WHY I DON’T COMB MY 3-YEAR-OLD’S NATURAL HAIR

I’m in the thick of it (pun intended) when it comes to my daughter’s hair. And I really wasn’t ready. She was born with a head full of silky strands that laid flat and, as with most black babies, they became more textured with time but were (luckily) always really sparse. Really just enough to create a teeny tiny ponytail.

Around age two, my daughter’s hair seemed to settle on a 4a curl but it still wasn’t really growing that much.

Then about six months ago POOF. It’s like someone turned on a crank in her scalp and it started spouting out hair by the inch. What am I supposed to do with all this?

If you’ve followed my writing on this site at all, you know that I really suck at styling. I can moisturize and condition all day. But styling? I cannot part to save my life and I just learned to do flat twists, like, a year and a half ago. My cornrow skills are straight up embarrassing. Suddenly faced with a headful of curls I was… overwhelmed. And of course I had heard other black mothers talk about the challenges of doing their daughters’ hair, but I had grown complacent since it had taken my baby’s hair so long to ‘sprout.’

My kids’ sitter at the time was a black woman who had previously run her own natural hair salon so I passed off the reins to bide me some time. But when I moved to a new neighborhood that was too hard for her to get to, I was on my own again. I cut my daughter’s hair to stall some more (much to the horror of her teachers), but I knew it would grow back eventually. So I buckled down and decided to learn. It took a couple months of experimentation but I finally began to figure out a routine.

And less is definitely more — partially because her hair doesn’t need that much and partially because kids do not have the patience for long routines. I went from washing and conditioning every weekend to washing every three weeks, and co‐washing in between — sometimes skipping the co‐wash altogether in favor of a thorough rinse with water, followed by a whipped shea butter seal. Another thing I’ve cooled on is combing. What I do instead is incorporate any detangling (which is really the only reason I would comb) into my flat twisting. So after washing and/or conditioning her hair and sealing the moisture in, I proceed to flat twist and simply remove any tangles I come across.

My go‐to style right now is 6 flat twists (crookedly done — don’t judge me) that go from front to back. They last a week, I can do them in the time it takes her to watch one episode of Doc McStuffins, and they don’t tug at her follicles.

I will let her rock a fro every now and then because I want her strands to have an opportunity to completely relax. But this always results in horridly tangled ends because she REFUSES to wear a bonnet!

While protective styling is often noted for its ability to help with length retention, I appreciate it more for its ability to keep my daughter’s hair generally tangle free. These days the only thing I’m using the comb for is to create parts — and she appreciates that.