Regardless of hair type, it seems like toddlers have the innate ability to matte their hair in 30 seconds or less. Oklahoma has crazy humidity and temperatures, so my daughter’s sweaty head in her car seat and curiosity to look in every direction automatically means a matted mess of hair when we get to our destination. This meant I had to come up with a natural, chemical-free way to detangle matted hair scented with all my favorite scents and various brands of essential oils.
In two years of life, have never shampooed my daughter’s hair. Washed & rinsed? Yes. Shampooed? No.
This is both because of her curls, and because I believe in keeping her natural oils in charge.
I research products fairly thoroughly when they do get used in our home, and often use the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database to help make healthier decisions regarding personal hygiene products.
The one soap that I have purchased for cleaning her hair & body is Episencial Playful Wash because it’s only a 1 on the EWG scale. And to tell you how little I have used it on my daughter, I still have the same bottle I first purchased well over 2 years ago!
How to Make Homemade Conditioner & Detangler
You will need some basic supplies.
- 2oz Organic Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)
- 6oz Water
- A single drop of Soap/Shampoo of your choice
- 8oz Peri Bottle or Spray Bottle (We use them for everything because they have measurements on the side for easy make, mix, & use!)
- Essential Oil Scent of your choice to counteract the vinegar smell.
If you are working on detangling in the evening, be sure to see my tutorial on how to keep hair from tangling while wet overnight.
Removing Tangles as Gently as Possible
So now is the hard part… actually getting the tangles and matted mess out of those beautiful locks of hair.
You might want to get a Cutting and Tail Comb and a basic barber comb with both fine and wide teeth. I have found that both are very effective in helping me accomplish quick and as-pain-free-as-possible detangling. We have also found that daily maintenance with a Soft Boar Bristle Brush also makes a huge difference.
- Squirt homemade conditioner in hair. Note: Vinegar can sting the eyes. If you need to, please do this over a sink to keep it out of the face.
- Use a comb (as mentioned above) to make downward motions in the hair starting at the bottom and working up.
- When you come to a tangle or place where it is matted you can squirt a little extra there before proceeding.
- Hold the hair right above the tangle and again move in a downward fashion. Holding the hair above the tangle is going to put any pressure needed to take out the tangles at that point and not on the head.
- Add a glob of coconut oil to the really bad parts.
- Continue to do this until hair is separated and beautiful! (Picture at the bottom of the post showing the next day when dry).
Tips for using vinegar in a child’s hair
My daughter hates the smell of vinegar (and honestly, so does my husband… in fact he does more so); therefore, including a really great smelling essential oil is an awesome way to counteract the smell and still get the job done.
I would recommend Lavender Oil for bedtime or a great refreshing scent if bathing in the morning. If you’re dealing with lice (which many school-aged kids are more likely), then Tea Tree Oil is a great option as well.
Combine the ACV, warm water, and the drop of soap in your bottle of choice. Add drops of your essential oil(s) of choice. (You can add as many drops of EO as you want as long as it is under 48 to keep it at a safe 1% dilution for kids. 96 for adults). Use about 1/4 of that if going for daily use.
Vinegar is actually a great carrier for oils, so Shake it up to mix it. And then you are all set and ready to go. Note that the drop of soap/shampoo is simply to get the solution to “stick” to the hair and not just run off. If you would like to add more, then that’s your prerogative; I just like keeping it as simple as possible.
Other ways to get bad tangles out of a child’s hair
I have tried a wet brush, but no it doesn’t work on her hair all that well. It’s WAY too curly and tangly to use on her hair.
Personally, I can use it with my straight hair, but her ringlets are too much of a match for the wet brush. In combination with the method above, it does help though.
Having my daughter lay on a towel to brush her hair has helped with the tangles and not hurt. She lays down with her hair spread out above her on a towel. I can place my hand on her head to hold her head near her scalp while I use a wet brush to brush it. What happens is most of the time the brush is getting into the towel so it doesn’t hurt as bad on her curls.
Don’t forget to check out our shampoo in a jar recipe or these other posts you may love:
Kara is an author and advocate for positive, grace-filled parenting. She is homeschooler to her 4 children living in Boston, MA and believes in creative educational approaches to help kids dive deeper into a rich learning experience. She has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development and is passionate about connecting with and helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!