Sunday, November 22, 2015

Hair extensions for toddlers (and people who have no idea what they are doing)

Kulani, almost four, has hair extensions. I was torn about it initially. Kulani’s Black hair is beautiful exactly the way it is. Hair extensions are controversial (under any circumstance) but they are especially charged in Kulani’s case because she is a Black girl growing up in a White family. Hair extensions, like Kulani’s current pony, mimic “White” hair. It can be argued, of course, that they are a rejection of the beauty of Afro-textured hair. I reject this interpretation and in fact ... well ... there is a lot going on here but mostly ... it's Elsa. I lost the battle to Elsa. It wasn't even a fair fight.

Here is what happened.

Kulani wanted "the Elsa Braid". (Ha! Who doesn't? I want the Elsa body--but we'll save that for another post.) Kulani will never have "the Elsa Braid" naturally. So I gave it to her. Believe it or not, I actually had these extensions lying around from a former time in my own life. They are a few inches of Remy (real hair) wefts in dark auburn color. I braided her hair and sewed them in. The style took me about an hour and a half. It lasts about ten days before it needs to be taken out, washed and redone or the style changed.

Here is how to get the style.

I guess when it comes down to it, I didn’t want to tell Kulani that because she is Black, she has to wear her hair a certain way. Kulani will one day make those decisions for herself. But some part of me knows I can’t tell her she can’t have “the Elsa Braid” because of a political agenda--even if someday she will understand the agenda to be her own. Anyway, this kid has a good head on her shoulders underneath all that hair. She approaches the Elsa braid she sometimes wears the same way she approaches the Elsa dress she now wears every Friday to preschool. The braid/pony extension is a dress up costume. In between Elsa styles, I am careful to encourage twin Afro Puffs and two-twist dangles she also wears that are a more common part of her cultural identity. Kulani's hair, like her personality and everything else about her is amazing with an almost unlimited potential for versatility, growth and adventure. She has a lifetime of exploration ahead of her.

How to get the style.

This is Remy (real hair) wefts in a dark color (not jet black). Black hair has a lot of colors but mostly it’s not jet black. The politics about real v. artificial hair are even more complicated, btw ... If you use artificial hair, you must be careful because it is sometimes flammable or not resistant to heat--it can melt or be dangerous at high temperatures or with styling tools.

Anyway, I tied up Kulani’s hair in an ice-skater style like the one shown above. I french braided it in eight neat rows to protect the baby hairs at the hairline and to give me a bun to work with at the crown.

Then I threaded a very large needle and sewed the extensions together into a pile. I took the extensions and sewed them into the braids at the base of Kulani’s natural pony. Next I wrapped the eight braids around the extensions and sewed those in securely. Afterward, they pretty well camouflaged the place where the extension was sewn in but it wasn't perfect so I disguised the extension by wrapping a wide cloth headband around the base of the ponytail. I tucked the rest of Kulani’s natural hair braids into the cloth headband.

The style lasted about ten days. I braided the extension pony each night and during her naps so the extension hair would not get tangled in her crib while she was sleeping. In the mornings, I took out the braid and gave the pony a brush. Other than that, there was no maintenance all week. From a mommying standpoint, it frankly was fantastic.

Good luck!

Related: Black Hair for People Who Have No Idea What They Are Doing

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