How to Care for Little Black Girls’ Natural Hair: Washing & Detangling

I Almost Relaxed Her Hair Out of Sheer Frustration

My daughter is 4 1/2 years old and she’s never had a relaxer. We plan to keep it that way. I will admit that once she got to be about 3 years old I did consider giving her a relaxer. Her hair was just so long and thick that washing her hair became something we both dreaded. There were tears and tangles and *sigh*, you can probably imagine how it went.

At the time, I didn’t know what to do with that much natural hair. I didn’t really know that hair time didn’t have to be difficult at all and that I was actually damaging and yanking out her natural hair for no reason. Now I know better. I’ve since gone natural and educated myself about the best way to care for very long, very thick type 4 coils. Hair time is lots of fun now; so much so that sometimes we pretend that I’m her stylist and that she’s at the salon. :-)

The Goal = Waist-Length by Kindergarten

My preschool-aged daughter’s hair is healthy and strong today. When we wash and style it there’s very little shedding and practically no breakage. Her hair is at her belly button and we think it might be at least 4 inches longer by the time she starts Kindergarten in the Fall. That’s not because of her DNA, though. It’s because I learned a few nifty tips on washing and styling her hair in a way that’s easy, healthy and fun.

Today, Hair Time Is Happy & Tear-Free

I’m happy to share what I know with you all to help ease your frustrations and care for your daughters’ hair in its natural state unless and until one of you decides to relax it. Hopefully, if you decide to relax it then at least it won’t be out of frustration but rather a conscious, informed styling choice. Below are some tips on how we co-wash my oldest daughter’s hair each week.

How to Care for Little Black Girls’ Hair: Our Co-Washing & Detangling Routine

how to care for little black girls' hair- washing and detangling

This method is tear-free & and tangle-free. Your fingers will glide through her hair with ease. Neither of you will mind a bit!

You’ll Need:

-A spray bottle filled with water

-Conditioner w/ lots of “slip” (we like TRESemme Naturals)

-Virgin (unrefined) coconut oil



1. Mist hair with water. If her hair is in ponytails, mist it with water before you take the ponytail holders off and before you take the braids/twists down.  That will help prevent tangles, ouches and snags before you get started. Wet hair stretches longer without snapping.

2. Coat hair with generous amount of coconut oil. When her hair is wet AND coated with coconut oil, it will glide past itself for easy unbraiding and finger-detangling. You don’t need a comb at this point. If you find a tangle that’s hard to undo with your fingers, add more water and coconut oil. If you do find a tangle, work it out gently from the ends first then move up towards the roots.

3. Make 4 to 6 sections and 4-6 chunky twists. The more thick, long or tangled her hair is, the more sections you should make. I make 6 sections: first I part down the middle from her forehead to her neck. Then I divide each side into three sections: front, middle and back.

Don’t worry about the twists coming apart at the ends somewhat. More sections make it easier for the twists to stay twisted, FYI. But if they come apart you can always twist them a little. As long as they don’t come all the way apart, they shouldn’t tangle.

4. Soak each section. Apply conditioner and squeeze through one section at a time from root to ends. Hold the end of each twist with one hand. With your free hand, use the pads of your fingers to gently massage the scalp to loosen dirt and oil. Then work the conditioner through the twist to the ends. Leave the conditioner in and move on the to the next twist. Repeat. If any twists came undone, re-twist before rinsing.

**Note: We co-wash (using conditioner only) but you can use this method with shampoo and conditioner. However, kids don’t actually need shampoo before age 5 unless their hair has LOTS of product build-up or you use styling products that contain silicone or dimethicone. The exception is “cone” products that start with the letters “PPG”. Those do NOT have to be washed out with shampoo.

5. Rinse (while twisted). Make sure the water flows from the base of the twist (at the scalp) to the ends to prevent tangling. In other words, don’t have her flip her head upside down. Wash her hair in the tub and rinse while she sits up or lay her down flat, face-up on the kitchen counter.

6. Gently squeeze & pat dry. Using a towel or a tee shirt, gently squeeze excess water from each twist. DON’T rub the towel over her hair. Undo the twists when you’re ready to style. The picture at the bottom left of the gray image shows how it will look when you take the twists down. It will be soft, still detangled and the coils will be defined.

7. Add coconut oil & leave-in conditioner to moisturize and seal. We actually use the exact same conditioner as a leave-in (Tresemme Naturals). Since it doesn’t have silicone, you can use a little bit as a leave-in conditioner (isn’t that awesome?!?!). Plus it’s less than $4 for 25 oz and has great “slip” that makes combing a breeze. We use the L.O.C. (liquid, oil, cream) method of product layering which is why we put the oil on first, then the conditioner. AFTER you apply both, then you can use your fingers to detangle and/or a shower comb (although you may not need the comb at all).

8. Style (we stretch first)! In my next post, I’ll explain several ways we stretch her hair and let it air dry before styling. The stretching methods we use can double as styling methods until they dry (yeah, they look cute enough to wear out when you’re 4 years old). LOL!

That’s it! Happy hair time. :-)

You Might Also Like:

Article: “Don’t Relax Her Hair Because You’re Frustrated”



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