As with every other aspect of a child’s wellbeing, caring for a child’s hair can be tricky. When to start washing their hair, how often to wash their hair, which hair products and tools to use, whether to condition their hair, how safe it is to blow dry their hair are some of the issues a parent has to deal with. At different stages of a child’s life, the child’s hair undergoes changes. Until the age of 12, the color, texture, and diameter of a child’s hair are constantly developing.
A child’s hair is much more delicate than an adult’s hair and therefore must be cleaned and styled with meticulous care. For this reason, shampoos, conditioners, pomades, and even hair dryers have been specially designed for children. These child-friendly hair products are safe to use on a child’s hair and are available in drugstores as well as online.
How is a child’s hair different from an adult’s hair?
A child’s hair is drier than an adult’s hair because the sebaceous glands in a child’s hair do not produce considerable quantities of natural oil until adolescence. It is also extremely delicate unlike an adult’s hair and therefore more prone to breakage.
How many hair types exist for children?
The table below shows the different hair types children can have.
|Hair Types For Children|
|1. Long / Short|
|2. Dry / Oily|
|3. Straight / Curly / Coily|
|4. Thin / Thick|
A child can have:
- Long, dry, straight, and thin hair.
- Long, oily, straight, and thick hair.
- Short, dry, curly, and thin hair.
- Short, oily, straight, and thick hair.
- Any other combination of these 4 hair characteristics.
How often should you wash your child’s hair?
It is a good idea to foster healthy hair habits in your child from a young age by setting up a hair care routine that works for their hair type. However, your child’s hair type is not the only consideration in deciding how often to wash your child’s hair. Shampooing frequency is largely determined by the following four factors combined:
- The child’s hair type
- The child’s level of activity
- The child’s age
The table below explains how each factor influences shampooing frequency:
|The Factors that Influence Shampooing Frequency|
|1. Child’s hair type||Long and thick hair has to be washed more frequently than short and thin hair.
Straight hair and curly hair will not have the same hair care routine.
Dry hair is not the same as oily hair, so it should not be washed as often as oily hair.
|2. Child’s activity level||Although it is advisable to wash a child’s hair no more than twice a week, activities like swimming lessons and soccer practice require a good wash immediately after to prevent chlorine and perspiration buildup.|
|3. Child’s age||A 9-month-old baby is not the same as a 9-year-old child. Their hair textures are vastly different. Therefore, their hair care routines will reflect this difference.|
|4. Climate||In a dry climate, a child’s hair tends to be drier than normal, so it is not necessary to shampoo as frequently as it would be in a humid climate.|
Which shampoo is best for children?
It is best to use baby shampoo for your child until the age of 3. Alternatively, you can combine 1 part regular shampoo with 5 parts water and wash your child’s hair with this baby shampoo substitute.
After the age of 3, your child will be more comfortable in the bath if the shampoo is mild, scented, and compatible with their hair type. For example, a moisturizing shampoo is ideal for dry hair, whereas a lightweight shampoo is desirable for thin hair as it will not weigh down your child’s hair.
If your child is suffering from a condition of the scalp such as dandruff, dermatitis, or psoriasis, seek advice from a dermatologist on the hair products to use.
Is conditioning essential for children?
A conditioner is recommended:
- If your child has exceptionally dry hair.
- If your child has tightly wound curls which tend to be very dry because the hair’s natural oil does not reach the ends of the hair.
- In winter.
- In dry climates.
Depending on your child’s hair needs, you can choose any of 3 types of conditioners for your child:
- A leave-in conditioner is excellent for detangling. It is left on the hair for about 15 minutes. It is suitable for curly hair but must be used with caution in straight hair.
- A deep conditioner is perfect for children with dry hair due to its hydrating property.
- An instant conditioner can be used for any hair type. It is rinsed off immediately.
What is the right amount of shampoo and conditioner to use?
The following table serves as a guideline for the amount of shampoo and conditioner to use depending on hair type:
|Amount of Shampoo & Conditioner to Use for Children|
|Standard||Thin Hair||Thick Hair|
|Shampoo||Size of a quarter piece||Less than a quarter piece||More than a quarter piece|
|Conditioner||Size of child’s palm||Less than palm size||More than palm size|
How should you wash your child’s hair?
Below is a step-by-step guide to washing your child’s hair optimally:
Use a wide-toothed comb or a paddle brush for this purpose. Long hair is particularly prone to tangles after a wash, so detangling before helps to prevent further tangles. If your child’s hair is very knotty, then use a conditioner or detangling spray as well.
Use a baby shampoo until the age of 3, and a sulfate-free shampoo with a pH value between 5.0 and 5.5 after the age of 3. Wet your child’s hair thoroughly and massage the shampoo on your child’s scalp gently with your fingertips from the forehead to the nape. Do not pile up your child’s hair on top of her head as this will cause very difficult tangles after the wash. Rinse your child’s hair completely ensuring that no traces of shampoo are left.
If necessary, apply conditioner to the mid-lengths and ends of your child’s hair and rinse it off. There is absolutely no need to condition a baby’s hair because it is extremely delicate.
Wet hair must be handled very carefully because it is especially prone to breakage and damage. To avoid tangles, do not rub your child’s hair with a towel. Instead, wrap the towel around their head for a few minutes. For babies, simply pat the hair dry with a baby towel.
5. Air-Dry / Blow-Dry
It is advisable to air-dry your child’s hair. If you must use a hair dryer, then use it at the lowest heat setting and hold it at a distance of 15 cm from your child’s hair. A word of caution: do not blow-dry the hair of a child below age 2.
What are some good hair care practices to follow?
Regardless of hair type, the following practices can be incorporated into your child’s hair care regimen:
- Check for cradle cap (a scalp condition common to babies) and nits from time to time. Use a lice repellent specially formulated for children to get rid of nits and lice.
- Trim your child’s hair every 8 weeks for healthy, strong and tangle-free hair.
- Use gels, mousses, and pomades that are suitable for children.
- Use child-friendly hair dryers for children aged 2 years and above.
- Be careful not to tie your child’s hair into a very tight braid or ponytail. If your child complains of pain, loosen her braid or ponytail promptly.
- Dr. Michael Roizen, MD, How should I take care of my child’s hair?
- The Telegraph, The best kids’ shampoos and bathroom essentials
- Domonique Robinson, BABY HAIR CARE ROUTINE | How to grow your child’s hair | Skylar Jae, Jul 24, 2018