…by Susan Walker of Earthtones Naturals
For new and experienced curlies it can often be difficult to develop a hair care regimen that is beneficial to the needs of your hair. There are so many resources available to gather information from and making sense of everything can be a huge task. Women with type 4 hair can often find it challenging to manage and care for their hair effectively, as well as find the best ways to bring out their kinks, curls and coils. I have type 4 hair and, while no two hair types are exactly the same, there are enough similarities among women with type 4 hair that general hair care and styling guidelines can be discussed. If you don’t know what type 4 hair is it’s considered to be hair that is kinky or coily in curl pattern. The strands are typically very closely packed together and this hair type has fewer cuticle layers than other hair types. In terms of strand thickness the hair can be fine, medium or thick. The curl pattern can range from an “s” pattern to a “z” pattern and everything in between! Due to the thickness of the strands and the way they are packed together, the hair of some type 4 curlies appear as though there is no defined curl pattern.
Coily Kinky Hair Care Tips
Whether or not you want to cleanse your hair is based on your personal preference and product use. Many curlies opt to conditioner cleanse or co-wash their hair in order to ensure it remains hydrated and doesn’t get stripped of precious oils. If you are using a shampoo to cleanse your hair then use a sodium lauryl sulfate-free shampoo and/or a moisturizing and conditioning shampoo that can add conditioning agents to the hair, soften it and make it more manageable. If you use a lot of oils in your hair you may need to use a clarifying shampoo once a month to ensure there is no product build-up on the hair. Product build up can be partially responsible for products that used to work not working anymore, so it’s essential that you start with a clean slate monthly in order to keep your hair as healthy as possible. If your hair is prone to tangling then I recommend that you section your hair to wash it if the length allows. Divide your hair into 4-6 large sections and twist or braid each section. When you are washing your hair, undo each smaller section and distribute the cleanser through your hair in a downward motion, using your fingers to detangle your hair. Rinse the product from your hair and then continue the same steps with each section. Yes, it does require more time to cleanse your hair this way but I’ve found that it greatly reduces my detangling sessions and I’m able to style my hair a lot quicker because it’s already sectioned.
In my opinion conditioning is THE essential step in making sure your hair is healthy. Conditioners are meant to do a lot. Conditioners:
• Restore lost moisture
• Seal the cuticle
• Provide emollients and oils
• Soften the hair and make it easier to comb
• Improve manageability
• Strengthen the hair
Given the important job that conditioners have in improving the health of the hair finding an effective conditioner is extremely important. Deep conditioning the hair is a must for type 4 hair, especially if it tends to be on the drier, brittle side. A good deep conditioner will hydrate the hair and restore lost oils leaving the hair feeling soft and looking shiny. Deep conditioning treatments can be done once a week or once a month depending on the needs of your hair, and you can add heat for deeper penetration of the conditioner into the hair. I usually condition my hair in a similar way to cleansing – in sections.
The number one challenge with natural hair is maintaining proper moisture levels. A good moisturizer will hydrate and nourish the hair deeply within the hair shaft. In my experience type 4 hair benefits very well from thicker, cream-based moisturizers and hair butters. Lighter lotions may not do much for your densely packed hair. Seal your hair with oil to keep in the moisture. You may need to moisturize your hair as little as once per week or as often as every day. The
frequency depends on several factors including the porosity of your hair, the climate and the type of moisturizer you use. I’ve found that since I’ve been deep conditioning my hair and giving it some TLC, I can wait up to 1 week before needing to remoisturize my hair.
For the first two years after my big chop I wore my hair in wash n’ go styles exclusively. After my hair reached a certain length I stopped the wash n’ gos and now I wear twist outs and braided styles. I find that twist outs are an amazing style for type 4 hair especially. This is because for some women, they may have no visible curl definition and twist outs and braid outs can be your best friend because they give the desired definition. For me, wash n gos can give me a nice big
curly hairstyle. This is not the look I’m going for on a daily basis so I don’t wear this style that often. When I do opt for a wash n’ go after experimenting with a few techniques I’ve found that on my hair, gels – and especially thick gels – clump my curls a lot better than lighter gels and creams. While raking and smoothing the product through my hair doesn’t really result in major curl clumping, finger twirling can elicit some clumps from my stubborn hair. Another technique is
a wet twist out in which you twist the hair with product in it, allow the curls to clump, remove the twists while the hair is still damp and then let the hair dry. Lastly, contrary to what the norm is for wash n’ gos, I apply gel to DAMP to DRY and not soaking wet hair. Yes this is against the grain but it works for me and it works well.
The objective with any hair care regimen is to bring out the best in your hair. You have to find the products and methods that work best for you. Working through the amount of information available on natural hair care can be confusing as you try to determine what applies to you and what doesn’t. Ultimately you’ll need to try things out for yourself and acquire tips from other curlies with similar hair textures. Once you’ve found what works for you you’ll be well on your
way to loving your natural hair!
From products to styling, what’s working for your kinky coily hair?
Susan is a licensed Naturopathic Doctor and the Founder and Creative Director of Canadian based haircare and bodycare line Earthtones Naturals.