Mami, My Way: When Your Kid Has Curly Hair and You Don't

My mother has big curly hair, my father has pin straight jet-black hair, and I, well, came out with almost-perfect silky wavy hair. Throughout my entire life, my hair routine has always been low-maintenance: wash once a week, air dry and add a bit of anti-frizz serum – that’s it.

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When I had my daughter with thick, full coils, I had no idea how to manage this high-maintenance hair, but I learned. Today, she is four years old and has big, healthy, soft hair that comes down to the middle of her back when wet and up to her shoulders when it’s dry. Ever since her hair got long enough to have to detangle, I’ve been committed to her hair. I’m always reading up on caring for curly hair, trying new products and learning different styles to maintain it. While I am no expert on coils, I have found some things and a routine that work for us that I’d like to share with you.  

I wash her hair once a week. Anywhere from an hour to three hours before washing, I put coconut oil throughout her hair to soften the tangles. I wash with a co-wash conditioner, rinse it out and then apply a TON of conditioning mask, instead of the regular conditioner, which I leave in for 5-10 minutes. I find that a conditioning mask is more moisturizing than a regular conditioner, and if there is one thing I have learned throughout this journey is you can never apply enough moisturizer in curly hair. While I’m allowing the masque to do its thing, I am detangling her hair, splitting it into six pieces. First, I use the wet brush for minimal detangling and then a wide toothcomb to really get in there. In my experience, the Wet Brush works best for thin hair. If using with thick hair, you must only focus on very small pieces at a time for it to be effective. Side note: While performing this weekly ritual, my poor baby girl has had at least two melt-downs and I have had maybe one, but who can blame us? It’s a lot of patience for a 4-year-old (or a 35-year-old) to sit for such a long period of time while someone is tugging at your hair – even if it’s gently.  I usually try anything I can to make her comfortable, and when she gets real restless. I whip out the iPad for the remaining time, which distracts her.  After detangling, I wash out some of the conditioning mask, leaving the rest to moisturize her hair. When I extract some water out of her hair, I immediately add a leave-in conditioner, Cantu Coconut Curling Cream, which smells delicious, and seal that with some coconut oil.

For products, I’ve tried kid curly hair items, but haven’t found any that I feel are moisturizing enough for the amount and thickness of her hair, so I have looked to adult products. I know I need to be aware of harsh ingredients, so that is what I am currently trying to learn. For an inexpensive product, I like the Renpure Coconut Collection products that I randomly tried after finding it at TJ MAXX. I’ve used their Coconut Whipped Crème leave-in conditioner, Coconut Crème Co-wash and Coconut Deep Treatment Masque. I also like the Shea Moisture Raw Shea Butter Deep Treatment Masque. They all seem to have that slippery effect that, to me, makes the hair a bit more manageable to detangle when applied. For a more expensive option, I like some of the products from the Madam C.J. Walker Culture Beauty line. I’ve tried the Dream Come True Wonderful Deep Conditioning Masque and the Jamaican Black Castor & Murumuru Oils Ultra-Moisturizing Co-Wash. My first impression when applying was that it is so thick, it didn’t have that slippery feeling that I like, making it difficult to detangle. However, once I rinsed it out, her hair was super soft, shiny and moisturized.

Once her hair is clean, detangled and has the conditioning and moisturizing products applied, I do two-to-four French braids (still learning how to do a cornrow braid), depending on how much time I have. I leave them on over night and in the morning I lightly spritz with a conditioning mist. I like Madam C.J. Walker’s Scent & Shine Coconut Oil, but even water will do. Make sure not to spray too much because you have molded the hair with the braids, and too much water can make it coil back up. Once I spritz, I add some oil or cream to my hands, undo the braids, shake the hair gently to loosen it up a bit, and she is ready to go to school!

To maintain her hair, I add a little coco or moisturizing mist every night, part it into two regular loose braids, so it doesn't tangle as much while she sleeps or throughout the week, and, sometimes, I put a head wrap on – if she lets me. If I ever don’t have time to do our weekly ritual, I will thoroughly spray her hair with water and conditioning mist to get it moist, add some conditioning creme and comb a lot of it out with the Knot Genie, which will buy me a few days without having to wash and not have it get super tangled.

PLUS: Dove Hair is Launching Curly-Haired Emojis

It's a lot of work, but when you see how beautiful curly hair is when it gets a lot of TLC, it is all worth it!  As I’m sure you can tell, I am still learning and open to new products and tips, so please share if you have any. I welcome them all

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About this author

Verky Arcos, Editor-at-Large

A writer and editor with expertise in fashion and lifestyle coverage, Verky Arcos Baldonado is currently Latina magazine's Editor-at-Large.

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