How to Fix a Black Child's Hair

It is tough to fix black people's hair (I'm black). When I put this page together, I was really thinking about white people who have black children. I don't know how they manage. Some people know how to handle black hair. I am not one of them (even though I am black) but I've had to keep my hair done and my daughter's hair done. Some have even asked me if I "did" hair as in professionally. I wouldn't say Hannah's hair looks that good...

I am still trying to figure out how to wash it and run a comb through it with minimal feedback (as in "Ow!") [Update: It has been a lot better since I clipped off the splt ends about six months ago]. I went to school, I did not learn domestic duties. Today, as I combed Hannah's hair, I heard the usual. But then at one point, I said "I'm sorry" about 30 times in rapid succession in a sorry tone. As Hannah laughed, I kept combing. Maybe I'll try that again...

I say all this to say, I am no expert, but here is some information about black hair that somebody may find useful. [I keep on updating this page as I find new things that work for us. We had a good hair day today (8-3-11) and I came to look at this page and update it (the "Tools" and "Updated Notes" sections.]

Tools:

  • a wide-toothed comb,
  • scissors to clip hair ends, shampoo (I like Denorex and Cream of Nature),
  • grease/petroleum jelly/oil for the scalp
  • brush (I use two kinds of brushes--one looks like a wig brush that white people use when blowdrying their hair and the other is medium skinny with a handle on it and the stiffest bristles I can find--not boar's hair (too soft))
  • quart-sized yogurt container (or similar size for holding water to dip brush in if the hair is dry) OR a spray bottle containing water (or some combination of water and hair lotion(s) that you have on hand.)
  • Optional: Mane and Tail hair lotion from beauty supply.

UPDATED NOTES:

The general order in which I style my daughter's hair--

  • Clip off any fuzzy split ends. This will take away A LOT of tangles (it took me too many years to learn this fact--this has taken away a lot of the "Ow!" that I mentioned above.). This only has to be done every once in a while, as needed, on the days when the hair will be washed and styled.
  • Wash the hair every few weeks--
    1. I use Denorex to stay off dandruff (first washing cheap shampoo, second washing Denorex, third washing (if I wash a third time) "Cream of Nature" (make hair easy to comb) purchased at beauty supply store.). Try not to tangle up the hair. (conditioning after washing will probably help to detangle hair, I usually skip this step.)
    2. Towel dry the hair.
    3. Immediately comb out the hair (use a comb with big tines, not small little tines like would work with white people's hair. One comb used to be called an "afro comb) I think but it may not be called that now. Look in the comb section for a big tined come.)--take a little section of hair and start "chopping it" from the ends. I do not just go from the root and outward, but that is my goal--to comb it out from the root. When a big section is combed out, I braid it and proceed to the next section. At this point, I am not trying to make the hair look pretty, I am just trying to get it combed out before it gets dry.
    4. Once done, I take out the braids and grease the scalp. The majority of Black people have dry scalps. I do not know a black person with an oily scalp. Part the hair and, using your finger apply a line of grease to the exposed scalp. "Grease" will be found in a container in the black hair care section of Walmart or a beauty supply store. It might be called "hair conditioner", "hair food," "palmade"--anything the makers think of except for "grease" which is what my generation calls it. It is like petroleum jelly/vaseline. I've used petroleum jelly and maybe even shortening (not too much shortening) long as it is some kind of fat/grease. Olive oil could be used, some of the grease products contain olive oil, and many if not all, have petroleum. Some have mineral oil, but I would rather use a natural oil like olive oil. (When I am doing my own fine hair, I sometimes use "Mane and Tail" lotion to give it a nice texture--can be purchased at a black beauty supply store.)
    5. I put something greasy or moisturizing on the hair itself whether grease/petroleum jelly/some kind of hair lotion, etc. and comb it through.
    6. I spray some water on the hair (or water and whatever hair lotion is in the spray bottle. I comb it through and brush it with that stiff brush so that it will sort of lay down and be in better shape. (I mostly use the white people's brush when her hair is dry and I want to get out tangles.)
    7. I prepare to style her hair. You do not put one ponytail in the typical black girl's hair. Our hair is too thick for that. You cornrow, or braid multiple braids, or "maybe" even make two braids by cornrowing one on each side. That may not be the style for black girls now, but some of us do not care about that--it gets the hair caught up. I usually cornrow my daughter's hair in about about 6-8 cornrows on a diagonal towards the back, but I also do the two cornrows. If I've skipped some steps above, I part the section I want to braid, put some grease on my hands and rub it into the hair and comb it. Then I braid it. I keep repeating this step until I am done.
    8. To "set" the style, I'll spray it with oil (from beauty supply store) or put water on it and then snuggly tie a 4-5' scarf around it turban style. When it comes off her hair looks fresh and healthy.
    9. At night, she ties her hair up before bed. Every once in a while, we'll set it again (spray with oil and wrap it up). Our styles usually last 2-3 weeks.
    10. She started learning how to braid her own hair at about 10 years old which, in my estimation, was a bit late. She is not good at it yet (she does better at certain times than at others, especially if I part it and tell her to come see me after she completes each braid. She needs the practice. If it does not look too good, at some point after she is done.)
    11. I ADVISE ***AGAINST*** USING PERMS TO STRAIGHTEN THE HAIR. THEY CAN BURN THE SCALP AND CAN WEAKEN AND BREAK OFF THE HAIR. I HAD PERMS FOR YEARS, I KNOW THIS FOR A FACT.
  • The issue is easy for a boy--keep his hair cut low. Purchase your own hair clippers from the store (Walmart, black beauty supply store, some drug stores like CVS, etc.) and keep it low. It is a shame for a man to have long hair. I heard a barber say that edging a young boy's hairline can cause premature balding, so you could just put on one of the attachments so that you can make an even haircut all over. A little grease on the scalp (I've never seen a black man put the grease on his scalp) and hair and a stiff brush (and comb if it has a little length to it) should be enough. I don't have a son but I am basing this information on what I have seen.

OLD NOTES:

I do not know of any black person with kinky hair (like what most of us have) that has a naturally greasy scalp. We need grease on our scalps. Hannah's hair needs grease, but not too much. After I wash her hair, I comb it out in small sections. After combing out a section, I plat it--nothing fancy. After it is all platted up, I put a scarf on it. The next day I part it, grease it, and fix it (but the style lasts longer when I braid it wet. I do not always follow the previous procedure).

  • I think a lot of black mothers look at wash hair day as a two day process. Day 1: Wash, comb, and braid it in about four braids. This does not look too good. Day 2: Greasing and styling.

  • Our hair is dry. Sometimes after shampooing her hair and letting it dry I also mix equal parts grease and Mane and Tail hair lotion (my mother did not put hair lotion on my hair and it was in great shape.) in my hand and apply it to the hair then comb it through and braid it.

  • Our hair is thick. Any hair style will require that the hair be parted. It is too thick to put in one ponytail. I have a few styles for Hannah--

    (1) Two Weeks Overhand. Two weeks is 14 days. She has 14 braids with this hairstyle AND it lasts about two (2) weeks, or more. I part the hair slightly off-center and braid four braids + on the right side of her head in front of her ear (two on the top row and two on the bottom row). I do the same thing on the left side of her head. This is a total of 8 braids. Then in the back I braid six (6) -- three on the top row and three on the bottom row. I braid each braid overhand instead of underhand. When I am about to braid, I also have a way that I divide the section into three piece for braiding. This helps to keep her braids lying straight and in the right direction. You have to feel you way into what works for you.

    (2) Cornrows. I part her hair down the middle and cornrow six cornrows toward her ear. I then put a band on them (NOT a rubber band!) and curl them under. This is my husband's favorite style for Hannah. It lasts for a few weeks--BUT AS WITH ALL STYLES, IT MUST BE TIED UP AT NIGHT. We take a soft cotton pillowcase, cut down the two long side seams, and we have the perfect scarf. We wrap it around our heads and it lays the hair down. Every once in a while, we spray on a little oil and then wrap it. That moisturizes the hair and helps it lay down.

    Cornrows to the back. I cornrow six (6) cornrows from the front to the back of her head towards the middle of the back of her head. I put a scrungie on it with the braids tucked in the scrungie. This is an elegant hairstyle for Hannah and should take her into adulthood.

    (3) Two Cornrows. I lightly blow dry her hair until it is straightened a little. I part her hair down the middle and cornrow each side. This style does not last long but she likes it.

    Hannah gave me so many problems when I fixed her hair that I tried straightening her hair with a chemical/permanent. It looked good for a while and maybe six months later, fell out. I will not do that again. I have alopecia which I attribute to long-term perm use.

  • Ideally, Hannah and I wash our hair about once a month. I wash it twice--the first time with an inexpensive shampoo (like Head n' Shoulders) and the second time with Denorex. This keeps back dandruff. After using Denorex, I'll often use Cream of Nature shampoo which helps to detangle it. They say don't rub hair around too much when you shampoo and that is suppose to help. I focus on the scalp and try to run my fingers through her hair to keep tangles to a minimum. I also comb it right after washing. If I were to let her go to bed with her hair uncombed, then I'd have a mess on my hands the next day. If you don't have the time to comb the hair out, I counsel you to wait until you do.

  • Products:

    I use what I have, but the basics are grease (can be purchased at Walmart or a black beauty supply store) and water. That is enough. If you have no grease, use petroleum jelly or even a little Crisco if you had to.

    Hair grease for scalp (purchased from any store. We also use petroleum jelly (may not be healthy). Using hair grease and lotions are not the best choices when working in the yard--attracts bees.

    Hair Lotion (Mane N' Tail--mixed with grease gives hair a nice texture can also use oil-based hair lotions. Best results on wet hair. Dipping a brush in water and brushing on hair can help re-wet it. All that said, grease is enough. That is what my mother used on me and my hair looked better that what I am doing with all these products. You can put grease and water on the hair.
    Shampoo: Head n' Shoulders (or any cheap shampoo. We have a bunch of shampoo already, so we use that too) followed up with Denorex (if not available, Selsun Blue).
    Wide toothed comb
    Narrow toothed comb (for taking out tiny braid ends)
    Stiff brush
    Homemade, leave-in detangler/conditioner:

    1. Store-bought detangler in a spray bottle
    2. squirt in some Mane N' Tail leave-in conditioner
    3. add water
    4. shake the bottle
    5. spray on hair. This makes it soft, spongy--conditioned--and much easier to comb. If you have no store-bought detangler, you can mix a tablespoon or two of conditioner with water in a squirt bottle.

    Pictures may be forthcoming.

    This YouTube video may be helpful. I haven't tried the products, but her method of parting, etc. may help you.

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