Is my hair “unmanageable?” I actually manage quite well, but I ask because it seems like everyone else has labeled my hair as unmanageable. Even within the natural hair community people often speak of 4b and 4c hair like it’s such a struggle.
It sometimes comes up in conversation with family, friends or even strangers. They start by complimenting me on my hair. However, this compliment is often followed by some form of: “I wish I could go natural, but I just can’t because I have THAT kind of hair. You know, the tough, short, ugly kind that just won’t grow.” Then there’s usually a brief pause, followed by “Oh, but it looks good on you though!”
I’m not easily influenced by other people’s opinions so these backhanded compliments/insults don’t bother me enough to make an outward show of emotion, but trust, inside I’m rolling my eyes. Still, I can’t help but go through my mental checklist:
- Does my hair grow? – YES
- Is my hair tough? – No
- Is my hair short? – No (of course there’s a little factor called shrinkage, but stretched out, my hair is past my shoulders)
- Is my hair ugly? - No!
So what are all these people talking about? It’s not just friends, family, or strangers. I’ve noticed “natural” salons and product lines preying on women with kinky or tightly coiled hair. You know, those “silkeners” or “texturizers” or magic formulas they push, promising to make your hair more manageable or to magically turn your 4c coils into 3c curls. I just don’t get it. This fear of having “unmanageable” hair is probably what keeps countless women from going natural or staying natural.
Another assumption is that I have to twist my hair every night to make it look good but that’s untrue. The plus side to having coily hair and shrinkage is having hair that holds a shape so well, my twist-outs give great 2nd,3rd, and 4th day hair!
If you have type 4b or 4c hair, don’t believe the hype! You can manage your hair, it just takes a little getting use to.
Here’s how to deal:
Co-wash at least once a week – Water = moisture. The more you water(wash) your hair, the more moisturized it will be. Putting oils and creams on your hair can’t add moisture, it can only lock in what water has already provided. I know it seems easier to wash your hair only once a month but co-washing weekly, or even 2 or 3 times a week, will do wonders for your strands!
Once a month – Shampoo your hair. By now you probably avoid sulfates but it may help you retain more moisture if you avoid all shampoos that suds up. Since type 4b and 4c hair is usually dry, using a cleansing cream or conditioner is a good way to get it clean without having to lather up. Always deep condition after you shampoo.
Don’t Dry Comb – Some curlies can get away with it but not us. Dry combing causes you to break healthy strands that would not otherwise have broken. Only comb your hair when it is wet and evenly covered with conditioner. The conditioner allows the your fingers or a wide tooth comb to glide through your hair with minimal damage. Make sure your comb has wide teeth that don’t snag.
Be Gentle! - Take your time when detangling or styling your hair. Never yank or pull on it in frustration. If you are combing your hair and you hear it pop, stop! That popping sound is breaking strands. Put the comb down and work through the tangle with your fingers. You’ll be able to feel the knot better that way.
Clarify – Hair products cause build-up, even natural oils and butters. Using oils, creams and silicones help lock moisture into hair, but if you allow these products to buildup they will do the opposite and begin to block moisture from getting in and penetrating the hair shaft. As a result, your hair stops responding to your conditioners and begins to feel dry. Clarifying hair on a monthly basis prevents buildup and the dryness it can cause. To do this either do an ACV rinse or add a teaspoon of baking soda to the amount of conditioner you normally use for one wash. Add a little water and mix in a cup, spray bottle, or applicator bottle. Wet hair for a full 2 minutes then apply mixture and wash as usual.
Low Manipulation - Try to leave your hair alone as much as possible. The less you touch it, the less likely it is to break. Think about it: every time your interact with your hair (combing, brushing, twisting) is a potential chance for some strands to get broken. Try hairstyles that once created, don’t require much upkeep for the next few days-week. A twist-out can be kept for several days by sleeping with a satin cap and a giving hair a good fluff in the morning. Not only does the low manipulation help your hair, it makes your life easier too!
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