It has been decades since the last time my mom washed and styled my hair. Yet, even after all this time, the nostalgic memories of Saturday wash day at the kitchen sink still sit at the surface of my mind.
Whether she was taking braid extensions out of my hair, pressing my coils at the stove with a hot comb, or adorning my crown with colorful barrettes, my mom’s dedication to caring for my hair was a love language all on its own.
Even as a nurse working the night shift, she would routinely meet me and my dad at daycare in the morning so she could comb and style my hair before she went home to rest. I am still overcome by how she ensured that I felt pride and beauty in my identity as a Black girl.
This sentiment is even more true as I navigate caring for the hair of my own three biracial daughters. Wash days are an emotional roller coaster in our household. Even with the best of intentions, someone ends up in tears. Sometimes that someone is me.
My husband has a look he gives me when I announce, “This Sunday is wash day.” Though he isn’t the one doing any of the washing — or detangling or styling — somehow, he still gets carried away in the tidal wave of feels.
“I take the time to care for your hair because I love you,” I remind my two older daughters as they argue about who should go first. “When we take care of our hair, it grows healthy and strong.”
Ultimately, I want my daughters to embrace and cherish the process of caring for their uniquely textured tresses. Their satisfied smiles as they gaze in the mirror at their completed styles make my efforts worth the challenges.
When it comes to hair care, I have never felt like an expert. My daughters each have different curl patterns and the types of hair products they each need are ever-changing. Over the years, I’ve tried a lot of products and techniques.
Five survival tips during countless hair wash days
1. Kitchen sink hair washing is an easy game changer.
One thing that instantly makes my daughters melt down is water getting in their eyes. When they were younger, I powered through the screams and washed their hair in the bathtub. These days, I have them lay on the counter with a rolled towel propped under their neck and their head tipped backwards into the sink. This gives me better access to their hair while their face stays dry and their body stays relaxed.
2. Snacks and screen time are essential.
The process of wash day is time-consuming!
Right now, it takes me two hours per head for my older daughters (ages 5 and 7). My youngest (18 months) takes all of five minutes, but she despises sitting still. Snacks and screen time are my saving grace. I usually let the girls gather their favorite candy and treats, or my husband will give them a special lunch to eat while I am detangling and styling their hair. I let them have free reign of the iPad or they can pick whatever show they’d like to watch on TV. These perks keep my girls occupied and relatively happy.
3. A good detangler comb/brush/spray makes all the difference.
Our least favorite part of wash day is the detangling. This is when the tears are likely and the patience wears thin. I have had the best luck applying detangler spray while my girls’ hair is still wet and working through their sectioned hair with this life-saving detangler brush or this life-saving detangler comb. A good spray bottle to maintain hair wetness also helps. Sometimes, I even detangle while they are laying at the sink.
4. Pick a style you can transform over time.
When I settle on a style for the girls’ hair, I try to envision ways I can refresh it with similar styles. This helps me to have a plan for their hair from one wash day to the next. If I start with braided pigtails, I may transition to afro puffs the following week. Pinterest has a wealth of hair styles for natural curly hair. This hair lingo post by DommiesBlessed has also been very helpful to me.
5. Stick to the products you trust.
Finding the hair products that work for each of my daughters has taken years of trial and error. These days, I am a creature of habit who stays dedicated to what gives the best results. Don’t feel like you have to use every hyped product on the market. Choose what works for you and stick with it.
Our beloved products include…
- Design Essentials Natural Super Moisturizing and Detangling Shampoo & Conditioner
- Tailored Beauty Everything Butter
- African Pride Moisture Miracle Essential Oils
- African Pride Moisture Miracle Leave In Hair Cream
- Eco Style Gel
- Murray’s Edge Wax
The act of mothers caring for their daughters’ hair is a cherished rite of passage. The Sunday wash days that now feel as infinite as they once did when I was a little girl are a tradition I hope my daughters will someday experience with their own children. This intimate routine is a beautiful reminder of what it means to be loved, valued, and pampered — even if it does involve a few tears!