The UK Corner

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Hair raising tips for your child’s hair

Hair artist Marcia Hamilton has famously worked with ten-year-old Willow Smith, whom she accompanied on tour with Justin Beiber in March. The sophisticated hairstyles which Smith has sported in her Whip Your Hair back video have led to some critics asking if hairstyles should have age certifications. Below is Hamilton’s guide to the rules to follow and break with your child’s hair.

Marcia Hamilton

Marcia Hamilton by Kawai Matthews (


As well as the wide tooth comb, the hair oil and the satin headscarf, managing your child’s hair takes time and attention; enter the hairdresser who can help define your child’s hair texture and treatment for it. Hamilton says: “I think parents should take their child to a professional at least every three or four months to have their hair conditioned and trimmed. Hair like ours tends to get dry very quickly and when you comb the hair it breaks because it’s so brittle and you get split ends and your hair will never have the chance to grow.”

There are other advantages to working with professionals as Hamilton explains: “A hair stylist lets you know where your child’s hair is at; I think sometimes parents get very busy and that child is left combing their own hair. I remember one of my friends decided to trust her daughter to take care of her hair. One day she combed it herself and found a dread in the back so we need to definitely keep on top of what’s going on!”


In these austere times, paying a hairdresser can be hard so it is important for parents to familiarise themselves with the best products to use. Hamilton does not endorse any specific brand but she has advice about the ingredients you should look for. She says: “You want to choose a moisturising conditioner. Depending on the styles you do on your child’s hair, I would suggest you go a little more natural. Because your child’s hair is so gentle and sensitive, you should sulphate-free shampoo so that the natural oils aren’t stripped out of the hair.”

For a moisturising conditioner and sulphate-free shampoo try Phillip Kingsley’s Moisture Extreme shampoo and conditioner which have been created specifically for all variations of ethnic hair.

Moisture Extreme Shampoo £14.30

Moisture Extreme Conditioner £17.40


Pigtails and canerows no longer define little black girls. Increasingly their emblems are relaxers. Hamilton says: “I think as far as relaxing hair goes, if you’re not a teenager I don’t think you should because your hair structure has not fully developed yet. I think that before applying harsh chemicals you should definitely give it a minute.”

All types of pressure on the hair should be minimised from heat to tight hair bands. Hamilton explains: “Over my years I’ve noticed children who get their hair pulled too tightly starting to develop traction alopecia – thin hair around the perimeter of their head. Parents, do your self a favour and don’t brush or pull so tightly.

“When you’re getting braids be more gentle around the hairline and make bigger sections. Try different styles so not to get their hair accustomed to one thing and to avoid traction alopecia.”

With new young style icons emerging such as Willow Smith, parents are facing dilemmas about how to style their children’s hair. Smith is a singer and actress with superstar parents. Surely this gives her a license to have extreme hairstyles? Hamilton says: “When working with Willow, I usually like to create on what she is feeling in that moment depending on if it’s a red carpet event or if it’s a photo shoot. I build around the wardrobe and I build around emotions.”

Hamilton is almost emotional about the styles she has witnessed in the UK. “People in England just have a sense of their own style and they have and individual look as oppose to that cookie cutter look.”


It can be hard for parents to admit that their child is growing up and leaving the cookie cutters behind. Sometimes we forget how much expression is a part of growing up. Hamilton say’s: “In 2011 I think a girl should be as expressive as she wants to be. If parents are more conservative they will guide their child in that direction. But I think that sometimes as parents we tend to impose on our kids what we feel and I think it’s important to listen to our children and keep an open mind. If they want to dye their hair flaming red; they’re six-years-old, you find a middle ground. Instead of dying her hair red like coolade, do a few streaks and play around. If a child wants to experiment with colour, instead of going full on with a permanent colour, you can experiment with cellophane and semi-permanent.

“Don’t give your ten-year-old daughter weave down her back but if she wants hair falling down her back, think about having braids. Find the middle ground in creating an age-appropriate style for a child.

“I definitely encourage parents to find some way that their kids can express themselves in beauty as opposed to in other ways. When kids don’t get what they want one way they go in another direction.”


I love my hair

I love my Hair: TM and © 2011 Sesame Workshop. All Rights Reserved. Photographer: Zach Hyman.

In October 2010 the I Love My Hair song debuted on an episode of Sesame Street. The unnamed puppet with an Afro who sang an ode to her hair became an Internet sensation.

Joey Mazzarino, the head writer of Sesame Street, was inspired to write the song for his adopted Ethiopian daughter, who he noticed had reservations about her hair. Though the song touched adult and child alike in the virtual community, in the real world there continues to be conflict about definitions of ‘good’ hair.

Hamilton sees a correlation between hair and self-esteem. She says: “With your kids, you always need to let them know that what they possess is amazing and beautiful. Work with what they have instead of trying to get something totally different and teach them to love their own hair and to love themselves.

“I have clients that are in their forties that have had a relaxer since they were twelve-years-old and when I try to tell them well ‘let’s try something different’, they look at me like I’m crazy. Ever since they were twelve-years-old they were brainwashed that having kinky hair is not beautiful. So for me to suggest that to them at forty is like oh no! So if you start from when they’re young then you won’t run into these problems when they are older.”

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