The canvas: JG has soft corkscrew curls, with courser hair at the back of her head. It is pretty thin, and she still has baby hair around her forehead. I am not sure which ethnic group in Ethiopia she is from, and although she is supposedly from the Sidama region, her hair is most like the kids I've met from Addis Ababa (that is a WHOLE 'nother story). At about 20 months her head was shaved almost bald at the transition home, so we were pretty much working from a blank canvas when we arrived home with her at 22 months. Honestly, this was a blessing, because she was able to grow healthy hair from the start. If you are bringing home a toddler or baby, and their hair is patchy or destroyed due to malnutrition or skin problems, i would not feel guilty about cutting it. In Ethiopia, it is tradition to cut a child's hair 5 times before they turn 5, so you can use that as an excuse if you want. If you are adopting a baby, be prepared for the texture to change (usually, it gets courser). Also, if you live in extreme climates (like Canada or Houston), your child's hair may take a while to adjust to the new weather conditions.
The shampoo: Don't freak out, white people. What I'm about to say might shock you. We shampoo JG's hair once every other week. Or after we swim. Or if it gets dirty with peanut butter, jelly, or extreme goo. We like Organix coconut shampoo and conditioner.
The conditioner: With every bath we use conditioner. This is called "co-washing". I'm no scientist, and I'm not giving money back guarantees, but I have heard lots of people say that there is a little cleaning agent in conditioner...so if that helps you white gals sleep at night between shampoos, there ya go! I like Organix coconut, or I use my sulfate free conditioner from L'oreal. I finger comb the conditioner through the princess's hair, let it sit for about 2 minutes, then use the Tangle Teezer comb to work the conditioner through. If I have time (night time baths) then I put a shower cap on her head and let the conditioner sit for a while before rinsing. If I don't have time (morning showers or kitchen sink co-washes) I just rinse after the comb out.
The leave-in: After the wash or co-wash I use a leave-in conditioner. My favorite is the leave in conditioner from Mixed Chicks. I use a nickel size amount, spread through the hair, style hair the way I want it to lie, have her shake her hair out, and DO NOT TOUCH the hair again. Every time you touch curly hair it makes it more frizzy. You may also like Carol's Daughter's Hair Milk, which I find similar to Aveda's Be Curly. We have used both of these with success also.
The busy day: For super busy days I keep a spray bottle with 1/4 mixed chicks leave-in, and 3/4 water for dousing the princess's curls before leaving the house. I always comb her head wet. The tangle teezer is a time/tear saver. Get it at Sally's or on Amazon.com. Another idea is to skip the leave-in routine & use a natural boar bristle brush (Sally's) and brush out pigtails into little afro puffs or little buns. I use snag-free hair elastics that look plastic (Target and Walmart sell these).
The winter once-a-month//Swim days: We use coconut oil (amazon or whole foods) as a oil treatment before shampoos once a month during the winter, or after swimming. I put in on, comb it through, put a shower cap on the big girl, and leave it for 20 minutes. You can use olive oil instead, but I'm a Florida Pina Colada girl at heart. A little goes a long way: My hubby oiled up our sweet girl's hair one time as slick as a pig at the county fair, and I slid across our kitchen tile as stepped in the dripping coconut oil. I almost performed a triple axle. Rinse well too, or your kid will look like she's auditioning for The Sopranos.
The extras: We use a satin pillowcase to prevent hair breakage (Ebay) and we use a night cap, aptly named "Pretty Pretty Princess Nightcap". In order to get JG to wear it, I had to wear one for the first month at night (while we tucked her in) to convince her that this is what was normal. She's stubborn. I wonder who she gets that from? You can get a nightcap at Walmart, Walgreens, Sally's, or online. I like the look of the one shown on HappyGirlHair blog, which I am ordering ASAP. As she has gotten older I do 3-4 simple twists (not quite braids, not secured with elastic) before putting on the nightcap to prevent night time tangles which are THE WORST!
Summary/The Essentials: If I had a boy, or I wanted to focus on what was most important, i would choose: 1. Tangle Teezer comb 2. Leave-in conditioner.
I hope this helps!