18 February 2012

Tips and Tricks for Parting Hair: Part 1 (Pun Intended)

At the request of many, many readers I've finally decided to try to document how we part hair in our household. No, it's probably not how you do it. In fact, parting hair is really unique to each individual person who styles hair, and can often vary in method, depending on curl pattern, hair type, and personal preference. That being said, I will do my best to share with you my strategies as they've evolved over the past several years when it comes to getting those "perfect" part lines. And by "perfect" I really mean "something that you and your child can live with." Or, at least that's my definition!

I'm breaking this down into two posts for a few reasons, the biggest of which is that the second part is going to be pretty photo-intensive and I don't want this basic information to get lost amongst all the pictures. In this post you will find all the information you will need to gather the tools and have an idea of what you want to do when you start parting. The next post will be specifically how to do the parts.

Tools For Making Part Lines

A Good Leave-In Conditioner with a Lot of Slip
Never try to part dry hair. With straight hair, that's pretty easy to do, although I still prefer to wet the hair, especially if it's fine, because it helps control fly-aways and gives me a crisper line. But for natural hair, trying to separate the curls when dry, even using just your fingers, can cause breakage and/or damage. I prefer damp hair with a leave-in conditioner that has a lot of slip, so that the curls will "slip" away from each other (i.e., separate more easily). A spray bottle with a mixture of your leave-in conditioner and distilled water will also be handy if the hair starts to dry out before you're done.

Metal Pintail (or "Rat Tail") Comb
I know there are plenty of people out there who successfully part hair with just the fine teeth of a comb. If it works for you, go for it. For my daughter's scalp, however, I've noticed that using anything sharp and plastic on her scalp is akin to scratching it with fingernails. Just like our recommendations for washing hair: We just don't do it. I avoid using anything to part her hair that might leave a white "scratch mark" on her head, mostly because those scratches and can lead to infection. Call me paranoid, but we just don't do it. That being said, I've found that the metal end (with a dull point) of a pintail comb works just fine to get the precision parts we like. I have found that there are some pretty sharp metal pintail combs out there, so obviously use your discretion.

Although natural hair tends to do a pretty good job of staying separated once parted, very often I like to clip away the hair that has been sectioned, just to keep it out of my way. The longer the hair, the more likely you will need clips.

Basic Information

If you are new to parting hair, or if you have a really complicated style in mind, pre-part the hair ahead of time. I will often do larger, not-perfect parts the night before styling (after bath and detangling) and then plait the hair and allow Boo to sleep on it overnight. The next morning I will then take those "pre-parts" and make them straighter and/or divide them into smaller sections. I've found that trying to do perfectly straight tiny parts after a long session of detangling (and we detangle at night) just makes for a rushed look and crooked parts. I like to start my parts fresh, without having spent a lot of time on the rest of her hair beforehand.

Rough-Part the Hair
What I mean by this is separate the hair into chunks where you would like to start parting the hair with your fingers first. Forget about using a tool, just get the basic sections separated and clip all of them except the two areas between which you'll be parting. Then do another rough-part with the rat tail comb. Don't try to be perfect on the first-pass. Just get from Point A to Point B. Once you have a rough line going from Point A to Point B, go back over it and make it straighter. Several passes at the same part will often take less time than trying to do it perfectly in one shot. And will likely be less frustrating (at least it is for me).

Head on over and check out "Tips and Tricks for Parting Hair: Part 2" where I talk about the basic part lines and how we use those to form every hairstyle we've ever done, as well as all of my tips for doing those basic parts on your child's head.