If you haven't read parts one and two, please do so here: Black Culture + Hair Care Are Absolutely Necessary [part one] and Your Black Child's Barber Should Be Black [part two].
This is the third part to a three part series on skin and hair care + maintaining black culture for your children of color. This series is intended for white parents raising black kids.
Since I'm white and am not someone who should be sharing on these topics, I've invited Helen to share with us. I'm so grateful for her.
NB: Let’s talk about fuzzy/frizzy hair. At what age does this begin to be inappropriate for kids of color to have frizzy/unkempt hair when out and about?
Helen: If you are a white mom raising a black child, unfortunately society judges your handling of your child’s hair more harshly than black moms are judged.
If you want to say "I don’t really care how I am judged," consider the stern and mean looks you may get and some unsolicited comments from black moms who may well-intentionally think you don’t know it is frizzled.
These looks and comments may not affect you but they affect your child.
Try as much as possible to contain the frizz in your child’s hair. There are several products available to do so and if you're struggling, visit a black beauty salon and build a relationship with someone there to help with that.
If you are a constantly out-and-about person, you may consider protective hairstyles like cornrows.
Try not to leave your house with your black child’s head “looking like a hot mess.” That’s how others may describe your child's fuzzy hair that you find cute.
The only exception: if you are vacationing in the beach and your child will be playing with sand.
What are your thoughts about racial mirrors for our children?
I think is is critical for your black child to have a mentor who is black.
If you live in a predominantly white area with not a lot of diversity, your black child will feel alone, isolated, and confused though he may appear completely well adjusted before your eyes.
Remember that the white society you live DOES NOT see your black child with the same lens that you see him.
Other kids will bombard him with questions on why he looks different and may cast him as a representative of all black people.
Though you as a parent may be prepared to address questions regarding race and culture, it is just not the same if you and your child are from a different race.
I remember one question a 4 year old white girl posed to my husband: “Why is your skin like that?” Granted my husband can handle to explain the answer, but your young black son may find these questions disturbing if he doesn't have a mirror as a basis for his looks.
Having someone the same race as your child around your black child gives him/her some level of comfort in regards to race and identity. It validates how he looks and consequently helps him feel he is not alone. This person would also help your child connect in a cultural level.
To anyone who hasn’t adopted yet but is simply “open” to the idea of adopting outside of their race, are there any words of advice or tips or resources you would say/recommend to them?
First and foremost consider if they are willing to challenge any [even subconscious] racist views white people hold. If you are uncomfortable with this, how will you confront racist comments directed at your child? [They will happen].
Second, educate yourself on the effort it requires to care for the skin and hair of black children in cultural appropriateness, not the way it is considered appropriate in your white culture.
Third, if you live in a community that is not diverse, are you willing to move to a more diverse community? If your black child grows up in predominantly white area, issues of race and identity may present some mental health issues for your child later down the road.
I think it is wonderful you are considering adopting a black child but you also need to be ready to take on your school board if racist comments are directed at your child in the school system and is not addressed. [Again, this will happen whether it is malicious or a "well-meaning joke."]
Final Questions For Helen
Question: What if hair was not taken care of and is completely damaged. How can we bring it back to life and start protecting it?
Helen: If hair is damaged, try to determine what caused the damage. This is because some harsh products can damage hair. It could also be a scalp issue and in that case, you may want to consider having a haircut to start afresh so you may be able to access all all areas of the scalp for nourishment.
Consider switching to sulfate free hair products. You may also want to add either jojoba oil or extra virgin olive oil to the shampoo and/or conditioner you choose to use. As you begin hair restoration, do not forget that nutrition is important consideration that play a part here as well. Hydration and balanced diet is important for healthy scalp and hair.
Question: When is it appropriate to begin putting beads in our daughter’s hair?
Helen: This depends on the length of your daughter’s hair but also try to err on the side of caution when using anything your daughter can potentially ingest or accidentally go through the nose. Some moms start at toddler age but I would say to start simple and you can introduce bows, simple removable clips before introducing beads. You want to start from simple techniques, so you can be sure your child is ready for beads.
When she does tolerate beads, I would say you start with the large beads since they are often easier to remove than smaller ones. Also note that not beads do not work for everyone. They do not work for our daughter but other styles do work for her.
Question: What are your thoughts about dreading children's hair? Unintentional and intentional. At what age does it become a decision for the child?
Helen: I think it is great if the parents are up to the task of taking care of dreaded hair in a healthy way.
Children like to play, roll, and get dirty; if my child’s hair was dreaded, I would constantly worry about hair care due to intense work that goes into taking care of dreaded hair. It is also easy for stuff to get embedded in dreads.
I have seen some kids with dreads and they look great but I know I just won’t have enough time to constantly give it the care it needs.
As far as this being a child’s decision, I think this is an important consideration but I would say the child needs to understand the work that goes in it and help in its care. There is also more education that needs to go into this due to potential profiling and stereotypes of dreadlocks.
Question: What does a deep moisturizing treatment look like for thick, kinky, curly hair?
Helen: Deep moisturizing treatment revitalizes hair by giving it more moisture, strengthening the ends and reduce the frizz. For thick, kinky, and curly hair, deep moisturizing treatment is so important to maintain the vitality of the hair. Your hair will take longer to completely condition and you will see more fuller body of hair at the end. You may want to try the L.O.C method- (Liquid, Oil, Cream). This will help to lock in moisture. You can tell when kinky curly hair is out of moisture by how frizzy it looks.
Question: What does a moisturizing routine, week by week, look like for thick kinky curly hair?
Helen: If your child has thick kinky curly hair, pay attention to the scalp and moisturize it every 3 days with either coconut oil or avocado oil or whatever healthy oil that works with your child’s hair. Try to do puffs if doable to let the oil completely soak in. Avoid over-combing and when you brush, start gently at the ends of strands and work your way slowly to the roots.
Reminder to use a wide tooth comb and at times using fingers to help part the hair may be a good idea if the hair has very tight curls. Wash hair once every two weeks and I would say it is best if you are deep conditioning +treatment cover the hair when your sweet daughter is soaked in bubble bath. That way the heat from the water can penetrate and help soak in moisture. Try a simple protective style post wash such as simple puffs so the moisture can stay in longer. (Ofcourse after the scalp is completely moisturized).
This concludes our three part series with Helen regarding skin and hair care. Have more questions? Need something specified or further explained? Drop a comment and we'll get back to you.
To us, this is extremely important. Especially for white parents raising kids of color: we don't just adopt children, we adopt their culture, race, and heritage. Let's take care of them for the sake of our children and their identity.
For adoptive or foster parents, I recommend the Facebook group: Not just hair: the intersection of hair/skincare and transracial adoption. There is a WEALTH of information there.