Let's Talk About Black Hair
If you weren’t already aware, hair itself is divided into four categories, Type 1, Type 2, Type 3, and Type 4. Black hair is usually divided into three categories, 4A, 4B, and 4C. Although a good majority of black women fall into the Type 4 hair category, I should mention that there is no specific box that black hair must be confined to. Some black women have looser curls that branch into the Type 3 category (or may even be bone straight like Type 1), it all depends on you (and your genes).
4C hair is the last category of hair textures. It is tightly packed coils with no real curl pattern to the naked eye. Curl patterns in 4C hair are usually achieved by adding product or doing styles such as twists or braids. 4C hair is also more fragile than the other hair types, meaning that it is prone to breakage more easily and requires a little more TLC.
I like to joke around and say that my hair is 4Z instead of 4C because of how stupidly coarse and kinky and tightly-coiled it is. Somebody even once described my hair as sandpaper, which isn’t nice, I know, but I laugh about it now because sometimes when I’m doing my hair, I say the same damn thing.
One of the biggest things I personally struggle with is growing out my hair. I always thought it was because of the heat and chemical damage I had, but even when I began transitioning and got rid of all the dead/damaged hair, I still felt like my hair wasn’t flourishing to its fullest potential. It was almost like it grew to a certain point then stopped, and no matter what I did, I saw very little to no new growth.
Maintaining Type 4 hair is a journey on its’ own, but whew chile, 4C hair is a whole other planet, which is why I want to help out my fellow black sisters and brothers who are struggling like me with some tips and tricks on how to take care of 4C hair that have either worked for me or other people in my life with the same issues. I asked some black women in my life with 4B/4C hair what their favourite hair secrets were, and along with my personal favourites, here’s what we got for y’all:
PROMOTING HAIR GROWTH:
Like I said, I always struggled with growing out my hair and retaining length. I hated the stereotype that black girls couldn’t have long hair and wanted to prove everybody wrong (not that I owe them a damn thing). However, these tricks that I've used have honestly really worked and made my hair grow a TON.
I feel like this one is almost common knowledge, but we gotta keep spreading the knowledge everywhere.
The lack of hair growth is usually caused by the pores and hair follicles on our scalps being clogged by dead skin and product build-up. Aloe Vera contains enzymes that can remove the dead skin cells from your scalp, which allows for our hair to grow more freely. The enzymes also boost stimulation in the scalp and balance the hair’s pH to help retain moisture. Along with doing all of that, Aloe Vera is packed with amino acids, vitamins, and minerals that help nourish your hair (and skin!).
The beauty of haircare is that there are so many variations of doing things. I love using aloe vera in two days: the juice and the oil.
For the oil, I get a medium sized pan and put it on the stove, then turn it on and make sure it’s on medium (I don’t want the oil to be too hot because I usually use it right away). I then add about 2-3 tablespoons of my favourite oils. I use black Jamaican castor oil with lavender essential oil (the lavender makes my hair smell pretty), argan oil, olive oil, and tea tree oil (this helps with my little bit of dandruff).
But MJ, where’s the coconut oil?
Coconut oil doesn’t do SH!T for me. I use it on my face and it does nice things for my skin, but I've never seen true benefits from putting coconut oil in my hair. This doesn’t mean that it won’t work for you; everyone’s hair reacts differently!
Once the oils have warmed up a bit, I cut up some fresh aloe vera into cubes and drop it in the oil, then I let them simmer for about 10-15 minutes. Once time is up, I strain the oil from the mixture and boom! Most of the time I use it right away, but if there’s some left over, I just store it in a container.
Now the juice! I cut a chunk of aloe vera and take the insides out with a spoon (using a knife can be dangerous since the plant is so slimy). If I'm feeling extra, I'll put the chunks in a blender, add a little water (like the SMALLEST amount, maybe a teaspoon or two), and a little bit of oil, your choice as to which! I then blend it up for a couple seconds, then strain the mixture through a strainer. To make sure it’s strained properly, I'll take an old pair of stockings (washed, obvi) and put then mixture inside, then pull on the stocking to strain. This takes out any extra chunks that weren’t blended properly and also takes out the goop, because that stuff tends to leave residue and sis, we don’t want that.
If I just want to make it quick, I'll simply spoon out the insides and strain it through a strainer, then strain that juice through a stocking. Transfer to a spray bottle and boom, aloe vera juice.
I use the oil as a sealant after I've washed my hair or to moisturize my protective styles. I use the juice mainly the days leading up to me getting my hair done, especially to hydrate my hair before I got to bed.
I swear, rice water is a gift from God. This has helped promote growth in my hair and my younger sister’s hair (plus some of my girlies who helped me out). This stuff works wonders.
Rice water is really good for helping with shedding and thickening hair. It contains amino acids that help with hair regeneration, as well as vitamins B, C, and E which help with hair growth as well. Rice water also contains inositol, which is a carbohydrate that helps in repairing damaged hair. It acts as a protective shield even after the water has been rinsed out; this helps protect hair from breakage.
It's actually very self-explanatory. There are a couple ways to make the water, soaking and fermenting. Soaking is the quickest way to prepare rice water.
To soak the rice, you simply take about half a cup of uncooked rice and rinse it, then place it in a bowl with roughly 2-3 cups of water. Let this soak for 30 minutes and it’s ready to use!
Fermenting is basically the same process as soaking, except instead of letting it soak for 30 minutes, you let it soak for 2 days. By fermenting the rice, there’s a higher number of antioxidants in the rice water that will be beneficial to your hair and its health.
I mainly use this as a pre-poo (which we will talk about in a second). I will spray some regular water on my hair, separate my hair into sections, then saturate each section with the rice water. I massage my hair for 20 minutes before covering it with a plastic bag and letting it sit in my hair for another 20. After I rinse it out, I go on about my wash day as usual.
Do y’all book off full days for your wash day? Yeah, me too, sis. Wash days come in all shapes and sizes, or should I say minutes and hours? Every wash routine is tailored to that specific person, but my job is to help, so here are some things that have changed my life, or at least will change my life when I start doing them.
CONDITIONER BEFORE SHAMPOO
Now I personally haven’t tried this, but a few of my girlfriends mentioned this to me when I asked for other tips and tricks. Apparently, the whole concept of shampooing before conditioning is actually very stripping for black hair and makes it SUPER dry. Like bone dry. Drier than the Sahara Desert dry. Same with the idea of shampooing twice in one wash; that is NOT meant for black hair as it will strip our hair of its natural oils and leave it feeling crispy and dry.
I actually found this very interesting, and thinking back to my own hair, it makes sense. What needs to be done is conditioner, shampoo, then a deep condition. This way, the hair isn’t being stripped of its natural oils and will start and end off retaining some moisture.
I love to pre-poo so much. For those who don’t know what pre-pooing is, this is when you put some sort of moisturizing agent in your hair for a specific period of time before actually washing your hair. When you pre-poo, it restores moisture and shine in the hair, as well as softens the hair and defines the curls and coils.
In most cases, I use the aloe vera oil mentioned above, or I will dampen my hair and add some conditioner. I leave it in for about 30 minutes, then rinse and continue on with my wash day as usual.
MOISTURIZE, MOISTURIZE, MOISTURIZE!
4C hair thrives off of moisture. Since our hair is generally very dry and coarse, adding the moisture promotes healthy hair growth and just an overall healthy head. Here are some of my fav dos and donts when it comes to maintaining 4C hair:
COMBING DRY HAIR
I should slap you if you do this. Combing dry hair (especially 4C hair) is so freaking bad for you, the ultimate hair sin. Not only does this induce shedding, but forcing a comb or brush through your hair (please don’t brush your hair, Jesus, it’ll thin it out in no time) is asking for breakage galore.
Finger detangling is the MOTIVE. Finger detangling allows you to feel a majority of the knots in your hair before going in with a wide-toothed comb to get out the remaining knots. This gives you a chance to get out a lot of the knots whilst preventing breakage.
Little side note, which I actually didn’t know until friend told me, is that most type 4 girlies actually have thin hair. There’s a big misconception that our hair is super thick when in reality it’s actually pretty thin, we just have A LOT A LOT of hairs on our head. The individual strands themselves are pretty thin and this is why some of us are prone to single strand knots.
Make sure before you start detangling that your hair is wet. It doesn’t have to be dripping, but making sure there is some sort of moisture in your hair before detangling will also help in preventing the breakage and will allow knots to slip out easier.
LCO OR LOC
Now I've seen a lot of natural YouTubers argue about which version of this to use. LCO or LOC stands for liquid, cream, oil or liquid, oil, cream. This refers to the way you moisturize your hair. The liquid is typically water, then you add a hair cream, and finally an oil to seal it in. Or, vice versa.
I personally use the LCO method because from my research, oil is typically used as a sealant, so you wouldn’t want to seal with your hair with an oil before going in with the cream. I just think it makes more sense this way, but do whichever works for you!
The benefits of the LOC/LCO method is that this is one of the best ways to moisturize your hair to ensure that it will actually hold in the moisture. It also promotes hair growth and your hair will overall be healthy and happy.
- Deep condition your hair in twists for extra moisture
- Massage warm coconut oil into the scalp, leaving conditioner in hair for 10 mins before rinsing to make it soft, plus finger coiling the tiny curls for more definition
- Sleeping with satin bonnets and pillow case helps with hair growth
- Washing hair with cold water after conditioning to lock in moisture (cold water, just like oil, acts as a sealant)
I know this was a lot, as I have a tendency to ramble on, but I hope this article was informative and helps you with your natural hair journey, whether you’ve been a long-time natural or you’re just starting out.
Remember to eat something and drink some water! I love you!
Until next time.