Ethnic hair care can be a struggle for any parent. It can be especially challenging for parents raising a child of a different race-with a completely different hair type. Caucasians, and most other ethnicities, manage their hair by essentially removing oils, the goal for African-Americans is to put oil and moisture back into the hair. The concept of hair care may seem like a minute part of parenting but it’s important to understand why other cultures value it so much.
Cultural Meaning of Hair Care
In African-American culture, the condition and style of hair says a lot about a person— for children it can signify how they are treated at home. Disheveled, unkempt hair can suggest that a child isn’t well cared for. Traditionally, hair care is associated with dignity; it reflects pride and a mother’s love. It’s easy to see the pressure facing adoptive parents to learn how to manage their child’s hair properly… for fear of being judged harshly.
The main difficulty is the fact that the regiment of treatment is different for every individual; it’s about finding a personalized combination of product and technique—it involves a lot of trial and error. Most likely you will need to use a combination of products—curl relaxer, detangler, and conditioner— to comb through the hair.
Seek Advice From Others
The styles can be daunting and overwhelming. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Contact a local adoption agency to find out if they offer any hair technique classes (AFTH offers some throughout the year). You would be surprised to find just how “not alone” you are. Also check-out local salons for classes, and there are hundreds of videos are available on YouTube—it really helps to watch someone else braid!
Use Hair Care to Bond With Your Child
Look at this culture practice as a blessing. Hair styling is a bonding time for women in the African American community. Do your best to learn how to do it yourself– what better way for you and your child to spend intimate quality time together? Conditioning and styling the hair can take up to a few hours, but it is a great time to talk, sing and relax with your child.
- Massage the scalp on a regular basis-stimulate oil production, reducing dryness.
- Always use conditioner-hydrate daily. Pay special attention to the ends of hair.
- Do NOT shampoo daily, once per week recommended. Rinse only with H2O between shampoos.
- Rub hair only in one direction to avoid tangling.
- Use products with a low PH level. Key ingredients: wheat germ, jojoba oil, shea butter, coconut oil, silk amino acids, etc.
- Avoid synthetic oils. Avoid products containing alcohol, these dry the hair.
- Shower with warm water; hot water can dry and irritate the scalp.
- Be gentle. Use a wide tooth comb or pick, avoid fine combs. Invest in a quality brush- natural boar brushes are best.
- Before swimming, wet hair and apply a coat of conditioner to the hair. This will fill up the gaps in her hair shaft and act as a barrier from the chlorinated water. Follow up with a little club soda for a good post-pool rinse. Wear a swim cap if possible.
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