Caring for African American Hair: Tips and Tricks

You adopted this beautiful little girl with hair so different from your own. You want to take good care of it and maintain it in a way that is respectful of the child and of her heritage, but you’re not quite sure where to start. Relax. You can do this. Here are a few tips that will help you.

1. Handle With Care: African American hair is more fragile than other textures and more susceptible to breakage. So you cannot run a comb or brush through the hair quickly and haphazardly. Washing, drying and styling will likely require an hour or more of your time depending on the length. There are no short cuts. Use a wide toothed comb and brushes with wide soft plastic bristles. Avoid hard bore bristle brushes and fine-toothed combs. When you comb the hair, start at the ends and work your way down to the roots carefully.

2. Wash Weekly, Not Daily: Curly African textures tend to be dryer and less oily than European hair so it requires fewer washings. Washing one to two times per week is sufficient.

3. Your Hair Care Products Won’t Do
The hair care regime that helps you maintain your magnificent mane will wreak havoc on your child’s curly locks. There are several fantastic products on the market specifically formulated for black hair. You may need to experiment to see which products work best for your child. But here is a short list of products that have worked well with my daughters and their friends. They are also staples at many black salons.

• Pantene Pro-V Relaxed and Natural shampoo and conditioner
• Mane n Tail shampoo and conditioner
• Luster’s Pink Hair Lotion (For daily moisturizing. Yes, you must moisturize the hair daily)
• Organic Root Stimulator Shampoo Creamy, Replenishing Conditioner and Hair Lotion.
• Optimum Care Anti Breakage Therapy Leave in Strengthener (my favorite!!!) This miracle worker detangles like a dream making comb outs virtually effortless. I use it daily on my little ones.

4. Learn To Braid and Cornrow: Braiding and cornrowing are styling options that are ideal for our hair texture and it helps keep the shaft and ends protected from the cold temperatures and the damaging sun. If you find cornrowing and braiding too difficult to master, twisting the hair will accomplish the same thing. If you go to YouTube you will find several tutorials on how to cornrow, braid and twist as well as several styling options. It’s easy to get overwhelmed on YouTube. My advice to you is simply this: if it looks bizarre to you then it probably is. Look for cute, classy and easy styles that are tailored to your child’s hair length and complimentary to her personality.

5. Avoid Relaxers Like the Plague: Relaxers may sound like an easy out, but they do more harm than good. Relaxers weaken the hair, diminish elasticity and cause breakage. Anyone who tells you otherwise is not telling you the truth.

6. Avoid Demeaning Language: The most important advice I have to offer you has nothing to do with the actual care of your angel’s hair but the language you use when you refer to it. Many African American children grow up feeling insecure about their hair because it is so different from Europeans and can be more challenging to care for. For that reason, shy away from using terms that might feed into those insecurities. Hard to manage, stubborn, nappy, wild and unruly are just a few of the terms that should never be used. Your child will know that her hair tangles easily so you really do not need to reiterate that. Look for positive attributes about your child’s hair and lavish her with affirmations that will build her up and make her feel good about her God given hair.

Keep in mind that it’s ok to seek assistance from African Americans in your network. They would be honored to help just as I am and you will spare yourself a lot of worry and stress.

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  • Saran

    Great article. We also found that conditioning hair every night and then using a leave in conditioner in the mornings worked great for softer more manageable curls. We love the Curls brand – http://www.curls.biz/curly-hair-products/curly-
    It has worked great and it smells fantastic :-)

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  • http://www.paddlebrush.net Paddle Brush

    I'll post the same information to my blog, thanks for ideas and great article.

  • Thejanicestar

    Thank you for posting this article, it is a sign of great change in this country. I am a Straight Black American Woman and believe that interacial adoptions are a beautiful thing especially when it comes to adopting black children. Even better than that; both Gay and Lesbian couples not only have to tackle some forms of hate, but they do it with their black children in tow. Wonderful! Thank you for being open minded because IGNORANCE=EXTINCTION

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  • paula

    I AM AT MY WITS FINDING A PRODUCT FOR MY GRANDAUGHTER. SHE IS OF ETHNIC AND OF ME. SHE IS MY EVERYTHING BUT I CANT DO HER HAIR I HAVE SPENT HUNDREDS OF DOLLARS ON MY POOR BABY’S HAIR. IT HURTS EVERYDAY AND WHEN IT’S TIME TO WASHING  IT, IT  TAKES THE BETTER PART OF A DAY TO TRY TO GET A COMB THROUGH IT. SHE IS BEAUTIFUL BUT HER HAIR MAKES HER FEEL DIFFERENT. SHE IS TEN YEARS OLD. I PROMISED TO FIND  A HAIR PRODUCT FOR HER HAIR. I AM SO OPEN FOR SUGGESTIONS. I HAVE TRIED EVERYTHING ON THE LIST OF HAIR PRODUCTS SO I AM STILL LOOKING.SHE WON’T GO TO A SALOON BECAUSE SHE IS AFRAID IT WILL HURT EVEN MORE THAN IT DOES NOW. PLEASE HELP.  THANK YOU  

  • Jennifer Welch

    I’m trying to find the Optimum Care Anti Breakage Therapy Leave in Strengthener online that you mentioned in the article. I can’t seem to find it. Do you have a link for it so I can be sure to find the right product? Thanks!

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  • Mel Stevens

    girls with black 4a-c type of hair should check out the pro naturals hair repair system. All of its products are amazing

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