Rock That 4C Natural Hair Type!
Hair typing has become the universal code in describing, characterizing, and learning how to care for 4C natural hair.
Product companies have even capitalized off of the idea that hair typing can aid in choosing the right hair products.
With experience in working with all textures, being a Natural Hair Stylist, I would have to disagree with the product companies.
You may, however, learn a thing or two when researching the characteristics of your hair type.
Let’s break down the one hair type that is arguably the most misunderstood, 4c natural hair.
The 4C Natural Hair Community is Rising
Over the past few years, there has been a growing supportive community of 4c Naturals swapping tips and advice about their hair.
Following this community on social media platforms and getting the same questions and concerns from my 4c clients, I believe there is some helpful information missing in understanding this hair type.
The Difference with 4c Hair
While many hair types focus on the ultimate Wash n Go definition, 4c naturals have other priorities.
They struggle with shrinkage, detangling, and the fear of breakage when rocking many styles other naturals wouldn’t think twice about wearing.
This hair type has the potential to look different in various hairstyles because of its shrinkage.
For example, blow outs versus a flexi-rod set will look significantly different in length because there isn’t much weight to this hair type.
This hair type also holds protective styles, such as braids and twist, longer than others.
Most naturals crave diversity, long lasting styles and who doesn’t want to rock the big fro look now and then. Despite their struggles, this hair type when on the right regimen is another naturals hair crush.
4C Natural Hair Extensions
In cases where people do not want to have to deal with the hassle of maintaining their hair but still like to have the natural look, 4C clip-in extensions are available. Clip-ins add extra volume and length.
You can still quickly achieve blowouts, twist-outs, and high ponytails while using the clip-in extensions.
Understanding 4C Natural Hair
There's a lot to learn and understand about 4c natural hair.
For 4c natural hair, the shrinkage may range from 70-75%. This hair type lacks curl definition without product and manipulation. The diameter of a strand is much smaller (fine) than any other hair type and it may look coarse but just dense.
4c hair also thrives in low manipulation environments. The other characteristics of this hair type that were not listed above refer to the porosity, current health of one’s hair, and their regimen. Type 4c follows the same Z-shaped curl pattern as type 4b hair but is more tightly coiled. When freshly washed and free of all products, it does not have a very defined curl pattern.
Therefore, women with this delicate hair type have to resort to methods such as twisting, shingling or braiding to add definition to their curls. 4c hair can come in a range of textures from fine and soft to wiry and coarse. But regardless of its texture, it is still the most delicate hair type of all.
Which is why women with 4c hair go for protective hairstyles like braids and weave to protect their hair from getting damaged.
The more bends and curves found in a hair strand the more difficult it is for the oil to reach the ends of your hair undisrupted. The tighter the curl, the more important it will be to keep the ends moisturized. The closer each bend is on a hair strand the least likely it is for your curls to clump together. Just picture how far each curve is on wavy hair compared to coily hair.
How wavy hair can take more heat and chemical processes than tightly curly hair. Not in all cases but in many.
Growing 4c Natural Hair
Growing 4c hair isn’t the easiest task, especially since 4c hair requires so much maintenance. There are some tips and tricks that you can use, but the most important thing to remember is that your 4c hair needs moisture.
Moisture is the one aspect that will prevent your hair from breaking off. Dry, brittle 4c hair becomes extremely coarse and that makes it difficult to manage.
The harder your 4c hair is to manage, the less likely it is to grow. For your hair to grow, you’ll not only want to moisturize your hair, but you’ll wan to ensure that your hair is conditioned often. You can also grow 4c hair by eating healthily, and drinking plenty of water. The healthier your body is, the easier it will be to grow your hair to your desired length.
Most cases, you’ll want to stick to natural remedies to grow your hair. A lot of people propose hair pills, but it is never recommended you take anything you’ve never tried.
If you feel like you’re at your wits end, try visiting a professional that can tell you what to do. When I went to visit a dermatologist and a stylist, I was able to figure out what my hair needed to grow. After that, my hair has been growing ever since!
Why does 4C natural hair grow slowly?
One thing most bloggers and YouTubers are unaware of is the common characteristics of many 4c naturals and their scalp skin.
The scalp skin is a topic only Trichologist, Dermatologist, and Cosmetologist can educate you on.
As a licensed Cosmetologist, I have come across many 4c naturals with dry and tight scalp skin.
What does this have to do with hair? The follicle is housed in the scalp skin and needs blood circulation to push the hair through the skin all while simultaneously pushing an oil gland to the surface.
That is why it is important to massage your scalp with your fingertips every chance you get.
Using a light oil while massaging your scalp will increase blood circulation and also nourish a dry scalp.
You should only use oil if your scalp is dry. Prematurely oiling your scalp, if your scalp doesn’t need it can clog the follicle and also delay the strand from being pushed through.
Shampoo for 4c Natural Hair
Tip #1 You May Have to Spend a Little More
Your typical shampoos that may be cheaper are more than likely to dry for your hair. Most shampoos are created for oily hair issues, whereas your problem is the exact opposite.
Tip #2 Inspect the Ingredients List
Be sure to pay attention to the quality of the ingredients. Do the ingredients list a whole bunch of chemicals that you can't even pronounce? All products will contain some form of a preservative as well as other components for safety and stability. However, the majority of what you see, and at the beginning of the list should be water, of course, followed by curl-friendly ingredients.
Tip #3 Make Sure the Shampoo Has This in It!
Go with a shampoo that contains emollients like Shea Butter and a heavier oil like castor oil in its formula. You may find that a moisturizing formulation will be on the thicker side in consistency (the heavier products like the castor and Shea contribute to this).
Tip #4 Avoid Sulfates
Look out for sulfates they are very drying to hair. Virtually every hair product nowadays is claiming to be sulfate-free because they know that is what the consumer is looking for. However, in many cases, although they may not be using sulfates they are using ingredients that have a similar composition to sulfates. Even though their claim of being SLS free is true, the results end up being the same if you use a formula with stripping ingredients.
Conditioners for 4c Natural Hair
The thing about 4c hair is that it requires a lot of maintenance. Whenever I would wear my 4c hair out, I would have a wash day that lasted all day. At first, because I wasn’t completely sure how to do my hair, it would take me hours just to get through the conditioning process. It seemed that none of the conditioners I used actually made a different in my hair. My hair would be just as coarse as it was during the shampoo period. I didn’t know what to do. Eventually, I figured out that there were different conditioners for my kind of hair — conditioners that would Smooth out my kinks without sacrificing my curl pattern. Here are my 3 favorites!
Cantu Coconut Curling Cream
This conditioner is great for protective styling. When you need to wear your hair in a protective style for a while, you should try this out! It defines, conditions and moisturizes hair. It’s also amazing at smoothing edges down when necessary.
Camille Rose Natural Algae Deep Conditioner
In need of a deep treatment? This homemade product is mixed with vitamin B, and algae. The vitamin B is meant to improve hair growth. Your hair should be thicker, stronger and overall healthier after consistently using this product. It also moisturizes, and softness the hair. It gives you everything you need and more while making you look fabulous.
ORS Curls Unleashed Shea Butter and Honey Curl Defining Creme
Got some shrinkage to fight? This amazing conditioner helps add shine to the hair. It also defines kinks and coils to create an amazing look. The best part? You get to avoid the annoyance of shrinkage.
Hair Oils for 4c Natural Hair
1. Coconut Oil (Pure & Unrefined)
This oil contains monounsaturated fatty acids and vitamin E, which both help promote hair growth and length retention, decrease breakage, and strengthen the hair. Coconut oil consists of certain properties that inhibit the penetration of water from the surrounding air and environment. This helps prevent the swelling of the strands since they can absorb too much water. It also aids with keeping moisture sealed into your hair by creating a barrier. If you have high porosity hair, you may find this property highly beneficial.
Coconut oil is great as a pre-poo or mixed with your favorite conditioner because it naturally helps dismantle the tangles of your hair. You can apply it to add shine, combat frizz and as a part of the sealing stage of the LOC method.
2. Castor Oil (Jamaican Black)
Castor oil consists of unsaturated fatty acids, vitamin E, protein, and minerals that work together to make it one of the best oils for boosting hair growth. You’ve probably heard of using Jamaican black castor oil to help regrow your edges or simply to kickstart your growth journey. The rumors are true that this nutrient-rich oil increases blood flow to the scalp, resulting in thicker, stronger, and longer hair. This is because castor oil has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties that remove dead skin cells from the scalp and stimulate hair follicles for growth.
This oil is super thick so a little goes a long way so be cautious in the amounts used. Apply it to your edges to help them grow. If you find that your hair is dry, brittle, prone to breakage, or balding in any areas, Jamaican black castor oil is a great natural way to combat all of these issues.
3. Olive Oil (Extra Virgin)
Olive oil is its own natural conditioner: it penetrates the hair shaft better than some other oils and nourishes, softens, and strengthens the hair. This oil also has an anti-inflammatory property that helps rid the hair of dandruff and product build-up on the scalp. It also assists in reducing hair loss by fortifying the hair against any kind of wear and tear.
This oil works very well for scalp massages: it will help you stimulate hair growth and maintain a healthy scalp. Add it to your spray bottle mix to help keep your hair moisturized throughout the week. Since olive oil penetrates the hair shaft, it also works great for hot oil treatments and will result in hair that looks and feels softer and stronger.
4. Avocado Oil
Jam-packed with vitamins A, B, D, and E, protein, amino acids, magnesium, iron, copper, folic acid, and fatty acids, avocado oil is superb for protecting and preventing damage to the hair. It also helps the hair lock in moisture and protects your strands against sun damage. Avocado oil has an even higher content (72%) of monounsaturated fats than coconut oil: these fats provide nourishment and make your hair super shiny.
Adding avocado oil to your shampoo will treat dry, itchy scalp and adding it to your conditioner will give you excellent slip to make detangling a breeze.
5. Jojoba Oil (Pure & Unrefined)
Jojoba oil doesn’t always get as much recognition as it deserves. Much like avocado oil, it is great for addressing dry scalp but also hair loss, and in preventing split ends. But unlike any other oil, jojoba mimics your hair’s own natural oil (sebum) which causes your strands to respond quite positively by absorbing it into the hair shaft, which results in more moisturized and shinier hair. It contains vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, and E, which work together to protect against damage. This oil has an even higher content of monounsaturated fats than avocado oil (98%!) which of course make it excellent for strengthening the hair against breakage. It adds volume, encourages hair growth, and helps the hair revert from damage.
Jojoba oil also works great for scalp massages because it gives you great benefits without weighing your hair down. It is excellent when used in deep conditioners because it helps the hair bounce back, especially from heat styling. Since it is a lightweight oil, it may be a good choice for low porosity naturals.
Oils for tight or dry scalp:
*Be mindful that heavy oils such as coconut oil may clog the follicle and the cuticle of the hair strand. Some oils benefit the scalp more than the hair and vice versa. You do not need to oil your scalp every day. Start off with twice a week and see how your scalp improves. You may also oil your scalp on wash day, while your conditioner is on your hair, and rinse out like normal. Oils are nourishing, so as long as the molecules are small enough to penetrate you may rinse off the excess and still get results.
Porosity over Hair Typing
Determining your porosity is far more helpful in creating a regimen than hair typing.
Your porosity will tell you the type of products you should use, the type of protein treatments you should get if you should be air drying your hair or not, and so much more.
Try not to solely rely on your hair type to answer all of your questions and guide you in your healthy hair journey.
At my salon, we don’t hair type because we focus on your porosity, where your hair has been, what it is currently going through, and establishing achievable hair goals.
Maintaining and Caring for 4c Natural Hair
Since 4c natural hair is a fragile type of hair, you should go the extra mile when caring for it. Here are some things you can do to maintain the health of your 4c natural hair:
The reason why natural 4c hair dries out so quickly is that of its tightly coiled curl pattern. These tight curls act as obstacles for the natural oils from your scalp to properly travel down the complete length of your hair, which can leave your ends parched for moisture. Deep conditioning your hair at least once every two weeks is a great way to moisture it and make detangling knots and tangles a lot easier.
LOC in moisture:
Since type 4c hair struggles to retain moisture and dries out quickly, it is important you not only moisturize it routinely but also lock the moisture in. The best way to do so is by following the LOC (liquid, oil, cream) method. Start off by spritzing your hair with water. Then apply a lightweight oil, like coconut oil or olive oil, to lock in the moisture. Finish by using a leave-in conditioner to keep your hair hydrated to the core.
A big struggle for women with natural 4c hair is growing their hair. This is because shrinkage robs their hair of its length. On top of that, it gets damaged and breaks quite easily. To protect this hair from all sorts of damage and help it grow out, it’s best to wear it in a protective style. Styles like cornrows, weaves, box braids, crochet braids, and bantu knots not only lend your hair some great protection but also look extremely gorgeous. Moreover, you can style these looks any way you want to match your personal sense of style.
The dryness from this hair type causes plenty of knots and tangles. This can prove to be frustrating as it is quite difficult as well as painful to detangle. The key is to use a wide-toothed comb, but your fingers are the best option, and only to detangle it when it’s damp. Also make sure you start from your ends and work your way up to minimize breakage.
Get rid of split ends:
Split ends can be the bane of your existence when you’re trying to grow out your 4c hair that already tends to shrink a lot. Trimming your hair and getting rid of its split ends once every 6 months will maintain the health of your hair and help it retain its length.
Co-wash your hair:
Since shampoo strips your hair of its natural oils and 4c hair is already known to dry out quickly, it’s best to avoid washing your hair with shampoo as much as possible. Limit your shampoo usage to once or twice a month and opt for co-washing instead. Co-washing once a week can cleanse your hair effectively while still retaining moisture.
Avoid using too many products:
The temptation to use every curl defining cream and leave-in conditioner on the market can be very real when it comes to tending to your natural 4c hair. Don't become a product junkie! Piling these products onto your hair can do more harm than good. So, step away from those bottles and tubs of products and stick to one or two things that you know work for you!
What Does My Hair Need?
A daily cream based moisturizer with water as the first ingredient is ideal.
Deciding how often you would moisturize your hair would depend on your porosity.
You can test your hair by moisturizing it at night and wearing a silk or satin bonnet. If in the morning it still feels dry you will need to reapply for the day. Only high porosity hair requires oil to seal after you have moisturized.
Adding steam hydration treatments every week to two weeks with your favorite hydrating or moisturizing mask or conditioner is another vital step!
Our curls require water just like our bodies. When your hair lacks water, it becomes dry and frizzy.
Styles don’t last long, and no product seems to do what it says on the bottle. This does not mean you should be wetting your hair with water. In fact, you may damage your hair doing so; this is called Hygral Fatigue.
Just think of your hair working to open up the cuticle to receive water and closing the cuticle to seal in the water. Wetting your hair often will damage the cuticle, and it will seem dehydrated.
Crazy right! So, instead take 20-30 minutes and go under a hair steamer with your conditioner every week to 2 weeks.
Let's Talk Trims
Most naturals, because of the texture of their hair, can go 3 to 4 months without a trim and be fine.
With 4c natural hair, it is common and recommended to ask your stylist to clip your ends every two months.
Due to the shrinkage percentage, you may want to stretch your hair with a blow dryer for the trim, so that you can also see how far up your hair has split in between each trim.
Manipulating this hair type by twisting every night, laying down your edges every day, pulling your hair in puffs or ponytails or even detangling your hair roughly will result in breakage. Try to choose styles that will last the full week and only manipulate your hair after a moisturizer is applied.
You will see your hair flourish once you determine your porosity, establish a regimen, and choose styles that you do not manipulate every day.