Thursday, March 03, 2011

Curl vs. Dime

I recently joined a group on FB that is focused on caring for our children's African American hair. I briefly wrote about Anna's hair a while back, and did a "puff" tutoriall. Since then, a lot has changed. And a lot has stayed the same.

When Anna came home, her hair was completely knotted up. When I could finally brush through it, it was fragile and difficult to identify the natural curl pattern due to being in such poor condition (from malnutrition.) We had to allow her hair to grow out and actually cut off ALL the hair she had when she came home before we could really start to see her hair becoming healthy. Since then, with proper nutrition and care, her hair has gown like mad. It is really shiny and healthy. She has type 4a (kinky) hair. This hair is usually very delicate, fragile, and breakable, but Anna's hair is very resilient and I don't notice any breakage. It is, however, curled. Very tightly curled. And when I say very tightly, I mean teeny tiny curls. How tiny? Well...

Curl and dime: a size comparison.

Estimated diameter of one of Anna's curls? 2-3 mm.
John and I watched "Good Hair," the Chris Rock comedy documentary about African American hair are in America. (It's available streaming on Netflix, and if you haven't seen it, you need to watch it. But not with your kids. Not appropriate for them.) This movie affirmed our choice to keep Anna's hair chemical-free, and to limit heat treatments of her hair as much as possible. She has the hair type that is most often considered the exact opposite of "good" hair. In fact, it's so common to chemically process her hair type, that the stylists at our AA salon comment on how they have never seen hair like Anna's before (what they mean, I think, is that they have never seen untreated hair like hers before.)

Our hair care routine is fairly easy. We only shampoo when her hair is out. If her hair becomes wet with chlorine (swimming), dusty from playing outside, etc, we rinse with water then use a spray-on oil. We also use the spray-on oil every few days to keep the hair shiny. He hair is pretty healthy and her scalp and hair don't get really dried out, so we don't have to use a lot of products between styles, unless her hair gets wet. When we do take out a style, we shampoo, rinse, heavily condition and comb through, rinse, and use a leave-in conditioner. Blot dry lightly (with a dark-colored towel to avoid light-color lint) then style. We comb out using a wide-tooth comb and a water spray bottle to keep the hair wet. I don't heat-style at home (although they sometimes do at the salon.)

We have found that styles like cornrows and twists work best for us; the less often we mess with her hair, the better. While John, my mother-in-law, and I can all style her hair in twists, we do take her to the salon to get it done (especially since the baby was born. Hard to find a solid block of time to work on her hair. The baby tends to want to eat and such:) We have not yet figured out how to do cornrows successfully, although we can do some larger braids.

We also take Anna's wishes into consideration. Anna hates getting her hair done, but in the end, she loves to have beads to "click." She doesn't really care to "do" her hair on a daily basis (and if she had hair like Abigail's , I bet she would often do what Abigail does- brush and ponytail every morning!) She doesn't have the patience, attention span, or desire to style her hair every day, or even every week. So long-lasting styles work best for us right now.

This past weekend we really needed to do something about her hair- it was well past time! Her twists had been in for over a month (we can usually keep them looking good for 3-4 weeks, but they were downright embarrassing by the beginning of the week last week.) I've been trying to let them go as long as possible, hoping to wait until twice-weekly swim lessons were over. But it was time.

We took out her twists in the evening, then put her to bed with her hair in ponytails. In the morning, my MIL washed her hair, but didn't comb out in the shower. This is what her hair looked like.

Wet head, thick curly hair!

When her hair is pulled straight, it is easily twice as long! I would say her hair more than doubled, and this isn't even pulling it all the way straight:)
We combed out her hair in sections, spraying with water to keep it moist. We sectioned her whole head, and when a section of hair was combed out, we applied a little "grease" to the roots and worked it through the length of the hair. I put a bob-lob around the base of the hair, then sectioned into 2 parts and created a twist. That got a small rubber ponytail at the end, and then I wrapped the whole twist into a "bun" around the bob-lob, tucking the end of the twist into the bob-lob to hold it in place.

We were making due with the supplies we had on hand. If we had options, I would have chosen smaller bob-lobs, and I would have been more particular about her parts, which are pretty messy. However, including the comb-out, this entire style took less than 45 minutes (with both my MIL and I working on it) which is a record for Anna's hair. And she loved it. So it's a win for the time being:)

One thing to be aware of: when you put hair into styles that you leave in for weeks on end, you will notice a lot of hair loss when you do finally comb out the hair. This is not due to damage to the hair or being rough on the hair by combing or anything. This is simply because we naturally lose hair every day, but in a twist or braid style, it doesn't "fall out" of the style. So when you comb out, all those hairs that were lost but stuck in the style come out.

This was the hair that came out while combing out one small section of hair. There was a LOT more by the time we were done. But don't worry; Anna still has TONS of hair left:)
I'm no expert, but thought others might benefit from what work for us:)


Blessed Mommy said...

ok - thank you for this post! i have to admit i am scared to death of what my future daughter's hair will be like, not because it won't be beautiful but because i feel so, so insufficient in how to care for it. I have been doing tons of research (some great sites out there), but it's just so over-whelming!! btw, love anna's hair and i think the bob-lobs (didn't know they were even called that ;) look adorable!!

Robbin Hopkins said...

awesome post Grace! This "good" :) hair is often the most difficult to deal with at this age and you have it growing LIKE CRAZY!!!!! In the end this is the hair EVERYONE wants NOW!!!! and even if we cut it off as grown ups it never goes quite back to this. Her hair health is excellent. I love the routine and will be stealing some for Lulu's 3c hair. Kudos to John for getting in on it too! (extra shout out to any dads!!!) Love it!

Anonymous said...

You and  are actually lucky.  Her hair type will hold it's style for a long time.  My daughter has a looser curl, shiny, slick hair.  Styles fall out in about 1/2 the time they should.  But her hair is WAY to kinky to just leave free.  So you can honestly tell your daughter, some people are envious of her hair! 

Missy @ It's Almost Naptime said...

Hold me.

I'm so scared.

(collapses in fetal position on floor)

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