Understanding & Caring for 4C Hair
Hair texture is hereditary and determined by the shape of the hair follicle. Round follicles produce straight hair while oval, oblong and flat follicles produce wavy, curly and coily hair, respectively. Analysis of some of the oldest human lineages suggest that the first anatomically modern humans (Homo sapiens) had coily hair.
Curly hair is defined by the presence of bends along the length of a strand so the more numerous and closely spaced the bends are, whether round or angular, the curlier, colier or kinkier the hair will be. Type 4, or kinky/coily hair, falls under the category of curly hair since it contains numerous bends along its length. Type 4 hair can also be coarse or fine, thick or thin, high, medium or low porosity, or a mixture of all of these. However, the curlier the hair is, the more likely it is to be dry.
Curly hair that contains very closely spaced angular or zigzag bends along its length is considered 4C hair. These angular bends give it its characteristic crinkly texture. These angular bends can prevent the downward flow of sebum, a naturally occurring lipid that's produced by sebaceous glands in the scalp, from reaching the ends of the strand. This slippery, protective lubricant blocks internal moisture loss to keep moisture within the hair strand and prevent it from leaking out. Without this coating, strands can be left feeling dry and brittle. The cuticles positioned at these angles may also be raised, creating a gap which allows the moisture inside the hair's cortex to seep out. Raised cuticles equate to highly porous hair which, along with the absence of sebum, can cause coily strands to feel dry and become intertwined, making the process of separating them, or detangling, difficult. In order for this texture to thrive, it's important to use naturally hydrating formulas capable of effectively sealing in the moisture so that it doesn't leak out. Its edges and ends should also be kept properly lubricated and hydrated to prevent tangling and breakage and to preserve length.
Creating slip and effectively moisturizing
As mentioned above, zigzag shaped hair is more susceptible to tangling since it lacks the slippery coating of sebum to enable each strand to slip and slide against adjacent strands rather than latching onto them. The naturally dry state of high porosity 4C hair also makes it fragile and vulnerable to breakage and brittleness so it's important to handle this texture with care. We use the plant based ingredients found in traditional Afro-Ayurvedic hair care treatments to develop high performance products for afro/coily hair in general and 4C hair in particular. The products and techniques suggested below will help you give your beautiful, 4C tresses the care, moisture and nutrients it needs to flourish and grow!
Step 1: Scalp Care
The scalp, just like the skin, is susceptible to damage caused by poor treatment and the use of low quality products. Keeping the scalp and hair follicles healthy is the first step to achieving healthy hair growth. The two treatments below are formulated to address the needs of both a compromised scalp in need of healing and a healthy scalp in need of extra nourishment to help thicken and grow in hair.
Our 100% vegan and mineral oil-free Tea Tree & Lavender Therapeutic Pomade contains medicinal essential oils that have been used for centuries to soothe and heal scalp conditions. Apply this directly to your scalp to help heal damaged follicles, reduce flaking and alleviate the tenderness and itchiness that can accompany tight hair styles and protective styles.
Use our 100% vegan and mineral oil-free Castor & Amla Nourishing Pomade on a healthy scalp to help thicken hair and boost growth. This pomade can also be used to add softness, pliability and sheen to dry, coarse and dull hair.
Applying herb infused ointments to the scalp to treat scalp conditions and enhance growth is a centuries old tradition practiced by our ancestors who understood that a healthy scalp is integral to growing a magnificently healthy mane.
Step 2: Proper Detangling
Detangling matted hair can be a painful, frustrating process when you're not equipped with the right tools, techniques and products. To reduce the time and effort it takes to restore your crown to a manageable coif that you can glide your fingers through without resistance, you'll need our Cocoa Tree Detangling Ghee, a multi-functional conditioner capable of both moisturizing and detangling hair. Our Cocoa Tree Detangling Ghee is a rich cream formulated specifically for 4C hair that contains detangling and conditioning agents that simultaneously wet the hair, flatten the culticles and elongate it by weighing it down. Using a detangler with these 3 features is essential to detangling 4C hair. To use, start by dividing your damp or dry hair into multiple, manageable sections and applying a quarter sized amount of the Cocoa Tree to just one section at a time. Repeatedly smooth it through that section until you feel your hair softening and elongating. Using your fingers and starting from the bottom up, begin separating the strands. Once they're separated, follow up with a wide tooth comb to gently comb through as the tangles slip away.
Our Cocoa Tree Detangling Ghee can also be used to reduce tangling and shedding while removing twists, plaits and braids. Just apply a moderate coat to each plait, allow it to sink in for 30 seconds, and then start unraveling from the bottom up. This technique acts to wet the hair, softening it up enough to help each section slip away from the other without excessive pulling or breakage.
Using a thin tooth comb or combing 4C hair while dry, without a creamy detangler, will lead to frayed ends, excessive pulling and traction alopecia which is hair loss caused by tissue trauma and scarring of the hair follicles.
Step 3: Effective Moisturizing
Our richest leave-in moisturizer, the Amla & Olive Heavy Cream, was created specifically for high porosity, 4C hair and is designed to infuse and lock moisture into the thickest, driest hair for over 24 hours without the need to remoisturize. To use, thoroughly distribute a moderate amount throughout the recently detangled section of hair. This will keep the strands fully lubricated and slippery and prevent that section from retangling. Twist, plait or braid this section or otherwise style as desired before moving on. Repeat this process for each section. You'll be amazed at how dewy soft and supple your 4C hair feels afterwards.
Step 4: Minimal Manipulation
Many people erroneously believe that because 4C hair has a crinkly texture and can feel dense and compact, that it's tough and can be handled roughly. Nothing could be further from the truth so let's put that myth to rest. In reality, 4C hair is the most fragile and delicate of hair textures, breaking easily from rough combing, high traction hair styles and harsh chemical treatments. A lack of moisture can also cause it to become brittle. All of these factors can lead to hair that's perpetually dry, dull and short despite growing at a regular and consistent rate. This texture is its healthiest when its optimally moisturized, minimally handled and kept in protective styles like two strand twists, flat twists, low tension braids, cornrows, plaits and locs most of the time. Type 4 hair generally grows at an average rate of 4 inches per year so if your scalp is healthy and your hair is adequately moisturized and infrequently handled, you can expect to acquire 20 inches of new growth within a 5 year period. With the proper care, long, healthy hair is attainable to everyone with 4C hair.
Step 5. Consistency
4C hair is beautiful and even moreso when you're using texture compatible, plant-based products to care for it. Sticking with a routine that consists of: 1. a non-stripping, sulfate-free shampoo, see our Egyptian Wheatgrass Cleansing Tea, 2. a nourishing scalp pomade that'll keep your follicles healthy and boost growth, see our treatment pomades, 3. a rich, creamy detangler that allows you to effectively detangle your hair with minimal shedding, see our Cocoa Tree Detangling Ghee, 4. a heavy duty, 24+ hour moisturizer that effectively infuses and locks-in moisture, see our Amla & Olive Heavy Cream and 5. keeping your hair in low tension, protective styles - are the keys to giving it everything it needs to flourish and grow!