The basin has been banished. Now your child’s crowning glory is sculpted by cutting-edge stylists and the latest organic products

By Liz Fraser

This leading parenting magazine included The Hairforce in a full on article about children’s hair – top stylists, top products and off course our top service for clearing nits and head lice…

‘At just six months old, my first born’s soft, thin hair was so long it dangled over her eyes and got chewed into her baby rice on a daily basis. One morning, when I could bear it no longer, I sat her down in her high chair, pulled out some kitchen scissors and chopped her wispy locks into what I believed one would call a rather cute fringe. Sadly, looking back at the photos I now realise that she looked like a prison escapee and it probably explains why my husband didn’t speak to me for a week.

Cutting children’s hair used to be a case of pudding basins, wonky bobs and straggly fringes, but, today, it’s a far more sophisticated affair. No more DIY disasters in the kitchen for our little cherubs – these days a trip to the top hair salons, getting to grips with the latest styles and using specially designed children’s haircare products is de rigeur. Children’s hair is now a new coiffed and spritzed ball game.

And it all begins with that first salon experience. Tantrum – a specialists children’s salon where every haircut is an adventure – has just opened on London’s stylish King’s Road. Each styling station has a different shiny vehicle to sit in, from a cherry-red fire truck to a blue aeroplane. There’s also a flat-screen television in front of every chair so children can watch DVDs, while a toy train whistles along a track overhead. At the end of their visit, children can have a chocolate coin from the pirate’s chest. Co-owner of Tantrum, Latasha Malik, has some handy tips for a smooth visit. ‘Bring your child in beforehand to familiarise them with the salon,’ she says. ‘Choose the right time of the day or week when your child is most relaxed. Some children are better after school, some at the weekend – judge what will work best for your child.’

According to top London stylist and colourist Daniel Galvin Jr, that first haircut is all-important. ‘A child’s first haircut should be a memorable event,’ he says. “If the first experience is good, then you’ll be set for an easy ride in appointments to come. What’s really important is that you are relaxed – if you are stressing, or fussing too much, they will pick up on this and won’t enjoy themselves at all.’ Daniel also recommends making sure you chat with the stylist before they start, and then take leave when they begin. ‘If your child feels comfortable you should be able to leave them with the stylist,’ he says. ‘Otherwise, they will be looking at you all the time and jiggling about, which makes it almost impossible to make a good, safe job of it.’

So keep calm, don’t fuss, befriend the stylist and then hide while your child gets the chop. Is there anything else then? Err, yes, and it’s a biggie: how on earth do you coax the human equivalent of greased lightning to sit still, while someone fiddles about near their eyes and ears with scissors so sharp they could take half a lobe off with one snip?
Thankfully, hairdressers are getting wise to these little challenges and use all kind of techniques, from plying your child with lollipops to giving them the latest games to play to keep them occupied. Ask, and they’ll be happy to help out.

Parents have their methods, too. Paul, whose son Jack had his first haircut at the hands of a nervous mother at home and ended up looking like a tennis ball after several grand slams with Rafael Nadal, now visits a local salon where they have a huge fish tank. ‘Jack literally doesn’t move for the whole ten minutes,’ according to Paul. ‘When its time to go, his hair looks great and he doesn’t even know it’s been cut.’

Now, you may be wondering what’s so important about getting a child’s haircut right. It’s just hair – right? Wrong. These days, children are more aware than ever about style and the importance of fitting in, and parents are also more keen to make sure children look well groomed.

According to Philip Kingsley, the world-renowned trichologist whose hair clinics have tended to the tresses of stars including Kate Winslet and Renee Zellwegger, this change has largely come about due to the media, but it has positive health benefits for our children’s scalps.

‘There’s more interest in children’s hair die to television and magazines and more children are now using styling aids and taking more notice of their hair,’ says Kingsley. ‘Plus, there’s the realisation that prevention is better than cure. This is certainly a positive trend.’

According to Galvin Jr, footballers’’ styles have a big influence on boys: a while back, it was all Peter Crouch, or Becks with the short crop, but now there are lots of little boys wanting their hair long and wavy like Torres. They just want to look like their heroes, really. And why not?’

For girls, Daniel says their mothers have a major influence, and those whose mothers have long hair are more likely to want the same, while if you’re always dying, curling and styling yours then you are likely to have a daughter who is interested in trying out different techniques and styles, too.

Film characters also influence what children want on their heads with Harry Potter’s Hermione Granger and Narnia’s Lucy Susan Pevensie influencing more little girls to go for flowing locks. But, in general, the wacky stays right out of the picture: even a five-year-old can see that Sportacus and The Cat In The Hat both sport hairdos that belong strictly on the screen and not on the playground! And a word of warning for anyone who won’t let their children have things their way: keep the scissors out of reach! Many youngsters will grab a chance to have a chop, and the results, without exception, are catastrophic – unless you had something along the ‘just spent a night in rehab’ look in mind.
There is, of course, more to haircare than fashion. With increasing numbers of children suffering from all manner of allergies, such as asthma and eczema, what we put on their hair and how we maintain it needs to be considered more carefully. The best rule of thumb to remember, where children and any sort of product is concerned – be it washing powder or shampoo – is to keep it simple and natural. Children have sensitive skin, and the less you cover it in chemicals the better.

There has been a boom in haircare products specially designed for children in recent years, so we no longer have to smear our children’s head with parabens, alcohol or the potentially carcinogenic sodium lauryl sulphate to keep their hair clean. There are some really harsh chemicals in many gels and lacquers, so always choose something much gentler for your children.

Unfortunately, children are not immune to common hair problems. ‘Children do get dandruff,’ says Kingsley. ‘Babies and toddlers with cradle cap are more prone to dandruff later in life.’ Just being aware of such things through regular visits to a professional can help keep many of these problems at bay, and even cure troublesome scalp conditions.
And then, of course, there’s the dreaded head lice. According to my mother, I never had head lice as a child and this seems to be true of many adults I know. Today, with three children of my own, nits have almost become part of our extended family. For three years, we’ve had almost unbroken outbreaks of the little critters, and they circulate around the school faster than hot gossip about handsome fathers and their Polish nannies.

British parents spend £30 million every year trying to eradicate the vile little creatures – and every honest parent knows that most of the time we will fail: no sooner has the scratching stopped than… what’s that I see making a dash for my daughter’s parting? Well, if it isn’t another crawling little beastie. Back to square one again.
So why are lice such a problem these days? Well, first of all, as nature is so much cleverer than we are, lice (that’s the bugs by the way: nits are the eggs) have adapted to become resistant to many of the nasty chemicals we used to combat them. Secondly, parents have stopped bothering to check children regularly. Nit-busting is time-consuming, and what most parents don’t have much of these days is time. The bad news is that until we start taking head lice more seriously, and add head-checking and nit-combing to the daily list of things to do, we haven’t a hope of getting rid of them.

There is a less taxing solution, however. Call in the experts. The Hairforce was set up in 2006 by mother-of-two Dee Wright, who spent hours painstakingly treating her own daughters. Instead of using chemical treatments, which many lice are resistant to and which do not get rid of eggs, Dee removes the lice and eggs by hand; using a technique she has developed herself.

The Hairforce’s specialist team of ‘Lice Assassins’ use a three-stage process. First, hair is divided up into sections and hovered with a special lice hoover. Then it’s covered in an organic, enzyme-free conditioner and combed with a Licemeister comb. Finally, the Lice Assassin embarks upon an extensive nit-pick, using a medical magnifying visor and bright light to locate the nit eggs. The child must undergo this process three times, on visits four days apart, after which they are guaranteed to be entirely nit- and lice- free. How long for will depend on who your child is mixing with, but according to Dee, her process will catch lice and nits a parent might miss with a DIY home treatment.
And she believes head lice are much more than just an annoyance for children. ‘Most parents don’t realise how badly nits can affect a child’s self-confidence and worth,’ says Dee. ‘Children can become withdrawn, always sitting at the back of the class so no one can see their hair; not going for a part in a play where their hair might be scrutinised; not taking part in games so others won’t get too close to see. It’s so sad.’

So whether it’s the gentlest treatments for a dry scalp, getting the latest funky hairstyle or checking carefully for nits, your child’s crowning glory can be glossier, groovier and well, groomed to perfection. And you know he’s worth it.

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