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3.5 old curly hair - tangly - won't brush - help!

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 
Hi there,

I have straight hair (ahem).

3.5 year old daughter has wild, curly, ringletty hair (from her father).
Firstly - I have not figured out a good way to wash it....she hates water in the eyes, and the best we can do (we have no shower currently, gah) is to have her lean backwards in a baby bath, inside the big bath, whilst I tip small containers of water over her - a la hairdressers.
This does not work well however. She doesn't like leaning back. Hates having her hair detangled with conditioner....and I DREAD the whole task.

She won't let me go near her with a brush either....so the hair gets progressively more tangled as the days post-washing go on.


Firstly - what can I do to make washing easier? Considering we just have a bath, and a shower attachment? I thought swimming goggles, but I couldn't get them on around the curly maelstrom.

Secondly - is there anything I can condition her hair with in between washes that'll help detangle it? I tried coconut oil...but it was just so greasy it got on her sheets etc...and took lots of washing out.

What do mothers of curly haired one's do!?
Her hair is not that long either, barely touching her shoulders.

Thanks so much in advance.

post #2 of 21

Curly hair shouldn't be brushed, only combed when wet.


What worked for my friend's curly girl who hated water on her face was to lay on her back on the kitchen counter with her neck on a towel on the edge of the sink, and her hair dangling down.  Then it could be washed without any water dripping down on her face.


Some people may offer the suggestion that kids hair needn't be washed regularly, and if you live in a mild climate that may well be true.  Personally, I think infrequent washing is gross.  At minimum, it needs to be cleansed a few times a week.  Just MHO...


If you want to do something about tangles in between washings, you can put a teeny bit of conditioner in some water in a spray bottle and wet down the hair and comb it.  I use the Skin Deep Database as a spring board for selecting the products we use.


And WRT to a child "not letting" a parent brush their hair...yes, there is the idea of bodily autonomy, and yes it isn't very AP/consensual/whatever of me, but I think it is a parent's responsibility to train a child in proper hygiene.  I would begin by telling my child they must sit still while I brush one small section of  their hair (remember, the proper way to brush out tangles is to start at the end of the hair and slowly work up to the scalp).  The next day you will do two small sections, and so on and so forth until the child has learned to sit still and allow all of the tangles to be brushed out thoroughly.  Or instead of one section, you could gently stroke down the entire length of hair in just one area, even so gentle that it didn't get out any knots but simply served to condition the child to sit still and comply with being taught proper grooming.  You could most certainly hand the child a spray bottle and comb and allow her to detangle her own hair.  Or perhaps you could purchase/handcraft some cool accessories which she could put in her hair, but only after having it detangled.


I have only boys (see username!) but as a girl I had waist length, very thick and wavy hair and my mother would force me to sit still while she brutalized my poor scalp.  If I resisted, she would smash my skull with the back side of the hair brush.  It certainly doesn't have to be like that.  With patience and time you can make hair grooming a pleasant and even bonding experience for you both!


Best wishes!

post #3 of 21

My middle DD has hair like that, she is now 16 so is quite able to care for it, she never brushes it dry, and only uses a comb on it when wet. Now when she was little, I confess I let it go because it was just about impossible to keep from matting up. So she basically had dreads. I did cut it very short when she was five when her big sister came back from visiting her dad (ex-dh) in Hong Kong with hair lice and gave it to her little sis. I don't think we/she got a handle on her hair until she was ten or eleven. DS, had the same hair as a his sis, and as a 14 yo it is now well under control and much straighter. I can't find an old photo of DD on this computer, but have one of DS when he was around 7, you will see the problem we had! As with all things, these things will pass!


post #4 of 21
Thread Starter 

Have only got a microsecond - will reply properly another time....just wanted to say THANKS for those ideas, both of you. Interesting!

Also - I did mean comb really, rather than brushing.....but combing it even the day after a wash still seems difficult. Eeek. I guess one way or another I will have to get compliance. Something I'm not terribly good at all round with her. Guess who's the boss in our house? Hmmmmmmmm.


Nice pic Mirzam - and that is about the length and curliness we have too....possibly not as frizzy, but quite thick and coarse on top of the curls.

post #5 of 21

I have not had to deal with this situation for my children but only for myself! I've got the curls and have long hated my hair, only really growing to love it in my late 20s. My mother also has straight hair and had no idea what to do with curls. Some suggestions I have based on my experience and success with my hair - obviously tweak to accommodate your child's tolerance levels:


1 - daily conditioning - yep, getting the hair wet and applying conditioner specifically for curly hair, usually a moisturizing one. Curly hair tends to be drier than other types, so it is really hard to over-moisturize.


2 - leave in conditioner or oil for 'styling' - don't over dry hair after bathing, gentle squeezing with a towel will do. While still damp, apply leave in conditioner or oil (I prefer sweet almond oil myself, but there's also jojoba, olive, apricot, grapeseed - none of these are quite as greasy as coconut). After letting it sit a few minutes, gently comb through hair, starting at ends, finishing at scalp. The idea is for the hair to be so moisturized daily, that it builds on itself into a smooth cuticle that makes the comb pull less and glide through.


3 - shampoo once or twice a week, or if her hair gets something in it (like food), with a moisturizing/curly hair specific shampoo. Curly hair, tending to the dry side, does not need to have its natural moisture stripped too often. The natural oils, in addition to applied oils/conditioners, will help keep the hair healthy and manageable. Also curly hair doesn't show itself as 'dirty' the way other types tend to, so people really won't notice. :)


4 - after getting her hair healthy and manageable, the occasional bedhead will look really awesome and perfectly coifed, yet take no effort on her part OR yours to regain its manageable state the next day because it will be healthy and 'prepped' for conditioning.


I hope she can learn to appreciate and love her curls early! Good luck!

post #6 of 21
As a curly headed person, just wanted to add- it should be a wide toothed comb and the hair should definitely be wet, with conditioner in it!
post #7 of 21
Only comb when wet....I also have to use hair detangler spray for my 6 year olds curls....
post #8 of 21
Thread Starter 

Gosh. Thanks for all the great advice.

I realise my first task will be to get proper compliance when washing - but the lying down on a bench is a great idea...we have a laundry tub and bench that would work great for that. If need be her Daddy will have to distract her with a story! 


For those that use a daily detangler - do they make gentle ones for kiddie hair - or do you think it's okay to have a full-blown adult one, with whatever chemicals.


For those who use oil - (ariatrance!) - does the oil actually soak in and not leave a greasy appearance? I do quite like the idea of a spray bottle with water and oil in it....that might work....though, keeping HER from spraying it EVERYWHERE might be a challenge.


Lots of things to try though - will add a few things to the shopping list. When it became clear that she was going to have curly hair, I hoped against hope it would kind of look after itself. Cough cough. Obviously not. Shows what I know about it! The ringlets themselves are not too bad, but she does have a frizzy halo effect which gets all knotty..... (I take it back Mirzam, ours is curly frizzy too...as I type and look at her.)


Thanks again.




post #9 of 21
The only detangler that has ever worked and not caused problems for my 6 year old is the walmart brand equate.she has terrible skin allergies.
post #10 of 21
We use hip peas brand detangler. The ingredients are reasonable and it smells lovely.
post #11 of 21

I have curly hair that tends to tangle and even at 40, I'm always looking for something a little better than I'm currently using.  A friend of mine recommends a brush called the Knot Genie.  Her daughter has maybe the curliest hair I've ever seen and they use it.  Her hair is BEAUTIFUL and healthy so even though I've always been told to use a wide tooth comb or my fingers, it doesn't appear to be damaging her hair in any way.


My own daughter developed an aversion to water on her head/hair/face around that age.  I don't think you need compliance, I think you have to just take a deep breath and get it done as quickly as possible.  I tried to keep up a running banter about her beautiful hair but mostly I just tried to be fast and get it over with.  We did instal a removable shower head so I had lots of control over the water.  She could sit down while I washed and rinsed and with her head tilted back and a dry cloth over her eyes, she got MUCH better about dealing with it.  It's kind of a pain if you're not handy and don't know how to instal a different shower head (I got my dad to do it) but I hear it's easy enough if you read the directions.


Good luck!

post #12 of 21

The key with oil is to not use too much, just enough. When I had hair right past my shoulders, so 12-14 inches from scalp to ends, I used about a dime-sized amount of oil for my entire head, focusing most of it on the ends. It would dry into a soft, bouncy curl (that's my type) with little frizz. I don't mind some frizz, so I've never gone for the crunchy-gel look. Now that my hair is right past my ears, so 6-8 inches total, I only use about six to eight drops of oil. Start with a little, then add more if needed the next day until you find the right ratio. Also, the thicker the oil, the more frizz will be taken away but also it can weigh down the hair. It's a bit trial and error but the NOW Foods brands are really not too expensive for the small bottles and those last for a long time.

post #13 of 21
Thread Starter 



So my plan is:


1. Get proper shampooing done via laundry sink and lying down.

2. Use some nice natural oil (just a tiny bit) in an atomiser or sprayer mixed with water for afterwards....and in between.

3. Get her a nice big fat wide blunt comb!


Hopefully the above will improve the situation? Got to be better than the current birdsnest thing.




post #14 of 21
Originally Posted by Grover View Post

For those that use a daily detangler - do they make gentle ones for kiddie hair - or do you think it's okay to have a full-blown adult one, with whatever chemicals.


I'm not a fan of chemicals, even for adults! Use the Skin Deep Database to find a rinse-out conditioner you are comfortable with and then squirt some in a spray bottle and add water and shake.


If you really want a purpose-built detangler, try this page.  Gotta say, I'm surprised to see what's 1st on the list!


Here are conditioners.  The 0s and 1s can be pricey, so I usually start looking around the 3s.


For those who use oil - (ariatrance!) - does the oil actually soak in and not leave a greasy appearance? I do quite like the idea of a spray bottle with water and oil in it....that might work....though, keeping HER from spraying it EVERYWHERE might be a challenge.


Jojoba and argan are spectacular for hair as they are very non-greasy.  Start with maybe 5 drops in the palm of one hand, rub both palms together, run your hands down the back of the already-combed out hair (concentrate on the ends) and then use whatever is left over higher up on the hair.  Comb again and then don't mess with it while it dries.


Increase the number of drops as needed based on the hair's length and porosity.



Edited by blessedwithboys - 2/16/14 at 3:35pm
post #15 of 21
I would be tempted to do the hard work while she is asleep. Wash it when she is awake, obviously, but establish the oils and healthy part and extensive combing while she is asleep. Then, what you need to do while she is awake will be so much less traumatic. for her to get used to.
post #16 of 21
I meant to also say that maybe you could French braid it? If you leave it up and controlled between wqshings, maybe it won't be so bad for her.
post #17 of 21
Originally Posted by FisherFamily View Post

I meant to also say that maybe you could French braid it? If you leave it up and controlled between wqshings, maybe it won't be so bad for her.

Braiding my DD's hair always helped to keep it neater. But getting 'braidable' was always a challenge fraught with tears.

post #18 of 21

My sons are 3 and have very curly hair as well i use a detangling spray by shea moisture and their curly butter or camille rose products fairy tale brand curly gel is also good. I keep is braided a lot of the time just because its easier on them that way since i don't need to brush it as often.

post #19 of 21

I haven't read all the responses but PLEASE get the book "The Curly Girl Handbook."  I call it my bible.  I had a horrible chemical burn about 16 yrs ago (mom started putting relaxers in my hair around 6-7 years old.)  And decided I was done with that phase of my "beauty" routine.  I call this book my Bible!  The author (Lorraine Massey) does sell a line of products called "Deva Curl" but I don't use them.  (I'm cheap.)  But her book is full of all natural recipes for products you can make yourself.  There's also a DVD included.  I just got the newest version of the book at the library but I would recommend buying one because it's such a good reference. 




Everything everyone above said is true:  

Stop using shampoo.  I condition ONLY  (my hair and my son's)

NEVER BRUSH IT - wide tooth comb or finger comb.  

You might have to do some trial and error with what works in her hair depending on the texture but coconut oil is a favorite for most people.  I use a light conditioner and then a gel.  

Use your products when the hair is WET.  Then let it air dry. 


and the key - once it's dry DON'T TOUCH IT!!  Curls just get bigger and frizzier the more you mess with them and rake them around.  


But definitely get the book because it tells you what works best for each type of curl.  Also tips on cutting, curly kids, how to choose a stylist, etc.  


Good luck! 

post #20 of 21
I have to use conditioner daily and some type of hair oil to keep tangles down during the day unless it's in a pony tail. I prefer the organix coconut oil but some gels are also ok.
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