A Beginners Guide to Growing an African American Child’s Hair (by a Mom Who’s Doing It) – Pt. 1: Hair Types



little-girl-natural-hair-journey v2If you ask any popular search engine, caring, maintaining, and growing an African-American baby’s hair is a mystery. You’ll get a menagerie of articles outlining general maintenance, but not very many online outlets directly address the delicate strands that make up a normal African-American child’s head of hair, or what it is you’re supposed to do exactly to keep those delicate strands healthy and prime for growth.

I went for months without really knowing what exactly I was dealing with on top of my little girl’s head. I knew her texture was different from mine. Her hair was softer, and curled into these perfect little spirals when wet – Nothing like my full head of tight, exquisite, “ziggly” coils.

Related Content: Brown Baby Hair Diaries – An African American Baby’s Hair Journey

I trucked along, throwing braids in her hair here and ponytails in her hair there – sometimes even snapping a comb through her delicate tresses.  It wasn’t until she began to show signs of breakage did I begin to do some hard core research on African-American hair and what exactly made it tick. What I learned led me on an amazing journey of hair discovery and personal growth.

Before you can begin to take care of your little brown baby’s hair properly and prime it for growth, there are two things you must understand. One: moisture is the key to EVERYTHING. African American’s hair, in general, WILL NOT grow without it; but we’ll get to that later. The second thing (and this is only my opinion based on experience) is that you must have a basic understanding of your child’s particular hair type. Without this knowledge, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a hair care regimen that will make your baby’s hair grow.

Related Content: 8 Tips, Tricks, and Cheats to Help You Care for Your African American Baby’s Hair

What works on your cotton soft, wavy tresses may not work on your baby’s head of constantly dry, zig-zag-like “curls”. Knowing, or at least having a general idea of, how each hair type reacts to certain products is a must.

Below you’ll find a texture “typing” system that the majority of “curlys” live by. It was designed by the super-fabulous celebrity hair stylist Andre Walker (This is the guy who does OPRAH’s hair.) and adapted by, one of my all time favorite natural hair websites,[I'm excluding the Type 2 curlys in this list; so if you'd like more information on looser hair types, head here.]



 Click here for detailed descriptions of the above hair types (with recommended hair products for each type) along with other African American child hair care resources!

Click here for Part 2 in the “How to Grow” Series!



Author: Kesha of We Got Kidz

Kesha Chisholm Phillips is currently a part time graphic artist and the full time writer and editor of and You'll find her all around the web sharing her parenting journey which includes everything from hilarious family videos to her refreshing takes on what it means to raise children today. Kesha currently resides in Atlanta, GA with her lovely husband and twins AJ and Jax.

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  1. Kesha,

    Can you please clarify what you mean exactly about a dot of olive oil? Is it a dot per boxed braid, or a dot for the entire head? what is a good coconut oil to use?

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    • Hey Yolanda! There’s really no right or wrong answer to the “dot” of olive oil. A “dot” will mean different things to different people depending how much slip/sealing you need. I think I use about 3 or 4 tablespoons total for my little girl’s entire head. (Her hair is butt-length now when stretched, so you may need more or less depending on your daughter’s length.) I just place a small amount in my hand (maybe a quarter-sized amount) and work it through each section. If you’re working with your daughter’s hair in sections, you can do it that way.

      As far as the coconut oil, I haven’t found a go-to brand per se. I use any fully organic cold-pressed kind that I can find at a good deal.That’s the type with no added chemicals that you can use for cooking and skincare as well. I’ve used a few different brands in that respect, and they’re all the same. You can find it at farmer’s markets or Whole Foods type stores. I’ve bought it online at a really good deal. I’ve also found huge tubs at my local Sam’s for a fantastic price.

      I hope that clarifies things! :)

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  2. Thanks a lot for the detail on how to manage my daighter’s hair. I thought I was doing everything correctly but my daighter’s hair is still very dry and coarse. It also stop growing. This is my wash day routine (exactly). Can you please tell me what I’m doing wrong? I take her corn rows out, wash her hair with Tresemme luxurious moisture for dry or damaged hair, then I use Audio Naturale knot out conditioner, (sometimes I blow dry her hair if I’m rushing but I mainly let it air dry) but I put Palmer’s coconut oil hair milk in her hair after rinsing out the conditioner. Once it’s dry I put in Taliah Waajid herbal comb out and coconut oil grease to braid her hair. I put a scarf on her hair but it never stays. To remoisture her hair I put the Palmer’s Coconut oil hair milk daily and may re-grease her scalp every couple of days. So what do you think?

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    • Antoinette, first off, let me say thank you so much for reading! So glad you could get some use out of this. :) On to the nitty gritty. lol

      I think your biggest problem is the products you’re using. If your child is a 4c (dry and coarse as you described) the products that you listed are doing more harm than good on her hair. That Tresemme Luxurious has a lot of denatured and drying alcohols that 4c types (like mine) do not like.

      Here’s a rule of thumb that I live by on my own 4c hair: if you can’t pronounce most of the ingredients, then don’t use it. Let me tell you what’s worked best at keeping my hair moisturized: water. I’m so serious. I’ve got a spray bottle of water that I’ve put a few drops of Kinky Curly Knot Today leave in (this stuff works wonders on my hair.) I spray my hair DAILY and then seal it with a shea butter or olive oil and my hair stays soft and moisturized. I promise you don’t need a lot of chemical laced products to do the job on her hair. The more natural, the better. Our hair is SENSITIVE. lol.

      Secondly, take a look at this article about greasing the scalp: This is a practice that our parents did on us that actually does more harm than good if you’d believe it.

      Finally, if you haven’t already, read Part II in this series: There I give a lot of great tips on moisturizing.

      Hope that helped a bit more. Let me know how things work out! :)

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      • Thanks a lot for the reply. I do have Kinky Curly knot today as well. So since I corn row her hair every two weeks, I can mist some of that over her braids with a little Evoo and be ok? Also, I was thinking about what shampoo I should switch to for her. The conditioner is fine though and the Palmer’s coconut oil milk, right?

        Post a Reply
        • I actually use the Kinky Curly as my leave-in (diluted with water) and as my regular conditioner but if you want to find another conditioner, just be aware of those alcohols (things like TEA-triethanolamine and other ethanolamines). Yes, the Kinky Curly and EVOO are a great combination and the Palmer’s sounds okay as well. Again, you just really have to pay attention to ingredients when you’re dealing with 4c hair. A lot of the things they include can break down hair just like relaxers can. Long term use can lead to drying and breakage.

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          • So if I have an 8oz spray bottle, how much water and leave in conditioner should I put in it. Then when using the EVOO I can pour that in my hands and rub over her braids with my hands. Correct?

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            • No exact measurements. Just do about four pumps/squirts of conditioner and fill the rest with water. And yes, you’re correct as far as the EVOO. :)

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  3. The guide is extremely helpful. My daughter who is now 4 has an interesting texture. Based on the description her newer hair growth is 4b but the ends are 4c. Is it possible that her original hair as a baby would be thicker? I have never trimmed it but it causes a challenge when styleing since the ends are a challenge to moisturize. I wonder if I should take her to a salon for a trim? I hate the idea if cutting her hair…..

    Post a Reply
    • Hey Keishana! Thank you so much for reading. So glad this piece helped you out a bit. :) Yes, it’s very possible for her hair texture to change as she grows – be it from coily to coarse, or coarse to coily. As she grows up, she may very well experience another hair texture change; or she may end up with a nice mix of textures. You kind of just have to go with the flow right now. I’d only say trim if her ends are split or damaged in some way. If they’re not, and you’re trying to achieve length, then it’s not necessary. If her ends ARE damaged, get rid of them ASAP because the splits will only get worse and lead to breakage. I trimmed my daughter’s hair a few months ago, because like your daughter’s, her ends were ratty and seemed to be a different texture. It was a great decision because now her hair seems fuller, more even, and a whole lot healthier as a whole.
      Hope that helped! :)

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  4. My daughter does not have a single curl in her hair. None of the hair types that you have fits her. She will be 2 years old next month and her hair is very dry and thick. The back in still trying to grow in as she did not have much as a baby. I have no clue on how to care for her hair. Please give me some advice. Thank you.

    Post a Reply
    • It sounds like your daughter is probably a 4-c which is a type that rarely ever has a curl pattern. (The full descriptions for the hair types are here: I have very thick 4-c as well so I feel your pain. It’s a VERY hard hair type to keep moisturized.

      If you want her to have a chance at some growth you’re going to have to commit to moisturizing her hair DAILY. Don’t worry about fancy products. Go to your beauty supply store and grab a spray bottle. Fill it with water and a few drops of conditioner. Spray your daughter’s hair every night before bed with that and seal in that moisture with an oil (extra virgin olive oil works great) or a butter. I use raw shea butter that I’ve warmed and melted in my hands.

      Next, find a protective style that works for her and stick with it. Be it box braids, twists, or cornrows – Keep her hair protected in that style for a few weeks, and then let it loose and deep condition. If you follow this routine, you should see a major difference. I hope that helps! :)

      Post a Reply
      • That’s exactly her type of hair. What kind of conditioner? I do have some sheamoisture conditioner extra raw. Is that ok? Also, I continue to spray it while it’s in braids? The water won’t make it nappy. I am the type that takes her hair down after a week because it starts to look a mess. Thank you for your advice.

        Post a Reply
        • Any moisture rich conditioner will do. (TRESemmé has a really good one.) You need to seal with a solid butter or oil or all of that moisturizing won’t do you any good. That Shea Moisture conditioner (if it’s what I’m thinking of) sounds like more of a moisturizer itself. You need to use something that will seal that moisture in afterward. If you’ve got some extra virgin olive oil in your pantry, use that. And I spray my hair in braids all of the time. You don’t need to saturate the hair, just give it a good mist then seal it, and you shouldn’t have any issues with it getting “nappy”. lol. Glad I could help! :)

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  5. Kesha, Oh my goodness I so needed this. My daughter is only 7 months but I made so many mistakes with 2 oldest daughters that I don’t want to do this again.
    Okay, so at a young age (like 7 months) how could I “really” know what type of hair my baby has? That’s what I’m confused about at this point.
    Okay, I’m saving this page,…have to do some of my own research too. We’re swimming once a week and I think this may have something to do with my failure…that and the fact that I don’t use shampoo or anything else for that matter.

    BTW, love those pics…cute girl :)

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    • Salma, I’m so glad I could help a bit! I think at 7 months the main thing you’ve got to concentrate on is keeping her hair moisturized. Spritz it with water and seal it with a dot of olive oil DAILY. My daughter’s “true” type didn’t seem to come in until about a year/year and a half; so you probably won’t be able to use the typing system as a tool until then. Girl, that swimming can wreak some havoc on textured hair so you may want to think about investing in some cute caps. (So serious.) That chlorine is not a joke. lol.
      Thanks for the love on my baby girl’s pics! I hope I helped you out a bit more. :)

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  6. Great post! Thank you! I didn’t put in the amount of research you did but when my kids were babies/toddlers I used a lot of Carol’s Daughter products and that worked great. Now that they’re older and transitioning into doing their own hair. Things aren’t going so well. Especially for my hard-core athlete teenager. She has a lot of breakage and fights me on the moisture because she says it comes down her face when she sweats. Stopping by from #SITSblogging!

    Post a Reply
    • Thanks Julie! I appreciate you stopping by! That Carol’s Daughter is the truth right!?
      I’m by no means an expert, but a suggestion for your active teen would be to find her a protective style that works for her and stick with it. Be it straight back cornrows or box braids. She can spray it with water and seal that in with a dot of olive oil and that should be enough to keep her hair moisturized and protected. (Minus all of the drippage in the face. lol) Hope that helps. :) Thanks again for stopping by!! :)

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  7. Great guide Kesha! Will definitely put these tips to use. My daughter recently was treated for cradle cap at 2 1/2. I know! Who knew? I thought you could only get it as an infant. It causes some hair loss, so working to nurture her roots back to good health!

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    • Girl, I had no clue cradle cap could happen in preschoolers. Learn something new every day. lol. So glad you could find this useful. Thanks for stopping by! :)

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