I already expressed my adoration of little Zahara Jolie-Pitt, so when I spotted this adorable photo over at DListed, I had to share. Yay, Zahara! What a little cutie. So expressive and bright, and she just lights up when she smiles. And lil mama is growing up fierce — check out her mom-and-me matching Valentino purse. Her handbag game is tighter than mine, and what is she, three years old? I say forget Brad and Angie — you’re pretty and all, but Zahara is clearly the star of the family! But of course, any posting of baby Z’s photos brings out the hair critics.

On D Listed all these people started coming out of the woodwork to complain about baby Z’s hairdo. “Z’s hair is just ridiculous! It takes away from her cuteness. Angie needs to head over to LA’s East Side and get a professional to do her up right!” “She really needs to take Z to a hairdresser. Poor kid.” “Her beauty deserves a decent hairstyle.” Ugh, it makes me so mad. Especially since she’s so happy here. Who ARE these people who sit around and throw shade at a three year old kid? People who have NO idea how to care for a little afrobella’s hair, I’d assume.

I’ve gotten some recent Ask Afrobella questions for little ones, so allow me to segue smoothly into those.

Hello, I am writing from Germany about my best friends daughter Esther.

Esther is a wonderful girl. Her mother is from Kenya and her father from Germany. I take care of her every weekend while her mother is at work. I have a Hair salon and do all kinds of hair extensions, but I just can´t seem to get Esther’s hair under control. She used to have dreadlocks, but we combed them out, a process that took 3 weeks. I then straighten her hair with a very mild straightener that I use on Caucasian hair. I only did this because she asked me to, in the town we live in there are not many dark people. Most of the girls at school have straight light hair. I could´nt convince Esther that her hair was fine as an afro.

My biggest problem is that her hair is very dry, and here in Germany there are not many products offered, and the ones that we can get in a “afro shop” are sometimes full of chemicals. They even sell skin lighting creams that are known to cause cancer! Can you maybe give me some tips? I am going to try the olive oil Honey treatment tomorrow. As we saw your Web page Esther got all excited. I hope that you can help us. I myself have no idea how to treat African hair, I am Native American and we don´t have these problems with our hair.

Thank you, Claire

Thanks for writing, Claire! It’s gotta be pretty difficult to know how to deal with afro-textured hair if you’re working with it for the first time. But oh my — combing out the poor girl’s locks for three weeks?? I can’t even imagine. Locks wearers, please speak up and let me know your thoughts on this. I’ve never had locks, and all of the people I’ve known who have had locks and wanted to get rid of them have simply cut or shaved them off. So the idea of combing out locks is foreign and surprising to me. I’d imagine it has to be a time-intensive, probably painful project. But I did a little research — according to Treasured Locks, it can be done with removal cream, which of course they also sell. There’s also the Knotty Boy Emergency Dreadlock Removal Kit, and other online resources say that use of deep conditioner also helps.

It also sounds to me like Esther needs more deep conditioning treatments for her dry hair, and a little bit of inspiration so she will begin to realize that her natural hair is just as beautiful as the straight hair of her school friends. You seem interested in trying natural recipes, so I’d advise you to first check out Motown Girl’s awesome recipes, then visit Anita Grant’s fantastic blog, The Life of a Mixtress. She breaks down ingredients and offers fabulous all-natural hair and skin care solutions involving honey, sugar, natural fruit oils, and stuff like that. On her old blog, Ingredient Junkie, she has great nourishing, moisturizing hair recipes involving Irish Moss (which some Caribbean people also know and love as Sea Moss). Did you try the olive oil treatment yet? Please write back and let me know what natural hair remedies you have tried.

If you’re having a hard time finding products in your local “afro shop” as you call it, my advice is, look for reasonably priced products you can order online. Since you’re in Germany, shipping from Anita Grant shouldn’t be too expensive, and she’s got great conditioning products for naturally curly afro-textured hair. Stateside, I can’t recommend Curls more highly, and their Curly Q’s line for kids might be what you’re looking for. Brangelina swears by Carol’s Daughter for Baby Z, and for the little Afrobella in my life, my niece Dominique, we’ve used coconut oil, and now she’s got a big ol’ tub of Miss Jessie’s Baby Buttercreme that works wonderfully on her two-year-old baby fro. And now if I may, I’d like to address Esther directly.

Esther, honey – I’m sorry it’s been so difficult, figuring out how to work with your natural hair. I also had thick, out-of-control hair when I was little, and because I couldn’t deal with it (and I gave my mom nothing but trouble when it was time to try combing and styling it), I wound up straightening it when I was way too young. This may not mean a lot to you now, but I did wind up regretting the decision as I grew older and realized how much I had damaged my hair. When I was your age, I wanted to look just like everybody else, and that meant using chemicals to relax my natural hair. I didn’t realize how cool it is to be unique and express myself until I got a little older, and part of that for me meant going back to my natural style. I think your hair might be extra dry because of the harsh treatments you’ve tried to “tame” it. The best advice I can give you is, let your hair be for a while. Take a break from the chemical treatments, and treat it gently. Try some mild children’s shampoo — don’t wash your hair every day, that strips it of its natural oils. Conditioner wash your hair during the week for manageability. Experiment with hairstyles — with your natural hair texture, you can come up with styles that are funky, fun, and could well be the envy of your friends. You’re beautiful just the way you are, Esther! Don’t let anyone make you feel any less than that. Write me and let me know how you’re doing with the hairstyling after that, OK?

Esther’s story took me back to my own formative years, when I was all about having long, silky straightened hair, just like all the other girls. When the terms “good hair” and “bad hair” started to creep into my vocabulary. I think it would have helped me to realize that the terms “good and bad hair” are a construct, made to make us feel that we are not as beautiful as we truly are, if I had natural hair role models around me, dolls that looked like me, or read books about kids going through the same stuff I was. Maybe then, I might have felt differently at an earlier age. Which brings me to the next question.

Hey Bella,

I wanted to know if there are any other books about natural black hair for older children (like age 10)? I’m having some issues w/my daughter about her hair… she wants a perm and I just don’t think she needs one (she is not happy at all). Help me out with more information, if you have any on hand.

stAr.

Hi StAr! Good question. I just recently read an interesting article on relaxing the hair of young black girls, that might give you some ideas on how to respond the next time your daughter asks for a relaxer. StAr wrote in regarding my little Worth a Click post about bell hooks’ Happy to be Nappy. Being that I don’t have any little afrobellas of my own (yet), I didn’t have an immediate recommendation. I haven’t read a children’s book in years!

Regular reader and commenter Bebroma came to the rescue and suggested I Love My Hair by Natasha Anastasia, which really is for littler ones (recommended for baby to pre school). But the description of the book definitely fits the bill — “young African-American girl describes the familiar mother-daughter nightly ritual of combing the tangles out of her hair. When she cries because it hurts, her sympathetic mother tells her how lucky she is to have such beautiful hair. Imaginatively, the woman goes on to say that she can spin it into a fine, soft bun or “plant rows of braids” along her scalp, prompting her daughter to think of other wonderful things she likes about her hair.” Sounds perfect! Bebroma also recommended Nappy Hair by Carolivia Herron , which is suggested for readers age 4 to 8, and features comical, cute illustrations.

Maybe your little bella is an advanced reader, like I was? Then I’d recommend you both read Kinki Kreations by Jena Renee Williams, which features awesome hair styles and step-by-step tips for natural hair. It’s a great book. Amazon also suggests Kids Talk Hair: An Instruction Book for Grown-Ups and Kids.

Besides books, you might want to consider other forms of positive reinforcement, like the j. blossom line of bath and body products for little afrobellas that I reviewed a while ago. Some of my readers also suggested Dolls Like Me, Just Mom and Me Dolls, and Ethidolls if you want to give your daughter a cool doll that looks like her. The most important thing is to let her know how beautiful and special she is, and teach her how to appreciate her beauty in its natural state.
I hope that helps, StAr and Claire! And keep the suggestions coming, fellow bellas. I love reading your comments! I’m trying to buck up on my Ask Afrobella questions, so look out for more of those soon.

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