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Teens and Hair

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Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Teens, Preteens, & Young Adults > Teens and Hair


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'tween won't brush/comb hair or get haircuts

April 2009

My 5th grader has hair issues. The real issue that is driving me crazy is that she refuses to brush her own hair. My husband is in charge of mornings & getting her to school as I go to work early. He brushes her hair for her as part of their morning routine. That's only on weekdays. She doesn't brush it at all on weekends or evenings. She has gorgeous, thick hair, and perhaps the thickness makes it hard for her to deal with. At the same time, she hates getting her hair cut (claims that the hairdresser always cuts off too much no matter how little is actually cut - perception vs. reality) and wants to never get her hair cut again. So where we are now is this power struggle over hair, which I find a silly waste of time all things considered. So if she doesn't want to brush her hair, she will then ask either her dad or me to brush it for her. This is where I now want to say no because her argument about getting her hair cut (or not) is that it's her hair. Well, I agree with that, but I need for her to take care of it the same way she has to bathe and brush her teeth. I don't know how to handle the situation at this point. I feel like if she wants to take total control over her hair, fine, but then I won't be brushing it anymore, and I would want my husband to agree to that as well, though frankly I don't see that happening. Suggestions? don't want hair battles!


I had a similar problem (but maybe not so bad). I gently but firmly told my daughter that if it was my job to take care of her hair, then I would cut it short. If she wanted it longer, then she had to take care of it. I believe she had a certain number of ''warnings'' or ''strikes'' before I was just going to cut it. She now takes care of her very long hair. Endlessly! Be careful of what you ask for! anon
I had long hair at that age and I LOVED having my mom or dad brush my hair. It felt good and it was a nice intimate contact with them. So, maybe that's your daughter's thing. There will be a time REALLY SOON when she won't want you or your husband to be anywhere near her. I'd enjoy the brushing while you have the opportunity. There are many more really serious issues coming to drive you crazy. mom of 2 teens
Some thoughts and questions about your daughter, middle-schoolers, hair, etc.:

1) Kids in this age range are frequently just on the verge of becoming obsessed with personal appearance, and the switch can happen literally overnight; it did with both my stepdaughter and my biodaughter and the question of bathing and hair washing.

2) Perhaps your daughter is starting to miss her childhood. I know my biodaughter would sometimes say that she didn't want to grow up, that she had enjoyed being a little girl. Being groomed by her father may help your daughter feel more secure or something.

3) Does your husband really mind brushing his daughter's hair? It might be a small ritual that both of them enjoy. (Actually I think it's great that your husband helps with her hair, especially if it's thick and hard to take care of. I also think it's important for girls to feel that their fathers approve of their growing up and becoming women.)

4) Assuming that your daughter keeps her hair reasonably clean, I'd let this issue alone for a while, especially if it bothers you more than it does your husband and daughter. You can always bring it up again next year.

5) You might also consider telling her something like, ''Your dad and I have talked about this, and decided that it really is your business and as long as you keep your hair clean, you may take care of it as you please, with or without our help.'' Just openly handing her that power could relax the whole struggle. I found that with both our girls, acknowledging their rights in smaller matters told them that we were giving them permission to grow up and expressing our approval of their doing so. (It was also practice for negotiating the bigger matters that came up during high school: time management, dating, college, money, etc.) Melanie


My daughter went through a phase like that, resulting in gigantic hairball and general unkempt appearance. Perhaps there was a deep psychological reason for it, I don't know. She complained that combing out the knots hurt. So we bought her a hair brush that has softer, more giving bristles, and remind her to put on lots of conditioner. After a few weeks of 'reminding', she got over it. anon
You are missing the point, you are winning this battle. If your husband doesn't mind brushing her hair and she enjoys it, then great, it is a nice bonding experience for them. Could you be a little jealous?

In just a few short years (possibly months) the teen years will hit, where there will likely be no hugging, cuddling or brushing-enjoy this while you can! As to the weekends who cares? Don't you enjoy being a slouch on the weekend? Don't worry about it unless there is an event that she needs to look nice for. I love having my hair brushed it is very relaxing. If someone was brushing my hair for me every morning, I would be thrilled and I wouldn't like anyone taking it away from me. Mom of a teen


Daughter, 13, wants to lighten her hair

Sept 2008

My 13 yr old daughter really wants lighter hair. Right now it's about medium brown. We both know that dying her hair is out of the question, but is there another way to slightly lighten it? I don't even know if I should agree to it at all! What should I do? Help


Why not let her get highlights? I've been getting them since I was 14. It's a very subtle way to lighten the hair. It looks nice growing out, too. It does not involve dye -- most salons nowadays use a form of hydrogen peroxide (not bleach and not dye) to put highlights in your hair. Hydrogen peroxide is the same thing in toothpaste and teeth whiteners - it is safe.
My medium-brown haired son also kept asking me if he could have lighter hair. After trying to talk him out of it, I finally game him and used about 5 big sprays of ''Sun-In'' from the drugstore (didn't spray on his scalp, just the hair). It turned out really nice. I was so surprised. The color was natural and even as the hair grew out it looked okay. He never asked again--I think he was just curious about what he would look like. Been there!!
Lemon juice is a low tech way to add highlights, and there are some drug store sprays that will do the same...can't remember the name Sun In or Sun Lite or something like that. You could also get a few highlights from a local place that cuts/colors hair. Good luck, Sunny Disposition:)
I'm wondering why you are set against her dying her hair? Is it because of the toxic dyes? Or because you think she's too young? Or do you think it will lead to more outrageous desires? My daughter is now 17 with natural brown hair, but at around 13 she also wanted to dye her hair. We played with those semi-permanent dyes that wash out in 6 weeks, then she said she wanted it green. I decided that I would allow it, in fact I would help her. So we had to bleach it first. She was a blonde for a day!! I have to say it was so much fun! I was almost envious. Then came the green dye, but instead we made her hair look like a peacock with different greens and blues. It really looked stunning. She even went to visit relatives in Kansas that summer, she's a brave girl! Then She decided that she wanted it brown again, so we dyed it dark brown, darker than her natural color, then it went almost black with some blonde underneath, and now finally, at 17, back to basic brown. I felt like it was a bonding activity and we really had fun doing it. I had a chance to play with her hair again which I was missing and to laugh and just be together without arguing. You know the old saying to choose your battles? Well, this seemed like one I didn't want to fight. Hair grows back and it gave her a chance to explore her image at an age where all that was starting to come into focus.

So, I say let her do it and have a great time with it! The people at the Beauty Supply shops will be able to tell you how to do everything. hair-dyin' momma


Here's what I did when I was a teen and my mom wouldn't let me dye my hair (this was 20+ years ago). I mixed equal parts of fresh lemon juice and hair conditioner, I combed the mixture through my hair and then went and sat in the sun for 30 minutes or so. It made the top layer blonde (I'm a light brown naturally.) I was happy and my mom was okay with it. Good luck! Miss Those Days
Take her to a hair salon and get highlights. They can make the streaks subtle or bold, do a lot or just a few. It will give her hair a new look, but not drastic. My daughter, who has medium/light brown hair, got highlights at 14, and has done it maybe a couple more times since (she's 17 now). It looked really cute, and still looked fine as they grew out. And I did it a year ago at 48, with my dark brown (graying) hair, and got TONS of compliments from people. goldilocks
Let her try highlights two or three shades lighter than her hair. The highlights grow out more naturally since they look like sun-bleached hair. Highlight Fan
yes, you should let her. Just like when they were younger, it's important to 'pick your battles' and sometimes just say yes to the more harmless requests! Hair color grows out, unlike tatoos and piercings, so why not give her this small freedom/choice?

There are many natural, non-toxic brands available if this is your primary concern. Take your daughter to Whole Foods,Elephant Pharm, or a similar natural store, read the labels and find an educated employee (they exist there!) to discuss the options, pros and cons. Start just a couple of shades lighter, so there's a noticeable difference but not too drastic. The natural dyes tend to fade within a few months anyway, usually only ''permanent'' haircolor contains harsh or toxic bleach. You can look up any unfamiliar ingrediants on safecosmetics.org to ease your concerns. Have fun with this! former buyer for W.Foods


You could try lemon juice but it might make it too blonde for her liking. Diana
It seems to me that this is a highly decorated generation. Be glad your daughter is into something harmless like hair instead of piercings or tattoos.

My daughter and I have both used a (Clairol?) product you can get at Safeway or Longs that is really easy to use and gives blonde highlights. There's a green applicator on the box that looks a little like a razor, that you comb on your wet hair. No little cap. Just follow the instructions. You can do just stripes around the face or all over. Looks very natural.

For overall blonder on mousy brown hair, put one part lemon juice to three parts water on wet hair, then go out in the hot sun until it's dry. good luck


10-year-old daughter wants highlights

June 2007

My 11 year old has asked about getting color highlights in her hair. How safe is this? Do you go to a salon or do it yourself? How long does the color last? I'm willing to consider unless there seems to be some grave health risk. So please share your experiences. Thanks! checking out highlights mom


It's as safe as doing it as an adult. If you're up for it, just know that the maintenance on highlights is what gets ya... they have to be kept up every 6 weeks and the price is usually the same as the initial highlight. Do you really want to pay for all that?

Personally, I'd send her the way of a henna product that she can do in the home by herself (for $6-$15). Much cheaper, still a fun new change, and fades over time.

My concern is this: She's eleven. Where do you go from here? Kids usually like to do more than they've done before as they get older. Maybe set an age or achievement-based goal before highlights, so that she isn't begging for a nose piercing and tats by age 13. Choices, choices


I've been highlighting my hair for YEARS, as have many women I know. I've never experienced any adverse effects and have never heard of any. I would not worry at all. Highlighting at home is difficult to do well. Use a professional if you can afford it. Also, remember that although all over color is cheaper, highlighting grows in more naturally than all over color. anon

How safe are dyes that 12-year-old is using on her hair?

Feb. 2001

I have a 12 year old niece. Now-a-days, she dyes her hair often. I am concerned about her hair. How safe are the hair coloring products like Revlon, Loreal etc. I think the products are chemical and they are not good for her health. Anybody have any suggestions or information about products' health safety matters? Suraiya


As with any chemical product, you should always use hair dyes in a well ventilated area. Sitting closed up in a bathroom with no windows is not the way to do it. Not being too chemical-savvy or concerned, I can't say much more about that aspect of your question. But I can say that store bought dyes are significantly more harsh than salon dyes, no matter what they say. They put those gobs and gobs of conditioner in those boxes for a reason. Your niece may or may not be harming her health, but she is surely harming her hair. And if I remember from my own high school hair dyeing days, she isn't following the directions either. Probably she changes the color nearly every time, which means she has to apply it all over her head, instead of just at the roots. Not only is this bad for her hair, but after she has done it for a while she may notice that she develops a horizontal line, running from temple to temple around the back of her head, where the hair is much darker. That is dye build-up, the place where her roots meet the grown-out point that marks when she first started dyeing her hair. It's sort of like the rings on trees; a good hairstylist can probably take one look and make a reasonable guess as to how long she's been dyeing her own hair, and how often she's done it. My suggestion to you is that you encourage your niece to pick a color and stick with it; better still treat her (or encourage her parents to do so) to a trip to a salon, where she can get the job done at least once professionally. I bet she'll be impressed by the difference in quality and how much longer it lasts. I wouldn't encourage her to quit (she *is* a teenager!) but I might mention that she is ruining her hair, and that it will take a long time to heal it. Heather

Teen's Compulsive bang cutting

May 1998

My middle-school-aged daughter has cut her bangs very short and has resorted to parting her hair low on the side and sweeping it across her forehead to cover where her bangs once were. This is actually the third time she has done this despite my husband's and my advice and offers to take her to a salon to have whatever she wants done to her hair. We don't really care how her hair is, but we are weary of her misery resulting from her attempts to fix previously botched jobs. We've even put away all the scissors in the house for months at a time. Any recommendations for a salon or haircutter who can fix my girl's disasterous bang butchering would be most appreciated.


Here are my thoughts to Anonymous about compulsive hair cutting.

I would highly recommend Nancy at Peter Thomas who is very understanding as well as a great haircutter. It's pretty expensive so it wouldn't be a regular thing for a teenager but maybe one great very short cut would make her feel happier with her hair.

The main reason I'm responding is that I used to do this to my hair in junior high school. I don't think it had anything to do with hair but with an overall misery about junior high school in combination with a really low self esteem -- and really, who had good self esteem in junior high? Those years were so hard. Anne Lamott says that everyone she knows who is creative/interesting/fun to be around had a hell of a time in eighth grade and I think that's right. Hang in there. I survived the eighth grade and am currently quite happy with my hair. Ann


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