Tear-Free Toddler Hair: How to Avoid Crying While Brushing

This post has been sponsored by Johnson’s®. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Until I was old enough to brush my own hair regularly, my mom had a rule: “If you complain while I brush it, we cut it.”

Basically, I had short hair until I was seven or eight—which might explain why I’ve spent most of the last two decades with long hair.

I thought this rule was cruel back in the day, but I also remember sitting on the edge of my bed whining or crying through many a post-bath hair brushing session.

Now, with Adelaide’s opinionated self turning three and her hair almost all the way down her back, I get it.

Her hair is BEAUTIFUL (when it isn’t a scraggly mess), but it has also spent the last year being a point of contention, tears, and struggles in our family. The last few months, I’ve tried a few different things and found some tips that make A HUGE difference in how we care for her hair. It means much less crying and much silkier, well-kept locks.

Here is what has been working for us.

Tips for tear-free toddler hair:

  • Brush wet: We do baths right before bed most days, and I’m so tempted to just put Adelaide in pajamas and skip the hair brushing—especially if she’s extra tired. But, 40 seconds before bed makes a big difference. Brush hair immediately after the bath so it is still wet.

**curly hair tip: If you’re looking for curls to be intact, washing hair in the morning or before an event, brushing while wet, and then scrunching up a bit with your fingers before letting them air dry keeps the curls looking fresh. We often bathe the kids on Sunday mornings before church and it’s the best Adelaide’s hair looks all week. You can also revive curls with a spray bottle of water to dampen hair in the morning and scrunch up with your hands before letting them air dry.

  • Use a conditioner: This has been the biggest game changer. We switched Adelaide from the infant hair and body wash combo to JOHNSON’S® Ultra Hydrating Shampoo & Conditioner that you can grab in the baby section near the bath time and hair products at Target. Hair brushing has gone down from 2-3 minutes to no more than 30 seconds. Her hair has a long-lasting shine and softness after the bath that she really doesn’t need much more than combing through with my fingers now, thank goodness! If you’re struggling with lots of tangles, I can’t recommend JOHNSON’S® Ultra Hydrating Shampoo & Conditioner enough.

  • Find a good de-tangler. We’ve used a couple of different ones over the last year, and the best one we’ve found is JOHNSON’S® Clean & Fresh Conditioning Spray. It acts like a leave-in conditioner and I also use it to brush her hair on days we aren’t bathing/washing her hair.

  • Brush the right way, gently: If you hold the top of the hair, close to the head, while brushing the bottom, it pulls less on your child’s scalp. I always try to hold above the tangle I’m brushing so the brush is pulling tension on my hand and not on Adelaide’s head.

  • Provide a distraction: We’ve found it fun for Adelaide to brush her doll’s hair while I brush her hair; it really helps take her focus off of hair brushing. You could also sing songs, let them watch a show, hand them a book, or just engage them in conversation about the day to help distract them.
  • Find the right hair brush: We use the same kids hair brush gifted to us when Lincoln was born but I’ve found if it’s really tangled, starting with my wet brush makes a huge difference.

P.S. For Lincoln—without long, curly, and tangly hair—we have been using JOHNSON’S® Clean & Fresh Shampoo & Body Wash. His response when we opened the bottle for the first time, “WHAT IS THAT SMELL! It smells like CANDY!” This product keeps his hair clean & fresh all day with Freshboost™ Fragrance. We love that we only need one product for him in the bath for everything. JOHNSON’S® Clean & Fresh Shampoo & Body Wash is recommended for all hair types and is hypoallergenic, paraben/phthalates/sulfates/dye free, and pediatrician tested.


Try New Johnson’s® kids hair care products available at your local Target.


Tips and tricks for tear-free toddler hair brushing! #ad #toddlerhairtips #toddlergirlhairbrushing #haircareforkids

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  1. I can’t get over these cuties! We love Johnson&Johnson products for Leighton’s long, thick hair!

  2. There’s a reason why this company has been known as the best for kids for so many years – it’s truly THAT good. I love your tips for no tears during washing/brushing! Great suggestions!

  3. Oh man do I relate to the horrible brushing! I had short hair until I was 5 cause I criiiiiiiiiied. My mom told me I used to say “your hurrrrrrrrrrrring me your hurrrrrrrrring me”. This is why I too, like my hair really long now. I’m glad you found something that is gentle on both kids!