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Hair Care for Tiny Tots

Some infants are born with a full head of luscious locks while some are born with sparse hair or even bald. Whatever the hair type, genetics do play a part in determining the type of hair children inherit from their parents. Hair care in children has gained more importance as parents are now aware that a clean scalp promotes healthy hair and one of the most conspicuous signs of a healthy child is a glorious head of shiny hair.

As a parent, of course all you want to do is care for your child the best way possible, but you may not know where to start! Read on as Dr. Kavitha Balachandran answers all your common questions regarding child hair care.

How often should I wash my baby’s hair?

Your little one would never benefit from over washing his hair, regardless if he has a full head of hair or sparse hair. Babies’ sebaceous glands on the scalp produce natural oils that keep their scalp moisturised, so over washing could result in a dry and flaky scalp.

From infancy right up to about six months, chances are he is less mobile and is most likely on an only milk diet. Hence, there is a low chance of him getting mushy baby food particles stuck in his hair.

Practice washing his hair with shampoo about two to three times a week, as this would be perfect in our humid climate. On other days, you can rinse his head with plain lukewarm water during bath time to get rid of any dust or particles of lint on his tender scalp.

My baby has very little hair – is it still necessary to wash?

Yes, it is necessary even if your little one has sparse hair, tufts or only wisps of hair as not only the hair is cleaned with every wash – so is the scalp. However, it is advisable to use a small amount of mild shampoo to prevent stripping off the natural scalp oils.

What is the difference between baby shampoo and normal shampoo?

Most adult shampoos contain sulphate, which is a chemical substance used to provide a ‘squeaky clean’ feeling after a hair wash. Sulphate is a powerful degreasing agent found even in common household products, such as laundry detergents and dish washing liquids.

Baby shampoos are believed to contain a reduced amount of sulphate in order to cater to a baby’s fragile scalp. Do keep in mind that most baby shampoos contain sulphate, si if you plan on avoiding it completely, remember to look out for one that states ‘sulphate free’ on its packaging. Chances are you would find adult shampoos made specifically for people with sensitive scalp – these shampoos are allowed on your baby’s scalp in very small amounts, provided the ingredients are gentle enough.

Would blow drying harm my baby’s scalp?

Many adults, myself included rely heavily on blow drying our hair not just for styling purposes, but also to dry thick voluminous hair in short periods of time so that we can scoot off to work quickly.

While blow drying your baby’s hair may not be the most conventional method, it is not entirely wrong. It can be practice with a few safety measures taken into account;

  • The blow dryer should be of good quality
  • It should be one with comes with an option to use the cool setting
  • Blow drying should be done away from any area with water, such as the bathroom
  • Your little one should never be left alone with the blow dryer

Have your baby sit in your lap, and then turn on the blow dryer to a low setting. Remember to test the head of the wind on the back of your hand before pointing it at your baby’s scalp. With the blow dryer at least six inches away from his scalp, gently run your fingers through his hair to dry it thoroughly.

How do I detangle knots from my baby’s hair?

I would recommend using a gentle conditioner on your baby’s hair post-shampooing. Don’t wash off the conditioner completely – reason being; a little conditioner would leave some moisture in your baby’s hair. Then, use water based detangling spritzer and comb his hair gently with your fingers.

Would temporary styling gel or colour spray damage my baby’s hair / scalp?

Hair styling and colouring have become fashion statements in the recent years and kids have also jumped onto the bandwagon by sporting rainbow coloured tresses in funky styles. But are these styling and colouring products safe? Well, if used sparingly and infrequently, there would be no risks of damaging your baby’s hair and scalp.

I would also advise only using these products on the hair. Avoid touching the scalp as the chemicals in these products might cause an irritation. Do use these products occasionally and remember to wash it off immediately after the event. Hair styling and colouring products tend to leave residue on the scalp if not washed immediately, causing the scalp to act as a trap for grease and dirt, thus causing clogged pores and irritation.

Always do a patch test behind your baby’s earlobe and look out for any rashes within 24 hours. If nothing appears, then the product is safe for use.

How much oil should I apply on my baby’s hair, and does it have to be baby oil or is normal hair oil usable?

Infantile seborrheic dermatitis or better known as cradle cap is very common in babies. It is believed that cradle cap is due to secretions of the sebaceous glands on the infant’s scalp while still in the uterus, due to maternal hormone influence.

Oil is a great way to loosen the flakes and to soothe the scalp of your baby. Your little one would also love a gentle scalp massage and it is a fantastic way to lull a tired baby to slumber land! A pea size amount is sufficient for the entire scalp and take care not to massage or rub vigorously.

The most popular oils that are used for babies are a mild baby oils but other oils such as sweet almond oil, olive oil and extra virgin coconut oil can be used as well. For older children, pure Argan oil would be a great option.

The oil used should be of a lightweight texture which washes off easily with minimal shampooing or one that does not form a greasy film over the scalp, acting as a dust and dirt magnet.

My child loves playing dress up, are curlers and straightening irons safe for use on a child’s hair?

Crimpers, curlers and straightening irons are a definite no-no when it comes to kids! These beauty tools need high heat settings to achieve these hair styles and the excessive heat would only cause damage to your child’s hair. Your child’s hair is far more fragile than yours and therefore not able to withstand extreme heat.

The protein structure of the hair may even get altered due to the heating process. Products used when perming hair are also not safe as the chemical contents of these products are not compatible with a child’s sensitive scalp. However, if you do love the wind- tousled, beach look for your child – all you have to do is mix some dilute saline water and pour it into a spritzer; spray it into your child’s hair and braid it. Proceed by using a blow dryer on cold setting to dry the braids. Leave the braids to air dry for half an hour or so, undo the braids and Voila! Your girl will have gorgeous, loose curls – au naturel.

My child dislikes having haircuts. How do I calm him down?

Just like visits to the doctor or dentist, almost every child dreads getting their hair cut at some point in their young lives. This is a tricky issue and if handled in a non gentle way, may even lead to the child feeling traumatized by the entire experience. Below are some tips that have been tried and tested – who knows, they might work like a charm for you as well!

  • Let your child see you get your hair cut a few times so that he knows it is something he should not fear.
  • You can role play with him at home acting as his hairstylist. Get him to sit in a chair and clip off a few strands of hair just to show him there is no pain involved. Keep the mood as light as possible.
  • Instead of calling it a hair ‘cut’, which may sound painful, try calling it something else like a trim or make up a funky name that might tickle your child.
  • Bring along a favourite toy, book or snack to the hair dresser’s to keep your child occupied or adequately distracted.
  • Do some asking around as to who are the kid-friendly hair dressers in town who cut hair with the child’s safety in mind and are capable of a quick cut, without sacrificing style.

Be prepared for some tears in the initial days but as your child gets older he will realise that hair cuts are not a big deal and that his tears and tantrums would be a thing of the past.


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