By Imani A. Dawson
My son was born with a head full of silky straight hair parted neatly in the middle. At the hospital, the nurses got a kick out of styling it in a pompadour. (He looked like a baby version of Miguel, lol)
Though I knew his hair would eventually evolve to a texture more like mine or my husband’s, I was astonished when at 4 weeks he sprouted curls without the straight hairs first falling out. His curly roots and straight tips made my little nugget look like he was growing out a bad perm. Multiple textures sprung up. Suddenly he had tight ringlets in the front, looser curls at the crown, and waves at the very back of his precious little head. I had no clue how to handle his infant hair, so I turned to an expert for help.
According to natural hair pioneer and master stylist Diane C Bailey, it takes about 18 months for a baby’s true texture to settle in. Most Black and multi-racial babies are born with soft, delicate, breakage-prone hair that needs tender care to thrive. Before a child is a year and a half, less is best when it comes to haircare. Bailey recommends using organic and all natural products like the SheaMoisture Coconut & Hibiscus Kids Curling Butter Cream and SheaMoisture Coconut & Hibiscus Kids Extra-Moisturizing Detangler to care for baby hair or creating your own mixes. Stay away from heavily fragranced hair formulations and stylers (puddings, gels, soufflés, etc). During your child’s earliest stages, the emphasis should be on gentle maintenance, rather than curl definition. Here are a few tips for caring your baby’s curls.
Wash baby’s hair and scalp once a week using a mild, moisturizing shampoo (try Burt’s Bees Baby Bee Tear Free Shampoo & Wash). At six months and younger, Bailey recommends using a gentle cleanser diluted with water. (I like California Baby Calendula Shampoo & BodyWash)
Bailey suggests keeping baby’s hair soft and pliable by moisturizing frequently. The exact level of moisture depends on the texture and porosity of your little one’s curls. Individual sections may require hydration than others.
Every two or three days, I apply a leave in conditioner (I’m currently loving California Baby Calendula Hair Conditioner), then massage my baby’s scalp and finger comb his curls.
Apply a light leave in conditioner like Cara B Leave in Conditioner/Daily Moisturizer and gently detangle with fingers, a wide tooth- comb or soft-bristle brush. When combing and detangling, make sure your little one’s hair is wet, don’t attempt it dry, or chances are you’ll have an angry, squalling tot on your hands.
According to Bailey, baby hair shouldn’t be over manipulated, so resist the urge to create elaborate styles. Use protective techniques like twisting and braiding on young children. When it comes to little babies, adopt a minimalist approach. Play up infant curls with satin covered accessories.
Cradle cap is the dry, flaking skin that sometimes appears on a baby’s scalp. The scientific name is seborrheic dermatitis, and the condition is relatively harmless. It generally resolves itself within a few months. In the meantime, Bailey recommends gently massaging the scalp with coconut or olive oil, then rinsing to control flakes.
Thanks to these tips, my three month old has a healthy full head full of multi-textured curls. If and when his hair morphs again, I’ll be ready.