Caring for My Toddler Boy’s Hair

“Your hair is your crown” is a sentiment that has been passed down for generations in African American families.

The care given to each lock of hair is of high importance.

Even still, it is imperative to me that my son knows that his value as a person is not based on his hair. In the words of the amazing India Arie in her song “I Am Not My Hair,”

“I am not my hair
I am not this skin
I am the soul that lives within.”

We are so much more than our hair. At the same time, taking care of my son’s hair is just one way that I teach him to value himself.

Initially, I was a bit overwhelmed with understanding how to care for my son’s tightly coiled curls. His beautiful locks have a mind of their own and have grown to varying lengths.

As I began to search for the best products for keeping his hair clean and healthy, I found that most of the articles I read online were focused on baby girls, and hardly any addressed African American baby boys. Of course, all new moms have questions about caring for their babies, but naturally, I wanted to learn how to best care for my baby.

My son’s hair has evolved during his journey from newborn to toddler. His hair may even change again as he gets older.

Continue reading to find out how my son’s hair wash routine has evolved over time.

Newborn Hair Wash Routine

As a newborn, he had bone straight, jet black hair that slicked down with ease. I could get away with using Shea Moisture Baby Shampoo during his bath and be on my way.

My go-to newborn hair tools

Around 3 months, he developed cradle cap in his scalp. I had no idea what it was, let alone how to treat it. According to, “Cradle cap is an inflammatory skin condition that appears as scaly skin…” We checked with our pediatrician who informed us that it was nothing to be alarmed about.

To treat the cradle cap, we massaged a little bit of olive oil into his scalp for a few minutes and gently combed the flakes out using a baby comb. I would follow up with the same baby shampoo.

About a couple months later, the cradle cap was completely gone. If you notice what appears to be cradle cap on your baby, be sure to follow your pediatrician’s guidance.

Baby Hair Wash Routine

As my son’s hair became longer and thicker, I would wash with baby shampoo twice, instead of just once, each time I gave him a bath. I would follow up with a little leave-in conditioner to keep it moisturized.

By the time he was around nine months old, it became nearly impossible for me to keep him still in the tub. It was time to move our hair wash routine to the kitchen sink for his safety (and mine lol). By this time, his hair had matured in texture.

My go-to toddler hair products and tools

Toddler Hair Wash Routine

Between 9-12 months, I transitioned his hair products from baby specific hair products to kid’s hair products. The kid’s hair products were developed for fuller hair and were better for detangling curls, but still wouldn’t hurt him if it got in his eyes.

I switched to only washing his hair once a week. I continue this routine now at 16 months.

When washing his hair at the kitchen sink, I lay down a towel on our kitchen counter and have him lay down. Initially, I would give him a sippy cup to keep him occupied, but that proved to only work the first time.

After a moment of insanity, I tried washing his hair in the tub again without success. I then tried the sink again, but this time with a secret weapon: “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” playing on my phone. My son is old enough to hold the phone in both hands, but if your little one isn’t, there are phone holders that can help.

With my son focused on his favorite tiger, I begin washing his hair with Cantu Care for Kids Nourishing Shampoo, followed by a couple of rinses with room temperature water. I use Cantu Care for Kids Nourishing Conditioner to detangle his strands with my fingers and rinse it out with cool water. Finally, I gently squeeze out the excess water from his hair.

Once done, I sit my son up safely on the towel on the counter. I wrap a baby towel around his neck to catch any dripping water. I follow the LOC (leave-in conditioner, oil, and cream) method for my son, simply because it works for us.

I begin the process by spraying Creme of Nature Strength & Shine Leave-in Conditioner or Creme of Nature Coconut Milk Detangling Leave-in Conditioner on his hair, depending on which one I have available. I then add a little of the Cantu Care for Kids Curling Cream to moisturize his hair.

I apply just a little bit of coconut oil to his hair to lock in the moisture. For the final step, I wrap his strands around my fingers to create finger coils with Cantu Care for Kids Styling Custard.

My go-to leave-in conditioners

To refresh his curls, I use a spray bottle filled with water and leave-in conditioner on his hair throughout the week.

When he’s older, I plan to embrace his curls for as long as he will tolerate it. I may even incorporate braided styles here and there.

My baby boy’s freshly styled curls

As with all of my posts, I encourage you to find what works for your little one. Whether you see your baby represented in baby-related articles or not, know that you are not alone and that you can figure out what is best for your baby.

Here’s a complete list of the products I use for my son:

Mamas, what tips have you learned while taking care of your little one’s hair?

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