One of my earliest childhood memories is of my mum lifting me atop our bathroom counter, where I would sit and watch as she worked cocoa butter into the palms of her hands. After her hands were covered with a nice sheen, she would vigorously apply the butter to my hair and begin the extensive brushing and combing necessary to detangle it. It was no small feat to get my hair manageable enough to style it, but I loved every minute of it. I loved the smell of the cocoa butter. I loved having my mum’s undivided attention and most importantly – I loved how my hair looked when it was done.
If you were to ask my mother to recount her version of this story, she would paint a less rosy picture. My hair was often a mess, thanks to my love of playing outside and getting rough-and-tumble. It was plagued by snarls that were so bad, she sometimes had to cut them out. And those precious mommy-daughter moments at the bathroom sink? I whined and complained the whole time she was doing my hair, slowing her down during an already rushed morning.
Hair! Fewer things will strike fear in the hearts of any mother who has a young daughter. And if you have multiple children, doing hair might be one of the biggest stresses at home. As an adult, I swore that I would apply my life lessons to my own daughter’s hair. I hoped to make things easier for my daughter and me than they were for my mum and me. I haven’t always succeeded – but we’ve found a nice routine that minimizes tears, saves time, and helps my daughter get to school each morning looking and feeling good.
Here are my top 5 hair care tips for girls under 5.
Tip #1: Establish a hair care routine, and stick to it.
Little kids are creatures of habit, and just as they need to have a consistent bed-time routine, so too should they have a consistent hair care routine. It will help them know what to expect, which will minimize whining and reduce stress. Your diligence will also keep their hair healthy and neat. I follow a basic cleanse, moisturize, and style routine – but you needn’t do every step on every day.
- Cleanse: How often you wash your daughter’s hair will depend on her age, activity level, hair texture, and length. Most little girls, even those with longer hair, will only need a shampoo once a week (two, tops!) to keep their hair and scalp clean. In fact, washing the hair too often can strip it off the natural oils needed to keep it healthy and manageable. If you are washing the hair weekly, you should only need to shampoo and rinse it twice. Any more than that could have a drying effect. If you feel a mid-week wash is necessary, try rinsing the hair and scalp with water instead of doing a full shampoo – a water rinse can often clean the hair without stripping it of oil. Rinsing the hair with water and conditioner is another good option for a mid-week clean.
- Moisturize: This step should be done immediately following a shampoo, and it is the MOST important step of the hair care routine. Hair that is well-moisturized is healthier, softer, and shinier. It’s easier to de-tangle and to style, and will require less styling product than hair that is dry or damaged. Be sure to use a product that has moisturizing properties (more on this below) – not just a product that detangles the hair. After the hair has been shampooed and rinsed, apply the moisturizer and comb-through the hair with your fingers. Allow the moisturizer to sit for 3-5 minutes while you do other parts of the bath. Rinse the hair once or twice to remove the bulk of the product, but not so much that you strip the hair dry.
- Style: The optimal time to style your daughter’s hair is when she is just out of the bath and her hair is still damp. I like to do my daughter’s baths at night (after dinner) before bed-time, so that she is clean and ready for bed. Damp hair is easier to style than fully dry hair, and you can do a nice protective hair style that will last for days, or even up to a week. If you’ve chosen the right style, you may not even need to touch up her hair in the morning before she goes about her day. This brings me to tip #2:
Tip #2: Protective hair styles are worth the time.
I will admit: I put off braiding my daughter’s hair for far too long. I was too lazy or too nervous about hurting her or too worried that she would complain. Once I finally started braiding my daughter’s hair I was amazed by how many problems it solved. It saved me time in the morning from having to de-tangle and style her hair. It kept her hair neat. And (shockingly) she loved the cute styles we could achieve with some very simple styling. Her hair also grew longer, faster, because I wasn’t constantly ripping it out while de-tangling it, or having to trim it to keep snarls at bay.
A protective hairstyle is any style that is achieved without the use of damaging styling tools (like hair driers or curling irons) and that keeps the hair neat and tangle-free. Protective hair styles aim to keep the ends of the hair damage-free in order to promote healthy hair and hair growth. We often think of braids as the original protective hair style, but there are many others to choose from, depending on your skill level or you daughter’s preferences. Here are a few of my favorites – focusing on styles that are easy to do yourself at home:
- Braids: There are an endless variety of braiding hairstyles that one can attempt, but my go-tos for young children are simple box braids, French braids, or corn-rows. I started doing my daughter’s hair by parting her hair into 10 equal segments and doing simple box braids, and wrapping the ends with tear-free bands (you want to avoid using rubber bands on the ends because you can easily tear hair when removing the bands.) After some time, my daughter wanted more sophisticated styles and because I already knew how to French braid and to do corn rows, I did these styles for her as well. Be sure to add a little extra styling product to the ends to keep them from getting frizzy. Once your daughter is older, you can embellish the style with beads at the end, or other stylish hair ties.
- Twists – aka a two-strand twist. This style is as cute as braiding and nearly as versatile. It also works well with hair textures that are particularly course or thick, because the hair texture helps to hold the twists and give them definition. And like braids, you can choose the number and size of twists that you do, based on your daughter’s patience and your skill level.
- Bantu knots: Bantu knots are making a come-back and are especially cute for young girls. You can go as big or as small as is comfortable, depending on the style you are looking to achieve. The one downside of bantu knots is that they are more uncomfortable to sleep on than some of the other styles mentioned here.
- Buns: Buns are the simplest and most time-effective style listed here. They are also very versatile. You can do a simple bun, by just coiling the length of hair from a ponytail around the base of the pony-tail and then encircling it with a hair tie. Or, you can also make a bun using the lengths of braids or twists you’ve created. The possibilities are endless. Just be sure to place the buns on parts of the head that your daughter won’t be laying on at night, so that she can sleep comfortably and without complaint.
Tip #3 – Using the right tools can save you a ton of time.
I like to think of hair-styling tools in terms of “hardware” and “software” (what I can I say – I have an engineering background!)
Hardware: There are 3 main styling tools that every parent of a young child should always have on-hand.
- Having a robust wide-toothed comb is a MUST in any house hold. This can be used for styling, grooming, and de-tangling hair (wet or dry.) It should be the first tool used, after your hands, to work through any snarls without ripping hair out. It is also an essential element for parting hair for almost any hair style you are looking to achieve.
- : This is your secret weapon and will be essential for thoroughly brushing and detangling hair (after you’ve done a run-through with your wide-toothed comb.) Its bristles are pliable and designed to work through wet hair without ripping it, making for a smoother brushing experience and less crying from your child. When my hair stylist recommended one, I ignored her. When a good friend told me how well it worked, I still didn’t get one. Finally, my husband went out and got one. After using it to de-tangle my daughter’s hair in the bath, he became a convert and so did I. Any tool that gets my husband to do bath-time hair is a miracle worker. My all-star product: Wet Brush Original Detangler
- No-damage hair ties: This one is tough, but it is just as important as the first two. We are all tempted by the 500-count pack of mini rubber-bands that we can get oh-so-cheap. And it’s hard to spend money on something that is so easily lost. Rubber bands, however, are evil – they tear out hair going in and being taken out. Find yourself good cloth-wrapped elastic bands that you can afford. Or – buy more expensive, flashier, hair ties that your daughter will love and make her accountable for keeping them safe and not getting lost.
Software: I think of soft products in terms of what I need to help with my “cleanse, moisturize, style” routine.
- Cleansers: more money for taking ingredients OUT of a product!) Scented. Unscented. The trend is to market “gentler” products for your hair, charge you more for them, and then tell you that because they are “gentler” you can use them more frequently. I think that is nonsense. All shampoos function more-or-less the same way, and if you wash your hair with the right frequency (see above) then you can get a good clean without stripping your hair. I recommend you buy the cheapest shampoo you can find, wash your daughter’s hair once a week, and call it a day.
You can opt for the 2-in-1 Shea Moisture Kids Curl and Shine Shampoo and Conditioner.
- Moisturizer: This is where I suggest you pay more attention. Note that I am calling for the use of a moisturizer, not just a conditioner. Although conditioners are great aid for de-tangling hair, they don’t have the ingredients that will restore moisture to hair and keep it healthy. Most moisturizers, on the other hand, have the right oils to help restore moisture AND are usually slick enough to be used for de-tangling. So how do you tell the difference between the two? The best way is to read ingredients on the label. Conditioners are comprised of silicone-based ingredients (that give conditioners their slick properties) like cyclopentasiloxane and cyclohexasiloxane, whereas moisturizers should have a significant amount of natural hydrating oils, such as shea butter, jojoba oil, olive oil, or almond oil derivatives. My moisturizing all-star product: It’s a Ten Miracle Hair Mask: https://itsa10haircare.com/products/miracle-hair-mask
- Styling product: If you’ve done a good job of cleansing and moisturizing the hair, you should only need a small amount of styling product to finish your daughter’s hair. This is a revolutionary thought, because we have all grown up programmed to think we need to slick our hair with mounds of grease. The type of product that will be useful for your daughter will really depend on her hair texture, the hair style you are trying to achieve, and how often you plan on re-touching her hair.
Here are a few of my go-to favorites:
- For adding softness and shine:Moroccan Oil. This is the lightest-weight product I am listing. It is a liquid Argan oil. It smells wonderful and adds wonderful shine and softness to hair – but it won’t add long-term moisture and does not have any holding properties. I buy this for myself and have used it on all my recent hair styles (even my braids!) – I use just a tiny amount for my daughter’s hair to add mid-week shine. A little goes a long way.
Have a look at as an alternative for dry and brittle hair.
- For hold:Eco Styler Professional Styling Gel with Olive Oil. This stuff does exactly what it says it does – provides a sleek hold, with a little olive oil in the mix for moisture. But it’s mostly a holding gel.
You can access it on at 900KES
- A little bit of everything: adding moisture, shine, definition and hold. This is where creams, pastes, and putties come in. I like to look for products that serve multiple functions and can act as both a hair dressing while also adding moisture AND hold, all without being too heavy. I’ve found the two below to be very versatile, and can be used to style afros, natural textures and curls, as well as protective styles like braids and twists.
Carol’s Daughter Hair Milk Styling Pudding-> Buy Here
You can also try out these products that are easily accesible:
Shea Moisture Kids Coconut & hibiscus Kids Curling Butter Cream – 1650KES
Tip #4: Encourage self-care at a young age.
This is a bitter-sweet thing to do, for as soon as your daughter gets involved in doing her own hair you will have to give up a bit of control and time in your routine. But, encouraging your daughter to be interested and involved in her own self-care is an important life-skill. You wouldn’t continue to spoon-feed your child or wipe their bums into their teenage years. With hair, it is no different. Take time to explain to your daughter what you are doing and why from an early age.
Toddlers and young kids are little scientists – they are curious and want to explore and experiment. Allowing them to do so (with guidance, of course!) will help them feel invested in taking care of their hair. Letting go a little bit is not without its perils – I’ve watched my daughter brush out her partially-braided head into a big bold afro and cut her own lop-sided bangs (after which I had to start the braids over) – but the long-term pay-off is worth it.
Tip #5: Preserve your sanity: Stay off social media. Yes, I said it.
The wonderful thing about raising children in the internet age is that there is a wealth of “how to” information available, covering every topic from cooking your little one’s favorite dish, to sewing her a new costume. The downside of that is, you can quickly suffer from information overload. This is especially true when it comes to hair care and hair product information.
Instagram and YouTube are particularly content-rich sources of hair care info and how-to tutorials, but you can go down a rabbit-hole so deep that you don’t emerge until morning. The other danger, besides hours wasted following pseudo-celebrities, is the frustration you will feel when you find a hairstyle that you want to replicate with your own daughter. It’s wise to keep in mind that many of the personalities that post YouTube videos or have popular Instagram stories are professional hair stylists. It can lead to a false expectation that the styles they achieve are easily reproducible at home.
So, be kind to yourself. Set fair expectations. Save the time you would otherwise spend watching these tutorials with your kids, or (better yet) enjoying a well-deserved cup of tea.
What other hair styling tips and mummy-hacks have you uncovered? Please share them in the comments below. We look forward to hearing back from you!
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