Growing and Caring for African American Children’s Hair


This article offers eight principles for growing and caring for African American children’s hair (newborn to adolescence).

With most mainstream, commercial childrens hair care products laden with such common curl offenders as sulfates, cones, skin irritants and synthetic oils, the task of caring for African American childrens hair may seem like an impossible endeavor.

Given the often s-pattern or z-pattern of their hair, understanding African American childrens hair means understanding the basic rules and principles of curly hair.

While caring for this hair type will seem, at first, to require more effort on the parents part to learn about chemicals, styling techniques, etc, it is very simple. Just follow the principles below and you will enhance your childs beautiful curl pattern while also creating the perfect environment for hair growth.

Use natural shampoos to wash your babys scalp, at the most, every week

While there are many shampoos available on the market, often these shampoos are filled with ingredients that, in the long run, will lead to dry hair and breakage. The most common offender in baby shampoos is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate. (Sulfates are what causes the bubbles when lathering.)

While there are many great sulfate-free shampoos on the market, another alternative would be to make your own. You can do this using simple and easy to find ingredients like Castille soap, distilled water, and essential oil.

Avoid synthetic chemicals like a plague

Curly hair needs moisture, and lots of it. Synthetic chemicals like petroleum and mineral oil only serve to coat the top layer of the hair. They do not penetrate the hair shaft (which is necessary to restore moisture in curly strands). Rather than these synthetic materials, choose natural alternatives like 100% jojoba oil, 100% coconut oil, or 100% grapeseed oil. Be sure to check the label when purchasing any of these products to ensure that the manufacturer has not used any additives to enhance the shelf-life of the products themselves.

Moisturize your childs hair

In general, you should plan to apply a small amount of oil to your babys scalp one to two times per day. When applying the oil, be sure to rub the oil between your hands (as if applying lotion on your hands) then massage into babys scalp and hair. Remember, a little oil goes a long way.

Choose low-maintenance, low stress hairstyles

Because curly hair is so fragile, it is vital that you avoid using heat or other styling methods that may excessively pull hair taut. It is also important that you avoid rubber bands and other fasteners with metal links.

Be mindful of fabrics on your childs hair

Cotton fabrics have the effect of stripping curly hair of its moisture. So, instead of cotton lined hats, for instance, try to find more curl-friendly materials like satin or silk.

Detangle dry hair only

This principle is particularly important for children with tighter curls. Rather than detangling your childs hair while it is wet, be sure to detangle while his/her hair is dry. This will prevent excessive hair loss and will save you time in the long run.

Pre-treat hair with coconut oil

The night before washing your childs hair, be sure to apply a fatty oil like coconut oil to soften the cuticles. Apply enough oil to coat the hair, then place a plastic bag or shower cap over your childs head. This step, while less important with newborn hair, will prove invaluable with children from toddlerhood onwards.

Invest in a quality hair conditioner

Contrary to the picture presented in the unavailability of conditioners, conditioning curly hair is critical. Good conditioners for curly hair should include natural ingredients and exclude cones. A conditioning rinse can also be used in between shampoos to keep the hair healthy.

Following these principles will lead to your child having strong and healthy hair, and this will lead to long-term hair growth.