Go Ask Mom

Go Ask Mom

Hairstylist, author answers common questions about cutting children's hair

Posted November 19, 2012
Updated November 20, 2012

I introduced Larry Dunlap, a Raleigh hairstylist and dad, yesterday. In his 33 years as a hairstylist, he's fielded many questions from parents about their child's hair (and fixed more than a few botched home haircuts too).

So he's written the book "How to Cut Children's Hair" and launched a website where he offers regular tips and information.

Dunlap shared some common questions he's gotten over the years and his answers, which he's also shared on his website.

1. Is it true that cutting my child's hair will make it grow longer or thicker?

Well, yes and no.

Hair doesn't grow from the ends outward like a plant does. Hair growth occurs at the scalp. That's why you get "roots" when your hair color has grown out (why are there so many plant analogies related to hair anyway?). But, if you keep the ends trimmed regularly your hair does seem to grow faster. Here's why:

Over time, even healthy hair will develop small splits at the ends. If these splits aren't trimmed off regularly, they will continue to split and re-split and extend further up the hair shaft. When your hair gets to this point, the abrasion that occurs with your hair moving across the fabric of your blouse, sweaters and coats is enough to break off small amounts of the ends. So, even though your hair is growing normally at the scalp (which is about a half inch per month), it's breaking off gradually at the ends.

Simply making sure that you get the ends trimmed every 6 to 8 weeks will keep the ends of your hair healthy and allow it to grow longer.

By the way, no vitamin or supplement or anything that you apply to your scalp will have even the slightest impact on your hair growth.

2. I've always heard that you can "train" hair to stay in place and away from my child's face by brushing into place multiple times a day. Is this true?

Unfortunately this is just another old myth with no basis. Hair grows out in a distinct direction and pattern. No amount of "training" will change that anymore than wiping your nose in an upward motion would give you a
cute upturned nose.

3. What's the best way to detangle my little girl's long hair?

First of all, use the right tool for detangling so that you don't create more damage to the child's hair while getting out the tangles. For wet hair, only use a comb with large, widely spaced teeth, never a brush. A spray-on, leave-in conditioner helps.

Wet hair stretches up to 60 percent of its length when dry and will break off if too much tension is applied. A hair brush grips the hair much too strongly to use for detangling wet hair.

On dry hair, use a natural boar bristle brush which will create shine while it detangles. Spray the brush lightly with hairspray beforehand. This will help prevent static electricity from making your child's hair stand on end like she's been electrocuted.

With wet or dry hair you can make the process faster and less painful by gripping a section of hair near the scalp making sure not to pull the hair tightly. Trust me, your kid will let you know if you are pulling too hard.

Then beginning near the ends, begin detangling using short strokes and gradually working your way towards the scalp area.

Read more tips on his website. Dunlap was kind enough to offer Go Ask Mom readers 20 percent off his book by clicking here. Just use discount code RNF77SQU.


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