We all know that most children loathe getting their hair washed because they're afraid of getting their eyes stung. Even more, push away from combs and brushes during detangling because well...it hurts. But getting your kiddo to sit still should not be the only concern when caring for and styling their hair.
Sure, your child’s hair doesn’t undergo the regular blow-dry and heated styling (not to mention color processing) that your hair does. But it’s still important to set up a solid hair care routine for your kids to ensure their locks stay looking and feeling healthy. Not to mention, ensuring only the safest, cleanest hair products are touching your child's skin. Here’s our take on choosing the right products as well as a low maintenance, fast and easy hair care system for your little ones.
Children and Hair Care Products
Children's products are often strategically marketed as safe, but, as with adult personal care products, there are no regulations, required safety testing, or oversight for ingredients used in children's personal care products under current US laws.
According to Dr. Aly Cohen and Dr. Frederick S. vom Saal, in Non-Toxic Guide to Living Healthy in a Chemical World, "Toddlers are uniquely vulnerable to chemicals in their environment....Pound for pound they have greater exposure than adults because they are still developing which effects total absorption of those chemicals. Infants and toddlers have a limited ability to break chemical pollutants down as they have immature "detoxification" systems with reduced liver enzyme activity. This decreases their ability to breakdown chemicals. (Page 177)
According to Dr. Cohen, "pregnant moms and children should avoid any chemicals on skin or hair that are unnecessary." Also see, 5 Hair Care Ingredients to Avoid During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding. Check product labels to ensure you are choosing safer options.
How to choose safe hair care products
Choosing safer hair care products requires some knowledge of what ingredients to avoid, which can be acquired through websites like North Authentic's Hair Crimes List or Environmental Working Groups website, www.EWG.or/SkinDeep or EWG's Healthy Living app. EWG offers safety ratings for almost 90,000 products, along with available ingredient data and related health risks. This information will better equip you to read product labels.
Dr. Cohen warns, "if you choose to search the web for information rather than rely on the EWG database, which is independent of industry influence, be aware that the cosmetics industry spends millions of dollars on advertising to promote as completely safe what are actually dangerous products." Non-Toxic Guide to Living Healthy in a Chemical World, Page 184.
Avoid products with the following ingredients:
- Parabens (ethyl, propyl, butyl, and methyl)
- Lead acetate
- Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)
- Mercury (thimerosal)
- Diethanolamine (DEA)
- Propylene glycol
- Coal tar
- Phenylenediamine (PPD)
- Synthetic color pigments
- Fragrance or Perfume
- Dermal penetration enhancers, which break down the protective barrier of the epidermis like Isopropyl Myristate, Propylene glycol, and various alcohols
- Formaldehyde releasing ingredients (Eek!) like Quaternium 15, DMDM hydantoin, Imidazolidinyl urea, Diazolidinyl urea, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol, and Pegylated ingredients (denoted by PEG)
Tips on How to Care For Your Child’s Hair
Children’s hair tends to be finer and more delicate than adult hair. Which means it requires a softer touch. While it’s always a good idea to be gentle on your strands, it takes a different approach when caring for kids’ hair.
Shampooing Your Child’s Hair
Because the scalp doesn’t see an increase in oil production until puberty, as stated in a study published in the Journal of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists, your child’s hair doesn’t get oily, so requires less frequent washings. Another thing to keep in mind when it comes to kids' shampoo frequency is the length of your child's hair. It’s much easier to wash shorter hair than it is a head full of long, fine locks.
For babies, a once or twice weekly hair and scalp wash is typically enough. Toddler hair might require a bit more frequent washing due to their ability to get their hair dirty. As children get older, you will most likely want to up the frequency of shampoos as needed.
When it comes to kids' shampoo, mild is the name of the game. Did you know that those popular conventional no tear baby shampoos contain pretty much the same ingredients as adult shampoos? The difference is the addition of a chemical numbing agent that makes it so the shampoo doesn’t irritate little eyes. A study published in The Western Journal of Emergency Medicine reported that these types of shampoos are effective in relieving the pain caused by tear gas and pepper spray. Not exactly the qualifications necessary for baby shampoo.
A better plan is to use a shampoo that is made with gentle natural ingredients and employ a washing technique that keeps suds out of eyes. One good way to control suds and make sure your little one’s scalp and hair are greeted with the mildest ingredients is to use a bar shampoo. Plus, they are super easy to use with little hands and way less messy than liquid, so toddlers and preschoolers love them! Stock up on Jack59 Naked Shampoo Bar and make bath time go that much smoother. A great kids' shampoo for curly hair is Jack59 Citrus Shine Shampoo Bar.
As for that technique we mentioned above. Placing a washcloth on your wee one’s forehead and tipping their head back slightly before quickly rinsing with a cup of water is the traditional way to go. You can also purchase a bath time visor so water won’t run into eyes. Teach your older child to wash their own hair by showing them how to create a bit of lather, then instructing them on massaging their scalp to ensure a thorough cleanse before rinsing.
Some of our other favorite shampoos for kids include:
Conditioning Your Child’s Hair
If your child’s hair is very fine or short, you may not need to condition it until they are a little older. For curly hair and long hair, you’ll definitely want to use a conditioner.
Adult conditioning formulas tend to be too heavy for children’s hair.Jack59 Naked Conditioner Bar is made with a blend of cocoa butter and jojoba oil to add light moisture to tiny strands without being heavy or harsh. Simply rub the bar between hands and smooth through hair before rinsing thoroughly. You can even swipe the bar itself over hair if you are short on hands.
Some of our other favorite conditioners for kids include:
Detangling Your Child’s Hair
When it comes to thick, long, or curly hair, you may need a bit more assistance in the detangling department. No one likes to sit through a lengthy detangling sesh and kids have even less patience when it comes to this process. Make the comb out as painless (both physically and emotionally) as possible with a gentle detangling brush, like Tangle Teezer Fine & Fragile Detangling Brush, and a kids leave in conditioner that acts as a kids detangler spray.
Innersense Sweet Spirit Leave In Conditioner is lightweight (just right for the finer locks of little kids) and is the perfect assist when combing through wet hair. Plus, the delicate lavender scent might help to soothe the senses so your kiddo stays put until you work through their tangles. Even better, it has none of the silicones or synthetic fragrance ingredients of mainstream detangling sprays.
Some of our other favorite leave in conditioner for kids include:
Kids With Curly Hair
OK, curly hair kids have a unique set of requirements just like adults. Brushing through coily locks is a no-no, even at a young age. Start the detangling process in the shower by combing through the curls whilst conditioning with a Tangle Teezer Detangling Brush for Thick or Curly Hair. Next, add a leave-in conditioner specifically formulated for for curly hair, like Evolvh Smart Curl Leave-In Conditioner Spray for fine to medium hair types or Oway No Rinse Moist Conditioner for thicker hair. Finally, use a product that defines his or her curls without making your wee one’s curls looking crispy or overdone. A dab of Oway Curly Potion defines curls but leaves them feeling soft and natural, for a bouncy, frizz-free look. An essential addition to your curly kids hair products line up.
Some other favorite curly hair products for kids:
Most importantly, once your kiddo reaches toddler status, you may notice that their hair is changing and becoming more distinct. This means universal "kids shampoo" or "kids detangling products" are rarely the right products for their hair. Choose products that are safe, but that also address your child's hair type, goals, and concerns. You're setting them up to win when it comes to life-long hair care.
Non-Toxic Guide to Living Healthy in a Chemical World, by Aly Cohen, MD and Frederick S. vom Saal, PhD.