Easy hair beads for African hair

If braids and beads are not a normal part of your life, you may just want to pass this post on by. But with 4 African American daughters, hair is a fairly large component in our life. The following braiding brainstorm is one that I am very happy with.

When we do lots of little braids for our girls, we will often finish the braids up with 4 or 5 pony beads. My 5 year old especially loves the way her hair flips around when she’s wearing beads, and I think it is adorable too. Over the years we’ve had several beading ‘needles’ or ‘wands’, onto which you thread the beads, making it easier to then thread beads onto each braid. Problem is, the beading needles are EASY to lose– I can’t tell you how often I’ve hunted high and low for the things.

Plastic craft string is a fairly decent substitute. But the other day I discovered that an even easier thing to use: a skinny ponytail holder, the kind that has a bit of metal on it. I took a few pictures of the process so that you can see how it works. Click on the pictures to enlarge. If you ‘mouse-over’ the pictures before you click, you’ll be able to read the explanation of each step.

And here’s a shot of my daughter with her completed hairdo on her 5th birthday last month.

Birthday girl

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  1. I don’t have any African hair at my house, but I just have to say that I have enough trouble keeping up with my three girls’ hair, and theirs doesn’t even require any special treatment! So, I’m in awe that you manage to keep up with your girls’ hair. lol

  2. Thank you so much – As we are getting ready to be foster parents, I’m very concerned about not knowing how to deal with African-American hair and this is a wonderful idea. I appreciate your sharing.

  3. I love how her hair looks perfect and the little girl with high maintenance (has to be done EVERY day and sometimes more than once a day) hair sitting next to her is showing the fun she had at the party with a roughed up piggytail! Haha!

    But seriously, I love the look of beads too. And you did a beautiful job. What a great idea!

  4. As far as time, the hairdo you see on my daughter took an hour and a half to braid and 30 minutes to UNbraid 10 days later. That averages to about 12 minutes per day, which I guess isn’t too bad.

    Thing is, when it’s time to do hair there’s no such thing as a two minute hairdo, unlike kids with straight hair. Just combing it out takes a minimum of 5 or 10 minutes, depending on how tangly I let it get. Not complaining– I lovelovelove my girls’ hair. But low maintainance it is not. 🙂 Maybe someday I will get faster at braiding!

    • I used “Johnson & Johnson No More Tangles Spray Detangler” after a shampoo; As an African American with natural hair (no relaxer), I’ve found J&J No More Tangles worked best to manage my hair for years until I switched to John Frieda “Frizz Ease” line of hair care products. I would also suggest “African Black Soap” made with cocoa butter for the whole body and hair (its like a shampoo and conditioner in one). I switch hairstyles but its still work.

      Looks like your are doing a great job with your daughter’s braids 😉

    • I would like to add to the post from CKaren that a detangler is very important. If you don’t care to buy them, you can actually make your own. I normally do (I am African American with natural hair) and it helps tremendously. I take a empty spray bottle (sold at craft stores or beauty supply stores)and put olive oil and some type of conditioner in the bottle. Then I fill the remainder of the bottle with water. This is very basic as I tend to put rosemary EO, peppermint oil, and black seed oil, jojoba oil, and whatever kind of oil I have laying around. However, your basic mix should be about 70% water, 20% conditioner and 10% oil. You can play around with the ingredients. The thought is to put enough conditioner in the mix that it helps to detangle and enough oil to help moisturize the hair. It should have a little slip to it when done, i.e. you should feel that it has conditioner in it, will make you both happy 😉

      Her hair is absolutely darling and she is a beautiful little girl. The fact that her hair looks healthy and is growing long is a testament to your care. Keep up the good job!!!

    • Sandra Yameogo says:

      I hear you, my daughter’s hair take a lot of time, but I love it. Trying different styles is so much fun, and she’s so proud when we’re finished! She’s just about 3 years old right now, so I have to tried putting beads in her hair, but she loves the sound her barrettes make when she shakes her head. I love her hair so much. I don’t know about you, but I only wash her hair once a week or week and a half. And, everyday put coconut oil in it. Her hair is so soft and growing fast! At night I braid it if I let her hair down for the day to keep the tangles at a ‘minimum.’ All in all, it’s worth all the effort. <3

  5. Mary, your daughter’s hair is just darling! What a GREAT idea to use the ponytail holder for a beader. Thanks for the practical idea with pictures to show how. Becky McKenzie

  6. Great idea!

    We haven’t gotten any african-american foster kids, but I suppose I’ll have to learn how to braid if/when we do. (More hispanics in this area.)

    It will be a shock to my system since we pretty much never even brush the hair on my blond, slightly wavy-haired 3 year old. 🙂

  7. So CUTE!

  8. We brought our son and daughter home from Africa 7 months ago. Our daughter is now 17 mos old. Her hair is just short enough that I can’t do much with it, but getting long enough that is looks matted down within minutes after moisturizing and combing it. Do you have any tips for what you did with your daughters’ hair in this phase? This is all so new to me.

  9. Thanks so much! I’ve been looking for an easy way to add beads to my daughter’s braids and this looks totally do-able. I think I’ll try it tomorrow morning!

  10. we’ve never had an african-american child, but our foster care group offers “hair care for african-americans” classes on a regular basis. they would love your trick!

  11. I love that style, with the pony beads! So cute! I have had a couple of African foster daughters over the years, but I never got very good at braiding.
    Do you ever braid in other colours?

  12. I am thinking you could also use a crochet hook, no?? Just as long as the diameter of the hook is skinnier than the inner diameterof the pony beads, I think it would be so easy to use, and less likely to get lost like a smaller beading needle. My 12 month old daughter is getting to the “please do something with my hair” phase and I would love to braid it (it is even long enough at 12 mos old!!) but there is NOTHING that can keep her still/quiet/not angry enough to let me, haha! not even snacks-I can pull off 2 tiny puffs while chasing her around and her screaming, but I know that will get better eventually….or at least I hope, ha!! I loev your braiding-I always go back and read your hair care posts on adoptionblogs.com b/c they are so down to earth and user friendly and CUTE!!!!

    • Jody, I would recommend you braid her hair while she is sleep/napping. A friend of mine would send her daughter to get her hair braided at around 1 1/2 years old. I would always request her to come around nap time. When she fell asleep, I would braid her hair. Initially, I tried to braid it when she was not sleep, oh boy that was not working. Braiding at nap time, will make your life easy!!!

  13. where do you find beads? I’ve ordered some online, but can’t find many to chose from in the stores…………I LOVE your idea! and can’t wait to try it on my daughter!

  14. Thanks so much for showing this! We are waiting for our child from Ethiopia — not sure boy or girl. The thought of caring for a girl’s hair scares me! I have three sons whose hair barely has to be brushed.

  15. working mama in the nw says:

    looks great! as an african-american mama with 2 daughters, it’s great to see how well you are getting job done in a fashionable way! The traditional way I got my hair braided with beads was with a crochet hook, as mentioned in one of your blogger’s comments… Makes it easy to do – and to take down…
    For your friends who may need to have help in doing african american hair, i advise you ‘ask’ an african american woman – Most sisters are open to helping out – or can get you the help you may need:)

  16. Nicole Slack says:

    aww, your girls are precious and her hair looks great!

  17. Oh Mary!! Her hair has gotten SO long! It’s gorgeous!!!

  18. Ditto like Lesley. We are waiting for our adoption with Ethiopia and don’t know yet if we will have a boy or girl. I will save this information! Thanks for taking the time!

  19. This is hilarious, but in considering all that comes with an African adoption, I get such anxiety over not letting my baby girl down when it comes to her hair.

    I read this and sigh out a big “FWEW!” That’s not hard. I can do that.

    I think you’re great.

  20. Try thehairbeadslyder too! great tool to apply beads to braided hair. keep up the good work good luck 🙂

  21. sue wentz says:

    I have two questions, first how do you find beads that have bigger holes for the braids and how do you end with the last one as far as tucking the hair, so as not to have a small tail hanging out of the last bead. Thanks for any advice.

    • Hi Sue,
      We use craft beads, aka ‘pony’ beads. We end with a rubber band doubled over enough times to not let the bead slip through. And yes, we usually have a curl peeking out of the end of each braid.

      Hope that helps!