Read an Excerpt
A Note to Parents
I was a young child when I learned the difference between what people call "good" and "bad" hair.
The straighter your hair was, the more you were liked, and the prettier you were thought to be. That was "good hair." If your hair was tightly curled or kinky, you had "bad hair" and were considered less attractive.
I remember jumping double Dutch with some of my friends. A tall caramel-complexioned woman dressed in a black suit and white sneakers and carrying a briefcase walked by. She went over to my friend Tara, whose hair was styled in two long straight ponytails (pressed hard by a hot comb), and said, "Your hair is beautiful and soft." The woman then looked at me and my sister and said, "Oh my God, your hair is pretty also. Are you two twins? You girls have good hair. It's beautiful." The woman told us to be good girls and walked off.
She never said anything about Sheena's hair. Sheena's hair was short and tight. Her mother used to style her hair in tiny braids and connect them all going to the back. After the woman left, we teased Sheena. "Ah ha! That lady ain't say nothing about your nappy ugly stuff, and you're black and ugly, burnt like toast," someone said. We all sang the "you got nappy hair" song. Sheena got angry, took her jump rope, and ran into the house crying.
I was an adult before I truly understood how sad and hurtful that must have been for Sheena. Those hateful impressions and expressions can affect how others perceive that child and leave that child emotionally traumatized, even into adulthood.
For generations, African-American children have been victims of child abuse. They have been told over and over again that their hair is unmanageable, worthless, and ugly. In short, bad. This has been reinforced by television and film images, and also by marketers of hair straighteners. Sadly, the first application of a hair-straightening relaxer to a child's hair is synonymous with a "rite of passage" for some parents and their daughters. A first "perm," sadly, is seen as the beginning of adulthood, success, and social development.
According to manufacturer's instructions, gloves are required when applying any sort of chemical to hair. Think about the delicate scalp of your child, and then consider why you would slather it with chemicals too harsh for your own hands. Can you imagine what happens when the chemicals are allowed to sink into the pores of your child's tender scalp?
Obviously, these chemicals are dangerous; they can cause hair breakage, scalp sores, and bald patches.
Please, keep the chemicals out of your child's hair. Remember that texture and length are no mistake. Every person's hair length varies. One person's hair might only grow as long as an inch and stop, while others will grow 15 inches or longer over time. Don't get caught up in the length of a child's hair. Work the length as it is. Learn to be creative with whatever head of hair your child has, whatever you have to work with. Your acceptance of your child's natural attributes will help his or her self-esteem.
If your child has a perm, as you will learn in Chapter 9, there will be several challenges to getting the chemicals out. Perms must be cut off or allowed to grow out through gradual trimming. However, there are hairstyles to make this phase less awkward, which are also highlighted in Chapter 9.
Communicate to your children, as early as possible, the importance of natural healthy hair and how to appreciate its unique, special qualities. Refrain from using negative words to describe their hair like nappy, peazy, hard-to-comb, untamable, and any other word or phrase that could negatively affect a child's self-esteem.
Keeping Your Child's Crown Clean
Also talk to your child about not letting all sorts of hands in her hair. Have you ever experienced sending your child to school or the sitter with one hairstyle, only to have her come back home with a different one? Children like to experiment with one another's hair. Explain to your children that it isn't good to allow several hands in their hair. Children also tend to share the same comb and ornaments, which can cause the spread of scalp conditions and diseases such as tinea and alopecia.
If you do trust a sitter or a friend to care for your child's hair, then send your own bucket of hair tools along. Each child should have his or her own personal grooming tools. A list of these hair-grooming necessities is offered in Chapter 2. Having one's own personal implements cuts down on germs and the transmission of contagious diseases, a subject discussed more thoroughly in Chapter 17. (By the way, stay away from rubber bands. They're extremely damaging to the hair and cause breakage. Hair ornaments that are covered with cloth are wonderful alternatives. Hair tools and ornaments are discussed in more detail in Chapters 2 and 12.)
Sanitation is extremely important. It's very necessary to keep all implements and ornaments clean from dirt and debris. Using soap and hot water will kill most germs. Spray all hair-care and grooming implements with 70 percent alcohol. It's important to remember that "good hair" is hair that is healthy and clean.
Please also understand that healthy hair starts with a healthy diet. There is no mysterious formula. Drinking plenty of water and eating fresh fruits and vegetables are the components of a balanced diet that will assist in the nourishment of healthy skin and hair. Keep your child away from processed foods, fatty foods, and foods that contain lots of sugar. Good health starts from the inside out and healthy hair begins with your child's eating habits.
Using the Proper Tools
Every parent should have a tool bucket that contains the vital implements and ornaments needed to style their child's hair. These tools can be purchased at any beauty supply store.
*RATTAIL COMB--great for making straight parts and removing debris from the hair.
*BRUSH(soft or medium boar bristles)--helps smooth hair.
*OIL--good for shine and provides some nutrients. Use oils that contain sage, olive, rosemary, and almond or lavender, which are great for the hair and scalp. Light oils in liquid, not gel, form are best.
*SPRAY BOTTLE--keep filled with one part oil and six parts water.
*BLOW DRYER--for quick drying and detangling.
*HAIR ORNAMENTS--bows, ribbon, barrettes, cloth-covered rubber bands (these will not break your child's hair), beads, ballies.
*HAIR PINS--assist in holding some styles securely.
*HAIR CLIPS--hold hair in place while styling.
*PICK--wide teeth allow for combing through thick hair.
*WIDE-TOOTH COMB--helps detangle thick hair during a comb out.
*GEL--helps in styling and luster.
*SHAMPOO AND CONDITIONER--Aveda, Carol's Daughter, Praises, and Organic Root Stimulator have also has some excellent products. You can generally find great natural shampoos and conditioners at natural health food stores.
*VIDEOTAPE OR DVD--for children to watch while sitting.
Child Profile Card
This can be a great way for you to monitor changes in the condition of your child's scalp and hair. This evaluation also will help you discover how well you understand your child's hair. Answer all of the questions as honestly as you can. You should also feel free to adjust the information we've provided on this form to meet your child's needs.
Before you begin filling the form out, examine your child's hair by separating sections of the hair at the base of the scalp. Look for any possible damage. You will be looking for areas where the hair is broken and/or thin while keeping an eye out for bald spots. Examine the hairline as well. Styles like cornrows and small braids can cause severe hair damage when certain problems, such as receding hairlines and balding edges, are present.
You will also be looking for cuts, sores, and scabs. If you find anything, write it down in the notes section of your profile card. These are the areas you will constantly monitor for the next twelve weeks.
Whenever your child is prescribed any medication, write down the dates he or she started and completed the medicine. Ask the doctor if there are any side effects. If you notice a change in your child's skin or hair, consult the doctor immediately and be sure to make a note of any changes for your own personal records.
Child Profile Card
1. Scalp condition - normal__ oily__ dry__
2. Hair condition - normal__ oily__ dry__
3. Hair density - thin__ medium__ thick__
4. Hair texture - straight__ wavy__ curly__ tight curl__ very tight curl__
1. List any medications and their side effects.
2. Any hair breakage? no__ yes__ (explain why)
3. Date of last trim (hair should be trimmed two to three times a year).
4. List any scalp disorders.
What Is Hair?
The primary function of hair is to protect and insulate the body from the weather and to protect the head from injury. It also provides beauty and adornment.
The hair is divided into two parts; the hair root and the hair shaft. The hair root is the structure beneath the skin surface. The hair shaft extends above the skin surface.
The structure of the hair root is composed of three parts: the follicle, bulb, and papilla.
The follicle is composed of hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, sulfur, and phosphorus.
The bulb is a round structure at the very bottom of the hair root.
The papilla, which fits inside of the bulb, lies deep within the epidermis, nerves, and blood vessels. If you're in good health and take care of your body, maintaining a healthy diet (water, fruits, vegetables, fiber, etc.), the bulb will be nourished, thereby nourishing the papilla. The papilla is filled with a rich supply of nerves and blood, which contribute to the growth and regeneration of hair. As long as the papilla is well-nourished, it will provide healthy, natural hair that will grow.
A healthy hair root will also provide a healthy hair shaft. The structure of the hair shaft consists of three parts: the inner core, also known as the medulla (some hair types do not contain a medulla); the middle layer, which is the cortex; and the outer layer, which is the cuticle. The cortex is responsible for the strength, color, and texture of the hair, while the cuticle's main function is to protect the cortex.
If you use harsh chemicals, like relaxers, or you use a hot comb and/or excessive heat on the hair, you're affecting the growth and natural development of the cuticle. If the cuticle is badly damaged or destroyed, the cortex will be left unprotected, which leads to hair breakage that can go all the way down the hair shaft to the roots. Keeping your hair natural is the healthiest option.
Infants require special, but simple, hair care.
First of all, every baby's head has a soft spot at the top of the head called a fontanel. This spot should be handled with care. As the skull grows, the fontanel will eventually become firmer and disappear.
Some babies are born with lots of hair, while other babies are born with very little hair. Whether your baby has lots of hair or very little, your baby's scalp is fragile and the hair follicles are still developing, so your baby's hair and scalp need gentle care.
Parents tend to treat their newborns like dolls. This is fine, but when it comes to grooming your baby's hair, be careful. Don't pull the hair too tightly. And don't try to force styles that can't be accomplished with your child's hair because it's too short or too soft.
Please don't use rubber bands or hair ornaments that could easily come out of your baby's hair and find their way into his or her mouth. We all know how children like to put things in their mouths, and many hair ornaments are of a size that could cause choking, as well as being not particularly sanitary.
Keep your baby's hair covered with warm hats made with a soft crochet that is appropriate for the weather conditions. Babies' heads need to be protected from all types of weather, since they are particularly sensitive to the sun, heat, and cold.
You can clean your baby's hair and scalp with a washcloth and a natural, mild baby shampoo. Rinse the hair with lukewarm water, being careful not to get the soap in the baby's eyes. Rub a little oil on the hair and use a soft-bristle baby brush. Brush the baby's hair in the direction that it naturally grows. Very little maintenance is required.
After a few months, the baby's hair texture will begin to change. This is a normal process. Don't force the hair to do what you want it to do. Allow the hair to grow in naturally.
Some babies' hair grows faster. (Our hair's growth rate is determined by our genes.) Be patient.
Often a baby's hair will grow on the top while remaining thin on the sides and back of the scalp. This is normal. Baby's neck muscles are still developing and the baby's hair on both sides rubs off on bed linen and clothes. Eventually, your baby's hair will grow in all over.
Cradle cap, a type of dermatitis that appears as a crusty white or yellow patch on the scalp, is a common scalp condition found in babies. Cradle cap can look like patches of dandruff or a scabby white or yellowish substance forming on the scalp. Cradle cap is not dangerous. It usually goes away after the first year, but this could mean that your child could be prone to eczema. Don't scratch the surface of the baby's scalp, since this could cause irritation.
To treat cradle cap, simply use olive oil or baby oil to loosen the flakes, and then shampoo. If the cradle cap appears to be spreading across the scalp, face, and neck, or if there are signs of infection, consult a physician immediately.