Black hair doesn’t create its own oil, and will get much drier than other hair types. Therefore, it is important to keep the scalp and hair well-oiled. Babies hair tends to be very soft, but as kids get older, it will get thirstier. There are many different types of curl and grades of hair; some are drier than others, so there is a bit of trial and error involved in finding what works for you.
Things You'll Need
Have the proper products on hand to care for your baby’s hair. There are hair oils made specifically for black hair. Some brands that are popular are Just for Kids, Pink Oil, Carol’s Daughter and Curlz. A more natural option that some people prefer is regular olive oil, or coconut oil.
Do not wash your child’s hair until it changes and becomes more coarse at around 6 months old. Their curls are usually soft and don’t need much help. Most of the time, a baby only needs a little bit of hair lotion or oil a few times a week. Put some oil on your hands and gently rub it through her hair and down to the scalp. Oil can also help with cradle cap, which is a fairly common occurrence among black babies because of their particularly dry skin. Stay away from mineral oil, which will dry out the hair even more. In the past, people used Vaseline, but this is no longer advised.
Only “wash” your child’s hair every 1 to 2 weeks, depending on how dirty it gets. Don’t use shampoo, as it will strip whatever natural oil the hair contains. You can do what is called a “co-wash,” which means to wash it with only conditioner. Every 3 or 4 months, you can assess whether there is a lot of product buildup on the hair and wash it with a clarifying shampoo; however, these washings should be few and far between.
Don’t wash hair in the tub; black hair is often very thick, and there is so much of it that it can be hard to get at properly. Lay your baby down on a flat surface near a sink and wash the hair there. This makes it easier to section the hair, wash it in portions and reach the scalp. If you baby already has braids, you can wash the braids without undoing them and blot them dry with a towel.
Cover up your baby’s hair at night if he is 6 months old or older. Use a regular cotton handkerchief and tie it securely around the back, securing the top portion as well to keep it from slipping down. Oils from the hair can cause damage to the bed linens, and covering the baby’s hair also helps preserve the curl and lessens frizziness. Another option if you choose not to cover your baby’s hair is to use satiny bed sheets and pillowcases. The slickness of this material will help keep the hair from catching on it, unlike cotton- or polyester-based materials.
Set aside a lot of time for combing. It can take up to 2 hours to comb the baby’s hair, depending on how long and thick it is. A common method is to comb while your baby is sleeping; many babies soon get used to having their hair done while they nap. Lay a towel on your lap and place your baby’s head on it. You can distract an older baby with a snack or a TV show to keep her still if necessary. A younger baby may be soothed by a bottle during this time. Spray the hair with a leave-in conditioner (one that is designed for black hair), then work in a hair cream and allow these to soak in. Section out the hair with a wide-tooth comb, starting at the top, and slowly comb it out. The ends tend to have the most tangles, so take extra care there. Have bands or clips on hand to keep the other sections out of the way. Once you have combed through a section, loosely twist or braid it to keep it combed until you are ready to style it.
Pick a style for your baby’s hair that will be comfortable and last a while, to compensate for the long styling time. Afro puffs (bunches of hair secured with rubber bands all over the head) are a common, easy style to make; they keep the hair styled during the day and can be taken out easily at night, if needed. Box braids (in which the part around a section of hair looks like a box), cornrows or flat twists take several hours to do, but are easy on the hair and will last 2 or 3 weeks. Don’t leave in any style longer than that, so the hair does not “loc” up, which means it binds together enough that you will not be able to unbraid it. “Loc’d” hair has to be cut out. Plan to redo any section that starts to look messy or frizzy. You can break up the styling process over a full day if you have a baby that is wiggly. Wash and comb, then take a break, and do a few braids at a time as the baby’s patience allows. Do not braid the hair too tightly or use uncovered rubber brands, as this can cause hair breakage. When it is time to remove any covered rubber bands, carefully cut them out with scissors rather than trying to untwist them.
Do not cut your baby’s hair. Because of the tight curls, it takes a very long time to grow. Some parents never cut their girl’s hair. Boys don’t usually need a haircut until they are 2 or 3. If you insist, or you would like assistance with braiding your baby’s hair, seek out a salon that specializes not only in black hair, but in children’s hair as well.