Taming tangles

Little girls with beautiful curls, long flowing locks, and cute as a button pig tails… but as most parent's will agree - the picture is not quite so pretty when it comes to combing their little one's hair.

Children's hair is often quite fine and typically prone to tangles. And life as a kid puts hair through its paces. Childhood is all about embracing the elements, as can be seen by the twigs, leaves, paint, and play dough regularly hiding in children's hair. Combine this with children's sensitive scalps, and hair care routines can become a dreaded (excuse the pun) nightmare. But hope is not lost. Before you resign yourself to hats, or even scissors, we've researched advice on minimizing tangles so every day is a good hair day.

Hair washing
Children's hair does not need washing as often as we think. Shampoos have detergents in them which strip hair of natural oils making it more prone to tangles. One suggestion is to water down kids' shampoos, making it milder and easier to apply. Wash hair gently and avoid piling it all up on the head in that lathery way that lends itself to cute photos. Only the scalp really needs the shampoo, so if you leave hair loose and concentrate on washing the scalp, the shampoo will work its own way down the length of the hair, which actually probably wasn't that dirty in the first place.
    Always use a conditioner after shampooing, as this lubricates the hair making it easier to comb later. Comb conditioner through to the ends of the hair with a wide toothed comb, before giving it a good rinse.
    Dry hair gently, squeezing excess moisture out of the hair and patting it dry. Vigorously drying hair with the towel is understandably going to be an unpopular approach.

Brush and comb

A general rule of thumb is use a comb on wet hair, a brush on dry hair. Anecdotal evidence suggests starting at the ends of hair and working your way up, tacking one tangle at a time, is a more user-friendly approach than yanking your way from the top down. For best results, brush hair well before bed, as slept-in snarls are going to be even more resolutely matted together in the morning.


Other hair management tips we've discovered include plaiting long hair into a loose braid before bed to prevent unruly bed-hair first thing in the morning. Of course this only works if your little girl is happy with the wavy results of a plait come morning time.
     Fine hair does tend to get tangled overnight, especially if children move around a lot in their sleep. Another suggestion for sleepy tangles is to use a satin pillowcase for your child, as there is less friction than with a cotton pillowcase.

Need any product?

There are products available promising to smooth and detangle even the tightest knots. Made4Baby have a great product in their Made4Kids range - Spray In Knots Out which is an all-natural leave-in detangler and conditioner, that's made in New Zealand! Johnson's also do a no more tangles range.
    You might not have to purchase anything special however. If you have a spray bottle lying around, try making your own detangling spray by mixing ¼ cup of normal conditioner with ½ cup of water, mixing it thoroughly and then simply spray hair before combing. We find this works well on dry hair as well as towel-dried hair.
     For super stubborn tangles you could try applying a small amount of conditioner to towel-dried hair and leaving it in. Massage conditioner onto the ends of hair first and then gently work up towards the scalp. Avoid applying conditioner directly to the scalp, as this will make hair look greasy.
While your little ones are probably keen on choosing their own hair-style as a means of important self-expression, having long hair tied up will help minimize tangles and reduce hair's exposure to food, glue, paint, toothpaste…the list goes on. Soft covered hair ties without any metal parts are kindest to hair.
     As any hairdresser who tends to the locks of little people will tell you, distraction is your friend. Brush hair while your child is engaged in something other than your detangling processes - a book or TV for example. Even conversation about the day can help you get the knots out without being noticed. Bear in mind that bad hair days are character building, and if all else fails - pixie cuts are pretty darned cute.


Published 04/05/12


Under 5

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