What can you do when a little girl has fine hair?
September 23, 2014 7:18 AM   Subscribe

My daughter is five and has rather fine hair that's a little over shoulder-length. Because of the way our morning schedule works, I am her Primary Hairgiver. While the hairs are fine, the growth is reasonably thick, but it manages to wiggle its way out of any clip that we've tried by lunch.

She also has an abundance of fringey hair around her hairline that makes simply pulling it back a little inadequate. The only sure way to know that she's not coming home looking like an Old English Sheepdog is to tightly french braid her hair. I am a self-taught french braider, and doing it well is time consuming and a bit limiting to her appearance. I'd love to have some other effective methods of keeping her hair in place.

She's capable of replacing a hair band, and we do that occasionally but it requires a lot of adjustment on her part when she's playing. Ponytail with hairband is a decent compromise, and she wears it that way a lot too. But I still hate seeing her adjust the band every time she goes down the slide. I've tried the "gather" type of clips with the teeth, and while they work better than a standard barrette, they're not an all-day solution.

I would like for her to occasionally wear her hair parted on the side, with something to keep her hair to the sides of her head. Is there a specific type of clip that I need to get? A specific way to place the hair so that it won't wiggle out? Or is this just something that we have to live with until she's older and it's no longer my problem? Thanks!
posted by Mayor Curley to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (50 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Or is this just something that we have to live with until she's older and it's no longer my problem? Thanks!

Pretty much this, I suspect. I also have baby-fine hair, and it is notorious about wiggling its way out of all clips, binders, etc. The way my parents dealt with it was to keep me in short hair nearly my entire childhood.

Although - I'm assuming she's using the kind of hairband that is a U shape and goes over the head, yes? If so, try the kind of headband that is a complete circle. Also - I've had great success with kerchiefs (I hate the way all hats look on my head, but I actually like me in a kerchief) in terms of keeping hair in place. Also, they look adorable on a little girl.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:25 AM on September 23, 2014 [5 favorites]

If there is a good solution to this, I'd love to hear it. I'm 39 and have fine hair, and have had similar problems all my life.
posted by Anne Neville at 7:28 AM on September 23, 2014 [7 favorites]

Have you tried bobby pins? They're not as cute/girly as bows and barrettes, but they're the go-to accessory when you really need hair to stay in place.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 7:29 AM on September 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

From a 30-year-old fine haired female: don't wash it every day. I go upwards of 4 or 5 days before my hair gets too dirty. The natural oils help calm the frizziness. This does not mean she doesn't bathe everyday, just that not every bath includes hair washing.

I remember complaining to my mom recently about how much of a pain it is that my hair doesn't like to hold clips or bobby pins and she laughed and told me that she had the same problem when I was little.

When you're comfortable using products on her hair, hairspray and antifrizz oils can help.
posted by royalsong at 7:29 AM on September 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

I've said this before on this site, but your answer for your daughter is probably some sort of Ficcare. They hold most anything all day. You probably either want the size Small (of the Ficcare Maximas clip) to hold all of her hair back (or possibly the Ficcare barrettes), or if you only want to hold part of her hair back I think you definitely would want the barrettes.
posted by ClaireBear at 7:29 AM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Both my sisters had very fine blonde hair and although it was never my job I do remember the difficulties my parents had. Plaits sort of worked once it had grown long enough, but until then, they just had to cope with it. We never had full-circle bands or kerchiefs though so maybe they'll do a better job.
posted by fearnothing at 7:29 AM on September 23, 2014

Headband/clips/bobby pins + a little hair spray, which makes everything a bit grippier. Spray the hairspray directly on the hair item.

Also might be worth using some sort of hair mousse or cream. I like using Paul Mitchell's styling creme, which gives my thin hair more body, but I am sure that there are others.

When she gets older: my hairdresser told my that dying hair is a great way to give it more texture and volume, because it ruffles the smooth surface of the hair.
posted by troytroy at 7:32 AM on September 23, 2014

No personal experience here, but I wonder if these would work?

I mean seriously, these are cuter than they have any right being.
posted by phunniemee at 7:32 AM on September 23, 2014

Oh, seconding bobby pins! They make them in different colors too, and some also come with all sorts of spangly bits attached like flowers and jewels and whatnot.

What you may also want to try is - get a sparkly decorative bobby pin, and a second bobby pin that matches her hair color. And use both - put the plainer bobby pin in place first, and then the second pin over it in a sort of squashed and elongated x-shape. The crossed bobby pins will help secure the hair, and the sparkly one will be a) decorative and b) distract from the fact that you had to use two damn pins.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:36 AM on September 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

You don't have to braid her whole head if you're just looking to keep the hair out of her eyes. What about pulling back and securing just the sections of hair directly around her face-- like from a top-of-head side part to her ear? Then either band the section together right next to the scalp with one of those tiny clear elastics, or braid down and secure near the ends of the hair. Because the section will contain more strands of uniform length, hair will be less likely to fall out of it; and you can just stick your decorative clip through the elastic band or braid, where it'll now be stabilized.
posted by Bardolph at 7:48 AM on September 23, 2014

My 6 year old has very fine hair as well (although in the last few months it's been thickening up! maybe that will happen with your daughter's hair too?). We only wash it once a week, which helps. Other than that, it's lots of those little elastic bands, the type that look like what you put on braces. Lots of half piggytails, and twists also work as well, (look at #13 on this wikihow article) as long as you secure down the twist with bobbypins afterward.
posted by gaspode at 7:52 AM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also with fine hair, if you tightly tie it back or braid it, it will lead to breakage. The French braiding may be leading to the short hairs around her hair line (not that it matters really).

Also also, with bobby pins the bumpy bit goes down against your scalp. That's the only way my fine hair will stay in. My mother just kept our hair short and/or be-banged when we were little.
posted by hydrobatidae at 7:52 AM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Twisting the hair before putting in the clips really helps. It takes a little practice, tighter lasts longer as does twisting the hair under instead of outwards. This works really well with the tiny, firmer bobby pins (you can find them shiny and some with color). Bobby pin trick - put them in with the crinkly side towards the head for much better hold, cross two pins for extra hold.
But smaller sections of hair, those by the face, are much easier to deal with than the whole head. And on review, the tiny clear elastics are great too!
posted by lawliet at 7:54 AM on September 23, 2014

Stretchy fabric headbands would be good if you can get them small enough. The thing about clipping back fringey fine hair along the hairline is that it breaks hairs and creates more fringe; I've had this problem since I was little. Lately I've had pretty good results using a tiny bit of castor oil to smooth out frizz. You might try that if her hair is curly. (If it's straight, just washing a little less often will probably work.)
posted by clavicle at 7:57 AM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Don't wash the hair every day. If the idea of that completely horrifies you as it does some people who don't have fine or frizzy hair, then a spray of dry shampoo in the freshly washed hair can help add enough texture to help clips grip, I have one friend that will even spray her clips with dry shampoo to increase their grippiness. Normal hair spray might work the same way, though I tend to avoid it as it makes my hair brittle.
posted by wwax at 7:58 AM on September 23, 2014

How would she feel about having short hair?

(This from someone who would have hated having short hair, and absolutely does not advocate shortening her hair much without her permission.)
posted by amtho at 8:00 AM on September 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

I have hair very much like your daughter. I wear my hair about shoulder length specifically so I may braid it or pony tail on bad hair days. I almost never wear it just down any more because it just flies everywhere and looks ragged and awful after a few hours. Twists don't work. I can do bobby pin styles, but only if I'm expecting to have frizz on the sides of my face and the back of my neck --- to give you an idea, for my senior prom, the stylist put one side of my hair up very carefully and diligently. She then put up the second side. The first side had fallen out. "But I used half a bottle of hairspray on that side!" she exclaimed! And she had. It's just my hair. Nothing holds.

My daughter had the misfortune to inherit the quality of my hair. She's 3. She has a high bob. Cutest hair cut she's ever had, and I barely have to comb it!
posted by zizzle at 8:13 AM on September 23, 2014

When I was little my mom apparently glued some tiny pieces of foam rubber into the insides of some of my barrettes so they would grip my hair better.

What I noticed recently while looking for barrettes for my three year old niece is that now some hair accessories for both girls and adults have a grippy gel-like material already built in on the inside for just this purpose.

In lieu of that, taking one of the tiny rubber bands mentioned above (stretchy, all plastic bands that look like the ones used with braces) and wrapping it around the 'clip' portion of any barrette will add thickness + grip.
posted by marimeko at 8:14 AM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

In case it helps, I'm a kid who hated long hair and all the FAFF that goes with it like clips and pins (which can hurt when you are swinging upside down or whatever) and being able to catch your hair in stuff. I much preferred it when it was short and I didn't feel I had to avoid fun activities for fear of hair related snags or uncomfortableness.

It feels a bit like it's seen as normal that girls avoid the rambunctious playground stuff, and I expect for plenty of kids it is, but on behalf of long haired active kids everywhere, please at least consider discussing with her a haircut that does not require hair accessories on a five year old kid.
posted by emilyw at 8:14 AM on September 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

I had hair much like this as a kid, and looking back, this is probably why I had bangs from age 5 til around 9. Nice thick bangs, so that the part that would be falling in my face was all short, and the rest could hang long without getting into my eyes. Seemed to cut the fuss down to a minimum.
posted by Jemstar at 8:16 AM on September 23, 2014

Thanks so much for all the answers so far-- everything is promising or informative!

As for not washing her hair every day: she pretty much doesn't get a bath until she leaves grease spots. Too much bathing's never been a problem.

She also very much likes her hair the length it is-- we've given her full say in how it's cut and she strongly prefers it within an inch of the length that it currently is. Obviously, her mom and I have ultimate say in the matter, but we can't make an executive decision like that for our own minor convenience.
posted by Mayor Curley at 8:18 AM on September 23, 2014

There's an AskMe somewhere fairly recently about barrettes for fine hair - sorry I don't have time to look for it now, but you might want to. There are some styles that work better than others. Snap clips are what work for me, but there were several other things linked in that other thread that I made a mental note to try at some point.
posted by Stacey at 8:19 AM on September 23, 2014

If she would like to wear her hair partly down (but out of her face), you could try a french braid like this.

An easy option for a slightly different look than the french braid is french braid pigtails.

If she'd like a ponytail, you can do a half-ponytail and then a regular ponytail - this will help keep the flyaways around her face contained. Something like this, though I usually do two instead of three. This one is cute & along the same lines.
posted by insectosaurus at 8:39 AM on September 23, 2014

Elastics with silicone on the inside.
posted by brujita at 8:39 AM on September 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

Have you experimented with different types of head bands? I have much better luck with the stretch fabric ones that go all the way around the head as opposed to the ones that are only a semi circle. They're more comfortable too.

This may be too fussy for a 5 year old to tolerate, and it may be an issue finding ones small enough, but I find the best combo is a head band like this, with a slightly wider head scarf tied around it. It looks like Claire's has a lot of cute headband options.
posted by litera scripta manet at 8:42 AM on September 23, 2014

Came here to second elastics made from silicone. They stay in really nicely, but often we cut them out if it's going to be painful to remove them. When the kids were younger, we did long braids in the front so the elastics are at the ends of the braid.

There are also barrettes that have silicone on the comb/hair-touching part -- a revelation in our family! We found some at walgreens.
posted by mamabear at 8:56 AM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Another with the same hair - I just used hairbands as a kid, with the occasional ponytail added. You say you hate to see her adjusting it all the time - does she seem to mind, though? If anything, fiddling with the hairband was fun for me, as a fidgety child. Similarly, does she seem to be bothered by having hair in her eyes? Especially if the longer strands are held back in a ponytail, I've never found the short wispy hairs to be that annoying since they're fine enough to see through, even though it looks a little ridiculous. Of course YMMV.

Also, have you tried barettes that look like this? They were the only ones that ever stayed in my hair (only in combination with a ponytail, they fall out of loose hair).
posted by randomnity at 9:19 AM on September 23, 2014

Has no one mentioned product? Just because she's a kid, it doesn't mean that some gel or spray wouldn't be in order.

I had fine hair as a kid and it snarled up and became a nest like crazy. I lived in pigtails, on on each side of my hair. (Yes, I had that fat yarn in them!)

My suggestion:

1. Two braids.

2. Blast of hair spray to keep the fly-away bits shellacked down.

3. Pretty barrettes, ribbons or other ornament at the top and the bottom of the braid if so desired.

Trick. To keep tangles to a minimum, braid hair for sleeping at night.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:20 AM on September 23, 2014

Strongly nthing silicone-lined barrettes and elastics. At least on the barettes, it looks like a clear ribbon of squishy glue on the inside.
posted by vegartanipla at 9:29 AM on September 23, 2014

Coming back to the kerchief idea, especially for playtime because seriously, how adorable can you get?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:43 AM on September 23, 2014

Velvet-backed hair bands are like velcro for fine hair. I have super slippery hair and I was never able to keep a headband on for more than a minute, before I discovered these little miracles (disclosure: made by a personal friend). They are fully adjustable and they do not budge once you have them on, because of the velvet. Granted, I haven't tried going down a slide while wearing one of those... but I use them for workouts and also while wrestling with my 5-year old personal hurricane. Emerald glitter is the best one :)

Oh, and the smallest amount of coconut oil for the wispies in the front.
posted by rada at 10:14 AM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Have you triedthe little plastic animal barrettes? I'm pretty sure I had (still have) the finest hair possible and those always worked for me.
posted by Jess the Mess at 10:27 AM on September 23, 2014

If you do use product, please be aware that it can cause headaches, and that a lot of people are allergic to propylene glycol. I mean, sure, that's always a minor possibility with everyone, but she's so little and may not realize if a problem happens that hair product could be an issue.

That said, you can make homemade hairspray out of sugar water; it's pretty effective, but don't try to comb afterward. It doesn't attract bugs; I've both tried it and read about it. The major drawback for me was that it didn't store well at room temperature, and you need a really good mist spray bottle to avoid wetting the hair too much.
posted by amtho at 10:31 AM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have very fine hair that escapes almost any type of clip. I'm pretty sure this is why I had short hair as a child. Barrettes were definitely never a possibility -- anytime I wore a barrette it was ornamental, not to actually hold my hair in place.

As an adult with a grownup sized head and amount of hair, I like these "stay put" ponytail holders with extra grip. Not sure if there's a similar product for very little girls.

Also, flyaways gonna fly away. Assuming we're talking about wispy front hair and not anything that is going to obstruct her vision, I fail to see how it matters. She's not a model, and baby-fine front hairs are just a fact of life.

Bangs might be an option if the front hairs that are sliding out are obstructing her vision.

If you're going to go with a functional barrette or clip, the only thing that has ever worked for me is these. (I obviously no longer get the fun colors with the little bows attached.)
posted by Sara C. at 10:34 AM on September 23, 2014

Also, re your followup, if she's old enough to have control over her haircut, she's old enough to have control over how it's styled every day. Let her ask the other kids at school what they use, weigh in on what does and doesn't work for her, if she wants to add product, etc. If she's not old enough to do that, you are still in the driver's seat on her hair length and cut and should just have it cut in whatever way is most practical.

By the time I was old enough to have a real opinion about hair length and adjust my own ponytail holder on the playground, I was old enough to deal with pretty much everything in your question myself.
posted by Sara C. at 10:38 AM on September 23, 2014

Baby-fine hair here, and my parents coped by (eventually) just chopping it off into a bob.

Bobby pins put in the regular way just slide out of my hair, but once I learned the correct way to put them in, they work much better now. I recently had one in for an ENTIRE DAY without it moving, although I'm a sedate librarian and not a wiggly, active 5-year-old.

Regular barrettes slide out also, but clips with some sort of gel-like cushion in them stay longer but, alas, not for an entire day. I will always at some point push my hair back or otherwise fiddle with it and it'll move around. I just learned to cope with it. Headbands with gripper teeth sometimes work, but they usually end up digging into my head right behind my ears. This sort of stretchy plastic headband works a bit better since it grips my hair, although the way my hair's cut now, I can't get one to look good.

Hairspray may not work as well as a texturizing spray or product. They're usually marketed as things that make your hair look like you spent the day at the beach and salt water dried into your hair, like this one. (I haven't used that brand; it's just an illustration.) It thickens the hair up a bit and makes it slightly stickier, and accessories grip a bit better.
posted by telophase at 10:49 AM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

If she can tolerate it, I bet a bobby pin bun would work. It stays really well set. You essentially twist it and then form it into a coil, and kind of tuck the end under the coil. Then you make a square with bobby pins around the edges of the bun to secure it but you have to put them in the right way- push each in perpendicular to the scalp, then move it to parallel once it's touching her scalp (kind of like a lever that's fixed at her scalp) and then push it through the bun. There are lots of videos on youtube about how to effectively use bobby pins.
posted by quiet coyote at 11:15 AM on September 23, 2014

My hair is still like that to this day. Bobby pins, clips, etc just fall right out. Rubber bands last longer, but ultimately slowly slide out. The only success I've ever had is with the circular headbands. The best length for me has always been just above the shoulder, tuckable behind the ears, with a circular headband to keep it out of my eyes when playing sports.
posted by hydropsyche at 12:43 PM on September 23, 2014

Also, re your followup, if she's old enough to have control over her haircut, she's old enough to have control over how it's styled every day. Let her ask the other kids at school what they use, weigh in on what does and doesn't work for her, if she wants to add product, etc. If she's not old enough to do that, you are still in the driver's seat on her hair length and cut and should just have it cut in whatever way is most practical.

Nah, she's five. She gets to have her hair the length that she wants because she feels strongly about it-- we specifically ceded that decision to her because it's an ultimately innocuous issue with which a school-age child can practice control and responsibility. She has very little control over her world, so the fact that she can choose her hair length is very special to her. Despite that, she's not developed enough to make inquiries or do her own hair. It's not a pressing enough issue to insist that she cut it. I was just doing her hair this morning (school picture day) and thinking "There's got to be a better way!"
posted by Mayor Curley at 12:51 PM on September 23, 2014 [5 favorites]

I have the same hair as your daughter. This Dutch braid across the front of the head is what I do at work, where I don't want to be touching my head and potentially mopping patients' bodily fluids into my flyaways. It works really well and is totally not that hard to master if you can French braid. It takes me about 10 minutes to do on my own head, but I can do it on somebody else in less than half that time.

The Dutch braid seems to trap the hair a lot more reliably than a French braid for me. Doing two pigtails in a Dutch braid might also be an option because pigtails go along the side of your head rather than down the middle. Also, braids seem to stay better for me if you do them when the hair is wet. You don't have to alter her shower routine, just add a few spritzes from a spray bottle once you have the hair parted where it needs to go.
posted by skyl1n3 at 2:11 PM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have the same hair as your daughter. This Dutch braid across the front of the head is what I do at work

I was really not looking for more braid suggestions, but I love that and suspect that she would be really into it when I do braids. Assuming I can get it down.

Is there an easy way to describe how to place a French/Dutch braid? I can do down the middle (or down the middle of a side) but my experiments in specific placement have resulted in braids that are merely off center.
posted by Mayor Curley at 2:45 PM on September 23, 2014

I am decades older than your daughter, but I still have that kind of hair. (As people have mentioned, she may grow out of it.)

There is only one style of barrette I can rely on to keep the hair out of my face (either worn to the side or to the back/top of the head) and it's this one. In fact, I still wear one of these nearly every day of my life. Yes, I know how sad that is, but in years and years of searching I've never come across another style that will stay in my hair and not slide out (or a hair dresser that really understands how to cut my kind of hair to keep it out of my eyes, but that's a side story).

There are different sizes and lengths, so I'd suggest the smaller ones, maybe these or narrower and shorter if you can find them.

The brand I currently have are DelSol but I don't see any on the company's website. My original smaller (from when I was a child) ones are from a different manufacturer. While there are lots of barrettes that look similar to these, avoid the ones that are made out of a single, bent piece of metal. They don't work and slide out of the hair. You have to buy the two-piece (main barrette plus clamp/arm) ones. Trust me on this. I have a whole drawer full of failed hair clips, bands and barrettes that just don't work for me. Also, for whatever reason, I find the ones made in France work, while the ones made in any other country don't.

I'm so reliant on this style of barrette that I took one to a local goldsmith and had him replicate a version in 14K so that I've got a better one to wear if I need to have something in my hair when I'm working and need to bring my level of dress up a notch.

My originals are in the gold tone, and they blend in fairly well with my hair, which I consider a bonus. Over the years they have lost much of their finish, colour and luster, so now they're even more neutral.
posted by sardonyx at 3:38 PM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Re: placing braids:

If you're not braiding the entire head of hair, section off the portion of hair you're going to be braiding and pull the rest out of your way. Begin where you'd like the braid to start, and to "steer" it, keep in mind that the braid will end up where your knuckles are. So, keep your knuckles where you'd like the braid to be.

Also, for fine or flyaway hair, a bit of pomade works well to keep the hair pliable and in place.

If you'd like super grippy hair, look into hair powders.
posted by houseofdanie at 4:15 PM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

These "claw clips" come in all styles and sizes and are super easy to use. I just chopped my hair off but I basically used to do a side part, gather my hair into a ponytail (no rubber and needed) and then clipped it up in a faux French twist. It never came out, either. Tust me; if I could do it without a mirror a five year old can. You can also get a lot more creative with them if you are so inclined.
posted by Room 641-A at 4:32 PM on September 23, 2014

The smallest size of Lilla Rose Flexi Clip.
posted by stormyteal at 8:00 PM on September 23, 2014

Two braids worked beautifully for me as a kid, and sometimes still does even now that I'm all grown up.

If a kerchief seems appealing but too much trouble, try a Buff instead.
posted by tangerine at 10:49 PM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

My 6 year old has similar hair, very fine but very abundant. When she really needs to have her hair out of her face, like during gymnastics, she wears pig tails. A pony tail is pretty useless in about 5 minutes with that kind of action.
posted by waving at 6:05 AM on September 24, 2014

Specifically for the issue of how to allow her to wear her hear side-parted with the troublesome bits clipped back out of her face, we have been using barrettes like these to clip minitiger's fine toddler hair to the side and keep it out of her eyes, and they work wonderfully. Every so often a reclip is necessary, but they generally stay in place even on her very fine & not yet particularly abundant hair and are very easy to snap, such that I think a 5 year old could do it herself.
posted by tigerbelly at 6:39 AM on September 24, 2014

we have been using barrettes like these to clip minitiger's fine toddler hair to the side and keep it out of her eyes, and they work wonderfully. Every so often a reclip is necessary, but they generally stay in place.

Yeah, we have some of those and they're currently our best option, and my kid can re-clip them herself (sometimes even decently!).

I think I might be suffering from a difference in perspective driven by the ways that men and women approach their hair. I wash my hair in the morning, slap a little goo on the front, part it with my fingers and don't think about it again for 24 hours. My wife has beautiful, thick hair that rarely becomes an annoyance. Consequently, I find the notion of re-adjusting one's hair a couple times a day a problem to be solved. However, a lot of people (women in particular) don't seem to feel that this is a problem. To them, it's normal. And my daughter's ongoing reality is more likely to reflect their normal than mine.

I'm going to try many of the solutions mentioned here, but I no longer have aspirations for all-day hair clips.
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:22 AM on September 24, 2014

Adding a bit of foam to the clip (like that thin sheet of it that protects boxed screens) works decently-- it's grippy and it adds some bulk and resulting pressure. Foam's not really durable and gluing it to a clip is a PITA to do neatly, but it's great when you need it. And we're exploring the non-clip suggestions, too! Thanks, all!
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:44 AM on October 8, 2014

« Older Good Mandarin tutors in NYC?   |   Michelangelo quote translation help Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.