People often comment on my girls’ hair and say, “Oh, I wish my daughter had hair like that!” or “I wish I had hair like that!”
Here’s a secret: it’s very possible to bring out the natural curl in almost anybody’s hair.
When I was little, I had some wayward waves and a few cowlicks that we tried to hide in my Dorothy Hamill haircut. I wish someone had known how to baby my curls a little bit and give them the care they needed. Once I finally embraced my curly side as an adult, I’ve learned that curls are much more low maintenance than you think, even on little girls.
- You don’t have to wash curly hair as often.
- Curls are very forgiving style-wise. Give ’em a little fluff, maybe spray them with some watered-down conditioner and they look lovely. They are perfectly imperfect.
- Less hair-brushing required.
I began coaxing the wave into my girls’ hair just as soon as I saw the first “flip” up of a tuft of baby hair. I immediately switched to baby conditioner ONLY. This is key. Curls need moisture. Otherwise they’re shy. So we have a strict NO SHAMPOO policy around here for all of our ladies.
Over time, the more moisture those baby waves received, the curlier they became. And slowly, through some years of growing and moisturizing, we turned cowlicks into sweet little girl curls.
Now, I’m not guaranteeing you a head full of curls, but I am encouraging you to give this a try if you’ve seen the slightest hint of a wave in your little girl’s hair. You might be surprised at the results.
(An Aside: We follow a similar procedure for Mira’s 4a curls, but I am not ready to claim any sort of authority on that yet. The same rules apply: Moisture, moisture, moisture!)
Since you don’t really brush curly hair unless it’s lathered up with conditioner, it can get tangly. Especially if you’re like me and wait a long time between hair washings because, quite frankly, life is busy. And curly hair in a pony tail is cute no matter how dirty it is.
My best friend for in-between washings (to freshen curls, just spray it on and go) and to pre-treat tangles is this:
You can achieve the same effect by just adding water to conditioner and putting it in a spray bottle. Make sure the finished mixture feels slippery on your fingers. You want it to create the slip on the curls. Too watery and it will just be… wet.
On washing days, I spray this on any especially gnarly little tangles while the hair is dry and then throw all the girls in the shower.
We wet the hair thoroughly and then I add a round of conditioner. You want to condition the hair first so the hair has as long as possible to soak up the moisture. I started with this much conditioner for Willa, but quickly added a bit more. Her hair is short and thinner.
Ellen needed about twice this. Take that conditioner and try and coat all of the hair from root to tip. Focus especially on the worst knots. But you want the whole thing to be covered in conditioner.
With Willa’s thinner hair, the conditioner is already on the scalp and I just scrub that around all over with my finger tips to make sure her scalp gets nicely cleaned. (There’s plenty of surfectant/soap in conditioner to clean the hair without drying it out like shampoo.) Ellen’s hair is thicker and I had to put another batch of conditioner in my hand and then add it to her scalp in sections, lifting the hair scrubbing her scalp.
The key is that the original coating of conditioner means you can actually find the scalp to scrub it. If you just condition the ends of the hair without getting to the scalp, you don’t moisturize the hair that’s growing and it will continue to stay dry and not as curly.
Now that the scrubbing is over, just leave the conditioner to soak into the hair until the very end of the shower or bath. My favorite tool for tackling the tough tangles is this:
To brush out the hair, start at the tips with your wide-tooth comb or tangle teezer. Brush small sections in small strokes and as you work the tangles out, work your way up the hair to the root. Because you’ve got the hair nice and slimy, you can do this fairly quickly in un-tangled spots and you won’t damage the hair follicle as you comb. Curly hair should never be brushed without moisture on it or you will damage the hair and damage your curl.
Now onto the tangles…
I tell my girls I found a rat’s nest in their hair and I need to work on it. Then I grab the gnarly section and set to work.
You follow the same basic procedure as before, work from the tip up to the root. Ellen is especially tender-headed, so I try to grab the hair firmly in front of the root as I pull the tangle out to protect her scalp.
She’s convinced she saw the shadow of the rat run out of her hair in the shower tonight. And I’m content to let her believe it if it means she’ll let me get the “nest” out.
When you’re done, the strands will be shiny and happy.
After the girls have soaped up, we rinse their hair at the very end. I don’t rub their hair dry with the towel. I only use the towel to gently lift the curls and soak up the drips. I lay the towel over their head and press down firmly. Then I put a little bit of gel in my hands. For Willa, it’s this much:
And this much for Ellen:
I smear the gel around in my hands and then grab the hair at the bottom and push up with my palms as I scrunch with my fingertips.
Just takes a few seconds and then you’re done. Let it air dry (you can use a diffuser if you must, but honestly, it’s better to just bundle them up in warm jammies if they’re cold and avoid the blow dryer.)
Best case scenario, at night you would put it up high on the head in a scrunchee (normal pony tail holders will damage the follicle) and let them sleep on a satin pillowcase. That doesn’t really happen in my house but if you can swing it, you should.
It takes time to get hair moisturized properly and get those curls to form. You may not see quick results. But if you stick with it, in a few weeks, you’ll notice a difference. And the results are super cute, don’t you think?
Got any more curly girl tips for me? Leave ’em in the comments!
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