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Kids' Hair: They Took a Shower, But Did They Wash Their Hair?

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This is something most of us don't think about much, and our kids almost certainly don't. Their hair needs serious cleaning.

Last week I wrote about how we need to get our hair really clean, a task we take for granted given that dirt and chemicals can accumulate insidiously -- we occasionally need reminders.

This is even easier to overlook with our children. When we think about our kids, their hair is rarely at the top of our concerns. We're trying to get them to school on time, and then to sports after school, we're watching grades, monitoring screen time, friendships, going to birthday parties... Yow! Did they get in the shower today?... Excellent. "Check."

I am mostly referring to their hair care during that fleeting period of their lives before it becomes the most important activity of the day, but even after their focus naturally shifts to grooming, they probably will be more concerned about appearance than cleanliness.

Their hair and scalps need to be clean, and because kids' hair can get really dirty, it deserves attention. They probably are not using adult treatments on their hair like coloring or sprays, but if they're athletic, in the pool or just tree climbers, you can bet their hair accumulates chemicals and goo that leave locks limp, maybe greasy or scaly and dull.

Using a clarifying shampoo or home mix of baking soda and water once every week or two is a great way to get all this unwanted stuff out of their hair. Granted, the days are mostly gone when the swim team would emerge from a season of racing with towheads tinted chlorine green -- for decades we've been scrutinizing and reducing chemicals in everything from food to pools. But kids still accumulate a lot of dirt and need their hair and scalps clean just like their parents do.

Clarifying shampoos are designed to remove more of life's residue, including hair treatments and even medications. You can make a great, and inexpensive, clarifying shampoo mixing a couple tablespoons of baking soda with enough water to create a thick liquid and rub that into their hair. Let it rest for a minute or two then rinse thoroughly. Then wash with a regular shampoo or conditioner. Really, a conditioner can be pretty important for kids, especially if they have long hair because it will reduce tangles and the pain of brushing. The baking soda can irritate eyes so be careful with this, just like you would with many retail shampoos.

Do this: After your kids take their typical shower or bath, examine their hair and scalp. Is their hair even wet? Any dirt? Leftover shampoo? How is their scalp? Check again later for dry, scaly skin. These are things that can leave your little gal or guy with an uncomfortable, itchy condition. There is no need to be obsessive. You are a parent. You find a problem, you fix it.

Truth is, we need to teach our children about washing their hair just like we teach them anything else. It doesn't take much time and certainly can be fun, and it should never be punitive or obsessive. Probably, you'll need to remind them occasionally. It helps if you've started in their toddler years with a very mild shampoo that doesn't burn their eyes -- pain is a serious deterrent. Then just keep it simple, encourage them with lots of approval, and understand that it probably won't be perfect. All too soon, they will be teenagers and begin pausing for every mirror, and then you've got other great problems!

As always, be open to change!