One of the most enjoyable books I’ve read in a long time, Kechi’s Hair Goes Every Which Way is the perfect book to introduce your child to loving their curly, thick, and wonderful hair.
But even better, I got to meet the author, Tola Okugwu who shared her story and what inspired her to start writing about afro hair.
Known even more for her blog about natural hair, when Tola had her first daughter, she noticed (like many of us) the lack of books to inspire her daughter to love her curls.
A book lover and journalist by nature, Tola decided she would write about it. But she didn’t just want to write any book. Every morning she went to work and her partner/ husband was the one doing her daughter’s hair. In her household this was normal. But where were the books that showed the beautiful relationship Dads and daughters can have doing hair??
Soon after, Tola wrote her first book Daddy Do My Hair and after trying unsuccessfully to find a publisher, she soon started her own publishing house and self published Daddy Do My Hair, along with Hope’s Braids and now, Kechi’s Hair Goes Every Which Way.
I have to say though her latest is my favourite. It’s a fun book that still explores the relationship between Daddy and daughter poking fun at the way afro hair can’t be ‘contained. Curly hair’s ability to go “this way, that way and every which way” is a celebratory repetitive rhyme throughout that makes every child want to turn the page eager to see what happens next.
You can see from the videos below, Tola Okugwu is inspired by her daughters and truly believes in what she is doing. Her chat with the children in the audience encouraged them all to examine their own hair and see which way their hair curls, and if it does, does it go every which way?
Illustrated with lovely pictures throughout, Kechi’s Hair is one to look out for. And I’ve even got a few signed copies to give away to a few lucky readers! I will give details this week about how you can enter to get your free copies!
Like all Mums to biracial girls, I want my girls to love curls. Not just to accept it but to love it, own it, be confident about it. That starts with me, their Mum the first person who will touch and style their hair and show them how to care for it.
But how do I, their Mum, actually teach girls to love their curls when I have straight hair??
I started with language. Words such as ‘difficult’ and ‘time-consuming’, ‘thick’ and ‘course‘ no matter how innocent, all have an impact on how our daughters perceive their hair- and their own self. Because hair is representative of who they are as biracial or black women.
I wanted to know, from someone who’s been there, what it really means to teach girls to love curls.
So I spoke with Shannon Fitzsimmons best known as Instagrammer and Natural Hair Enthusiast UKCurlyGirl, recently about her experience.
Shannon works with women from all walks of life who are making life-changing, sometimes complete philosophical changes from relaxed hair to embracing the wild curls that they were born with.
In many cases, these women have grown up ashamed of their curls, taught that straight hair is better- easier even. Wearing their hair natural was never a possibility.
Shannon’s work has attracted a huge following with almost 20k Instagram followers and a further 4k+ on Facebook.
Already with a book ‘Get My Curls Back!’ under her belt and a line of curly hair products, Osocurly, she’s a well-established name in the industry.
She makes a healthy living out of teaching girls to love curls. So with all this experience, I wanted to know what drew Shannon to this work and what we can do as Mums to biracial girls from a young age.
Shannon’s story began as a child growing up mixed to a Nigerian Dad and a Scottish Mum in London. Her school was mostly white and her Dad was largely absent from her upbringing.
She remembers the questions, ‘what are you?’ from her friends highlighting her difference, and she struggled to like her thick coarse hair. She wanted straight hair, like the other girls in her class. And athough her Mum was always positive about her curls, she knew her hair brought with it extra ‘complications’.
In High School, she experimented with colour and wanted desperately to relax her hair, wanting her curls to reflect the Beyonces and Christina Milians with more wavy curl patterns.
Whilst her Mum discouraged her, eventually Shannon did relax her hair, using the excuse that she was going off to Uni and it would be ‘difficult’ to find the right hair products outside of London.
Again, the word ‘difficult’ featured in her journey.
In 2014, her hair had become so damaged it hardly had any curl pattern at all. Upkeep was expensive and her hair was thinning.
She started the transition back to her curly all-natural hair. Though she’d never really bothered to learn how to take care of curly hair, she decided to cut off all the damaged bits and start again.
The change was significant. She felt more confidant, therefore and she noticed how her journey seemed to inspire many of her friends who saw not only the change in her hair but also in her. She was finally teaching herself self-love.
Quite early on, Shannon started posting about her progress. And whilst it started off as a hobby, it soon turned into a career. Shannon realised that her own experience was leading her to teach other women to love their curls. So her book, “Get My Curls Back” was a chance to show the world how we could do it too.
Her experience has propelled her to build a community of women who love their curly hair. Working with women who are often at the end of their hair journey in terms of already being grown up and through the most difficult stage of teenagedom, I wanted to know what advice Shannon could give us Mums of mixed kids to teach our daughters to love their curly hair from a young age.
For Mums raising mixed girls, she had this to say about how to teach girls to love curls:
Use all natural products in your children’s hair (no chemicals, no sulphites, no parabens).
Look at the back of each product for an ingredient list and if the first 3-5 ingredients don’t contain water, it’s probably not moisturising enough.
Show your daughters bloggers or you tube videos with similar hair types. Girls like them who are confidant and happy with their hair. Girls who have a hair routine and they have healthy curly moisturised hair because of it.
Make the experience of braiding and twisting a positive experience- a special occasion that they can look forward to every week.
Get dolls that feature their hair type. Curly, afro dolls are widely available now. Even curly styling heads so they can practice doing their own hair.
Mums, you should practice was well. Get onto youtube and watch videos on how to plait and cornrow. There’s really no excuse anymore.
By about 11 years old- sometimes later depending on the child- your child may be ready to start doing their own hair. Let them experiment and watch video tutorials then let them go for it! It’s empowering and important in their own hair and identity journey.
Never let your daughters think their hair is ‘difficult’, thick or ‘complicated’. That means showing them women who are happy and confidant and who go through the same styling process as them.
I don’t want my daughters to get to adulthood and decide it’s easier to straighten it. I don’t want them to think their hair is ‘difficult’ or ‘wild’ or ’embarassing’. Because it’s so easy to get caught up in that talk when it comes to embarking on what can often feel like a huge learning curve.
Coming from a woman who’s lived it and who teaches fully grown women to repair the damage a lifetime of shame and fear has ingrown, this is stuff we can listen to.
Shannon offers curly haired women 1 to 1’s- a consultation with Shannon offering personalised hair advice and product recommendations. She also offers regular brunches throughout the UK for her followers to discuss hair, transitioning tips, hair struggles and routines.
If you’d like to get in touch with Shannon or want to know more about how to teach girls to love curls, follow her on Instagram @ukcurlygirl or visit her website at Ukcurlygirl.com
So, I feel your pain. Not the pain at having curly hair. Truly, I love their curls. I love how it looks, how it feels and most of all that it’s a part of their biracial identity- where they come from.
I love that each one is unique in how her hair falls- a lesson I am constantly reinforcing. Curls are amazing.
But what I didn’t love when I first stared at my daughter’s curls was how little I knew about how to care for it.
I have straight hair and before having biracial kids, I’d never heard of co-washing. I could never imagine sleeping on satin pillowcases, and putting ‘oil’ in my already oily hair was the last thing from my mind.
So I’ve had to do my homework and then some.
Is there a one-size fits all solution?
If you love your mixed kids, you’ll only want the best and time is nothing when it comes to doing it right. We’ve now gotten it down to a 20 minute routine (for all 3), depending on how cooperative my girls are and the hairstyle they choose. (I definitely hated braids in the beginning but am now getting better and faster at it).
Having said that, there is no ‘bible’ to styling biracial hair. Hair is different but add to that: curls that fall, coil, and frizz in different patterns and directions. That said, there are helpful tips that will get you on the journey faster than if you had to research it all yourself.
From identifying their hair texture, using the right tools on their hair, wash routines and moisturising. Getting these right can play a big part in how healthy your biracial child’s hair will look.
So, here it is. The ultimate guide to get you styling and caring for your child’s biracial hair. Complete with helpful curly tips, the best biracial hair websites, mixed race hair tutorials from the experts and helpful information to identify the best curly biracial hair products for your curly kids hair care routine.
Figure out their biracial hair texture.
I figured out early on there is a whole school of thought about curly girl hair type which, once identified, can open up all sorts of doors in terms of product recommendations and what would likely work on your biracial hair.
Porosity, thickness, coil type and more play into this. And once you can identify these, you will go onto getting some products recommended for you based on their curl type. So, to identify your biracial kids curl type, check out these sites:
One of the first things I learned about curly hair is that it gets dry. Dry and then frizzy. Curly hair needs moisture. And lots of it if you want to achieve the shiny, defined curls that most will crave.
3. Follow a 3 step routine
That means following a 3 step daily routine where you detangle soaking wet hair (don’t apply moisturiser to dry or just damp hair) and allow to air dry.
First, spray the hair with water and possibly a detangling spray with moisturiser and comb it out (with a wide tooth comb- the wider the space between the teeth, the better). Never, ever try combing or detangling dry hair. It will result in hair breakage and stress on the hair follicles.
Next, apply a daily conditioner, gel, custard or curl activating creme (see product recommendations here). ***Be generous with the amount of product that you apply. Do not follow the quarter size amount that often works with straight hair. Apply generously, coating the hair, section by section. (Click here for a step by step process here by a curly expert hair stylist). Work in sections, gently combing out the knots from the bottom up, holding the hair near the scalp to minimise pain. Work through the hair, tying up each section and moving onto the next.
4. Applying Oil
Finally, apply an oil. The amount of oil will depend on the hair. If the hair is fine and looser curls, a lighter oil may be better to just control the frizziness. If the hair is thicker and tighter curls (see my DD2 above), she may need more oil to achieve the shine and really hydrate the curls so they are defined and healthy. I personally love argan oil, shea butter oil and macademia nut oil. I wouldn’t recommend coconut oil but that’s just because it didn’t work for my girls hair. Others swear by it. I have tried a lot and it may be a trial and error process for you and your little ones. There are many out there which are incredibly expensive. You don’t have to go that route but do look for one that has pure ingredients.
3. Washing biracial hair
First and foremost, do NOT wash everyday. Washing the hair strips curly hair of its natural oils and it will end up looking dry, dull, frizzy and unhealthy. This is the most common mistake most Mums and Dads do with their mixed kids’ curly hair.
Start with washing once a week and increase or decrease as neccessary. Ie. in winter, you may wish to wash less frequently, in summer, more frequently because of sweating etc.
Use a cotton towel to blot dry, never rub the hair. It will result in tangles and frizz. Then allow it to air dry if possible. Using a lot of heat on the hair, such as a hair dryer can also cause heat damage and dries out the hair. You will need to apply a heat protectant product to provide extra moisture if you need to blowdry the hair.
4. Conditioning the hair
Apply conditioner generously. This is so, so important. Some curly experts even recommend skipping shampoo completely and washing with conditioner (a process called co-washing). I personally use shampoo because I believe there are enough products out there nowadays that are gentle on the hair. Saying that though, applying a deep hydrating leave-in conditioner then becomes that much more important.
Once a month, apply a deep conditioner and leave it in the hair for at least 30 minutes. You can even put on a shower cap to encourage more conditioning for the hair. You’ll notice a big difference if you can do this consistently.
The best part about this is that there are a lot of resources for you to read more about routines and product recommendations. I’ve listed a few sites below that I would recommend.
5. Get mixed hair care tips!
I’ve gotten so many helpful tips from blogs and articles I’ve read online about biracial hair care. From co-washing to leave-in conditioner, to wetting my daughter’s hair every morning to activate the curls, start with these and you’ll feel like an expert in no time. The best part is that they’re not written for hair experts but cover the basics and give real, non-judgemental advice.
For morning routine tips and knowledge from other parents who can sympathise, visit: Curly Nikki
This Mama of biracial kids features curly girl hairstyles of the week and regular hair tips. Visit: Weather Anchor Mama
7. Styling your child’s biracial hair
There are lots of hair styles out there, even easy ones that you can start out with. I’ve compiled a gallery of easy biracial girls (and boys) photos of easy-to-do biracial hairstyles.
Bound hairstyles like ponytails, braids and twists are great and are a go-to for most curly kids’ Mums. They usually keep for more than a day or two and can protect the hair from tangles saving you time detangling everyday.
Be careful that you don’t pull too tight or do the same style repetitively as it can cause strain on the hair follicles and cause hair loss over time. Check the hair line in front to see if you notice any bumps which is a sign of pulling too hard.
Also, try not to use rubber bands or even hair bands that have metal on them. Use a cloth hair band ideally or a scrunchie if it holds it in place.
8. Get a good sleep routine
Before your kids go to sleep, take out their tight hair bands and styles. Plait the hair but try not to use any hair bands or braid it too tightly. Use a satin pillowcase or a satin nylon sleep cap to keep moisture in their hair. Or to reduce friction if they do have a protective style.
9. Use YouTube for hair tutorials!
If you’re more visual and crave that hands-on lesson, try these Youtube channels. (And of course there’s a load more links on the right side for you to browse:
Although we all wish it was just about the amount of research you do that equals success, it is actually about trying, trying and trying more… And, then, just because it works on one biracial child’s hair, it may be different for your other child.
Because biracial kids curly hair care will depend on the season. The weather, the thickness, length and curl size of each hair type- not just their hair texture. For reviews and recommendations for different curly girl hair products, go to:
Nothing beats a recommendation from a friend or someone you know. Make sure every time you see another child with curly hair and you like what you see, ask the Mum or Dad what their hair regime is. Mums love talking about curly hair as do curly haired girls themselves I’m learning!
Particularly if the child has hair similar to your ds or dd, make sure you ask them what products they use, what kinds of hair styles they do and what hair salon they go to. (It’s not every black hairstylist that can do mixed curly hair and the same goes for upmarket European hair salons- they may be expensive but curly hair has its own rhythm and texture).
12. Finally, and most importantly: Embrace the curls!
“I embrace my kids’ curls through praise and curly hair education. It is important to me that they love their hair. So I constantly tell them how beautiful and amazing it is. I never speak negatively about their curls or allow myself to show any frustration when I’m doing their hair.
I make it a point to teach them about the products I’m using and why I am using them. As well I am letting them help me add their conditioner and styling products in anticipation of them one day managing their curls by themselves.” – See more at: Curly Genes: Meet Two Moms Who Embrace Their Kids’ Curls