How to Build Hair Self-Esteem in Our Daughters

By GG Renee

“I never get to wear my hair down.”

Here we go again. The hair texture discussion. I have two daughters and this comes up often. My nine year old gets it now and is beginning to learn how to care for her own hair. But my five year old? She has questions and she wants answers.

I explain to her that it’s not practical for us to leave her hair down on a regular basis. In order to keep her hair moisturized and healthy, we need to keep it in braids and twists and ballerina buns. I remind her that she doesn’t enjoy getting her hair washed and styled and that when we keep it braided up, we don’t have to go through that process quite so often.

“But I never get to wear it down!”

My explanation is floating right over her head. I tell her that she’s too young to wear her hair down. She jumps all over that, pointing out all the tan girls in her class who wear their hair down all the time. When she says “tan” she means White and Hispanic. I immediately start worrying that she will fall into the habit of glorifying straight, loosely textured hair and devaluing her tightly coiled, cotton candy hair.

I tell her that our hair has different needs and that there are many girls who wish that they could wear all the cool styles that she gets to but they can’t because their hair won’t stay put. She doesn’t want to hear any of that. She just wants to wear her hair down, and she wants it to swing and hang and bounce. Period.

I remember feeling the same way as a child, wanting my poofy hair to be sleek and straight. My reality was big and bushy and too knotty to wear “out”, so I always had to keep it braided up. No hair blowing in the wind, no hair to whip around like the white girls in dance class and no cascading curls to dangle from my ponytail. Over the years, I went from relaxed to dyed to weaved to almost falling out before I ever considered going back to my natural hair. It took years of discovery and bad perms for me to realize how good I’d had it. When I think back on how I learned to love my hair, I realize that no matter what I say or do, my girls will need to take their own journey. Like everything else in life, the best lessons are the ones we learn through our own experiences.

In the meantime, it’s become a priority for me to create an environment for them that celebrates healthy hair and rejects any messages of self-denial that say that only straight hair is beautiful. Here are some of the ways that we can all teach our daughters and the young girls in our lives to love their hair:

  • Tell them often that their hair is beautiful, unique and special.

  • Surround them with beautiful images of hair that looks like theirs.

  • If they get bored with their hair, browse magazines and the Internet to find unique styling options.

  • Find baby dolls for them that have curly hair as well as books and games.

  • Don’t make hair time seem like a chore. Try to make it fun so that it becomes a time to bond and enjoy each other’s company.

  • Look for print and commercial models with natural hair in advertising and point them out.

  • Every now and then, blow out their hair (or just a section of it) to show them how long and strong it is, so they can see that their regimen is paying off.

  • Redefine the word nappy. Either choose not to use the word at all, or use it in a positive way.

What do you think? Did you grow up with some of the same longings?

GG Renee is an independent author, a creativity coach, a feeler and an overthinker. She writes for the crazy beautiful complex free creative inspired love drunk woman who relishes her quiet time and believes in miracles. Blog // Twitter // Instagram