Saturday, January 19, 2013

Hair care - don't judge me!

*I apologize for having to blur my daughter's face in these pictures.  She is still a ward of the court and needs to remain protected.  Thank you for your understanding.

The time has come for me to document what I have learned about hair.  Yes, hair.

It doesn't just sit on your head apparently!  It actually makes a statement about you.  Who knew?  For example, if I take my fair skinned, long haired Caucasian children out with barely a quick combing of those crazy locks...nobody bats an eye, apparently it is ok for us white folks to be a bit lazy with our hair.  BUT, if, as a white mother of a bi-racial daughter, I take my daughter out without doing something with her hair...well, I get the evil death ray eyes from many black women.  White women just look with horror and fear.  Hey! Don't judge me!  I am a busy woman with 10 kids and I am doing the best I can!  But being the person that I am, I realized, after seeing K8s hair one morning, that learning to do her hair was going to have to be a priority.  Note the picture to the right... Yes, that picture is typical of what her hair looked like each morning before I learned the value of a silk head scarf at night.  Not only does the head scarf keep her hair from looking like the bride of frankenstein in the morning, it protects the hair from the cotton pillowcase that actually pulls moisture out of K8's hair making it dry and brittle.

While we were still in the transition stage of K8 and K9 moving in, I would pick them up from the foster mom's home and would have a little anxiety attack.  K8's hair was always so cute and I was very worried that I would not live up to the standard.  I would take my soon to be child home and she would play and I would examine her hair to understand just HOW foster mom did that amazing do!  And I would return her after our weekend visits with a basic pig tail hair style that pretty much just went "poof."

What is a white mom to do when the only little girl (K3) she raised during "little girl-hood" refused to let her hair be styled in anything other than a pony tail?  Even if I did sit on K3 and do her hair, the french braids I attempted were always a little ... well, not right.

So, I took to the internet.  Oh my. SO much information.  Clearly, the journey with K8's hair was going to be trial and error.

K8's hair always felt very dry to me, so I started off trying to understand how to condition it.  I headed to the very limited "african american hair and skin care" section at Walmart and purchased Cantu Daily oil moisturizer.  Which I carefully worked into the children's hair daily.  In the dry climate we live in I found that I had to use a LOT of this product.  K9 being a boy doesn't need a lot in the hair care arena.  A short cut and a daily dose of daily oil and he is good to go!    I also learned the value of Edge Control by Olive Oil.  Recently I have begun applying olive oil to K8's hair and placing a deep conditioning hair cap on her head for about 20 min.  Yes...straight olive oil from my cooking pantry.  Olive oil is full of amino acids and penetrates the hair shaft and strengthens the hair from the inside.  I am hoping this will also help reduce K8's split ends.  I have read wonderful things about coconut oil and avocado oil and will soon be adding these into K8's hair care.

After digging into the mysterious world of hair products - and kitchen oils, I knew I had to figure out how to style K8's hair too.  I started off simple...a wide tooth comb, hair bands, a water bottle and big clip in bows.  I learned 3 things, it is easier to comb curly hair when damp and with a good leave in conditioner, straight parts are important and big bows will make just about any wacky hairstyle I manage look cute.  Seriously...the bow will save you in these early days of learning to style a little girl's hair.  I am very dependent on bows, so I took a 3 foot piece of ribbon and nailed it to the wall.  I then clipped as many big bows, flowers clips and rhinestone bobby pins on it as I could.  Now they are in easy reach as I do my children's hair.  In those early days, I sectioned the hair with the wide tooth comb and did pigtails, stuck a bow in front of the "puff ball" and TA-DA ... instant cute style.

However, I knew from these early attempts (and from staring with envy at other girl's hair) that I would have to do more than lopsided pigtails for this little girl!  So I set out to learn about cornrows, flat twists, micro twists, twist outs, twisty braids, pony beads and so much more.
I started to experiment by reaching outside my comfort zone and realized something amazing.  K8s hair was beautiful.  I could do crazy things with her hair and it looked amazing!  It is actually easy to style and she loves the time and attention from me.  The time we spend working on her hair is valuable not just because she is african american and her hair needs attention, but rather because my daughter has faced some struggles in her short life and her heart needs the attention.  Yes, hair styling is one of the few ways we can sit together and relax and chat.  She is so proud of her "fancy" hair and her eyes light up with love and excitement.  It became a ritual which truly allowed us to focus on each other and work through bonding and attachment.  She learned to relax and trust me...and I learned  that my new daughter just might have my crazy/wacky sense of silliness and that I am more creative than I thought.  Like the day she in formed me that she wanted Princess Tiana hair.  It only required a pony tail, some edge control, a borrowed tiara from her Tiana doll and some black bobby pins to make those curls stay put, but she spent her day telling people she was Princess Tiana so I guess it all worked out ok.
I have spent many hours on youtube looking for new ideas and styling tips for my daughter's hair.  I truly believe that I would not have been very successful had it not been for the generous sharing of hair tips from several women on youtube.  I will forever be indebted to them for the time effort they took to post detailed videos.  I hope to one day make some videos of my own to help other white moms that are learning about "curly girls" hair.  This blog shows a few of our many favorite hair styles.  I am not sure, but I think that sometime in about Oct, I made it a goal to not do the same hair style more than once or twice.  The end result is that I have done dozens of hair styles...but for some reason I only have pictures of a few.

Then came the day that I dreaded.  The "Mommy, I want straight hair like you!" day.  Did I dare try to use a flatiron and straighten this child's hair?  I had worked so hard to moisturize and condition her hair so it would be soft and silky.  I worried that using heat on it would dry out and damage the hair shaft and I would lose so much ground on helping her have healthy hair!  But her pleading eyes won me over.  Fortunately she only asked the one time and that night I worked a little extra Cantu daily oil moisturizer into her hair for extra measure.  She was one happy girl and the style actually lasted 2 days for her.

Over the last couple of months, I have invested in some valuable tools as well.  An organization box for our hair "baubles" as the girls refer to them, metal rat tail comb (no, I don't comb her hair with the fine tooth comb - I only use the rat tail for making those very important straight parts), smoothing hair brush, topsy tail, bows, and a basket to store it all.  It looks like a lot of stuff...and well, it IS a lot of stuff.  I can't believe that I use all this, but I do and the results are well worth the time invested.  It truly is not about the perfect hair is about the time I am spending with my daughter.  The smile of pure joy on this child's face says it all.  Oh and the recent "Oh!  You did that?  You do hair better than me." from an african american mom was nice too.  Watch for another blog on hair soon.  I will show step by step how to do some fun easy styles.


  1. I love this post, it really shows one of the many ways you care for your children :)

    I'm black and my mom isn't, and in talking to her I found out she had similar hair struggles when I was growing up. Especially in America, black/biracial hair has such a complicated history and so many people have such negative opinions about the choices black women make about their hair. I think it's important to teach children the value and beauty in their unique traits, and that's something you clearly do!

    I hope that your daughter grows up to be creative and confident. In regards to her hair, some oil, a comb and a bit of patience should take her wherever she wants! The great thing about hair like ours is that it can be puffed into an afro, twisted into curls, braided into intricate designs, straightened into smoothness, (and if a huge change is ever desired, weaves and hair attachments can be fun to experiment with!) Just stay away from relaxer!

    Sometimes I feel like there's shame associated with natural hair.. It makes me happy seeing a mother instilling confidence into her daughter. And the bonding time you two get from it puts an even greater smile on my face. Thanks!

    1. Thank you for the support. I too hope that she stays away from relaxers as she gets older. Why anybody would want to change their beautiful curls I will never know! As a straight haired mother, I can say straight hair sucks for styling. ;-)

      I guess I can't understand the shame behind natural hair. I find my daughter's hair so beautiful...something to be celebrated.