Curly Kids: The Summer Camp Hair Guide

I apologize profusely if you now have High School Musical in your head. Like, actually I’m sorry.

But it’s true, it is officially summer time. School is out for the season, so your kids are…at home?

Yeah, no, that’s not happening. More than likely your kids are off to camp.

Whether it’s day camp or sleepaway camp, you’re probably prepping everything your kid needs: sunscreen, bug repellent, swim suits, hair product.

Yep, you almost forgot didn’t you?

Between color wars, pool time, and the other outdoor adventures, your kid’s hair is going to get a little crazy.

But let’s be realistic here – these are kids. They do not need picture perfect curls day in and day out. But they do need to keep their hair out of their face and avoid as much tangling as possible.

Enter Shari Harbinger, Co-Founder of the DevaCurl academy and all around curl guru. She’s sharing tips to help make caring for curly haired kids during camp a breeze.

How to Keep Hair Out of Kids’ Faces

Arm your kid with hair ties. “Scrunchies are the most kid friendly – avoid anything with metal or too harsh of an elastic, as they’re likely to get stuck in their hair,” says Shari. If you can get an older kid to try out a hair bungee, go for it. They’re the easiest to remove, and provide a strong hold

When it comes to headbands, be sure to stick to soft fabric options and not the tight sport elastics.

It’ll also help to pick out some simple curly hairstyles that they can do themselves. A few options:

  • Curly pigtails: Simply divide the hair into two sections, then secure with ties. To change up the style from time to time, switch between ponytails or buns.
  • The pineapple: Slick the hair up and back, creating the base of a ponytail on the top of the head. Direct the ends of the hair forward so that the curls sit near the forehead. Secure with an elastic.
  • A braid: If your child is old enough, you can opt for a French braid, but even little ones can master a simple two strand twist. To keep the twist in place, start by creating a ponytail, securing in place with an elastic. Divide the ponytail in half, twisting one section over the other. Secure the end with another hair tie.

How to combat tangles

We’ve already broken down the basics of detangling here on For All Curl Kind. But kids at camp are an entirely different story.

They’re running around, sweating, getting in and out of chlorinated pools and fresh water lakes. The knots are on a whole new level. And there’s nothing kids hate more than combing out their curls. (I still have nightmares about my parents brushing my hair).

So how can you help?

First things first, take your child for a haircut before camp. One of the biggest causes of tangles is going too long between cuts. If your child gets a trim right before camp starts, you’re setting them up for success. Need to find a stylist in your area? Check out our Stylist Finder.

Next? Help them form good habits. One of the biggest sources of tangles is summer camp swim sessions.

The best bet to protect curls is to use a swim cap. If you can, have your child wear a soft cloth cap and a latex cap over it. The headpiece acts as a barrier to the chlorine and water, protecting the hair. The cloth cap liner also prevents tugging from the latex – reducing breakage and the ouch-factor for kids.

If there’s no way they’ll even consider the cap, No-Comb Detangling Spray is going to be the go-to. Every time they apply sunscreen, remind them that they should also apply detangler.

Then to break up the curls, they can gently finger detangle, or do a little bit of head banging. Yes, really. The motion helps separate the curls naturally.

If they’re into towel drying their hair, be sure to have them pack a microfiber towel along with their pool towel. The terrycloth fiber in a traditional towel will only rough up the cuticle and cause more tangles and breakage. A microfiber one is gentler, and also helps reduce frizz.

When the kids come home (or get back to their bunks at sleepaway camp) be sure to have them rinse their hair to remove any chlorine or dirt. Cleansing once a week with Buildup Buster will keep the hair clean and remove any buildup (it also fights the green tinge in blonde hair). Then they can follow up with a conditioner like One Condition Decadence or Heaven in Hair. You can leave these conditioners in as well, which means curls will get an extra dose of hydration – which they’ll need post-sun exposure.

Do you have any tips to help care for curls during camp season? Share them with us in the comments below!