Raising Mixed Race Kids: The Moment They Wake Up to Their Own Identity
We were running late. After 2.5 weeks off, it was back to school last week and back to getting 3 kids out the door- on time.
On day 1, I got overwhelmed, frustrated that I couldn’t find one of DD1’s take-home reading books. Costing a small fortune to replace, I shouted at her that she should take better care of them.
We got out the door but she refused to talk to me. I tried the usual cajoling and apologised for shouting but she refused to smile. Guessing she was overwhelmed by the roller coaster of emotion she was probably feeling over seeing her friends and teacher after so much time off, I left her.
We’d spent a lot of time together over the holiday including having my Mum over from Canada. I stopped though, weary of being late but feeling guilty because I knew I should have kept my cool. Leaning down I looked her in the eye and asked her what was wrong.
Then she said it. “I wish I had a Mama that looked like me”.
This year has been huge in my daughter’s life as she’s become more and more aware of both her own colour and that of people around her. We only talk about race and colour in a positive way, acknowledging the differences but recognising that people are all the same inside.
My heart dropped- sensitive to the hurt I might have caused her but devastated as well that she would think skin colour would mend her broken heart.
Where do you go next when your children realise they’re different?
I tried hard not to be heartbroken but I knew that I was completely unprepared for this this morning. I sighed with despair that she should have to feel this way, that this should be important and the meaning we attach to skin colour.
Slowly, we each took a turn to say what makes us mother and daughter. Not the colour of our skin. The fact that she has my mouth and my eyes and that she’s good at certain things and not so good at others. But most importantly, our love for each other. And how that will never change… Even when I’m shouting.
We arrived on time. And she’d forgotten about it when I raised it again after school. Flippantly, she said, “we already talked about this Mum”.
What made her feel this then… on that particular day, I’ll never know. Perhaps she had been feeling it all this time. The feeling that perhaps we don’t match or she doesn’t fit in… or that someone who looks like her might not shout?! All at the tender age of 5.
I imagine her older, walking beside me and feeling the same thing but perhaps more equipped to be able to dismiss this feeling of matching skin colour as unimportant because well… it just is.
On top of my skin being a whole shade lighter, my hair is dead straight. And with media, magazines and friends sporting this same look, sometimes the curls can just feel too much.
If only she knew, I kept saying to myself… to others. She is the object of so many admirers when we go out. Her hair can attract comments from strangers everywhere and yet she doesn’t want unique hair. She wants straight hair.
My daughter’s journey doesn’t end there. I made it my mission not just to subtly show her curly haired role models but I point them out everywhere we go. Beautiful white, black, brown skinned women with short, long and all types of textured curly hair. Her books, music artists and the shows she watches all sport curls. I talk to her about being unique, about having the confidence to be different, to be proud of how God made her. And to be more than just her curls. To be unique in every way because it’s better to be a leader than a follower.
Today she told me in no uncertain terms she doesn’t want straight hair.
Otherwise she’d be like everyone else. She said she likes her curls and can’t wait to be able to grow them and twist them and try out new hairstyles. She said she likes herself the way she is.
I smiled and knew she is beginning her journey to understanding and loving herself. Curly hair and all.
There is no prouder moment for a mum than when your daughter can look in the mirror and say she loves who she is. My daughter is ultra sensitive and, I’d like to think, mature for her age. So perhaps it was an early internal switch that just happened at the age of 5. And perhaps she was already on this journey without any intervention. But for any girl, all girls, it’s so important for them to know, love and accept who they are.
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
You asked for it and here it is mixed race parents. The 14 best mixed race curly hair salons in London. Let’s face it, if you’re mixed or your children have hair that’s a completely different texture, trying to do it on your own can seem overwhelming. A mixed friend of mine commented once that her Mum (perhaps because she had no clue) used to do her hair as if she was a cotton bud! (If you’re not in London, and need a curly hair specialist elsewhere in the UK, see our updated list of curly hair salons throughout the UK).
Jokes aside though, it’s important to get the right advice from professionals who can advise you on products, textures, hair styles and more. I will feature hair many times on this blog I imagine, but the best advice you’ll get is from a professional looking at your child’s hair and showing you what works.
***Disclaimer: this list is compiled through some dedicated research and existing reviews of the best curly hair salons in London so I cannot vouch for all of these salons but they were often mentioned by people asking for curly hair salons in London.
Unruly Curls– 2 Peoples Hall, 2 Olaf Street, W11 4BE, London
Likely the only curly hair salon in London that isn’t specifically for afro hair, it doesn’t get much more specialised than Unruly Curls. They are all about loose, tight, textured, you name it…curls. Beware though, I didn’t find many reviews about the rest of the staff but the owner, Michael Price seems to know what he’s doing and has received much ado. He also imparts his knowledge on how to maintain upkeep which is always a blessing. I’ve also heard the prices are reasonable.
Curl Talk, Unit 5e, 65 Princelet Street, Spitalfields, E1 5LP
“It is my mission to change our hairdressing experience and empower curlies to live up to their curls true potential. I am the first stylist in London trained and certified by the founder of ‘The curly girl method’ – Lorraine Massey in the curlbycurl™️ cutting technique and also trained and certified in the Devacurl cutting technique in the Devachan salon in New York.
A Curl talk cut is an interpretation of both of these specialised techniques, combined with over 10 years of experience in curls. I also specialise in the best techniques for colouring curls – Pintura highlights. With this technique, your hair is painted Curl by Curl for a personalised, natural colour made to suit your individual curls!”
So I had the pleasure of doing a full review of Curly Hair London and shared her tips and expertise here…“I follow the Curly Girl Method, and will dry cut curly types of hair and after will wash it and style. I always suggest non- sulphate and non silicone products to my customers as curly hair dries out very quickly.
I’ve had countless people come in with flat, listless curly hair or thick, frizzy, unmanageable curls and I take huge pleasure in restoring the natural shape of their curls and helping them understand how to make their curls work best for them. Curly hair is beautiful,and with the right cut and the right sort of care, anyone with a natural wave can have glorious, stess-free hair.” I can vouch that she is probably one of the best when it comes to mixed race curly hair salons in London.
4. Ena Salon, 5 Great Queen Street, Holborn, London, WC2B 5DG
With many reviews from fellow curly girls, this salon boasts moisturising treatments, dry curly cuts and more. Plus, it’s amazing ambience inside!
With a specialism in mixed race curly hair, “Darren Scott is a qualified hair stylist and make-up artist who has worked his magic on some of the biggest celebrities in the world. Following on from this success Darren opened his first salon in Maidavale. Darren Scott believes that a visit to one of these mixed race curly hair salons in London should not just be to get your hair cut, coloured or styled. It should be about the experience. Darren has personally trained all stylists to ensure great standards are always met, and new techniques are shared and delivered. You will be welcomed with a smile by our friendly and helpful staff. Our teas, coffee and hot chocolate are all fair trade, we buy coffee beans and use our burr grinder on the day to make you the freshest coffee available. Our aim is simple, to make you look and feel truly great.”
“Caring for natural curls requires the right product for your type of curl, your hair’s condition and your scalp health. At Afrotherapy, in addition to our professional London afro salon, we also stock and extensive range of afro, multi textured and curly hair products in salon and on our online store at www.afrotherapy.com. During your hairdressing appointment at Afrotherapy Salon, your expert afro and multi textured hair stylist will advise you on different styling methods and prescribe the perfect products for you to take home and maintain the condition of your hair in between salon visits. One of the best mixed race curly hair salons in London, we stock an extensive range of products from leading professional afro haircare brands including Mizani, KeraCare, Moroccanoil, CURLS, Design Essentials, Ferm,FRO, Mixed Chicks and many more.”
Award-winning hairstylist, owner and artistic director of the Hair Lounge salon, founder of the Charlotte Mensah Manketti Oil products.
Charlotte has been at the forefront of the natural haircare movement since the early 2000 and has been a columnist on the subject since 2005. She is recognised as the Go To authority regarding maintaining Natural Afro, Mixed & Curly textures by magazines such as Elle, Vogue, Harpers Bizarre and Tattler to name a few.
Charlotte believes that your hair, needs to be properly maintained and cared for, so it looks and feels its best. Her multi award winning Charlotte Mensah Manketti Oil premium hair care range is designed for afro/mixed and all curly hair types, it is made using organic, ethical and sustainable sourced oils, these products not only deliver amazing results but also smell divine. The luxurious formulas are as kind to the earth as they are to your hair.
8. The Curly Way,mobile hairdressers in London, call to book an appointment: 07517 441 080 or 07450 247 365
This mixed race curly hair salon offers “a free consultation in order to assess your curls needs followed by an individually tailored drycut for your curl type. We respect the natural pattern of your curls and will give you hair that you can go home with, wake up and style yourself time after time with great results and ease.”
“Anastasia Chikezie is the founder of PURELY NATURAL one of the first natural hair salons to open in the UK. The first branch was opened 24 years ago, June 1990 to be exact! Purely Natural Contemporary natural Hair Salon is a multiple award winning salon, who specialists in Afro and Mixed Textured natural Hair. Ever dreamt of having healthy, beautiful looking hair, well you’ve come to the right place. From the moment you arrive at our salon, you’ll feel the stress of your busy lifestyle evaporate. Spoil yourself, relax and liven up in our contemporary natural mixed race curly hair salons. Purely natural have been providing first class services to the people of London and beyond since 1990, Styling some of the world’s celebrities and recreating fashionable styles for our customers, fashion shows and events.”
“Made the decision to stay natural or transitioning? We at 3thirty have made it our mission to reveal that no matter what trend hairstyle is set out there today or tomorrow whether its weaves or relaxed it can be interpreted naturally!The 3thirty hairdressing team have been carefully trained to an expert standard of styling and can confidently work with any hair type, from European, to Afro to Asian. Salon owner Tiff J’s passion is for transforming the way the way people look and feel about themselves and her talent and enthusiasm continue to inspire her team as the salon welcomes new friends into the 3thirty family.”
“In April 2014, we launched our first Natural Hair & Loc Bar on Acre Lane, Brixton. It’s boutique, it’s fresh and we’d love to have you with us soon. The current Adornment365 Salon team is highly qualified. We hold formal haircare qualifications and have nutritionists and trichcologists on team. We consider this level of expertise critical to partnering with you for your long term hair health. As a brand we prioritise hair and scalp health over styling solutions. But you will always leave looking great.”
“Fed up with curly hair that turns to frizz? Had enough of curly hair breaking off? Desperate to have healthy curly hair that behaves itself?
At Karine Jackson Hair & Beauty in Covent Garden, we are specialists in making curly wavy hair look sensational. One of the best mixed race curly hair salons you’ll come across, when it comes to colouring curly hair, Karine Jackson uses the superb Organic Colour Systems which delivers curl-friendly colour.”
At number 11, these mixed race curly hair salons had this to say: “Having been trained at the world renowned DevaCurl Hair Academy in New York and LA – and now, officially, an Advanced DevaCurl Specialist myself – I am passionate about celebrating your unique curls and giving all my clients curl-confidence.”
Although being skilled in working with all hair types, curly hair specialist Raquel Fernandes – founder of Beyond Curls, developed a passion for curly hair. Being a curly girl herself and having suffered bad haircuts, she felt that there were not enough hair stylists in the UK who understood curly hair. Raquel knew she wanted to make a difference and be able to help curly hair girls and guys feel confident about going to a hair salon.
Raquel decided to attend hair school and trained to become a fully qualified hair stylist. She took this further by enrolling at the world renowed DevaCurl Academy in New York, USA and gaining the ‘Deva Inspired Curl Stylist’ qualification. It was at the DevaCurl Academy where Raquel enriched her skill of working with curly hair by adopting the dry curl by curl cutting & pintura highlighting methods. Raquel also underwent the DevaCurl ‘Art of Texture’ speciality course for highly textured & super curly hair. This enabled Raquel with the skills to work with all textures and specialise in mixed race curly hair salons – from the loosest waves to the tightest curl.
For more resources about teaching your children to love their curly hair, read on…
I have three girls. Three types of biracial curly hair. My oldest has long flowing curls that is admired and replicated in some of the most beautiful of mixed girl celebs such as Nathalie Emmanuel (Game of Thrones) or Thandie Newton.
My youngest has wild, looser curls that have already passed her shoulders. Her hair will pass as ethnically ambiguous allowing her to pass as Indian, Latino, Middle Eastern or even Mediterranean.
My middle daughter has amazingly thick, short curly auburn hair. Her curls are tight and when it grows, it grows up and out. And although hers is unique because it is light in colour, her 4-year-old self is already becoming aware that somehow her curls are ‘different’.
I was always aware of the straight hair girl envy but within the confines of the curly hair spectrum I thought it was all the same.
I was wrong. Each morning now my middle daughter insists that I brush her hair straight and braid it, so it touches her shoulders, like DD1 (darling daughter 1). When I oblige, she is frustrated at the outcome which is still afro-like- pulling at her hair in all directions, unable to articulate her feelings of frustration.
Biracial Curly Hair is different…
It’s only recently that she’s become more ‘aware’ of her biracial curly hair, comparing frantically with her sister to have the same hair dos and frustrated that hers don’t turn out the same.
I have to admit, the ‘politics’ that has engulfed my home over hair has surprised me. Perhaps I was naive, raising three girls, looks are bound to be important. But it’s taken hold of my 6-year-old and now 4-year-old with a vengeance.
I’m done emphasising how beautiful my DD1’s biracial curly hair is. She understands it now as it’s constantly reiterated by her cousins, her aunties and even women in the street who stop and comment on how beautiful her hair is. She’s grown to love her curls- perhaps because her biracial curly hair is longer, perhaps because of all the outside admiration or maybe just because she’s grown up.
But my middle daughter sees and hears all the comments intended for DD1 with long, loose curls. Just the other day, I met two mums in the playground whom I knew from school. All of my daughters had their hair out that day and both ladies commented. “Oh I never knew DD2’s hair was so … different. Hers is definitely more Afro-like.” That, in itself is not bad but always, I feel these comments are loaded with meaning.
What can you do?
My struggle has been to acknowledge that her hair is thicker, it is more Afro-like and, it’s beautiful. Each day, when we have battles over her biracial curly hair as she pulls at it and screams in despair, I try to surprise my little one with new hairstyles, showing her the uniqueness and variety her 4a curls can offer. Puffballs, braids, cornrows are among some of these and helpfully, she’s usually happy with the outcome.
My partner and I both agree that straightening their hair is always on the table. So if they ask, we say they can- but why? And because it’s never a ‘no’, the realisation that actually, they could have straight hair anytime, is liberating.
Representation Matters… Seeing Reflections of themselves can be Magical
Just the other day, I was amazed after showing my girls a Youtube video of a natural curly hair vlogger sharing some hair tips. I could see the positive impact it had in showing my girls that their hair is beautiful.
It dawned on me the potential impact seeing women and girls like them can have in reinforcing a positive healthy self image. I don’t look like my daughters in many ways. I’ve got straight hair and light olive skin tone. So I realise it can seem empty when someone who has the very hair they’re tempted by is saying they should love their curly biracial hair.
Truthfully, though what has had the most impact is a book called, Penny and the Magic Puffballs by Alonda Williams whose experience wearing her hair up in puffballs gave her magical powers. For DD2, because her sisters can’t wear their hair up in these puffballs, it offers her something unique and special that’s just hers— putting a positive spin on the fact that her biracial curly hair is different.
Books can be magical in so many ways but particularly in reflecting the image or experience of a child when it comes to hair or appearance. The list below is not exhaustive but it’s a start to getting your biracial curly kids on the right track to embracing their curls. From children who just plain don’t want biracial curly hair to others who are embarrassed to leave it natural and still others who wondered why it was so… different.
I now go out of my way to point out women and girls in the street who may be sporting curls like theirs. London is a great city to find such diversity. They look, take it in and can see that those women are comfortable in the skin they’re in.
Penny and the Magic Puffballs by Alonda Williams
I don’t want Curly Hair by Laura Ellen Anderson
Love thy Fro by Casey Elisha
Maggie Sinclair Will You Please Fix Your Hair by Gabrielle Howell and Hilary DIxon
I Love My Hair by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley
Big Hair Don’t Care by Crystal Swain-Bates
Daddy Do My Hair by
Emi’s Curly, Coily Cotton Candy Hair by Tina Olajide
Happy Hair by Mechal Renee Roe
My Hair Curls by Cheryl Richards
These books have been liberating for my biracial curly hair girls. I would encourage you to grab yourself a few to have handy when your kids need reassurance that different is good.