This girl's summer camp forced her to remove her braids for 'mandatory hair washing'

When it comes to braids, many institutions (and people) need a cultural education. Case in point: the braids Kim Kardashian wore and credited to Bo Derek are actually Fulani braids. Other examples include dress codes that call out braids and, as the counselors at Camp Kachina in Belton, Texas, recently learned, the daily washing of textured hair.

A mother shared on Reddit a story about her 11-year-old daughter’s experience wearing braids at camp. As she wrote, her daughter has “waist-length, high-porosity, 3B hair” that gets easily tangled. To prep for a weeklong camp stay, the mother-daughter duo did “lots of research” to choose the most livable hairstyle. They settled on cornrows covered by a headscarf, to get her through a week of sun, water, and helmets. The 11-year-old planned to wear a cap to cover her hair when sleeping, and to wash just with water for the week.

Photo: Elise Amendola/AP
Photo: Elise Amendola/AP

The camp overruled that week of planned hair care.

The camp had a mandatory daily hair-washing rule, and despite the camper’s specific hair needs, she was told to take her braids out and wash her hair. “I told them that my mom told me to keep my braids in the whole time, but the counselor told me that I was going to have to take them out anyway,” she told Yahoo Lifestyle. She used her daily block of personal time to pull out the rubber bands keeping her braids in place and unbraid her hair. She came home with three cornrows on the back of her head — the ones she couldn’t reach herself to remove. The rest of her hair was matted and tangled. “I’ve been working on removing the mats for the past two days,” her mother said.

“So, she spent several hours getting her hair braided, I spent a decent amount of money in an attempt to prevent massive mats after a week at camp,” her mother wrote. “She comes home from camp with massive mats anyway. And now we’re spending more time trying to get the mats out.”

According to her mother, the camp’s only grooming guidelines related to a mandatory lice check. She wasn’t aware of the daily hair-washing rule ahead of time, and no one contacted her to check in before her daughter was forced to take out the braids.

What the camp seems not to understand is that daily hair washing isn’t necessarily good for hair, no matter what the texture. “I recommend against shampooing curly hair more than three times per week,” says stylist Taliah Waajid, founder of Taliah Waajid hair care. “Curly hair needs moisture and the natural oils that the scalp creates for curly hair strands. Removing these natural oils too often can make curls dull, dry and over-stripped of much-needed natural oil.” Even straight hair doesn’t need to be shampooed daily, says Waajid. She recommends no more than five times per week for straight hair. Summer camps would be wise to update their policies accordingly.

Reached by the camper’s mother, Kaytlyn Worner, Camp Kachina’s manager, was “incredibly apologetic” about the incident. “She is a curly girl herself, so she understands the struggles of curly hair,” says Worner. She added that Girl Scout camps do not have a prohibition against cornrows, and the counselor did not act in accordance with camp policy.

“I wish that the camp hadn’t made any comment at all,” the camper’s mother told Yahoo Lifestyle. “My daughter and I had already gone over exactly how to take care of her cornrows. If they had just ignored her hair completely, her hair would have been much better off right now.”

The lesson? Educate yourself before making the rules.

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