Monday, August 26, 2013

Transracial Adoption: Taking Care of My Son's Hair

Hair is really important to us, so I may go all over the place with this! But I wanted to talk about how we take care of Kal's hair and how other parents of African American children could do the same. This isn't just for adoptive parents, although I know that encompasses a lot of my readers. My biological children would look very much like Kal anyway, so hair care would've been a big part of my life either way. :)

Every child's hair is slightly different in its hair needs (and the weather can affect how much moisturizing it needs), but this is from my experience working with ethnic hair on a regular basis and with my son's hair. Here are some of my thoughts:

* Wash hair only to remove build-up or dirt, really. Maybe 1-2 times a week at most. And most of those washes (3 out of 4 times) you only really need to use a good conditioner (which has enough hair detergent to cleanse the hair without needing shampoo) rather than washing with shampoo and following it up with a conditioner. Shampoo can strip hair of its own natural oils (that keep it healthy and moisturized) if overused.

* Use sulfate-free shampoo when you do shampoo, because sulfates can strip the hair of natural oils. I suggest skipping buying shampoo altogether and use Apple Cider Vinegar as a more natural approach to cleansing hair.

* Use a light conditioner that is free of silicone-based products (there are tons of choices, but we use Garnier Fructis Triple Nutrition).

* Moisturize as needed (dry weather - moisturize more often, every day or every other day) directly on the scalp (part the hair every inch or so with a rat-tail comb and run the product very lightly along the part line with your fingers, massaging it into the scalp).

* You need two things to "moisturize" the hair: the actual moisturizer (like a leave-in conditioner or detangler like Kinky-Curly Knot Today or As I Am) and then an oil to seal the moisture in (like Coconut Oil or Jojoba Oil ). You can easily put way too much oil in their hair. Don't go crazy with it. It's just a light moisturizing.

* Kal's hair is really short right now, but when we grow it out we have to detangle! If we didn't, his hair would lock into natural forming dreads and there will be a build-up of hair that needs to be shed but can't because it's stuck. Only detangle when hair is wet (in the bath) or if you run leave-in conditioner throughout the hair (when you're moisturizing it and massaging leave-in conditioner into the scalp anyway). Never detangle dry hair because that causes breakage. Start at the ends and work your way all the way to the scalp. You should be able to run a metal pick all the way through his hair with no problem when you're done. Moms: don't get too attached to the "curls" to the point where you don't want to detangle. You can style it so that it's still curly. But regular detangling is necessary if the hair is worn freely and not braided/twisted. Also: don't let your child's sensitive scalp keep you from ever styling it. They'll get used to it.

* For moms of boys: Don't get too attached to his "soft" baby hair, because the texture will change as he gets older. Just roll with it! Don't get upset about having his first haircut. It's necessary. A part of growing up.

* When you do get his hair cut, take him to a black barber (or learn from a black barber) who knows how to do a lineup (cut and shape the hair up around his edges). If you have a decent black community where you are (population-wise), you should be able to find a barber that comes recommended by other black people. The barbershop experience is good for a little boy. :)

* If you get his (or her) hair braided, all you have to do is address any moisturizing needs along the parts for as long as he has the braids in (about 2 weeks). No washing or anything else necessary - in fact, you shouldn't get it wet or it'll frizz. That's why braided hair is so common in the black community, because it eliminates the need for detangling for awhile and protects the ends from damage. He should wear a do-rag or at least a stocking cap to bed to keep the braids from frizzing prematurely; use a satin wrap for girls (or have her sleep on satin pillowcases). If you find a good braider, your child only needs about 1 inch of hair to be able to braid it and it will help keep the hair protected and moisturized, therefore helping it to grow longer and healthier. Warning: your child may have a sensitive scalp and it may be painful the first few braiding sessions, but there are stylists who work with children often and know how to be gentle while still doing the braids tight. Most children will get used to the pulling feeling eventually. Another warning: a bad braider will pull too tight around the edges and cause breakage. Or won't have patience with your child (I've seen stylists whack children's hands with their comb if the child reaches up in pain... ugh).

* If your child goes swimming in chlorinated water, get him a swim cap. Chlorine is terrible on hair.

* Avoid chemicals to straighten the hair. Mostly this pertains to girls. In my opinion, it can cause damage to both the hair and her self-esteem. She should be able to love her hair the way it grows naturally rather than thinking she HAS to straighten her hair to fit in. What's amazing about black hair is that it can be worn in so many different styles and there are so many choices. But many black girls have settled on permanently chemically straightening their hair to look more like their white friends or their mom's hair (in a lot of transracial adoption situations). To me, that's worrisome. I love, love, love the blog Chocolate Hair Vanilla Care when it comes to encouraging young black girls to embrace their hair and all the fun styles they can do with it without straightening it. AND it goes into depth about healthy hair and how to maintain it on a regular basis. Amazing resource.

* Kal's hair is short at the moment because we're going for a look called "waves." On top of moisturizing we use a wave-enforcing product that we brush into his hair with a good Boar Bristle Wave Brush. We're big advocates of haircuts around here, because we think it helps to get them used to haircuts early on so that it's not a huge ordeal when they're older. We started cutting Kal's hair at 5 months and we re-cut it every 1-2 weeks. That's only because Zay's a barber, though! I'd say when they're really young, every 3 weeks it's time for a hair cut (if you're keeping their hair short) or at least a lineup (which they should get even if they're growing their hair out). For girls, or for boys who are trying to grow their hair out: it's time for a trim about every 6 months, or more often if there's damage to the ends, or if parts of the hair are growing much faster than others and you want to even it out.

I think those are all my thoughts on hair at the moment! I'm glad someone emailed me and asked me about hair care, because that's what got me started on this post. Remember, this is all from my own experience and my own opinion. If anyone has any comments/questions, feel free to contact me.

Here are some pics from a recent haircut!

Pay no attention to how soaking wet his shirt is, ha ha. He dumped milk on himself.


I told him to count to 10 over and over. This is is "counting" expression.


We've tried lots of different haircuts on Kal. But his current cut is a "dark caesar with a temp fade."





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