Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A guide to caring for a black child's natural hair


This is a post I've been wanting to do for some time now, but in some ways it
is a very hard post to write.  I've read many articles about little black girls and their hair challenges when it comes to interracial adoption.

In many of the articles there are comments coming from the African American community about stopping white parents on the street or in supermarkets and chastising them because they do not like the way the child's hair looks.

This is not one of those posts.

But in the same vein I cannot change the reality 

And here is the painful truth - There is zero tolerance in the African American community for an unkempt transracially adopted black child.

In the African-American community, the significance of hair cannot be underestimated, a source of either self-esteem or self-doubt.  So for white parents of black children, making sure their youngsters are well-coiffed is as much a priority as good nutrition and potty training.


African-American women know well the work and time it takes to keep their hair healthy, styled and maintained.

Generally when the children are picked up from the orphanage their hair is shaved. But that will change very shortly and then the question is....
What do I do next?

Grooming black children’s hair is not an easy matter if you have no experience doing it.

This information is for anyone who has to take care of the hair of a black child but especially important if you have adopted a beautiful little black girl with hair very different from your own.

I know several families who have adopted black children from Africa and I know without a doubt that they love their children very much and only want the best for them.  But if you aren't a black woman you just cannot know the long, complicated and painful history of African-American women and hair.

Taking care of black hair can be a time consuming endeavor (might take an hour or longer).  As a little girl (and even as a woman) we often spend many hours sitting and having our hair done.  As a child many of us did not like it. Getting your hair combed was no fun.  Some of us were tender headed and how many white parents know what a "kitchen" is? In the African American community we know this and take this time for granted but if you have not been accustomed to it, you might be tempted to cut corners or let the child slide because they are fussy and won't sit still. 

So here are some easy steps to help you keep your child looking beautiful and well coiffed.


Black hair is fragile. It is the most fragile type of hair (Black hair has tiny nicks in the cuticle layer which makes it harder for natural scalp sebum to distribute to the ends of your hair. These nicks also cause breakage)

My friend Shelly, has a beautiful black daughter named Nia. 
Shelly did what all white parents of adopted black children should do. 
She reached out for help.  There's no shame in asking for help.

Shelly and Nia were nice enough to allow me to photograph 
 our recent beauty hair session with little Miss Nia on her 2nd birthday
I'm no expert so I brought along my Sisterlock's Consultant Adrianne Robinson
(Adrianne is a Certified Sisterlocks Consultant, if anyone is interested in services in the SF Bay Area)


Keep in mind that it’s ok to seek assistance from African Americans in your network. They would be honored to help you.



Step 1
Washing the hair
Handle the fragile hair with care. If the hair is dry, co-wash the hair. Co-wash means wash the hair with conditioner not shampoo
Research has now shown that shampooing the hair is not that good for the hair. 
If you must wash the hair, dilute you shampoo with 75% water and 25% shampoo

Even if the hair isn’t exceptionally dry it’s a good idea to rotate between shampoo and a cold poo.
Do not wash daily! Wash about every 2 weeks (unless the child is swimming in which case you must get the chlorine out of the hair) 


Nia has been swimming a lot this summer and the chlorine has added some reddish color to her hair. 
but it is also drying it out and possibly causing some breakage


Black hair will grow

Nia also has a slight bald area in the back. This spot is due to hair breakage partly the result of friction while sleeping. A satin pillow or sleep cap will help to eliminate this. She's a little young now but keep trying to get her to wear a scarf or sleep cap. Eventually she will get used to it. It will be a tremendous help as she gets older. I still wear a sleep wrap at night.


Step 2
Products

Dry Hair: Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize

Do's
Use “organic” products not natural products (natural products do not have the same strict guidelines as organic and subject to the whims and labeling of the corporations which make them
Use products like avocado, jojoba , olive, coconut and castor, grape seed. You can use these right out of the bottle

Don’t's
Don't get caught up in pricey hair products you can always make your own.
Don't use mineral oil, lanolin and stay away from ALL  petroleum products (petroleum products make the hair stiff and dry)

Don't use conditioners with sulfates

NEVER use grease!



Step 3
Time to Style
Wet the hair. NEVER comb hair dry! A good mixture is lavender or rose essential oil mixed water 
Lavender oil is used to promote hair growth and to prevent future loss


Daily - Using a wide tooth comb Part the hair in sections (8 is an average number) then twist the hair to get it out of the way.

Section by section moisturize and saturate with hair lotion that contains the ingredients stated above

Continue until all the sections are done.



People of color should not comb the hair daily. The hair does not need to be combed everyday, and can be detangled with your fingers

Too much combing causes the hair to break.


Adrianne has a line of products called Essence of AR
My products are environmentally friendly, and contain no animal fat, hydrogenated oil, petrochemicals, artificial dye, artificial preservatives, paragons  phthalates, sodium laurel sulfates or detergents!  Make a committment to love yourself and your skin, the largest organ of your body, while satisfying your mind, body and spirit.






Don't use rubber bands instead use pony tail holders or barrettes


Step 4
Practice, Practice, Practice
Letting the hair go wild is very drying.  Learn to braid and cornrow. If you find cornrowing and braiding too difficult twisting the hair will accomplish the same thing.  


Watch the language you use regarding her hair: The most important advice I have to offer you has nothing to do with the actual care of your child's hair but the language you use when you refer to it. 


Make it a fun time.  Let the child participate. Play a video. Take breaks.  (tip - if the child gets tired and cannot sit still, give them a break. Be sure to turn off the video so that she associates the watching of the video with fun hair time) 






Step 5
Compliment, Compliment, Compliment

Tell her how beautiful she looks 






Look for cute, and easy styles that are tailored to your child’s hair length and that compliment her personality.

Believe me, your daughter will thank you one day!

Thank you Shelly and Nia for being such troopers!
Good luck with her hair going forward

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