush through at any other time than wash day and just gentle use my fingers to gentle detangle any small sleep related tangles with water and conditioner.

If I want to tie her hair up (part of it or all of it) I use water a bit of conditioner to smooth it out a little but as I say I never use crushes and combs on her hair except for wash day.

During the winter months I tie her hair up a lot more.  A tip from Teri for the winter months and when weather is wet and windy in general is to use a little bit of olive oil as a barrier against the elements. 

If you ever find a hair band is caught in the hair and you cannot untangle it, just loosen what hair you can gently then snip the band out with your scissors rather than distressing the hair and scalp by dragging at the band for a long time.

Use a little olive or coconut oil or jojoba oil to coat the hair (notice I said coat…not lather or saturate!) and braid the hair before swimming and then afterwards shampoo and wash above.

Happy hair days
The first couple of times I went through this regime I felt very tentative as it wasn’t really a natural way I would usually do her hair but it is second nature to me now and I love that now when it’s done she announce “That was easy!” rather than when she used to say “that way bad!” through tears!

Not only are we both relaxed and happy when it comes to caring for Ru’s hair but her hair is always soft, moisturised and curly.  I truly hope that she loves her curls as much as I do and is encouraged to keep her hair in its natural state and full of its natural beauty, after all it’s part of her and she is beautiful just the way she is!

Remember to pick up your copy of Curly Like Me by Teri LaFlesh!

Please leave comments, hints & tips about how you care for your child's hair as I'd love to hear what other parents do as I am still learning myself.  If you try any of the suggestions above let me know how you get on!


  1. Well worth the wait! Love it!!! Thank you Nich!!

    1. Thanks for hanging in there and reading it lol it went in a bit but I hope it helps someone x

  2. I wonder if my hair would look with conditioner and no shampoo... It's not afro but my curls are never well defined after a wash... Will give it a go. Ru's hair is beautiful and some of your tips will apply whatever hair type your child has. Thanks! x

    1. Please let me know how you get on. I find Ru's hair is so soft since I started this :-)

    2. I love this blog! Thankyou...i do have one question, i have read the same part three times just to make sure i haven't missed you leave normal ( as in not a leave in conditioner) in your daughters hair? You don't rinse it? I apologise if i have read it wrong or if it really is as self explanatory as it seems i just want to make sure in using the right techniques :)

    3. Hi! thank you so much for the feedback. I understand that it does indeed sound a bit odd but YES you leave the normal conditioner in the hair. It took me ages to just do it and not worry. I leave the Tresseme conditioner in the hair and brush it through. As it dries the curls set in their natural form. When it dries if you find any white residue from the conditioner, just spray some water and gently rub and it will dissolve.

      It takes longer to dry in winter time and I found the other day that we went out right away after washing and because her hair was sort of bunched in her hood it dried in a bit of a bunch and the curls didn't set as well. I learned that I need to leave it a bit longer to dry before going letting the hair bunch up now!

  3. Thank you! Will try with my daughter!

    1. I hope it works for you. I have become a ninja at this now and have it washed and drying within and hour and that's going at a pretty chilled pace with no stress. I have found in the winter months I takes a lot long to dry and her hair has also hit a lot longer and thicker too but it still works well x

  4. Not sure my comment posted! Thank you so much for the indepth blog it's so helpful! My daughter who's almost 2 has really dry hair so I'm looking forward to trying your tips. Can I ask your daily routine? Do you always tie your daughters up at night? Kikis isn't long enjoy to get more than two tiny pig tails lol
    Thanks again for the great info!


    1. I braid it at the least. Nothing fancy just 2 or sometimes one braid just so that the undone curls dont't rub too much at night. My daughter is a rough sleeper so she gets pretty tangled!

      My daily routine is to spritz the hair with water and if it looks a bit dry I put a dollop of conditioner in my hand and add water then apply to the hair lightly before spritzing. Day to day at nursery she wears a bun and during the holidays her hair is out for the first 2 - 3 days after wash day the a pony tail or pigtails for th enxt couple of days. On swimming days we braid it and the lightly apply a coating of olive oil by putting it in my hands, rubbing together then applying to the hair. I try to make hair wash day the day after swimming x

      Thanks for reading!


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