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Ultimate Guide to Afro Hair Care for Children

Caring for your own hair can be tricky when you don’t know where to start, never mind for the hair of your child.

This blog is going to help you find out not only where to start but also where you're going when it comes to looking after your child's afro hair. At Afrocenchix, we know ourselves to be myth busters disbanding the ideas that afro hair unattractive and or unmanageable. We want you and your children to have the same confidence in afro hair as we do, knowing that afro hair is beautiful!   

Not sure where to begin? Well, ignore the hype about 'finding your porosity' and hair type. Caring for afro hair can seem complex but with a little know how it's as easy as A, B, C. Trust us, with the right hair care practices, prevent common afro hair problems such as breakagedandruff and itchy scalp, and give them and yourself hair confidence!

Use our table of contents (below) to get started!

A. Creating a Simple Afro Hair Care Routine For Your Child 

B. Common Afro Hair Problems and Why They Occur 

C. Learning How to Combat Your Child's Afro Hair Problems

A. Afro Hair Care Routine For Your Child

The first step is to create a routine that works around your's and your child’s everyday life. If you already have a routine, it’ll be pretty easy to know what works for your child and what doesn’t.

Creating a routine is the key to knowing what works for your child’s hair as you'll be able to easily spot if something doesn’t agree with your child’s hair. The approach we recommend is simple: Cleanse, Moisturise, Style, Repeat.

If your child has locs then check out our guide on how to maintain and care for locs, like a boss.

Two cute black toddlers standing together

Cleanse

Hair starts its growth in the follicle and new hairs grow through the tiny pores in the scalp. When their hair is left without cleansing for too long the pores can become blocked, making it difficult for the new hair to poke through, which can lead to painful bumps and ingrown hair for your child. A dirty scalp may also invite fungal infections, dandruff, stunted hair growth and other problems so it is essential to keep it clean.

It is, therefore, crucial to keep your child’s scalp clean and healthy. You need to regularly cleanse their scalp – this consists of washing their hair every 7-10 days with a gentle sulphate free shampoo. Focus on massaging the shampoo into your child’s scalp using a gentle circular movement to dislodge dirt and encourage blood flow to the scalp. A clean and stimulated scalp allows optimum growth for their hair.

5 Tips For Washing:

  1. Pre poo your child’s hair with coconut oil. Coconut oil helps your hair avoid hygral fatigue, when applying it to their hair focus on the ends, cover their hair with a shower cap and try to leave it on them for around 30 minutes. If there are temper tantrums, try putting on their favourite cartoon/TV show.
  2. Massage the shampoo into their scalp, using the your fingertips and work it along the hair strands. Don’t worry so much about the shampoo reaching the ends of their hair as you wash out the shampoo it will be cleaned as the suds from the top of their hair run down.
  3. Follow this up with a silicone free conditioner, that has a lot of slip to make the detangling simpler. When conditioning or using a deep conditioning treatment do not leave it on for longer than the specified time in the instructions, as leaving their hair wet for too long will weaken it.
  4. Detangle their hair with your fingers to or a wide tooth comb to lessen manipulation.
  5. Once you rinsed the conditioner out of your child’s hair, squeeze the excess water out. Then wrap their hair with a microfibre turban or towel for swift drying. Avoid blow drying as it can damage afro hair, drying without heat is easier and leaves hair softer and stronger in the long run.

Moisturise

Once their hair is clean and nearly dry, it’s time for the most important part of the afro-hair routine: moisturising. Just as you wouldn’t give your child a bath without moisturising them after, its essential to make sure their hair is well moisturised after washing.

The main point of developing an afro-hair care routine with them is to avoid bad practices whilst keeping their hair clean, moisturised and easy to maintain. This will allow their hair to grow healthy and strong.

The main reason that afro hair is prone to breakage is due to lack of moisture. Dryness is the bane of afro hair. Dry hair breaks easily, and as afro hair is quite susceptible to dryness it is also very prone to breakage. Protecting your child’s hair by locking in the moisture is key!

How can you lock in the moisture? Great question. We recommend layering on products using the LOC method:

L – Apply a Liquid.

Using a water-based liquid will be best for this initial step. We recommend Sheen, a water-based blend of aloe vera juice, grape seed oil and essential oils. The hair is made of protein bundles kept together by hydrogen bonds and disulphide bonds. To keep hair strong, it is important to keep it full of moisture, which in needs for the hydrogen bonds and the most effective moisturiser is water!

O - Seal in moisture within oil.

Water evaporates easily from the hair so relatively thick oil blend is needed to seal in moisture. The best blends contain olive oil, coconut oil, castor oil and jojoba oil. Seal contains all these and more so it’s a top recommendation for your child’s hair. It was voted in the best top oil for Afro hair because it: “penetrates the hair shaft and leaves your strands feeling hydrated and super soft, and it remains that way for hours afterwards.”

C – Layer on a cream.

This should be a water-based moisturiser but not as fluid as the product used in the liquid step. A moisturising cream all leave in conditioner will do the trick. We recommend Smooth, with its blend of coconut oil, olive extract and organic and fair-trade sheer better. This blend of oil will leave your child’s hair
soft and the moisture will stay locked in.

black father holding his natural haired daughter while drawing

Style

Protective styles and low manipulation looks are ideal for your child’s Afro hair care. Check out our style page for inspiration of simple styles for Afro hair to take them from school, to a fun day out.

Protective style is any style of the ends of your hair tucked away. Look such as braids or twists or cornrows can be protected styles. With these looks ensure that you only keep the style for no more than 6 to 8 weeks and throughout you must keep your child’s hair moisturised and clean.

Our Braid Care Set contains everything you need to keep your child’s hair in top condition. Low manipulation styles are looks requiring a little more maintenance, that also don’t invite other people’s hands into their hair. Examples of this are bonds or twist and pin styles, these tend to keep knots and tangles that they because you don’t have to handle the hair as much.

With these looks, wrapping your child’s hair at night will keep the style looking neat as the week goes on (unfortunately, no promises as we all know that children can be a forces to be reckoned with!). When styling we recommend working with your child’s hair’s natural curls.

Those that say Afro hair is unmanageable often trying to get it to do something that goes against this very structure, such as straightening it. However,  you can try stretching and straightening their hair without heat and without chemicals by trying traditional African threading techniques or trying twist outs and Bantu Knots

Repeat

Once your hair is clean dry moisturise and styled you can tweak the look throughout the week reflecting whatever vibe your child is going for. Was keeping the core of the routine in the same you can switch up the styles that you do each week, perhaps going from a low maintenance bun, to braids, to twist out after each wash day. The key thing is to keep your routine the same and make only minor changes at a time.

Once you have your child’s hair routine perfected, you can start thinking about how to save time whilst looking after your child’s Afro hair. So, now that we’ve covered how to build an Afro hair routine - that really works well for your child - that talk about breakage, dandruff and other common issues. 

B. Common Afro Hair Problems and Why They Occur

Since we launched our first Afrocenchix website, we've had thousands of emails and calls from women with Afro hair. Many of these queries are surrounding the topics of breakage, dandruff, hair loss and itchy scalps; these common problems are easier to tackle for both yourself and your child, once you understand how they occur.

Breakage

Afro hair like other hair types grows at around 6 inches a year but often breaks off as fast as it grows and so gets a reputation for being short/unable to grow.

The myth that Afro hair doesn’t grow comes from the fact that it’s prone to breakage. Every curly or coily, twist and turn is a potential point for your child’s Afro hair to break. The curly structure of Afro hair means that sebum produced by the scalp can’t reach the ends of the hair, leaving them dry, brittle and vulnerable.

Common causes of breakage include dryness and friction from rough handling, cotton pillowcases and woolly hats and scarves. Using heat such as trainers and blow dryers weakens the hair and leads to breakage. Chemicals can also weaken your child’s hair and make it brittle, meaning it can break easily. The main culprits for Afro hair becoming weak and brittle are relaxers and bleached based hair dyes we recommend that you keep these far away from your child’s hair.

Dandruff

Using harsh and unnatural hair products can cause dandruff and severe flakes. Other causes are an overgrowth of microbial fungus which can lead to a serious dandruff condition unless treated and controlled. Dandruff in your child’s hair can also be caused by a build-up of the sebum that your scalp naturally produces, which is then made worse when combined with shed skin. If the hair is washed frequently than sebum, skin flakes and product remnants build-up, leaving the scalp vulnerable to dandruff. Another common cause of dandruff is simply having a dry scalp (always remember to moisturise).

Hair Loss

Common causes of hair loss for both children and adults include type braids are extensions, this is also known as traction alopecia. Damage from rough handling and the use of chemicals such as relaxers can lead to traumatic alopecia. Using the wrong tools can lead to hair loss and breakage, for instance rough bristle brushes or combs with dozens of tiny teeth can pull out your hair and damage the hair that is left behind.

NB: Long-term mistreatment of Afro hair can lead to permanent hair loss and bald patches. Which is why it is important to create a really good routine from a young age. Stress can also be a cause and is one of the biggest culprits behind sudden hair loss.

Itchy Scalp

An itchy scalp is usually caused by sensitivity to hair products, so if you are currently using a shampoo which contains SLS (sodium laryl sulphate) and perfume (artificial fragrance), that might be causing sensitivity for your child’s scalp.

The sodium laryl sulphate is a cheap surfactant created during the Industrial Revolution the clean machinery. The low-cost of SLS and the fact that it creates so much foam made it a popular choice for large cosmetic companies. SLS is also used in allergy test is the control substance to apply to skin because it is a known irritant that will turn the skin red. We recommend avoiding it and opting for plant-based alternatives.

Regular washing of Afro hair and the use of heavy oil such as castor oil directly on the scalp can also block pores and lead to product build up or an overproduction of sebum which may also be causing the itchiness on your child’s scalp.

C. How To Combat Your Child’s Afro hair Problems

Young black woman with natural hair standing on a trolley with hands in pocket


Breakage

the best way to avoid breakage to ensure that the ends of your child’s hair adequately moisturised and regularly tucked away in protective or low manipulation styles. Afro hair is more vulnerable to breakage when it is damaged by rough handling, chemical use or heat styling. Therefore, the best way to avoid breakage is to treat your hair like silk and keep it from common problems. The key steps are:

  • finger detangle or use a wide toothed comb
  • avoid relaxers and bleached based hair dyes
  • stay away from blow dryers and hair straighteners

It also helps to sleep in a satin bonnet or to use silk pillowcases. Sleeping on a cotton pillowcase leads to breakage for two reasons. Firstly, the cotton will absorb moisture from your child’s hair (this is the same reason that socks are cotton) unfortunately leaving the hair dry and vulnerable to breakage. Secondly because cotton is a rough fabric as they move in their sleep friction is generated between their hair and the pillowcase and Afro hair easily snaps off when it’s not covered up.

Dandruff

To avoid dandruff, you need to get rid of the causes and take care of your scalp. Wash your child’s hair every 7 to 10 days and invest in a good SLS and fragrance-free shampoo such as Swish. It also helps to keep your scalp moisturised with a lightweight oil like Soothe.

Hair Loss

If a child is experiencing hair loss, we suggest that you avoid tight braids, or extensions as well as relaxers. Any braids that you do use should be no smaller than the size of a regular pencil or ideally larger.

We also recommend allowing a child to indulge in fun activities and self-care to keep stress at bay, helping them to avoid a common cause of bald patches and thinning of Afro hair.

Itchy Scalp

Again, washing the hair every 7 to 10 days and not allowing the products to build up will definitely help keep itchiness away. We also recommend not having tight hairstyles. Keeping the scalp moisturised with a specialist scalp oil such as Soothe will help keep your child’s scalp happy and healthy.

Now we can with the basics and you’re ready to build the brilliant routine for your child avoid common Afro hair issues and tackle the child’s current hair problems!

For more information on Afro hair care you can visit our blog which we regularly update or email us if your questions are still left unanswered.

More Articles:

A quick and simple Afro hair style for kids

How to help your child embrace their afro hair

How to care for your child's afro hair to prevent nits and head lice

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