6 Essential Supplies for Caring for Your Parent's Hair

A hair care basket

It's extremely helpful to have everything you need to care for your parent's hair in one portable place, so you can tote it as needed to the bathroom, bedroom, or a big comfy chair in front of the TV. Look for a plastic basket (which is waterproof and ideal for shampoo time) with a carry handle. A variety of sizes, styles, and colors are sold at most houseware, drug, and hardware stores.

The "right" brush and comb

Sounds easy enough, but people who are sick, frail, or have dementia can be super-sensitive to touch, viewing combs and brushes as dreaded objects of pain. If this describes your parent, buy the softest brush you can find -- baby brushes are worth a try. Also check what's available at any medical supply store. Avoid small pocket-style combs with thin, crowded teeth, which pull at hair more than larger combs with more space between the teeth. Hair picks can pull less than regular combs. Or skip combing altogether, and just use a brush.


It's always a good idea to use your parent's preferred shampoo -- if you know what it is. Ask, or rummage around the house to see what your parent buys. Familiar products can be reassuring to anyone who's sick or disabled, so familiar smells, colors, and packaging are comforting. If you're trying to avoid water, no-rinse shampoos are available at medical supply and some drug stores. Baby shampoo is a good choice if your parent has sensitive or dry skin.

Products for Hair Care


Use the same rule of thumb as applies to shampoo: Try to use your parent's favorite old standby. This gives her a sense of control, even if it's indirect, over her personal care. Your parent may have never used conditioner, but if she's spending more time in bed now than before, her hair is more prone to tangles, especially where it rubs against the pillow. Conditioner can help prevent tangling. Other handy time-savers include two-in-one shampoo-conditioners, which only require one rinse, and leave-in conditioners. However, these products can leave a residue over time.

Sprays, gels, detanglers, and other favorite potions and lotions

Let's face it, many hair care styling products really aren't needed; hair can stay neat and attractive without them. But if a little extra grooming time makes your parent feel better, go for it. Try to follow usual routines. If your dad has always liked to slick back his hair with a dab of cream, do this for him. If your mom is into a generous layer of hair spray, plug your nose -- ready, set, aim. When someone's body is weakening, small sprucing-up gestures can boost self-esteem. But if your parent doesn't like his head or hair touched, avoid the extras and stick with the simplest routine.

A shower cap

Not long ago, waterproof shower caps were standard fare for women. A woman would get her hair shampooed and styled once a week at the beauty shop. Then she'd wear her shower cap during bathing to protect her "do" until the next hair appointment. If this sounds like your mom, she may be more comfortable with this routine if she's still going out for hair appointments, and even if you're the one doing the weekly wash and style at home. There may be times when your dad prefers not to get his head wet during bathing, too.

Kate Rauch

Kate Rauch has spent more than two decades writing about health for websites and print media, including WebMD, Drugstore, the Washington Post health section, and Newsday, as well as HMOs such as Kaiser Permanente (in the San Francisco Bay Area) and Group Health (in Seattle). See full bio