Mixed Hair Care: Tips for Toddler’s Ringlet Curls
Curly Mixed Hair – a Toddler’s Routine
After many requests, I am finally updating the mixed hair posts with Alina’s curly, mixed hair care routine now that she is a toddler. I wanted to give a few tips on how to get those adorable ringlet curls that adorn her head in most of the photos here on De Su Mama. Hair has a lot to do with personal identity for women. Having curly hair myself, I believe strongly in reinforcing the beauty of curly mixed hair in my positive parenting values. And that starts with healthy and proper hair care routines.
Alina’s hair has changed tremendously since I first wrote her infant mixed hair routine. It’s so much thicker! Her hair is also more coarse, although the way her hair looks and feels rests largely on how well its been cared for. The hair itself is still very fine. Alina has about three different textures, ranging from very soft to a few kinky strands in the front. The curls at the back of her head are very tight, with the curls on the top of her head being loose and soft. In every facet, Alina’s hair is very mixed!
By no means am I a hair expert, but I do take great effort in making my toddler’s hair look and feel its best. I listed a few resource links in previous posts; I relied on them heavily when I was a new mom. Now, I feel more confident.
To start, and most importantly, please do not ever dry brush curly hair. You most certainly will not achieve ringlet curls that way. Using a brush (as opposed to a comb) when curly hair is completely dry only promotes breakage and frizz. So, unless you are going for an 80’s afro, don’t brush curly hair. I’ll get more into that during an upcoming styling post, and I know not everyone will agree, but I absolutely never use a brush on my or Alina’s hair.
Hopefully Alina doesn’t kill me one day for posting this “before” photo. Needless to say, I think she is absolutely beautiful all the time. But, in the picture below, you will see how dry her hair looks before we start our hair care routine.
Toddler Hair Care Routine
Moisture is the name of the game with curly mixed hair. Every Sunday night begins the start of our weekly hair care routine. It includes a shampoo, comb through condition and then a deep condition. We do this every single Sunday. Yes it takes awhile, but the three step routine is not done every day. By the time Sunday rolls around, Alina’s hair is very dry and in need of serious hydration (like the photo above). This is also when I thoroughly cleanse her hair with a shampoo that won’t dry out her hair (I got this one from Whole Foods). Yes, her hair is shampooed once a week. Curly hair does not get oily like straight hair does, nor does my toddler sweat or get very dirty, so cleansing this often is fine for us. Her scalp is healthy and her hair is not breaking. Tip: no need to be rough with the hair when shampooing. Scrub the scalp, but be gentle with the hair.
By Sunday, Alina’s fine hair is tethered in tiny little knots. Mine does the exact same thing. I use a huge glop of conditioner that is easily combed through. I use any number of products, and switched it up quite often. Tip: Curly people, the labels on hair care packaging are flat out lies – we need MUCH MUCH more conditioner than a dime size. Lather, slather and put on some more, then use a wide toothed comb (the wider the better!) to comb the conditioner out, making sure to work the conditioner to the ends of the hair and removing all the tiny knots. To avoid hurting your baby, hold the hair with one hand at the base of the scalp while pulling the hair through the comb with the other. Start at the bottom and work your way up the hair shaft.
I spend the most amount of time combing through, to be sure all the knots are out and the curls become defined. Tip: since you are not brushing curly hair, you will have a lot more shedding in the bath than straight hair people will. This is normal.
After you’ve used the wide toothed comb to remove knots and tangles, it’s time to get to work on defining each curl. I rinse the comb through conditioner out. Tip: And maybe for some this won’t be a tip, but I don’t rinse all of the conditioner out. She is left with decent amount of conditioner still in her hair as I move onto deep conditioning.
Right now we are using Eden Body Works JoJobia All Natural Deep Conditioner. I really do love that it’s all natural and extremely hydrating foe mixed hair. It is not easy to comb through, so be sure to have used an easier product to work with to remove tangles. The best tool I’ve found to use this deep condition are your hands, and its actually really simple. I start at the bottom of her head, where the curls are tightest, and make sure the condition is well incorporated into every strand and curl. Between my fingertips, I run the hair shaft down, from the nape of the neck to the end of the curl. I’ve read somewhere that this helps close the hair cuticle and promote definition. I also am sure to pull the curl in the direction that I want it to fall. So, at the back, I pull down, elongating the curl as I work. Again, moisture is key. Be sure to have plenty of conditioner and water on hand. Tip: try to follow the natural curl pattern and flow. Look at how your curl is shaped, and define them naturally.
After I have gone through the majority of her hair, closing the hair cuticles (which should follow the natural curls), I go through and twist larger segments. The above pictures shows that process. I’ve always done this with with my own hair, so it is hard to explain, but you want to twist and curl with the curl pattern, but making larger curls as you go. This is where the ringlet curls are set. There is still a ton of conditioner and make sure you are getting the ends of the hair as well.
I always make sure to give extra moisture love to the hair at the front of Alina’s gorgeous face. I slather and smooth and twist until I feel like the hair has adsorbed all the conditioner it can.
At this point, any given toddler will be bored. Be sure to keep bath toys in the tub. I keep her favorite rubber duckies separate from her regular bath toys for these deep condition days. She loves to play momma, wrapping them in their blankets (wash cloth). We also sing songs, talk about our day, play 20 questions. In the end, Alina knows our routine and anticipates the length of time it takes to do her hair. She is absolutely amazing and happy during the process. In no way do I think you or your child should suffer for hair. My kid is fairly mild tempered, and this routine has been going on forever. Start your routine with patience. And work fast!!
This post started as simply a way to appease my beloved readers; they’ve been aching for Alina’s hair care routine. But, while writing this, it also occurred to me that Alina will want to know this information one day too. I wish I would have known how to care for my own curly hair when I was young!
My beautiful daughter, your curly hair is PERFECT. Don’t ever think straight hair is the only way to be beautiful, because it isn’t. I wish I would have loved my curls for all the years they were healthy, because now they are pretty much gone and I feel like a piece of my identity is gone with them. Take care of your curls, your heart and your identity. Love you, Alina!
EDITED 6/2014: After more emails than I ever thought possible, I published a post on the 15 FAQ of Biracial Hair Care Tips. To check out the most current content on my baby girl (now 5 years old!) mixed curly hair care routine, check out the series! My opinion on hair is as much about self esteem and cultural identity as it is about creating a defined curl pattern, but there are a few pointers in there for those looking for tips. Hope they help!
All the best,