Ponytails are just Perfect: A Dad’s Guide to Fixing your Daughter’s Hair

I have always been an active parent in my girls’ lives, and over the years through experience, I have acquired the skills needed to be an even better father.  Changing diapers and potty-training were easy (but thank God those stages are over).  Learning what colors and patterns match was a chore, but I eventually mastered it, with one of Gabriella’s teachers telling me last week that she never looks like “Dad dressed her.”  And cooking quality meals… I have been able to do that since I was ten, so no trouble there (Note: Getting my youngest to eat them is a completely different story though).  But once it was just me and them, there were only two things that I was seriously concerned about.  One of them I will have to deal with in about seven years… and the other is doing their hair.

Yep.  This post is going to be about pigtails, wide tooth combs, and unicorn hair ties… so try not to fall asleep.

I had no problems carrying them all over Walt Disney World for four days.  I once built Elaina a (pink and purple) puppet theater, sliding curtains and all, just because she asked and said “please.”  I have even gotten pretty darn good at putting nail polish on their little toenails and fingernails.  But getting proficient at fixing their hair has been a whole new adventure, and unfortunately, one that I think I may never accomplish to my liking.  And I am willing to bet that I am not the only Dad, single or otherwise, that has trouble with this topic.

Why do YOU need to learn to do your daughter’s hair?  Because if you do not, she will go to school looking like this.

Before their mother left, even though I was the one getting them up and dressing them every morning, I always did the bare minimum when it came to hair.  A pseudo-ponytail that might get them though the day was good enough for me.  “Oh, you do not even want me to do that?”  Even better!  After she left though, for a multitude of reasons, I had to start stepping up in the hair stylist department.

Cue the “Before” pictures…
Seriously, was I even trying?!?

Just like anything you want to get better at, the first step is to get smart on it.  So this meant getting one or two books on little girls’ hair and reading them front to back multiple times.  Thankfully, there are dozens of good books on the subject.  I went with Cozy’s Complete Guide to Girls’ Hair; the girls, to no one’s surprise, went with Disney Princess Hairstyles.

Use this
Not that!
Um… no.
Heck no!  It not only looks more difficult, but you also have to add in flowers.
Maybe… Just need to get more red food coloring…

Cozy’s Complete Guide to Girls’ Hair was exactly what I was looking for to start my journey.  While it does have chapters on tails, braids, and how to cut hair, I was more interested in some of the basics, such as hair types, hair products, combs, brushes, and accessories (I had previously skipped the Hair Emergency! section until last week when Gabriella put a chewed-up gummy in her hair).  So in Chapter 1, I learned everything that I never wanted to know about hair.  For instance, did you know that there are two types of melanin (pigment made in the skin that gives hair and skin their color), eumelanin and phaeomelanin, and that blondes have almost no eumelanin and lots of phaeomelanin?  Neither did I… next.  Chapter 2 talks about hair types and let me know that both of my daughters have wavy hair (which is in the middle of straight and curly).  And apparently you use a wide tooth comb to detangle wavy hair… pretty sure that will come in handy later.  Chapter 3 covers the tools of the trade, and I will be honest, this chapter blew my mind (no pun intended, as it had quite a bit on hair dryers).  Irons, rollers, brushes (five types!), and combs (three types!) were all covered in the chapter, and I even took notes.  Wide tooth combs and paddle brushes are good for detangling… better put a few of each on my shopping list.  Chapter 4’s topic on accessories was equally impressive, but I may have gotten the wrong message from it: If you are terrible at doing hair, just add colorful stuff like bows and headbands to it.  Chapter 5 is great for Dads as it is all about hair products, because for me that consists of shampoo and… wait, just shampoo.  There are not only different kinds of shampoo, but apparently, there is conditioner as well (with different kinds too!).  Chapter 6, on hair emergencies, is pretty much as-required.  Because I really hope that my girls never get lice or green hair (it is totally a thing).  But if they do, at least I can consult the book.  The rest of the book is about different hairstyles, which is really where this whole post is heading.

The Arsenal.  Bonus points if you use all of them in a single style.

So now that you have undoubtedly read a book on hair, you are ready to buy everything you need to start styling like a beginner.  And it is good that you got smart on the topic, because you will be buying exactly what you need (as opposed to the dozen fine tooth combs that I own that are virtually worthless with Gabriella’s hair).  Your situation is going to be different, but this is what I needed for mine (as seen in the picture above, you are also going to need hair tires [fabric and/or plastic], a spray bottle, likely hair clips, and at some point, bobby pins). Here are the two major items that you cannot do without.

This brush will solve 90% of your wavy hair problems.

Because my daughters both have hair that tangles fairly easy (especially my youngest), I needed to get a wide paddle brush (truth by told, I own three).  These brushes do a great job of not pulling their hair, allowing me to untangle it without accidentally yanking them off their stepstool.  While I use this as one of the first steps in our morning hair routine, I have gotten so good with it that I sometimes do not even need to transition to a comb in order to style their hair.  This type of brush is also good for straightening their hair immediately after a bath, as a different type of brush or a comb may pull a little too hard and hurt them.

I cannot think of anything funny or witty to say about this.  I mean, it is just a picture of combs…

Like I said before, I own plenty of fine tooth combs because, before I had daughters, they worked just fine (no pun intended) and I did not know that there were different types of combs.  Enter the world of tangled hair, where unless her hair is soaking wet, this type of comb will just make your wavy-haired daughter cry in pain.  On the picture above, both of these are cutting combs, meaning that they have a wide tooth side and a fine tooth side.  And one of them (Spoiler: It is the black one) has wider teeth and is made for hair that gets tangled more often.  With Elaina, I can use the brush and then move right to the finer tooth cutting comb for styling.  Not so much with Gabriella.  I have to go brush, wide tooth comb, then fine tooth comb, sometimes having to go back a step if I did not get all the knots out.  It can be a tedious process sometimes, but it is necessary if you want to make styling their hair enjoyable and (relatively) painless.

I have not yet unlocked the full potential of these, but give it time.

Other than giving me a preview of hairstyles I will never be able to do for my daughters, the one thing that I got out of the Disney Princess Hairstyles book was the recommendation to get a Topsy Tail kit.  While the book shows some pretty cool styles that can be done with them, just using them with a simple ponytail can make it look like you put in a little more effort than normal.  The girls love it (I always have to take pictures after using it to show them how it came out) and it seems to stay intact throughout the day better than the average ponytail.  It is cheap and it can help change things up a little, so I recommend picking one up.

“Old Reliable”

I have come to terms with the fact that I will never be a expert stylist for my girls.  As much as I try, their mother has had long hair her entire life (not to mention her styling both of her sisters’ hair) and their great-grandmother is a professional hairdresser, so I am more than willing to cede all the spots on the podium to them.  That does not mean that I want to settle for being terrible at it though, so I keep trying to do better.  But even for a beginner, the first style to master is the ponytail.  Seems simple enough.  Comb all the hair to the center of the back of the head.  Keeping the hair tight, slide through a hair tie.  Twist.  Repeat two to three more times.  But it took me a long time to master.  Not to loose, too low, too high, or off-center (sometimes the latter two are appropriate) is what I go for.  But the tighter the better, as I want that thing to stay in place all day.  If you get good at this, you at least have a basic hairstyle to fall back on that never fails or goes out of style.

“This ponytail is purr-fect!” (that was terrible; some writer is getting fired)
“Let us give a hand to our model for actually standing still for this picture.  Thanks, Gabbs!”

I have found the best way to spice up a simple ponytail to use a hair tie with a design on it (the girls wanted ones with animals on them).  This gives them a little something extra and the girls absolutely love to show them off at the Child Development Center.  Since some of them are more for looks than for function, I place them directly over the initial ponytail hair tie.  Highly recommended to get your level one hairstyle to stand out a little more.

All ready for the sock hop

You remember when I said there were exceptions to the ponytail being perfectly center?  Well, let me introduce you to the side ponytail.  It is something different and Elaina loves it.  It is a little harder to pull off, at least for me, because it forces you to center the hair and then slowly move it into position before beginning the ponytail steps.  And while positioning it slightly off center to halfway to the ear can work, on Mismatch Days at the Child Development Center, sometimes we go almost all the way to the ear, which really adds to the craziness of her outfit.

We are almost done with ponytail variations, I swear!
“Hands against the wall… we stopped you for having an awesome hairstyle.” (I thought we fired that writer…)

Another way to change it up is the tucked ponytail.  Do all the steps for a regular ponytail, but only slide half of the length of hair through the hair tie on the last twist.  This creates a style that somewhat looks like a bun.  It throws something different into the routine, but I find this style does not stay in place as well as a tight ponytail.

Yeah, we might need to add the ears to this one…
“One is higher than the other.  Do it again!”

So what if you made a ponytail on one side of the head and one on the other?  You now have a set of pigtails.  I will honest, these can look “cute” once and a while, but I dread it when Elaina asks me for them.  I always grab more hair for one than the other and they are never symmetrical.  Even though they like having them (especially while jumping on the trampoline), I never feel that I get them “right.”

“Focus on the cute animals… and not how asymmetrical these pigtails are.”

But if you are not great at pigtails, like me, you can always distract with brightly colored hair ties with animals on them.

Gabriella actually asked Rapunzel if her Dad did her hair
Now that is finally a pretty good hairstyle!  That only took about ten pictures.

When in doubt (or if the situation calls for it), a tiara will always make a ponytail look better.

“You look different… It’s a good different…”

Very briefly, this is what the Topsy Tail does to a normal ponytail.  It adds a little style and it stays in place pretty well throughout the day.  While this is all that I have used it for so far, I think it has a lot of potential when you start using it on pigtails or something more.

Fun Fact: I had to crop out Gabriella, who, unknown to me, was going to the bathroom when I took this picture.

When I took Elaina to the Nutcracker Ballet, her grandmother had bought her a beautiful nutcracker dress and I was not a bit surprised when she asked me to give her a ballerina bun.  Aside from not having any bobby pins (so this is why you need them!), the internet was absolutely no help in this department.  Oh, there are plenty of video tutorials, but I was so bad at it that none of them helped.  And I ended up with this.

Looks like I am getting a passing grade…
Wait for it…
Much Better!

And then this.  The “bun” turned out so bad that I have not attempted one since, but this experience taught me a very important lesson: Sometimes my opinion does not matter in the least.  Elaina absolutely loved it.  I told her that I was still not satisfied with it and she told me “Stop, Dad!  It is perfect!”  I am not one to mess with perfection.  As unhappy as I was with how it turned out, I forgot that the goal was to make her happy, so mission accomplished.  Never forget who you are trying to please.

“Darling, you know I love you, but Dad is having an off day… so you are wearing a hat.”

If all else has failed, there are still a few more options available to you.  First, throw a hat on them.  I have first-hand experience knowing that if my daughter is wearing a pink cowgirl hat with a tiara on it, she is absolutely adorable, so no one cares what her hair looks like underneath.

She just needs to keep those gummies out of her hair…
They even work for Dad bad hair days!

Minnie Mouse ears.  Whether they are at a Disney park or not, they take the focus away from their hair.  They really enjoy wearing them as well, so double win.

And headbands help her spell words and stuff!
I feel like this is the textbook definition of “getting partial credit…”

Kind of like the Minnie ears, headbands are an accessory that can add to good hair and detract from terrible hair.  “You think my daughter’s hair looks terrible?!?  Obviously you failed to see the beautiful Snow White bow on the top of her head.  Thank you.  Apology accepted.”  It does not usually go down like that, but a headband can be a great fixer in a pinch.

I am sure by this time you are asking yourself, “Is he going to show us a braid?”  The answer is a resounding “No.”  I attempted a braid once with Elaina’s hair and it pretty much just turned into a giant knot.  I am going to wait a few years until I try that again.  Or never.  I have not decided yet.  But it will be a while.  Or never.

If nothing else succeeds…

I hope you enjoyed a single dad’s perspective on the wonderful world of little girls’ hair.  I could write an entire post just how much I dislike bangs, but I try to stay positive, as this attempts to be a family-friendly blog.  Thanks again for checking in on us and I hope to get out more constructive posts such as this one in the near future.


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