Unfortunately, I can't tell you exactly what's best for you or for your child. I purposely avoided a cookbook approach in the original guide because proper maintenance of hair is more of an art than a science. Every person's hair is slightly different and therefore requires a slightly different maintenance routine. Even my two daughters, with the same father and mother, have different hair types.
I find that an oil that is great for one is too heavy for the other. After years of trial and error that I have developed regimens that work best for each of the three of us. While my own children are not biracial, I do have several biracial nieces and nephews and have helped many people with biracial children. So, I do have hands-on expertise in this area.
I am still tweaking the routines for my daughters as I find new products and as I gain more experience. But, I will share my tips and routines with you. These should be useful starting points for you to develop your own routine. Biracial hair care can be even more difficult to figure out than African hair care.
We are often
approached by White mothers who have given birth to children with hair
very dissimilar to theirs and what they are used to. Interracial
(actually, transracial) adoptions are becoming more common, creating
the same situation. Most African Americans are multi-racial. So,
African American hair has a wide variety of textures and needs.
Biracial hair care must cover an even broader range of textures and
Expectations for Biracial Hair
The number one complaint we get about black hair is that it looks dry or dull. We get the same complaint about biracial hair, followed closely by complaints of "frizzyness" and difficulty in combing. Before you go too far to make your natural hair full of sheen and shine, it's best to have the proper expectation.
Natural Black or African hair will not be as shiny as permed hair or Caucasian hair. A major part of what makes hair shiny is the structure of the hair, not just the amount of oil or moisture it contains. If the cuticles lay flat (smooth hair), the hair will reflect light better (translated will appear shiny).
If the cuticles are raised, the hair will absorb light (translated will appear more dull). Without changing the structure of the hair (as in getting a perm or relaxer for us African Americans), our hair will only be so shiny. By applying a lot of grease (see below for the types of oils I recommend) to make it shinier, you could end up damaging the hair. Having said that, natural African hair can appear healthy, smooth and have a nice healthy sheen.
As I said, the second complaint we get most often about biracial hair is that it is too curly or too frizzy. There are some things you can do to control frizzyness and curliness. But, if you want to effect "permanent" (permanent until it grows out anyway) changes, you are looking at a chemical process.
One thing we often advise mothers about though is please do not expect your child's hair to be like yours and please do not make her feel as though something is wrong with her hair because it's "frizzy" or curly. You should picture your child's hair as a collection of fine fibers. You should treat it as gently as you would a fine washable silk blouse.
The better you treat her hair, the easier it will be to grow and the better it will look. You should be aware that African hair and biracial hair tends to be drier than Caucasian hair. The structure of our hair makes it more difficult for the oils to work their way from the scalp to the ends of the hair. Because our hair is kinky, it tends to tangle more and pulling these tangles out can cause breakage.
In spite of appearances, black hair and biracial hair tends to be more fragile than Caucasian hair. The lack of moisture and elasticity and the kinks that get grabbed when styling or combing make for hair that can be broken easily. Someone once asked me if natural hair is meant to be combed. Actually, the answer probably is no.
I don't think our hair was structured to be combed at all. So, as long as we're going to do it, we have to do it causing the least amount of damage possible. Both of my daughters have natural hair. We receive a lot of compliments about their hair. They are technically not biracial. We have a mixed heritage (as do most African Americans). But, many of the same things I do for them can be adapted for biracial hair care.
Here are my "secrets"
Tools For Biracial Hair Maintenance
How do I comb out kinky biracial hair?
This section will be particularly important to those of you who have not worked with kinky hair. Never try to comb out kinky hair while it is dry. Use a moisturizer to provide elasticity to the hair and to reduce friction. Be sure you have a wide tooth comb. You might want to look for a "detangling" comb.
If you're used to fine tooth combs, it might look a little strange to you. But, generally speaking, the farther apart the teeth the better. I generally do not use bristled brushes because I find they tend to grab the hair.
I have a Kakakiki KombBrush, which does a great job on the girls' natural hair. It's a combination comb and brush in one device. It's shaped like a brush, but has round teeth more like a comb. Be patient and gentle when combing kinky hair. If your daughter is screaming, you might want to consider that you are pulling too hard.
I begin by working in sections. I part the hair and tie off the part I am not working on at the time. I gently grasp the hair near the scalp with my free hand and work the comb against that hand, rather than against the scalp. Comb gently beginning near the roots and work your way up- until all kinks are free. I then tie that section off and start on the next section.
How do I wash biracial hair?
You should begin by washing hair about once a week. In the winter this might stretch out a little longer. I wash more often in the summer when the kids are playing outside and sweating. But, one of the commonly made mistakes non-African parents of Biracial or African children make is to wash their children's hair too frequently.
Many of my Caucasian friends wash their own hair daily because they have fine hair that gets weighed down with their natural oils. In a biracial child, overwashing can lead to dullness and dryness.
For biracial hair care, you may want to consider washing a little more often than once a week. But, you will rarely want to wash more than a couple of times a week. I like to use different shampoos to eliminate the possibility of build-up from a particular shampoo.
If your child swims or sweats from her scalp, you may be tempted to wash too often. One way to stretch out the time between washings is to just rinse the hair with warm water, condition and go from there.
Washing an infant's hair
If your child is very young (too young to keep her eyes closed), use a no tears baby shampoo. These shampoos contain agents that keep the eyes from stinging. These shampoos can be drying, especially for African or biracial hair care. So, transition to a nice mild shampoo as soon as possible.
How do I dry biracial hair?
Wash gently, but thoroughly, massaging the scalp while washing. When you dry, blot with a towel rather than rubbing vigorously. Avoid heat as much as possible for drying. Allow the hair to air dry or you can even use a conditioning cap to drive some of the moisture out before blasting the hair with forced hot air.
How do I condition biracial hair?
Immediately after washing, condition the hair following the directions on the bottle of conditioner. If the bottle doesn't have directions, apply a small amount of conditioner to the hair, working it through. Allow to sit on the hair for at least 1 minute and rinse out.
At least once or twice a month, after shampooing, deep condition the hair. I use one several products. Put one of the deep conditioning products on after shampooing and use either a microwave or professional heat cap for 30 minutes or so.
The gentle moist heat from the caps allows the cuticles of the hair to open and the moisturizer to penetrate the hair shaft. A good hot oil treatment could be done here instead.
How do I moisturize biracial hair?
The most important key to healthy African American or Biracial hair care is moisture. Because of the structure of our hair, it tends to become dry easily. Dry hair lacks elasticity and therefore is brittle. Moisturize with good products and do it often.
Moisturizing is not necessarily the same as oiling. And it is certainly not the same as putting on what we used to call "grease" (see below). After the Deep Conditioning or Conditioning I moisturize. I recommend moisturizing at least twice a week. I moisturize whenever I style and often in-between, if we happen to be wearing a leave in style for several days.
Should I put oil on biracial hair?
The subject of whether to oil or not is controversial in African or biracial hair care. You'll have to decide for yourself. My experience has been that, for my daughters, and me, oil is good for our hair. The right oil though is of vital importance. We only use all natural oils, mostly plant oils. We avoid mineral oil and petroleum based products.
The one notable exception to the plant oil rule is emu oil (an animal oil). I love emu oil! Not only does it soften and lubricate, it contains essential fatty acids and reduces inflammation which helps hair grow. However, oiling is one of those places where you'll really have to experiment. One of my daughters can use a heavier oil than the other. She can even use pure Shea Butter.
The other daughter's hair is too thin and looks weighed down with Shea Butter. My biracial nieces have different needs. One has very fine, smooth hair and needs no additional oils at all. The other can use a light oil which really helps control the frizziness.
To apply the product, I put a little of the product in the palm of my hand (and melt it, if it's a solid product). I then rub it on the hair and massage into the scalp. I will not use anything that doesn't melt at body temperature.
If I happen to use something with a little beeswax (which has a relatively high melting point), I make sure it still melts at body temperature so that it doesn't build up. I often mix a couple of the products. To be safe, I mostly use products that are liquid at room temperature. Some of my favorite oils are:
|The only compromise we would even contemplate on this
to take your child to a local beauty school, if you just cannot pay the
money the salons are charging. At least they'll get the perm under
professional supervision. And, the cost is usually a pretty small
fraction of the cost in a salon.