Hair Care

The head is particularly sensitive to touch, which can make hair washing, brushing and cutting an uncomfortable and sometimes distressing experience for some children. For a child over-responsive to vestibular inputs, moving their head out of vertical can be very distressing; making hair brushing, cutting or rinsing may be difficult. Some children may struggle to screen out touch sensations and as a result the feeling of hair on their necks is distressing. They may interpret the feeling of water on their head, a hair brush on their scalp, or scissors near their neck as dangerous.

Ideas to support Hair Care

  • Engage in movement and heavy work activities prior to or during hair care tasks.
  • Ensure your child is seating with their feet on the floor to support feelings of safety and grounding.
  • Place a pillow behind the child for them to push back against during hair cutting.
  • Consider alternative sitting positions for haircuts e.g. sitting on a bean bag, on a therapy ball, in a supportive chair or on your knee.
  • Use a spray bottle instead of head tilting to wet the hair for hair care.
  • Use a snug cap, beanie or sweatband for 15 minutes prior to hair care to provide firm, maintained touch pressure that can be calming.
  • Try a lycra/neoprene vest or wrap your child firmly in a blanket or lycra during hair care.
  • Massage their head and use downward pressure on the shoulders before, during and after hair care.
  • Use a weighted lap bag or shoulder wrap during hair care.
  • Use a wet towel on your child’s shoulders during hair washing.
  • Use a handheld showerhead or cup to rinse and minimise water on your child’s face.
  • Try washing hair using a wet flannel.
  • Experiment with a variety of hairbrushes to find one that works for your child. 
  • Detangler spray can be helpful to help with tangles.
  • Offer hand fidgets or mouth chews before and during hair care.
  • If appropriate offer your child a lolly, chewy foods or chewing gum.
  • Try hair cutting hair at home or at a home salon. 
  • Cut hair in the bath so that the hair can be rinsed off immediately. 
  • Check with your child if they prefer scissors or the clippers to cut their hair. Show them the scissors and clippers and let them feel each safely.
  • Have a mirror in front of the child so they can see what is going on during hair care.
  • Use soft, calming or unscented shampoos and conditioners.
  • Offer swim goggles, a washcloth or a water visor to keep the water out of their eyes
  • Use ear plugs to minimize sounds and water in their ears.
  • Use tear free or no rice shampoo to keep soap out of their eyes.
  • Minimise sound if your child is sensitive to it or play slow, rhythmical, calming music during hair care.
  • Dim the lights if the child is over sensitive to sensory inputs.
  • Tell your child what you are going to do and give definitive time limits for tasks e.g. 5 cuts or brushes and end the task at that point even if the job isn’t complete.
  • Use a visual timer to help the child know the end point of the activity.