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It is quite common for most naturals with 4c hair to experience extreme shrinkage—70% or more—which makes it appear much shorter than it actually is. When 4c hair is in its natural state, freshly washed, mostly dry and without product, a defined curl is usually not evident. Tight 4c coils also make for an extremely dense head of hair that easily becomes tangled, and typically lacks natural luster.
The three separating factors of type 4c natural hair
The tightness of 4c coils provides all the characteristics that set it apart from other hair types. It also results in thin strands of hair that are extremely vulnerable and prone to damage and breaking. Caring for 4c hair requires a lot of patience and tender, loving care. However, once you figure out what works for your hair, caring for it becomes no more difficult than caring for any other hair type.
Fighting shrinkage and tangles
Shrinkage leads to tangles, as does the number of twists and turns (coils) there are in each strand. The more twists and turns there are on each strand, the more opportunity there is for each coil to tangle and knot with neighbouring strands.
One popular way of countering this is by keeping 4c hair stretched in sections, or in a protective style, using heat-free methods like banding. The crown of my hair is type 4c, so I tend to see a meshing at the roots in this area if I keep my mini twists in for too long. Because the roots of the twists loosen over time and new growth comes in, it becomes easier for strands of hair from the base of different twists to knot up.
Remember to keep hair moisturized when it is in a protective or low-manipulation style. Rocking a twist-out or braid-out is another good option if you still want to wear your ends out.
They keep the hair stretched, thereby minimizing the risk of tangles, andfighting shrinkage. If done right, a twist-out or braid-out has the added bonus of providing curl definition and elongation to tightly coiled strands for days on end.
Keeping your type 4c hair moisturized
Type 4c natural hair strands make it difficult for the natural oils secreted by the scalp to make it from the roots to the tips of the hair. In turn, this texture is more prone to dryness than others. Keeping the proper moisture balance allows hair to be more elastic, and less brittle, meaning less breakage.
Pay particular attention to your ends when applying a moisturizer, and do not forget to seal your moisturizer into the hair by using an oil, butter, or gel. Get on a deep conditioning routine to provide your hair with the necessary hydration boost. Some naturals choose to do this after each wash, but do what works best for your hair’s density and porosity.
Keep hair strong by treating with protein
Extreme shrinkage and a predisposition for tangles make it very easy for 4c hair to break.
One half of the equation for preventing breakage is by keeping hair moisturized. The other half is to keep it strong by ensuring that its protein structure is intact. Protein treatments help to strengthen the hair, and fill in any gaps that exist in the hair strand, making it less likely to break.
Healthy hair has a correct balance of protein and moisture; without the right balance, weakened natural hair will break. You will not typically need to use a protein treatment every time you wash your hair, unless you are experiencing extreme breakage. And if that is the case, it may be time for a trim. Listen to your hair, and you’ll likely notice when your hair needs that extra bit of strengthening. Over time, you’ll learn the frequency that works best for you, and be able to fine tune your regimen.
Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day
A natural hair journey is not a sprint; it is a marathon. Pace yourself, and know that you are in it for the long haul. With a little patience, trust that the reward will come sooner than later. Do you have type 4c hair? If so, what are some tips you’ve learned along the way to help grow and strengthen your kinks and coils? Share them with us below!
This article was originally published in 2016 and has been updated.