I used to be really ignorant about black hair - I thought it was all the same. Boy was I wrong. Black hair, just like white hair comes in a variety of types, textures and curl patterns. All african hair is not equal, and even all regional hair - for example Ethiopian hair - is not equal. After I understood this, I set out to determine how to classify Jamesy's hair. This helped give me a launching point for what products would work best for him, as many black hair products use the hair classification system. The standard is the Andre Walker hair typing system. For example, when a product advertises that it is good for "4b" type hair - this is the classification system it is referring to. You can check out a detailed description of the hair types here. Jamesy's hair is actually considered a subtype. He primarily has 3c hair (although along the nape of his neck, he has 3a hair and the back middle of his head has 4b hair - this too is typical of black hair).
Type 3c hair has tight curls in corkscrews
• Circumference: Pencil or straw
• The curls can be either kinky, or very tightly curled, with lots and lots of strands densely packed together
• Getting this type of hair to blow dry straight is more challenging than for 3a or 3b, but it usually can be done
• The very tight curls are usually fine in texture
• 3c celebrities: Heather Headley, Alicia Keyes, Jada Pinkett-Smith
[Copied from here.]
Jada Pinkett-Smith has type 3c hair. [source]
I will share our hair routine for Jamesy, but I mentioned the above because what works for my son may not work for your child. It all depends on the hair type, texture, curl pattern, and how the hair responds to product overall. This has been a lot of trial and error for us, but perhaps this will give a starting point for those Mamas with new chocolate babies.
Jamesy's Hair Care Routine:
- Cowash - We continue to cowash Jamesy's hair. While his hair is not the most fragile type, it is fragile and does breaks and tangle easily. We have found cowashing to help with this. Once a week Jamesy gets cowashed. This means that his hair is washed with conditioner rather than shampoo. Jamesy only gets a shampoo about once a month to once every month and a half (when he is shampooed I use Suave Naturals Tropical Coconut Shampoo). This has worked well for his hair. His hair just soaks in moisture, and we have not noticed any build-up. His scalp is nice and healthy as well. I cowash a little differently than some people. I first wash with Suave Naturals Tropical Coconut Conditioner. I use about two very large handfuls (this is why I use a cheap conditioner!) and massage it into his curls and scalp. I then use a wide tooth comb or my fingers and comb through his curls. This is the only time I ever comb his hair anymore. After his hair is combed through I rinse his curls thorougly, and then I massage in Yes to Cucumbers (this conditioner is formulated for color treated hair, but because of this I find it very gentle. It makes Jamesy's hair so silky, and it smells wonderful.)- enough to fit in the palm of my hand. I then let Jamesy play around in the tub for about 5 minutes while the conditioner hangs out in his curls. I only rinse this conditioner about half way out of Jamesy's hair, letting some remain in.
- Wash and Go - This is easy and our go-to hair style for Jamesy. After bath, I gently pat his head with a towel - I do not rub his hair with the towel. Then I massage Nutiva Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil (the smell is amazing, and I actually massage this in head to toe on Jamesy) liberally onto his scalp and hair. After the coconut oil I seal the moisture in Jamesy's curls with Karen's Body Beautiful Heavenly Jojoba Oil (probably about 2-3 Tablespoons -his hair sucks up oils). Then I lather in TIGI Bed Head Foxy Curls Contour Cream and finger his curls into place. This product is actually mine (and unfortunately it is not natural, although I am pleased that the first ingredient is water). It was a happy accident that I tried it on Jamesy a little bit ago. I fell in love with how it worked on his curls, even though it is not made for black hair care per say. And that is it! I just let his curls rest and try not to touch them until they are dry. At nap time and bed time he wears a sleep cap (which is actually a cheap lycra swim cap that works beautifully to protect his curls). We also use one when Jamesy is wearing a winter hat or hood or riding in his carseat for a long time.
- To Refresh - When Jamesy awakes or if his curls just need some revitalizing, I spray them liberally with Suave for Kids Detangling Spray in Double Dutch Apple, and I play around with his curls with my fingers. I then use the Jojoba Oil again - about 2 tsp to slip through his curls. If his hair is especially crazy I will add a bit more of the TIGI Bed Head Foxy Curls Contour Cream.
This was after a wash and go the night before. It had been refreshed in the morning. (He was not thrilled with a picture at the moment.)
The second style I use on Jamesy is twisted curls. This is our favorite, and it took me a long time to get it right. However, I still have not been succesful in getting it to last more than a few days. Supposedly it should be able to last for three weeks. I would love that! One problem is that peple tend to rub his curls when they are twisted and this frizzes them, but beyond that they just don't last for him. (Help!!)
- Twisted Curls -I do the same as above with the cowash, Coconut Oil, and Jojoba Oil. I then take a heaping palm full of Cantu Shea Butter Leave-In Conditioning Repair Cream making sure to saturate every single curl. Most people then start at the nape of the neck, but Jamesy has a sensitive scalp. He gets really fidgety if I begin there, and he does better if I start at the top front. I then get a glob of My Honey Child Twist Out Creme on my fingers and section out a small strand to run it through - the strand will be white with the cream, but it dries clear. I then twist the hair in one direction twisting it down as tight to his scalp as I can and he will allow. I then repeat with his whole head of hair. This usually takes about one hour. I then let the twists dry and do not touch them. This is very important so that they dry without frizzing. Jamesy sleeps with his sleep cap on for this style. When he wakes up the twists are flattened, and I fluff them with my fingers and a bit of Jojoba Oil (we love this stuff!), and often I will have to retwist at the nape of his neck because of the looseness of the curls back there.
Jamesy's hair right after being twisted while still wet. (You can tell here how similar his twists look to Jada's above.)
This is after about three days wearing his twists.
I suppose there is actually one more style that I use on him, and that is the twist out. But it is hardly a style. After he has worn his twists as long as possible, I finger through them. This gives him a nice big fro!
And that is it! We have tried so many products, and I am sure we will continue to find new products we love. But for now this is what works best for Jamesy. If you can afford it, I would reccomend Oyin Handmade Frank Juice as a refresher rather than the Suave detangler. It just got too pricey for us with the amount I was using, but the smell is soooo good. It smells like Ethiopia! I know this is a hair post, but as far as skin (because chocolate skin also has special needs), I use coconut oil and I continue to love The Fabulous Body Butter by Sister's Smith in Brown Sugar scent. His skin is so soft, and he always smells edible! He gets lathered day and night with both to prevent his skin from becoming ashy.
I apologize for being very sparse with my writing here lately - especially for Momentous Monday and Wedded Wednesday. Our lives have kind of exploded in busyness (this post took me a week and a half to write), and I am just trying to keep my head above water. I will keep writing as I can fit it in, but it may not follow any set schedule for now. Please give me grace. I appreciate you all!
**Edited to add: Jamesy has not had a hair cut (except for a teeny trim by me at the nape of his neck where he has the looser curls) in a year, since bringing him home. We plan to grow it a bit bigger, and then we will search for a barber who cuts black hair to shape it up. There is none in the town where we live. They have all said they could buzz it, but that is it. EEK!!