Hair is akin to a delicate fabric, and a child’s hair is even more so. Until your kid comes home with a green mohawk and a scalp tattoo – it’ll happen sooner than you’d like – care for those tender sprouts with tender care while you still can.
Newborn scalps are so soft and smell so good, so treat them so carefully. The diameter, texture, and color of a child’s hair are still forming up to age 12 (sometimes beyond).
Don’t worry if your baby was born bald or nearly so. Every child has a unique growth pattern, but by age three hair typically covers the head, and begins to reveal its color and texture. Hair that is blonde at birth may slowly darken over time, and eye color may also change at around 9 months; cells that produce melanin – or pigment – are still developing and can’t yet create colors determined by genes.
Babies less than 6 months old may experience hair loss or bald patches, partly due to a sudden but normal drop in hormone levels. A bald spot at the back of the head is likely due to resting on that spot, and baby hair doesn’t respond well to friction. Time is the only cure: growth will improve naturally when little ones begin to roll over and crawl.
A healthy baby will have healthy hair. Proper nutrition is the key to healthy growth overall and to developing an effective immune system.
Washing infant hair once or twice a week is plenty. Just remember to be very gentle and avoid putting pressure on the soft spot on the top of the head. Even some children as old as five are sensitive to such pressure. As kids grow, three times a week is a good maximum. At any age, wash hair at the end of the bath so sudsy water doesn’t irritate sensitive skin.
Traditional shampoo is simply too aggressive for a kid’s delicate hair and scalp, and frankly, hair may not be as “dirty” as you think (barring food fights, mud pits, and finger paints) and water alone will often suffice, even with sweat. But when you do need it, a cleanser that doesn’t make eyes sting is key. New Wash is ideal for so many reasons, but among them is its dense, creamy formula that stays where you put it and won’t run or slide downward.
Some kids would rather eat vegetables than have their hair washed, but it’s good to teach them about how important both are. Make wash time a fun time and find ways to make it a special treat. Sing, make spa jokes, blow bubbles together – anything to lighten the mood in the tub and create a distraction.
Some kids would rather eat vegetables than have their hair washed, but it’s good to teach them about how important both are.
Tub techniques vary: Take a damp – not soaking or dripping – washcloth and wipe the shampoo away. Or get babies used to water on their faces early by holding them in the shower with you. Try asking kids to look up at the shower head or hang a bright toy from the curtain bar to focus on and use a plastic bucket or cup to rinse.
In any case, use lukewarm water – not too hot, not too cold, just right. And dry hair immediately as babies can catch a cold easily.
We’ll skip talking about conditioners since using New Wash means you can literally skip using them – it moisturizes while it cleanses. But children’s hair is dryer and less greasy than adults’ because our sebaceous glands do not produce significant amounts of oil until puberty. In addition, wool winter hats, swimming lessons, and rough-and-tumble play don’t help. And if kids have tight kinks and coils, extra attention is required.
Stick to water-based moisturizers to keep hair soft and supple in between washes (try Hair Balm). Use natural oils like argan oil and shea butter to nourish and lubricate before styling. Coconut oil is an excellent conditioner from head to toe – organic, if possible – and it’s available in a solid form that makes it easy to handle without spills. Just rub some into your hands and apply it to hair from the roots to tips. Then use a wide-toothed comb to untangle any knots. Bonus: a nice, gentle massage before bedtime can bring on sleepiness a little sooner.
After-bath combing needn’t feel like torture (to parent or child). In fact, if you use a wide-tooth comb while New Wash is still in the hair before rinsing it out, you’ve won more than half the battle. Be sure to rinse smoothly, and don’t roughen hair up when toweling dry.
In general, though, don’t start combing at the top of the head; you’ll just make tangles worse as they tighten with downward tension. Instead, begin at the ends and slowly work your way up to the roots, gently pulling apart knots with your fingers.
After-bath combing needn’t feel like torture (to parent or child).
When dry hair gets knotty, try this: fill a spray bottle with warm water and about a dozen pumps of leave-in conditioner – Hair Balm is perfect. Shake well and use it to dampen hair before combing. You’ll be amazed. Beyond that, keeping hair tied back is a good way to keep tangles to a minimum.
For afro textures, many parents limit “out” days and keep children’s hair in buns, braids, or twists to save tears and time detangling on wash day. Your local braiding expert can create a style that might last as long as 2 weeks. But young hairlines are sensitive – binding and pulling too tightly can cause damage and even recession later on.
Brushing – with soft, natural bristles – helps blood circulate in the scalp and deliver nutrients to follicles. Similar to combing, start brushing at the ends and work your way up toward the scalp, removing the knots along the way. But always use downward strokes to keep cuticles as smooth as possible.
The First Cut
A salon shouldn’t be a scary place for kids (if it is, find another one) and bringing yours along to your next appointment is a good way to prove your point. Ask for a stylist who loves working with little ones, and schedule a slot after naptime or whenever your child is most alert and content.
Bring along a favorite comfort item and trust the stylist to start with the perimeter (bangs, ears, nape) so that even a cut that gets interrupted for any reason has a good chance of looking finished.
It is a common misconception in many cultures that cutting or shaving hair will magically make baby’s hair grow faster, thicker and healthier. There is no scientific proof to support this practice.
Ever wonder why little girls wear brightly colored, plastic clips? Because they’re neither heavy nor sharp and won’t damage hair. And they’re cute. And cheap.
Hats are a must to protect babies’ tender heads from the sun. If it’s cold outside, make sure that your child waits until his or her hair is completely dry before going out. Wet hair can freeze and break in cold weather.
If swimming in a chlorinated pool, slather on some conditioner beforehand (hello, Hair Balm) and take a shower in fresh water afterward before the chlorine has a chance to dry and is nearly impossible to remove completely.
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We hope your child’s hair story is nothing less than a fairy tale full of magic and adventure. But it’s up to you as a parent to provide the best care you can from the inside out (we can’t overstate the importance of nutritious food). So eat well, wash wisely, dry gently, oil occasionally, and do what you can to make haircare a joy, not a chore. And if you’re a new parent, we offer our heartiest congratulations.