The world today is more mobile and globalized than ever. More and more people are coming into contact with each other than ever before. One consequence is that more and more mixed race children are born to African and Caucasian parents. One of the lesser-known challenges in parenting such mixed race children is how to manage their hair.
The hair of such mixed race children differs in structure from that of either parent. Caucasian hair tends to be long, soft and slippery in texture. African hair tends to be kinky, coarse and woolly. Caucasian hair needs to be washed every few days to avoid greasiness, while African hair can be washed less frequently, but needs to be oiled often, to avoid breakage.
In contrast to both, mixed race tends to be straighter than African hair, but retains its kink from the African parent. It may also be coarser and stronger than Caucasian hair, and often has more volume because of the African kink. It grows faster than African hair.
The result is beautiful, often long strong hair, often wavy or curly as well. But the combination of qualities also leads to tangling, which makes it painful to comb and handle. Mothers of mixed race girl children are often at their wits’ end, whether they themselves are African or Caucasian.
Because of it bouncy coarseness and slight kink, mixed race hair responds well to African hair care such as braiding, cornrowing, twisting or threading. The main challenge is to avoid painful tangling while combing or undoing the hair. A good moisturiser spray can make the hair softer and less prone to tangling. Apply before undoing braids or corn-rows, while combing, but also as maintenance. In general, mixed race hair does not need oiling like African hair. A good moisturiser may be adequate. Invest in an array of combs and brushes with different tooth lengths and widths, and of different materials, such as both plastic and bone. Different comb or brush handles is also a good idea, because different handles allows different angles from which to handle the hair. Always comb or brush out tangles gently from the hair tips towards the roots to avoid unnecessary breakage and pain.
Periods of braiding allow mixed race hair to rest and grow, just like with African hair, except faster. However, mixed race hair needs this less than African hair, since it is stronger in texture and thus more stable.
Mixed race hair that leans more to Caucasian (straighter, more slippery) can be managed with products (such as shampoos and treatments) and gadgets (such as curling irons or straightening irons) similar to those for Caucasian hair. The usual caution is recommended.
Mixed race hair that tends towards African may not be strong enough to be exposed regularly to such gadgets. Care products and procedures for African hair may be more appropriate.
A popular recourse is to chemically process the hair so that it becomes artificially straight and soft like Caucasian hair. This step should be considered very carefully before a decision is made.
Firstly, once begun, it is a time-consuming and often expensive process, because the straightening procedure has to be renewed every two to four months. This is to be done preferably professionally, to avoid accidents that may lead to serious burns, irreversible hair loss or even blindness. Current market prices for this procedure average fifty euros or more per visit. The results are sensational-looking. The hair becomes soft and smooth while retaining the capacity to be curled and styled in many new different ways. However, between renewals, the hair also has to be treated and managed with special shampoos and treatments to avoid hair breakage. The straightening (called relaxing or perming in the jargon) has to be renewed because otherwise the tension between the newly grown natural hair and the older, relaxed hair leads to serious hair breakage otherwise.
Secondly, the products used (relaxers) contain strong chemicals. There is no definitive proof yet that these chemicals do not damage the cranial tissues of young children, who have softer cranial bones, more delicate scalp tissue and whose brains are still developing. Many parents prefer to wait till the children are of legal age, when they can then decide for themselves to take the risk. Should a parent wish to persist in pursuing this option, then a mild relaxer designed specially for child users is recommended.
The more daring may also wish to experiment with traditional natural African hair cosmetics such as a mixture of honey and fresh lemon juice, as a conditioner after washing. After massaging gently into the hair, wash it out again. It leaves African hair shiny and alive, but results are not guaranteed for mixed race hair. Another recipe is mashed, sieved Avocado, mixed with lemon juice and or honey to be applied as above, as a conditioner. It should also be washed out.
Mixed race hair is beautiful and unique, combining qualities from both parents. The right care can maintain its health and beauty.
More and more Caucasian women are also adopting full-blooded African children, and have no idea how to manage their hair. As already mentioned, braiding, cornrowing, twisting and threading are good alternatives. This may prove a little expensive, however, since these services are more expensive in the West than in Africa. Relaxing should only be undertaken after careful consideration, and then only by an expert.
Important products for full-blooded African hair include hair oil (usually thick and greasy, or semi-liquid), moisturisers (liquid but fairly oily), treatments and conditioners (mostly for maintaining relaxed hair), relaxers (only for use by a professional or an expert). Leave-in conditioners do not need to be washed out after application. The distributor of a particular product can also provide more information about the product.
Important gadgets include hot combs (only for use on completely natural hair), hair and blow dryers, electric or manual hair curlers (work best on relaxed hair.)