As you are no doubt aware by now, 4c natural hair can be rather difficult to work with. Of course, that doesn’t mean that you don’t deserve to look and feel your best. So if you’re uncertain about what your curls need and how to provide it, this guide will prove helpful.
But before you dive into the tips and tricks that will make your hair all it could be, let’s talk about curl patterns and what having 4c hair means in the long run.
A Crash Course in Curl Patterns
The term “4c texture” comes from a system the natural hair community uses to name different kinds of curls. According to the curl pattern chart, all hair can be put on a scale from 1–4, with each level having additional markers going from a–c. The letters in this system point to the intensity of the curl type.
Now, the first two numbers on this scale represent stick-straight and wavy hair. On the second tier there, people can have anywhere between a barely-there bend at 2a or a more lively wave pattern at 2c. Properly curly hair starts with the 3a–3c types which can range from loose curls to corkscrews. However, most of the coily hair types are in the 4a–4c category, which represents the kinky hair types.
So if the number 1 represents stick-straight hair, 4c natural hair is the curliest type anyone could have. These curls can be either tightly coiled or zigzag-shaped. But in reality, most people have multiple curl types on their heads.
Throughout history, society has deemed some of these hair types — namely those in the 2a–3a range — better than others. Luckily, the stigmas of having curlier textures are now breaking down thanks to the natural hair community. But as more people abstain from chemical straighteners, they are realizing just how little they know about their natural hair.
So What’s the Deal with 4C Natural Hair?
If you’ve never had to wash or style 4c natural hair, you probably don’t know why that would even be an issue. It’s just super curly hair — what’s the big deal? Well, that kinky coily texture can lead to several difficulties. Namely, this hair type is the most prone to:
• Tangles and matting
• Dryness and breakage
• Shrinkage and growth
The first problem is the result of the two main features of this hair type — its density and tight curl pattern. However, there are ways to prevent knots, mainly having to do with detangling your hair properly.
The next issue you’ll have to combat is the natural dryness of tight curly textures. Undermoisturizing your hair will lead it to become dry and brittle, which naturally leads to breakage. And if your ends are constantly breaking, it’ll take even longer to achieve the length you’re going for.
On the other hand, 4c hair is notoriously the worst type to get saddled with if you want to gain some inches. Again, this has everything to do with the tightness of the curls.
When you stretch out a strand of your hair, it may even come down to the middle of your back. However, as soon as you let it go, it’ll probably bounce right up to form a fluffy ‘fro. Some people with 4c natural hair see their hair shrink by 75%! Sadly, there’s not much you can do about shrinkage except use different methods of stretching your hair.
Luckily, most of the tips on the list below will be addressing these concerns. So without further ado, let’s get your hair the care it deserves.
8 Tips for Getting the 4C Natural Hair of Your Dreams
#1. Water is Your Friend
One thing to know about 4c natural hair is that it loves water. If you consider shrinkage to be the bane of your existence, you may wish to avoid it. After all, tight curls tend to spring up in high humidity or when in direct contact with water. But remember: water is moisture — and there’s nothing your kinky coily texture loves more.
Going forward, you might want to keep a spray bottle full of water on hand for styling. You can also put aloe vera juice or leave-in conditioner in there while you’re at it. You can use that mixture to refresh and hydrate your hair every day. After you spray water on your curls, everything you put on top will either add nourishment or seal in the moisture you set down.
There are several moisturizing methods you could use, depending on your hair’s preferences. Low porosity hair tends to like the LCO method. So you would apply liquid or leave-in conditioner, add your cream or butter product, and seal everything in with your favorite oil.
Alternatively, you could try the LOC method and replace the last two steps. So you’d go in with the oil after spraying your hair down and apply a cream product on top. Nourishing your hair like this would combat dryness and prevent breakage by maintaining elasticity.
#2. Use a Hot Oil Treatment Before Washing Your Hair
To be completely honest, oils won’t moisturize your hair. However, doing an oil treatment before you wash your hair will protect it from the cleansing products you use, which will prevent it from drying out. Furthermore, giving your scalp a warm oil massage will certainly encourage growth, which is something most people with 4c natural hair want.
#3. Don’t Wash Your Hair Too Often
As previously established, 4c hair is usually pretty dry. So you definitely shouldn’t wash it more often than every week or two. But you’ll probably think even that is too often when you learn the right way to wash it.
To begin with, you’ll have to be pretty selective with your shampoo. You’ll have to avoid sulfates since they will strip your curls of any moisture you manage to get in there. Unless you have product build-up to get rid of, don’t even use clarifying shampoos. Co-washing is a gentler and more moisturizing way to get rid of any dirt.
#4. Only Detangle When Your Hair Is Wet
After you rinse out the shampoo or co-wash, you’ll want to apply your deep conditioner or mask. Most people with 4c natural hair simply don’t get any benefits from using regular conditioners so they opt for these heavier products instead. No matter what product you end up using, you’ll have to apply it in sections.
First, clip the top of your hair out of the way and split the hair at the nape of your neck in two. Apply your product to one of your sections, then gently finger detangle it, working from the ends toward your roots. Remember, your hair has to be soaking wet and loaded with conditioner before you even think of running your fingers through it.
When you get the hang of detangling, you could try to use a flexible wet brush like the Tangle Teezer. However, you’ll have to be extremely careful not to cause breakage. When you have the section you’re working on completely knot-free, do a two-strand twist before moving on to the next section.
#5. Style in Sections
Sectioning isn’t something you can use just in the shower. It’s also a technique that can be incredibly helpful during the styling process. And you may not always use the same chunky uneven sections you’d use in the shower.
For example, if you wanted to make a sleek low bun, you’d start with the hair in the back, spraying it down and adding a buttery product or a gel. Then you’d gradually add more of the surrounding hair, all the while adding products and slicking the hair back with a boar bristle brush. When you manage to bring all the hair back where you want it, you’ll have to tie it down with a head wrap until the gel sets.
If you don’t section your hair like this, you simply won’t be able to achieve the sleek result you’re looking for with 4c natural hair. And this rule applies even if you’re not sleeking your hair back. No matter what style you want to wear, you’ll have to section your hair before molding it.
#6. Try Different Stretching Techniques
Most people with a 4c texture become frustrated with shrinkage. However, heatless stretching techniques will allow you to see your hair in all of its glory and prepare it for various protective styles as well. In fact, some of the following techniques are protective styles in their own right:
• Bantu knots — twisting the hair in on itself until it sits rolled in on itself
• Braid outs or twist outs — two or three-strand twists that can produce tighter or looser textures depending on the size of your sections
• Banding — tying hairbands around each section to make a ponytail then tying more bands as you go down the section
• Threading — twisting a long, single thread around each section from the root to the ends of your hair
No matter which of these methods you opt for, you’ll have to start by sectioning and spraying your hair with water. It shouldn’t be dripping wet because it won’t be able to completely dry in the style as you need it to.
#7. Put Your Hair In Protective Styles
Since 4c natural hair is prone to breakage, it’s best to keep it safely tucked away in a protective style. There are lots of buns, twists, crochet braids, and feed-in extension styles to choose from. You could even do many of them by yourself if you don’t mind keeping your hands busy for several hours. If you’d rather not go through all of that only to get mediocre results, go to a professional.
On the other hand, you could use protective styles that still leave your hair free to breathe at night and on wash days. If nothing else, you could always use wigs. Even if you keep your natural hair in braids while your wig is on, you’ll be able to massage your scalp and give your curls the care they need on wash days.
#8. Trim Off Any Split Ends
As someone who has 4c natural hair, you’ve probably been dreading this piece of advice. But it’s true, you’ll need to keep your ends in line if you want to have long healthy hair. It may sound contradictory, but here’s why dusting your ends off regularly is so important.
Firstly, you need to remember that kinky curly hair is more prone to dryness which also makes it more susceptible to breakage. Where there’s breakage, there are split ends — and those can grow into an unmanageable mess if you don’t trim your hair regularly.
Furthermore, tight 4c texture tends to curl in on itself, often developing tangles right near the end of the strand. Dusting your ends can also make your hair less knotty.
Keep Your Hands Out of Your Hair
When you start implementing these tips, your hair will become the best version of itself. You won’t be able to keep your hands away from it! Unfortunately, you’ll have to show some restraint.
Ultimately, 4c natural hair doesn’t really like being touched too much. It even has its limits when it comes to styling. Touching it will draw out any moisture you placed on it which would result in more breakage. So to keep your hair looking and feeling its best, you’ll have to take a hands-off approach!