Wash days can be dreadful for children with 4c hair because it can be very painful to wash and work through tightly coiled hair textures. This is why many parents and women with natural hair often don’t look forward to wash days.
This is why it’s best to start with detangled hair and wash your child’s hair in sections so that you can reduce pain and friction.
To get started, you can try one of these detangling conditioners or co-wash conditioners to soften and fully detangle your child’s hair before washing her hair.
Before we get into product recommendations, I’d first like to answer some frequently asked questions about detangling and co-washing children’s hair.
What is a co-wash?
A co-wash (conditioner only washing) is when you use a conditioner to clean your child’s hair instead of using a shampoo. This is totally different from skipping shampoo and heading straight to conditioning. It involves using a conditioner in place of a shampoo.
This method was popularized by hairstylist Lorraine Massey in her book “The Curly Girl Handbook”. This book was written for women who wanted to confidently wear their curly hair in its natural state by learning how to care for it. What’s key to point out about this book is that it was written at a time when “straight” hair was considered beautiful, while curly hair wasn’t.
In her book, Lorraine Massey recommends that women with curly hair should eliminate shampoos from their hair routine because they strip the hair of its natural oils, which can make curly hair look frizzy and dry. An important point to point out is that when this book was written and published, most shampoos had Sodium Lauryl Sulfates (SLS) in them. SLS is a primary cleansing agent in shampoos, formulated to remove dirt, product buildup, grease, and pollution from your hair. As a result, the hair will feel squeaky clean after wash.
While having freshly washed hair is not a bad thing, it can be bad news for curly hair. The reason is that most straight hair can feel excessively greasy, which is the reason why straight hair needs to be shampooed on a regular basis. However, curly hair is already lacking natural oils, and the last thing you want to do is to remove the little oil that’s in your hair. You want to preserve the oil as much as possible by eliminating SLS shampoos and replace them with conditioners that are formulated with oils and conditioning agents.
The good news though is that sulfate-free shampoos are now plentiful in the market. So if you are not comfortable with the “curly girl method”, you can still use shampoos in your hair, by using one of these sulfate-free shampoos.
Does a co-wash replace a shampoo?
Yes, a co-wash is meant to replace shampoo. Instead of shampooing your child’s hair, you will use a bottle of conditioner to wash her hair. Co-washes are meant to refresh the hair in-between shampoo washes. This way, you can quickly cleanse your hair without completely removing natural oils from your hair.
There are many reasons why you should consider co-washing your child’s hair instead of regular shampooing. One of the reasons can be to reduce excessive dry hair. Since conditioners are meant to condition the hair and restore moisture back into the hair strands, regular co-washing can help condition your child’s hair and keep it clean at the same time.
Co-washing is ideal for kids with curly, wavy, and coarse hair textures, as well as kids with color-treated hair. If your child has fine hair texture, you can reduce co-washing, as it may result in buildup, which can leave the hair feeling weighed down and flat looking.
You shouldn’t completely eliminate shampoos from your child’s hair routine, because her hair and scalp will still need a thorough cleanse at least once a month.
Can I co-wash every day?
Washing natural hair every day can result in “hygral fatigue”, which is a type of stress your hair goes through when you add water to it. Water causes the hair to expand, and when water evaporates from your hair and it dries out, it will shrink back up. So washing your hair every day will put too much stress on your cuticles and hair elasticity.
To go back to your question about co-washing daily, I wouldn’t recommend it because it’s not necessary. Also, you will end up with product buildup, which will leave your hair feeling dry and looking dull. This is why it’s recommended to shampoo your hair in-between co-washes so that you can remove all product buildup.
How do you co-wash a toddler’s hair?
Most kids co-wash conditioners will come with directions on how to wash a child’s hair but generally, this is how you would do it:
Wet their hair
Pour some conditioner on their hair
Work the conditioner down their hair strands, making sure that it covers the entire hair length.
Rinse the product from her hair
Style as usual. You don’t need to do an additional conditioning step, because you didn’t use shampoo in your hair, and also because you just condition your hair.
Can you co-wash with any conditioner?
Ideally, you can use any conditioner within reach, but I would advise you to use a conditioner that has been formulated for co-washing to get the best results.
Ideally, you should minimize using conditioners with silicones such as dimethicones, especially if you’re not going to be shampooing her hair that often to remove silicone build-up from her hair.
Instead, check for a conditioner with the following ingredients:
Proteins to coat and protect the hair from heat and other harsh elements
Moisturizers to make the hair soft, smooth, and manageable
Emollients such as shea butter to soften your child’s hair and reduce frizz
Humectants such as honey and glycerin to help the hair absorb and lock in moisture
What is the easiest and painless way to detangle a child’s hair?
There is no other easier way to detangle a child’s hair other than to use a detangling conditioner. It does the job fast and without pain. Detanglers are specially formulated to smoothen the surface of the hair and reduce friction between the hair shafts to make the hair manageable.
How do you detangle really knotted hair?
If your child’s hair is severely knotted, your best bet would be to use a very good detangler such as the ones recommended in this post, along with a detangling brush or wide-tooth comb. You should part the hair in smaller sections and detangle each section at a time. You will need lots of patience and of course a lot of creativity to keep your child distracted the entire time.
For video instruction on how to detangle children’s hair, please watch this YouTube video by Kiana Hackett.
Can you use a conditioner as a detangler?
Yes, you can use a conditioner to detangle the hair as long as it has a good slip and also doubles as a detangling conditioner. However, for best results, it’s recommended to use a detangling conditioner such as the ones recommended in this blog post, so that you can have an easier detangling session.
One thing to note is that you can use a regular wash-out conditioner, co-wash conditioner, or leave-in conditioner as a detangler. As long as it has a good slip and leaves your hair detangled without breakage.
Is it better to detangle hair when wet or dry?
It’s always recommended to detangle hair when wet as opposed to detangling dry hair. As we all know, dry hair can be as crispy as potato chips, which means that they are more vulnerable to breakage than wet hair.
So to prevent the all too common breakage and tears that happen when detangling children’s hair, you should first hydrate the hair by spraying it with water, apply some detangling conditioner and gently detangle her hair.
There’s a common misconception out there that wet hair is weak, but one thing to note is that curly hair is more elastic and less susceptible to breakage when wet than it is when dry.
Again, remember the potato chip analogy. You can also compare dry curly hair to dry fusulli pasta versus cooked pasta. Dry pasta will break when snapped, but cooked pasta won’t. However, overcooked and mushy pasta will break up more easily than dry pasta. This is where the wet hair is weak misconception comes from.
So to prevent weak mushy hair, you should only detangle damp hair, and not on dripping wet hair. But as long as you have a good conditioner with a good slip in your hair, you won’t have to worry about breakage and damage when detangling your hair or your child’s hair.
20 of The Best Kids Detangling and Co-Wash Conditioners to Remove Knots and Tangles
This post contains affiliate links which means that I make a small commission at no additional cost to you if you make a purchase with my link.
If you find a discontinued product on this list, please do let me know so I can keep this post updated. I’d also like to inform you that brands change their product packaging from time to time, which means that the product picture in this post might look a bit different from the retailer’s website at the time you decide to make a purchase.
Product Promise: Infused with fruit essences, biotin, and vitamin E to nourish, grow and hydrate the hair. Leaves the hair soft, shiny and manageable while eliminating tough tangles. Also, instantly revitalizes, minimizes breakage, and improves elasticity.
Customer Review:“Love how easy it detangles my daughter’s hair.”
Product Promise: This lightweight aloe vera juice & honey infused leave-in conditioner and detangler is designed to aid in removing knots and tangles for easy combing and improved manageability. This moisture-rich formula leaves a light film on hair for all-day protection and leaves hair smooth and smelling honeylicious!
Customer Review:“I ordered it for my daughter and her family! We have used these products often and they are really good!.”
Product Promise: Detangles, defines, and tames children’s thick, wavy or unruly hair without greasiness. Conditions while restoring luster to dry, dull hair. Adds volume to hair and moisturizes it from roots to ends, giving those kiddie curls extra bounce. Made with natural and certified organic ingredients. Formulated with no silicone, no sulfates, no parabens, no phthalates, no mineral oil or petrolatum.
Customer Review: “My daughter has long thick very curly hair, I love to use this product on her hair to detangle. It works great and smells soo good!! It gives a good shine and makes your hair soft.”
Product Promise: Formulated for children’s delicate hair and scalp. Instantly detangles and conditions for quick easy combing. Prevents breakage, split-ends, and dryness by instantly improving softness and boosting shine from the inside out.
Customer Review: “I’ve used it since my daughter was a kid now she’s 32 years old. Best product for detangling hair”
Product Promise: Revives, protects, moisturizes, and conditions your angel’s curls. Gives her curls a boost while protecting them from the harsh environmental elements. Moisturizes dry curly hair and quickly saturates moist curls to enable fast and easy detangling. Reactivates and refreshes 2nd-day curls. Also, helps in prepping hair for styling.
Customer Review: “This spray makes detangling a breeze. I love it! This is now one of my go-to products.”
Product Promise: Tangles out today detangle even the tightest tangles, repairs damage and breakage as well as moisturizes and condition. This all-natural detangling spray softens any curl type to make it easier to comb and manage.
Customer Review: “This product really works, my 4-year-old great-granddaughter has very thick hair and would always cry when it was combed. I just spray her hair with Taliah Waajid Childrens Tangles out Today conditioner just before combing and waala!! she sits there playing with things or singing. There’s no more tears or saying ouch!! Thanks for making such a comforting product for small children.”
Product Promise: Cantu Care for Kids is the perfect blend of 100% pure shea butter, coconut oil, and honey formulated without harsh ingredients. Nurture and nourish fragile coils, curls, and waves with Cantu’s gentle care for textured hair. Calms tangles to reduce breakage.
Customer Review: “I use this for my 2-year-old, typically on dry hair. Not only does it make her hair more manageable, but it also doesn’t leave a greasy feel. Plus, it smells great. I’ve even put it on my own hair a couple of times.”
Product Promise: Softens strands for easy-combing of curls to reduce breakage. Detangles & primes the hair for hassle-free cleanse. Nurtures and nourishes fragile coils, curls, and waves. Contains no mineral oil, sulfates, parabens, phthalates, gluten, paraffin, propylene, PABA, or DEA.
Customer Review: “It works well for my daughter’s 4C hair. I even use it myself.”
Product Promise: Helps restore moisture, flexibility, and shine to make styling wavy, curly, or kinky hair fast and easy. Formulated with a nourishing triple blend of shea butter, soymilk, and honey, our Hair Milk Leave-In Detangler Spray helps untangle even the toughest tangles and knots. For use on wet or dry hair. Ideal for kids with wavy, curly, or coily/kinky hair textures.
Customer Review: “ My daughter has very curly hair, which is a little on the dry side. This conditioner works perfectly for her without her hair feeling sticky or more dried out.”
Product Promise: Provides superior ease while detangling the curliest hair types. Revives and protects hair and is perfect for natural hair.Tear-free detangling experience. Made with castor oil, coconut oil, and shea butter.
Customer Review: “ Great smell, leaves hair soft and shiny. I use it on my 8,7 and 3-year-old girls.”
Product Promise: Light, moisturizing formula revives bedhead and gives wild hair a fresh look. Ideal for curly, wavy, coily, and just about every other kind of kid hair. Detangles even the stubborn cases. Safe and gentle as well as easy to use.
Customer Review: “ Really helped my granddaughter’s fuzzy bed head. She has really curly hair and this product made them soft and shiny”
Product Promise: Excellent super detangling spray gently detangles all curly hair textures. Results are amazing and immediately noticeable when brush or comb glides through hair. Reduces breakage and conditions all curly hair textures. This product does not contain petrolatum, mineral oil, sulfates, or parabens.
Customer Review: “I use this product every day in my daughter’s hair and we love it! It works really well and smells great.”
Product Promise: Developed for curly, kinky, wavy, and frizzy hair. Works wonders on mixed; multi-textured hair. Reduces breakage and promotes healthy hair growth. Also, reduces frizziness and restores luster and shine. Deep conditions and moisturizes dry and brittle hair. Rinses clean with no leftover residue! Hair will be noticeably softer, shinier, and healthier with each use.
Customer Review: “ This is a great product. Smells good and makes my daughter’s hair extremely curly. Only wish they sold bigger bottles.”
Product Promise: A multi-purpose spray designed to silken and separate strands. Use anytime to help calm knots and flyaways. Perfect for mixed and biracial children’s curly hair. A blend of argan oil, shea butter, jojoba, protein, and quinoa extract that naturally softens and nourishes hair. Made without parabens, synthetic fragrances, dyes, silicones, sulfates, or formaldehyde donors. Gentle enough for daily use.
Customer Review: “ I wish I could give this product 10 stars for its amazing scent! It smells like a creamsicle and is quite literally the best hair detangler I’ve ever used.”
Co-Wash Conditioners For Kids Natural Hair Care
These co-wash conditioners can be used to cleanse your child’s hair without the use of shampoo. You can also use them as a pre-shampoo (pre-poo) treatment and detangle your child’s hair before washing and deep conditioning.
Product Promise: Great for hydrating, softening, and detangling natural curls and coils. This gentle formula quickly loosens even the toughest tangles for easy, tear-free combing. Contains shea butter, coconut milk, and vitamin E. No Formaldehyde, DEA, Sulfate or Parabens.
Customer Review: “ I love this for my daughter! Smells delicious, and goes great with the other products.”
Product Promise: Gentle and nourishing way to ensure your child has soft, shiny, tangle and frizz-free hair, wash after wash! Loaded with natural ingredients which smooth hair and detangle curls without the tugs and pulls. Removes impurities and conditions hair without using any harsh chemicals.
Customer Review: “ I use this product on my daughter’s hair. The product works very well and it’s not that expensive. It helps define her curls and makes her hair shine.”
Product Promise: Cleans and nourishes hair while bringing a fresh, delicious scent. Formulated with Flaxseed and Avocado Oils to help soothe and calm skin irritations. Rich in antioxidants from blueberries and Vitamins A, B & C to help to nourish the hair. Contains no silicone, no sulfates, no parabens, no phthalates, no mineral oil or petrolatum.
Customer Review: “Did wonders for the kid’s hair and they love the scent.”
Product Promise: Contains organic avocado oil, shea butter, and coconut oil. Effectively cleanses without robbing hair of its natural moisture. Gentle enough for daily use.Great for all hair types. Highly recommended for hair that tends to look and feel dry, or when enhanced manageability and balanced hydration is desired.
Customer Review: “ This product gave my son’s hair moisture, shine, and growth within two days of using it. Love, love, love it. He’s 6 months.“
Do you have any questions about detangling or co-washing your child’s hair? Have additional products you’d like to add to the list? Please send me a direct message on my Instagram page right HERE.
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