I never would have guessed my husband’s hair would teach me something about teaching. Little did I know his hair would teach me about making sure that when we teach hygiene skills, we include ethnic hair care for kids.
My husband has kept his hair buzzed short for a long as I have known him. He’s recently decided to grow it out. His hair is naturally type 2C, which is a course, wavy type of hair. I learned that he had tried to grow it when it was younger, but he wasn’t happy with how it looked. Eventually, I realized that it was because as a child he was using products and a method that weren’t designed for his hair. With my best friend Niki’s help, I did a lot of research and ordered him the products he needed. Until now, I had no idea just how complicated and time consuming caring for ethnic hair was (he’s Puerto Rican). Honestly, I still don’t really know, I’ve only scratched the surface of it.
What does this have to do with teaching? About 82% of special education teachers are white. This over representation leaves a potentially huge knowledge gap in teaching students of color how to properly care for their hair. Diving into how to help my husband love his hair has made me realize that educators need to have a deeper understanding of hair care for all our students. If we are teaching hygiene skills in special education, we must include ethnic hair care for kids who need it.
Note: The English language lacks when describing hair types. I’m using the term ethnic hair care partly in order to help this article be searchable on the internet. People of color grow beautiful wavy, curly, and coily hair, and this article focuses on them intentionally. However, students of all colors possess all kinds of hair.
Why Is Hair Care Different?
It’s important that students of color care properly for their hair to prevent their strands from breaking off. The structural properties of wavy to coily hair make it easier for the stands to break off. This can make it harder to reach a desired hair length, especially if hair is breaking off at the same rate of growth. To combat breakage, wavy to coily hair needs more moisture. Shampoo intended for straight hair strips hair of moisture to keep it from looking greasy. People with wavy, curly, and coily hair have different hair needs than straight hair. Shampooing too often can be damaging to our curly kids, even when using the right products.
Why Hair Matters
Children and adults need to feel good about their hair. Self-esteem matters. Kids want to look their best. If we are teaching hygiene skills in special education, it’s important we differentiate for students based on their specific needs, including hair care for their hair type.
How students are able to independently groom their hair is going to impact their career as adults. Applicants are judged based on hair appearance, even if that isn’t right. Give your students the best shot at opportunities through proper hair care. All the job skills you teach will be meaningless if your students are discriminated against based on their hair’s appearance. Hair is not trivial.
You might know know that there is a scale to use for hair types. If you’re curious about yours, you can take a quiz to find out your type. All types of hair are beautiful! Kids of any ethnicity can have any hair type. Hair care products and methods need to be based on hair type, not skin color.
Shampoo Day vs Cowash Day
Many of your students shouldn’t wash their hair every day. It strips too much moisture away. But that doesn’t mean that hair doesn’t get cleansed. Until a few days ago, I had never heard of cowash. Cowash is like a cleansing conditioner that keeps hair clean but doesn’t strip away moisture. How often to wash with shampoo vs cowash is going to be very individual, based on each person’s unique hair and oils, so I can’t give a uniform recommendation. Some people like to wash once a week and cowash in between.
On shampoo days, it’s important to follow up with a rinse out conditioner. On cowash days, this isn’t necessary.
The LOC Method
This is a method of hair care that protects type 2 through 4 hair. LOC stands for:
- Leave-In Conditioner
Teach students to use the LOC method after they wash with shampoo and after they cowash. Kids can combine the oil and cream in their palm to simplify that step before putting it in their hair. The purpose of this method is to help the hair retain moisture to keep it healthy and strong.
Age Appropriate Visuals
The new, somewhat complicated process for my husband causes a bit of confusion. He’s a neurotypical adult. I made him a visual for it, and then realized it would be perfect to share with special education teachers. It’s absolutely age appropriate for everybody. It includes a clip art option, an option with the exact products we are using, and blank options so you can add your own pictures of specific products. It has visuals for both wash day and cowash day. Get your ethnic hair care for kids visuals for free today.
- Gentle shampoo that doesn’t strip moisture is a must.
- We are trying Alodia Organic Black Soap Hair Wash
- We are trying Jessicurl’s Hair Cleansing Cream
- Leave In Conditioner
- We are trying Briogeo’s Farewell Frizz Roscaro Milk Leave-in Conditioning Spray
- We are trying Jessicurl’s Oil Blend for Softer Hair
- We are trying Briogeo’s Curl Charisma Rice Amino and Avocado Leave-in Defining Cream
- Wide Tooth Comb
Black Owned Hair Care Companies
If you are buying these types of products, I encourage you to buy directly from black owned businesses online instead of buying from Amazon. Jeff Bezos has enough money already. Instead, we can support black, female entrepreneurs!
Dr. Isfahan Chambers-Harris has a Ph.D in Bio-Medical Sciences. She’s a entrepreneur and collaborates with Sisters Network for Breast Cancer Survivors an organization, “committed to reducing the mortality rate of breast cancer among African American women.”
This company was founded by Nancy Twine, who is the youngest African American to launch a product line at Sephora. She started making natural beauty products at the age of 5. Sounds like a fun science activity if you ask me!
OOLI products specifically care for locs. It was founded by Jessica Pritchett in 2018.
Thank God It’s Natural was founded by Chris-Tia Donaldson, and the products can be found in Walmart, Whole Foods, Sally’s Beauty, and more. She earned her AB from Harvard in Economics, and she is also a breast cancer survivor.
Policies at Your School
Does your school have policies that are unfair to students or employees of color? Are styles like braids, twists, and locks allowed or does the dress code ban them? Work with your school and district to allow kids to wear their hair naturally and in protective styles. Fight against statements like saying hair is “distracting.” These conversations need to be held as part of being an anti-racist teacher.
Does your school store hygiene supplies for students in need? Stock your supply cabinet with products for wavy,curly, and coily hair as well as straight hair. Does your supply cabinet have appropriate shampoo, conditioner, cowash, leave in conditioners, oils, and cream? Fund raise for the right products so all your kids get the right products to care for their hair.
I couldn’t have written about ethnic hair care for kids without the help of my best friend, Niki. She knows how because of her own hair and the hair of her two kids who call me Aunt Kat. I love them all to bits, and I’m so grateful for her taking the time to teach me so I can teach others.