Any parent with a child whose hair is moderately-to-aggressively tangly will know the struggle that smoothing out that follicular majesty entails. Even the sweetest child can turn into a stomping, hysterical demon hurling the meanest words they know when that brush touches their flowing tresses. It doesn’t have to be quite so bad, though, in most cases.
What works best for you will, of course, depend on the length, thickness, and texture of your kid’s hair — but here are the best tips we found for making the process easier and less painful for all involved.
“Pat in” the shampoo
While it’s satisfying to create a frothy lather of shampoo that lets you know unequivocally that your child’s hair is clean, all the soapy chaos is not good for easily tangled hair. Try gently patting or slowly massaging in the shampoo instead. You might even consider using a no-lather brand like DevaCurl’s No-Poo.
Use actual conditioner
This one may seem obvious, but it wasn’t to certain members of my family (no names shall be mentioned, but he’s about six foot, medium-build…). Where three-in-one shampoo/conditioner/body wash works just fine for my short-haired sons, when it comes to my daughter’s hair, applying conditioner to it while it’s wet is an absolute must. Nothing can beat the richness of conditioner, which is formulated to seal hair cuticles after they’ve been washed, making them softer, smoother, and easier to brush. (For extra efficacy, brush through your child’s hair in the bath or shower before rinsing it out.)
Brush the ends first
Rather than starting at the roots, and catching god knows how many knots on the way down to the bottom of your child’s hair, start with the ends. Beginning at the bottommost tips and working your way up will let you manage and control smaller portions of hair and increase your chances that the brush won’t get stuck on the long road down from the crown of the head.
Braid it while it’s wet
Two words: restricted movement. Allowing hair free rein to blow in the breeze is a surefire way to generate more tangles. Instead, style your child’s hair while it’s still wet — braids are especially effective at keeping hair tangle-free (and can be slept in to minimise overnight tangling.) Also, consider pulling the hair back into a ponytail at mealtimes, playtimes, and while they’re swimming. Chlorine and never-ending goggle strap adjustments on loose hair will create some of the worst tangle bombs you’ve ever seen.
Brush often (more than you want to)
From someone who does not do this (and suffers the consequences), I can safely say, this hack is important. The more time that passes between brushings, the greater the quantity of knots that will gleefully form. Even if you don’t wash your child’s hair every day, it should be brushed at least once daily. For a short time, I got into the habit of brushing my daughter’s hair in the morning and before bed, and boy do I look upon those four days with wistful fondness.
Use detangling spray and a Wet Brush
For many years, you will have to brush your child’s dry, thick hair after it’s been slept on, ponytailed, twisted into oblivion — even sucked. Do not attempt this feat without a hearty supply of detangling spray on hand. Suave Kids has fun fruit scents, or you can easily make your own by combining tap water with conditioner (or “no tears” conditioning shampoo). Spray liberally and work through it with a Wet Brush, whose “Intelliflex bristles” with “SofTips” are more flexible and cause less drama than standard brushes. Don’t ask me how. I don’t question witchcraft.
Go the extra mile
Other tips for better scream-free hair management include: applying a weekly, deep-conditioning hair mask, leaving a small amount conditioner on the ends of their hair after every wash, detangling right before bath, and doing a thorough comb-out once a week with a wide-toothed comb. (Disclaimer: The hard, plastic bristles of combs are a straight no-go in this house, but some people swear by this method.)