When we saw those first sweet photos of Beza & Luke five years ago, I tried desperately to figure out what type of hair Beza had. Unfortunately it was pulled back or in corn rows in almost every photo we got between the time we “met” them to the time we brought them home.
As part of our adoption training we attended an “Ethnic Hair Care” course that was 40 minutes long and honestly I don’t remember much of what was said except “moisturize, moisturize, moisturize.” Um, yeah, I knew that from what I’d read online.
When we picked up the kids (it will be 4 years Dec. 22nd) Luke’s hair was really short and Beza’s hair was divided into two braids. I was actually a little excited to be able to “do hair.” Natalie, who was 5 at the time, has never been one to let me do much to her hair – still isn’t.
I had read a lot on natural hair care (Wavy, Curly, Kinky : The African American Child’s Hair Care Guide was one) and found some easy twist hairstyles etc.
Twists, yarn braids, etc have become the norm for the last four years. For the most part she’s great about sitting through it because it means unlimited TV watching. But, it gets difficult to schedule it, because really it’s an ENTIRE DAY to take down the old style, wash and redo. So that means finding a Saturday where nothing is going on or a Sunday afternoon which means a simpler style because there’s not as much time.
Then of course there is the whole straight hair issue. Beza dreams of beautifully straight hair. She said her grandma used to get it done and it looked good – someone who used a pressing comb (I had to Google that). Alas, our flat ironing was not so successful – see this post for pics. It’s hard to explain how everyone’s hair is different and just because she sees an African American girl who gets beautifully straight hair with a flat iron, doesn’t mean her hair will look the same.
As Beza gets older (she’ll be 12 in January), some of the hairstyles look too young for her. I also feel like she’s at that age where she needs to start learning some ways she can fix her hair on her own.
Personally, I love when she wears her hair natural and, of course, it’s easier on mom. She gets tons of compliments from grown-ups when she wears it curly. But all it takes is one teasing comment from an 11-year old boy to ruin it. Nonetheless I started “Operation Embrace The Curl.”
One day I started a conversation about ethnic hair with one of moms at school and she recommended I read Curly Girl: The Handbook. Raved about it.
Um, life changing! It’s not just for ethnic hair – it covers ALL the curl types – but there is a chapter specific to ethnic hair.
The main thing was I realized we had been guilty of using all kinds of products that were actually “hurting” her curls – i.e. making them look more frizzy and less defined. The book is full of testimonials and pics from people who started caring for their curls correctly and the HUGE difference it made in the way their hair looked.
I promptly threw out about 20 bottles of various things and purchased some products recommended by the mom (see links below). I also bought a couple DevaCurl products by the author.
The book mentions how it can take a few months for your curls to repair once you start using good products on them, and you’ll start to see a difference in the way the look.
Next up was a haircut. I realized that because she always wore her hair styled in twists, etc. Beza had never really had a proper hair cut. We’d trimmed the ends a few times but she definitely needed some shape. The book talks about how curly hair needs to be cut in a specific way and should always be cut dry so the stylist can see how the curls lay. I set out on a mission to find a stylist, figuring I was going to have to cough out some major dough. A friend recommended a salon WAY on the other side of town. When I found their website I was ecstatic to realize they cut the “Curly Girl Handbook” way.
So the day before Thanksgiving the girls and I made a day of it and drove an hour to the salon. I LOVED our stylist and as she cut (after talking to us about what we wanted) she was able to answer lots of questions and talk to Beza about how much better her curls will look as we continue down this road.
Then I asked her about the flat iron (knowing what the book said). She explained to Beza that any time you use heat (blow dryer w/o diffuser or flat iron) it sets you back a month or two in that “repair” process. Even though I had already mentioned this to Beza I knew she needed to hear it from someone besides mom. Because what do mom’s know 🙂
So Operation Embrace The Curl means that we have vowed to go 12 weeks without using a flat iron. (Even though I had bought a flat iron that the same mom recommended. She has a daughter with hair similar to Beza and it works well for them.)
The cut made a HUGE difference even though there was not much hair taken off – I was amazed to see how little hair was on the floor.
Beza has been doing really well for the last 3 weeks with our new routine and we can already see a huge difference in the definition of her curls. After having it down and natural for a couple weeks I asked her if she wanted me to do some twists and was surprised when she said no. Maybe Operation Embrace The Curl is working!
I’m going to have to get some good pictures of Beza so you can see how beautiful her curls are looking. But here’s our new routine.
A couple of these products I get on VitaCost for a really great price. If you click THIS LINK to join VitaCost (free) you’ll receive a $10 off $30 code and so do I.
- Deep washing – 1-2x month with Nature’s Gate Herbal Daily Cleansing Shampoo $4.59 via Vitacost
- Conditioning “wash” – 2x week with Nature’s Gate Herbal Daily Conditioner $7.59 for 32 oz via Vitacost. Leave the majority of the conditioner in. On days we do this she takes a shower in the morning. We scrunch-dry with a soft t-shirt (NO TOWELS), then use the Deva Curl Spray Gel and do a bit more scrunching. Then it just air dries.
- Nightly application of coconut oil (can also use jojoba oil). Wrap head in scarf.
- On non-washing mornings we spritz her hair with a bit of water. Then you can either use the same conditioner to just work in a little bit and refresh your curls, or we like Carol’s Daughter Black Vanilla Leave in Moisturizer which is a liquid. (I bought at Ulta for $12.) It smells AWESOME – I honestly would wear it as perfume 🙂
Things to avoid:
- Shampoos w/ sulfate in them – basically anything that lathers is probably got sulfate
- Brushes/combs – use nothing but fingers
- Heat – no flat irons and only use a blowdryer w/ a diffuser and use as little as possible