Tag Archives: 4b hair

How I achieved my best wash and go with 4b hair

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I finally achieved a wash and go style that I was happy with. My natural curl pattern was defined and held up pretty well. Contrary to what I use to believe, 4b hair does have a curl pattern. However, if you have fine strands and hair that loses moisture relatively quickly, your strands are unlikely to clump together in uniformity, like other hair types. So a little help is needed with a product that has a strong hold. Of course, by now we should know that no product is going to give your hair curls that do not already exist. So my expectations have never been unrealistic.

The first time I attempted a wash and go, I literally washed my hair, applied some gel and went out to dinner. My hair shrunk horrendously, which led to terrible knots the following day. I’ve tried conditioner only wash and go’s, where my hair turned into a glorious afro. I’ve also used the ever popular Eco styler gel. I’ve had the same tub of gel for three years! Here’s what I learned through my trial and error, which led to a successful  attempt recently.

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Day 2, After Working Out

 

 1. Stay in the shower

One of the mistakes I made was to apply the gel outside of the shower, believing that my soaking wet hair would remain that way. The reality is, your hair begins to dry as soon as you step out of the shower. Re-spraying my hair with water didn’t soak it thoroughly, and I would often forget to do this anyway. So the gel did noting but hold frizzy hair in place, as opposed to defined curls.  Curls are at their most defined when the hair is fully hydrated.  Staying in the shower creates a convenient way to reapply water, and ensures that you apply a good amount. Even after you have gone through all the steps, apply water one last time before exiting the shower. This will replenish and give the hair that last boost of moisture.

2. Use a product with a strong hold 

I love my homemade flaxseed (linseed) gel. I use it for styling twist outs, flexi-rod sets, you name it. I believe it works just as well, if not better than most popular styling products. It is an all natural alternative to the gels that are currently on the market and doesn’t leave the hair crunchy. However, I learned that my hair type is prone to frizz, as the hair strands don’t clump together naturally. So for definition, I went back to the Eco Styler gel, which claims to provide a maximum hold of 10. Without it my hair would frizz instantly upon drying.   The conditioner-only wash and go may work well with other hair types but it didn’t with mine. I learned a new technique for creating an afro but that was not the look I was going for. Avoid gels with harsh alcohols and with as few synthetic ingredients as possible.

3. An oil rinse will minimize the crunch effect

Maximum shrinkage is hard work, shrinkage cemented with gel is a disaster!  For this reason I avoided Eco Styler gel, as it brought back bad memories of previous attempts.  With this attempt I applied it differently and  did an oil rinse after deep conditioning, to seal in the moisture. This was simply applying oil, then lightly rinsing my hair with the water to remove  the excess.  The oil helped to soften the gel slightly and minimize the crunch effect that most gels have.  Most importantly that crucial moisture was sealed to promote curl definition.

4. Use a clarifying shampoo

Wash and goes work better on clean hair that is free from product buildup. Product buildup weighs the hair and can interfere with strands clumping together. Previously I have tried to do a wash and go after co-washing.  This did not lead to the best results.  This time, I used a natural clarifying shampoo, which left my hair with that squeaky clean feel.  It is important to follow clarifying with a good quality conditioner, free from silicones, mineral oil or petroleum.  Detangle thoroughly with the conditioner. I saw my curl definition immediately after clarifying.  The aim is to maintain and hold that definition.  This is achieved by keeping the hair hydrated and using the right gel. If you are styling your hair in back-to-back wash and go’s, co-washing will be more appropriate.  Product buildup should be minimal if it has only been a week or so since your last clarifying session. The use of clarifying shampoos should be limited, as frequent use could lead to dry hair over time.

5. Deep condition

This step is important, especially after using a clarifying shampoo. It also helps to maintain maximum hydration. Deep conditioning does not require you to leave the shower and sit under a dryer. Simply put a plastic cap over your head and continue showering for ten minutes or so. After rinsing out the deep conditioner,  apply your leave in conditioner.

6. Smooth, don’t rake

I was a big believer in the shingling method, which is simply raking the product through your hair with your fingers. Looking back, I believe this method actually created more frizz and worked against clumping the strands together.  For other hair types, this may work well but it didn’t with my 4b hair. Instead I took  a big clump of gel and smoothed it onto my hair gradually, until I coated every strand. I  noticed immediately that my curls were held together and had a more definition.  My hair looked a little flat when I came out of the shower but it gained more volume as it dried.

7. Use a leave-in conditioner with a naturally acidic pH levelNew Aloe Juice 500ml

The natural pH level of the hair and scalp is 4 – 4.5.   I sprayed my hair with aloe vera juice to use as a leave-in conditioner.  This has a pH level of 4.5-5.5. As it has an acidic pH level, similar to hair, it works to close the hair cuticles and thus eliminate frizz.  Using a leave-in conditioner with an appropriate pH level also helps the hair stay better hydrated. This all works to promote maximum curl definition. You can purchase pH strips online for testing your leave-in conditioner.

 8. Use a diffuser for drying and stretching

Rather than letting the hair air dry, I used a diffuser. My hair would simply take hours to dry and there was no guarantee it would dry fully before going to bed. A diffuser is a great tool for drying as it doesn’t mess up your curl definition. When the hair is about 80 per cent dry, you can switch to the concentrator attachment and begin to stretch your hair from the roots. Gently pull small sections taut from the roots until you achieve the desired shape and length.

9. Find a great way to maintain and refresh the style

My wash and go lasted for 5 days. Each day my hair got bigger, and gained more length.  So I actually preferred the style more as the days progressed.  I tried the pineapple technique but it involved too much manipulation and stretching for my hair. Instead, I put my hair in two low pigtails and banded each pigtail with three bands. I also kept my hair in this style for the gym or when I went running. After a workout I would remove the bands, spray my hair lightly with water, shake my hair out and shape as desired.

10. Add some oil for shine

To finish off the style I rubbed some almond oil into my hands and gently applied it to my hair, just patting it on slightly to prevent frizz. This made the hair shiny.  Use an oil of your choice. Grapeseed oil is also great for creating sheen.

 

Other techniques that may help

Whichever technique works best for you will depend on your hair type and individual preference.  I researched different techniques and applied it to my hair. Some vloggers advised using a Denman brush to smooth the gel into the hair and separate the strands. I preferred not to use the brush, but it might work for you. Some techniques involve shaking your head vigorously as a final step. This is to separate the curls and create volume. I was scared of ruining my definition so I chose not to do this. However, my hair was quite flat as a result (which I didn’t mind), so shaking the hair out may work for those who prefer more volume. I will probably try this method next time.

Denman Brush

Denman Brush

This style took me one and a half hours from start to finish. If I do it regularly I will be able to do it faster.   I like this style because it did feel like an actual wash and go, probably because most of it was done in the shower. I could do it before going out for the day and don’t have to wait overnight to see the results, like other styling methods. I also found it very convenient for working out 5 days of the week. Plus it allowed me to see and enjoy my natural curl pattern in all it’s 4b glory :-).

 

Which method works best for you and your hair type? Share your tips below.

 

 

 

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Caring for 4b Hair

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My top six tips for caring for 4b hair and retaining length.

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1. Moisturize regularly

Afro textured hair has a tendency to be dry.  With all the kinks and curls it is difficult for moisture to penetrate every strand thoroughly. Therefore we constantly have to keep our hair moisturized. Moisturizing in advance is better than waiting for your hair to dry out before adding moisture. This will also minimize the breakage that occurs as a result of dryness.  A moisturizing deep conditioner applied after shampooing will give your hair a well needed moisture boost. How often you do this is up to you.  I try to do mine once a week but if my hair is in a protective style like mini twist I find it easier to do a hot oil treatment instead.

Washing your hair doesn’t just clean it; it adds moisture that you can seal in for days or even the whole week, depending on how well your hair absorbs and retains moisture. After shampooing and conditioning, use a good sealant to lock in the moisture. A natural oil such as extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil or Shea butter will work well for sealing in moisture. Then check your hair during the week to ensure that it isn’t getting dry. A spray bottle with water can be used to top up the moisture of your hair or you can use a leave in conditioner of your choice. Make sure any leave in conditioner you use is water based. Water should be first on the list of ingredients.  Some people prefer to use a leave in conditioner especially if they have their hair in a twist out or braid out style. Spraying your hair with water can cause frizz and not allow your style to last as long. I usually just lightly mist my hair and then rub some oil into my hands and pat my hair lightly.  It depends on what style my hair is in. If your hair is in twists, you can spray or moisturized more easily. You have to do what works best for you. I think the main rule is to take action if you notice that your hair is getting dry, don’t simply ignore it.

Plastic caps are also good for locking in moisture after lightly misting your hair. You could wear one around the house during the day or to bed at night. You will notice that the moisture has remained in your hair overnight and your hair should feel soft and moist in the morning. Cover your head with a silk or satin scarf or use a satin pillow case. Cotton pillow cases absorb moisture and dry your hair out.  Most importantly be aware that moisture comes from within, so don’t forget to drink plenty of water throughout the day.

 

2. Handle your hair with care

Once your natural hair gets longer you will find that your level of patience must also increase. Afro-textured hair is usually more delicate than Asian or European hair because the strands are finer in diameter, especially around the bends and twists of the strands.  Therefore our hair is more prone to breakage with heavy manipulation and rough handling.  4b hair in particular is tightly coiled and every kink, curl and bend presents a potential breaking point. Growing up, I  always believed I had ‘tough’ hair because my hair has a thick density. However, I know now that my individual strands are quite fine.  According to The Science of Black Hair by Audrey Davis-Sivasothy; medium-sized strands are the same size as a strand of frayed thread. If your strands are thinner than this they are considered to be fine.  If your strands are larger than this, then they are thick.  I must be extra careful when handling my hair. It’s just isn’t wise to do my hair when I’m in a rush because there will be little broken hairs on my shoulders or on the floor! Be careful when styling your hair and use your fingers as much as possible to detangle, before using a wide tooth comb. Hair should also be handled when damp as it is more pliable in this state. Finally split your hair into sections before styling. This makes it less daunting and allows you to concentrate on one section at a time. This will minimize the damage and breakage from styling and manipulating.

Lauryn-Hill

3. Low manipulation and protective styling

Almost every time we style and manipulate our hair there is always the potential for breakage or damage. The aim is to keep this breakage to a minimum. If you have 4b hair, separating your strands through combing, detangling and styling is always risky business. Therefore the less manipulation your hair goes through the less breakage it will experience. Keeping your hair in protective styles or low manipulation styles like buns, twists, braids or updos, will give it days, weeks or months of little to no manipulation. This will give you a break from managing your hair and protect the ends of the hair from damage.  It will also help you to retain length, maintain the volume of your hair and reduce tangles and knots. Be aware that leaving your hair in  a protective style for too long may cause the shed hair to tangle with the existing hair strands and create more knotting. Also, failing to moisturize your hair while in a protective style, can counteract the benefits of that protective style.

 

4. Keep your hair stretched

The first time I tried a wash and go I literally washed my hair, raked some gel through it and went to dinner. My hair was completely shrunken, it looked like a TWA. I was happy to have tried a new style but I suffered the next day. My hair was so tangled I thought I would never get it back to normal. Although I tried to remove the knots and tangles with my fingers as carefully as possible, I couldn’t avoid the breakage and damage that occurred as a result. So I realized the importance of keeping my hair stretched. Other hair types may thrive with wash and goes but it is not always the best choice for us 4b  girls, considering how tightly coiled our hair is in its most shrunken state. Others hair types may not shrink as much and thus avoid the tangles that result the next day.

Hair can be stretched without using heat simply by putting it in large twists, braids, bantu knots or through banding. Twist-outs, braid–outs and roller sets are also great styles that allow your hair to remain stretched throughout the week. When your hair starts to shrink in between washes, it may be time to take action. Spray it lightly with water (or use your leave in conditioner) and put it in some twists or braids before going to bed, to refresh your style. Even when I wear my hair in a puff I like to put the ends in twists at night so that it is stretched out in the morning before styling my hair again. Otherwise I find that the puff gets flatter and smaller throughout the week as my hair gradually shrinks. This creates more knots and tangles and makes detangling more difficult.

I have since found a better technique of doing wash and gos (see below) but the experience taught me a valuable lesson.

Naptural85 Winter Wash and go technique

Maintaining a Wash and Go

Banding technique for stretching natural hair

 

5. Trim when needed

It’s simply a myth that trimming your hair helps it to grow, as hair grows from the roots. However, if your ends are split, they will break off eventually anyway. Therefore it is better to remove them yourself as a preventative measure. If you are looking after your ends by keeping them well moisturized and tucked away through protective styling, you will not have to deal with damaged ends as often.  Therefore you do not have to trim religiously, regardless of whether it is needed or not. This will simply result in you cutting off perfectly healthy ends and reducing your length for no reason. However, when your ends are damaged, trying to hold on to them can cause more harm than good.  This can result in more tangles and knotting and your ends will look see-through and frayed. Hair  in this condition does not look very healthy. So in order to avoid more knotting and tangles, difficulty in styling (as your ends are unlikely to hold well) and breaking hair, trim when needed.

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 6. Limit the use of heat

When I first went natural in my naivety I thought the only way to stretch my hair was to blow dry it. I blow dried it once a week after washing but I wasn’t deep conditioning to prepare it for blow-drying and I certainly wasn’t moisturizing it enough to replace the moisture lost in the process. This affected my length retention and I didn’t achieve the length that I could have. Since refraining from heat, I have retained much more length and noticed the benefits.  Blow drying and flat ironing strips your hair of moisture and there is always the risk of heat damage, which is irreversible.   I’m not against using heat but it should be limited if you have certain goals for growth and length retention. Try not to rely on heat but use it more as a treat or for when you feel like a change.  Learn about the alternative methods of stretching your hair and experiment with them.

 

Feel free to add any more tips for caring for 4b hair and afro-textured hair in general. You may do things differently for your hair. Share below.

Love Your 4b Hair

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I was recently watching a YouTube video by a vlogger who decided to go back to relaxed hair. Her main reason was that it is her hair and therefore her choice. I couldn’t agree more and I am not against women relaxing their hair.   However, one point she made that I didn’t agree with was that she had the ‘real African hair’ and that therefore her hair was somehow harder to manage as a result.  Although she may have meant it as a joke, I do believe there is this misconception within the natural hair community that some hair types are harder to manage. Also, instead of saying good and bad hair we now say 3b or 4b hair.   I get the impression that some see the 4s as inferior to the 3s and out of the 4s, 4b hair is seen as the ‘bad hair’ type, by some people.  I do not necessarily subscribe to hair typing but for the purpose of this article I will say that my hair type is 4b.

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4b hair is kinky and tightly coiled.  It has a zigzag curl pattern instead of spirals.  Hence, 4b hair types usually have a more fluffy appearance and a less obvious curl pattern.  This is NOT to say that 4b hair doesn’t have a curl pattern.  Afro textured hair is ‘textured’ by nature and therefore has some sort of curl pattern (I’m aware that some black people may have naturally straight hair though).

Styling

I have only tried a wash and go once and I did not get the same results as women with different hair types. My wash and go did not result in loose or tight spiral curls because that isn’t my natural curl pattern. I will try it again using a different technique but I know that no product is going to make my hair do anything it doesn’t already do naturally.   This certainly doesn’t make 4b hair inferior to others.  All hair types have perceived strengths and weaknesses. Even if my hair doesn’t curl up as much as a 4a or type 3, it doesn’t mean that I cannot wear my hair in a super curly style using perm rod sets, bantu knot outs or twist outs.  4b hair is still very versatile and easy to manipulate. It holds styles well and is a lot of fun in my experience.

As for managing my hair, the more I learn, the easier it becomes to manage. As I always say; it is never our hair that is the problem, it is simply our lack of knowledge. Learning more efficient techniques of managing your hair and even learning from your mistakes, is all part of the fun of natural hair.  One of the greatest challenges with my 4b hair was shrinkage. However, after learning different techniques to stretch out my hair (without heat), shrinkage doesn’t even bother me now. In fact, if my hair didn’t shrink, this would indicate that there was something wrong with it.   So in my opinion 4b hair isn’t any harder to manage than other hair types it simply needs to be managed differently. I subscribe to YouTube channels of women with different hair types and I have seen the beauty of them all, but they all have their challenges.  For example very curly hair could be more difficult to manipulate as the natural curl pattern could interfere. If I had 4a hair I would have to learn how to deal with this, it wouldn’t make my hair harder or easier to manage, just different.

Negative comments

I have heard negative comments about natural hair looking ‘more African’ and 4b in particular being referred to in this way.  Black hair reflects African heritage. So to say someone’s hair looks more African (in a negative context) just because it’s natural or 4b, is plain ignorance. Why is something inferior simply because it looks ‘more African’ anyway? That’s implying that hair which reflects European or Asian heritage is more beautiful. That shouldn’t make it more beautiful, it should just make it beautiful in a different way. It’s a shame that these phrases are used and a lot of the negativity is coming from within the black community itself.  African hair is extremely diverse; no two hair textures are the same. Many women find that their hair is made up of more than one hair type anyway. Their hair may be 4a in the front and 3b towards the back for example. Again, this is the beauty of natural hair and these differences should be embraced, not used to create competition within the natural hair community.

Time consuming?

You learn more about your hair as time goes by. It used to take me four hours to detangle my hair, now I have learned to do it in less than one hour. This was simply by trying out different techniques. Saying that you don’t have time to be natural is again something that I do not think is a valid excuse. My profession required me to take a lot of work home with me in the evenings and it was a high pressured work environment. I simply had to learn to adapt my hair care regiment accordingly. I wore my hair in protective styles more often, which allowed me to leave my hair alone and gave me a break from dealing with it. Plus, since going natural I no longer spend my Saturdays travelling to and from the salon and waiting around for hours. I have always styled and managed my own natural hair. So  I may spend more time detangling but I spend less time and money going to the salon to get my hair relaxed, treated or weaved.

So whatever your hair type, embrace it because that’s what your hair is like naturally and no product or styling technique is going to change that. Don’t buy into the ranking of different hair types.  The hair typing system is supposed to be used as a guideline not as a ranking system of ‘good hair’ verses ‘bad hair’. Don’t go back to relaxer just because you have 4b hair, 4b hair is just as beautiful as the other hair types and has its advantages just like the others. Whatever your hair type, you are going to have to learn how to manage it and deal with challenges.   If you love your hair other people will, if you see it as inferior then that is the message you give to others. There’s enough prejudice out there, surely we can do without the kind that comes from within our own community.

.Celebrities with 4b hair?

Jill Scott

Jill Scott

Shingai Shoniwa

Shingai Shoniwa

Erykah Badu

Erykah Badu

Janelle-Monae-Guide-006

Janelle Monae

My favorite 4b vloggers

Kinky Curly Coily Me

http://www.youtube.com/user/BlakIzBeautyful

African Export

http://www.youtube.com/user/africanexport

CharyJay 4b/4c hair

CharyJay 4b/4c hair

Kinksgalore

http://www.youtube.com/user/Kinksgalore/videos?flow=grid&view=0

CharyJay 

https://www.youtube.com/user/160Days2Lose2

Stayed tuned for next week where I explain how I manage my 4b hair.

Do you have 4b hair? What do you think about hair typing? Share your thoughts below:

Do our curls always have to be defined?

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Is there a need to always have super defined curls ? Solange Knowles has been criticized in the past for not wearing twist outs or braid outs and there are numerous hair care products  that claim to define your curls, some of them cost an absolute fortune! Sometimes it’s nice to wear your hair  out big and beautiful and not worry about how defined your curls look. So, you’ve had a twist out for a few days and it’s looking more like a big afro, that’s fine. I like this stage and often wear my hair like that for a couple of days before I go ahead and wash it.  Who says  our curls have to be defined all the time or that our twist outs, braid outs or roller sets have to look perfect. If you wake up in the morning and your curls are no longer defined, don’t give yourself a hard time because you don’t have time to retwist it.  Big, fluffy hair can be just as beautiful as defined, neatly arranged coils, twists or waves. So if you don’t feel like doing a twist-out, or your ‘wash and go’ didn’t result in super define curls, that’s okay!

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I’ve never painted myself as a team natural vice president. I don’t know the lingo and I don’t sleep with a satin cap…

However, I did noticed when I picked out my hair, I kept seeing feedback about needing a “twist out”. Connnnfesssioonnn: I HATE twist outs.Solange Knowles

Check out Essence magazine’s top 50 natural hairstyles of the year.  Here are some of my favorites that do not necessary include super defined curls.

essence  50 styles

essence updo 50

Do you feel the need to always have super defined curls? Personally, at this stage I’m over it. Share your thoughts below…….

Does hair typing set us back?

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I have never been overly concerned about what my hair type was. However I do consider it useful information when learning how best to manage my hair. For example I knew that certain styles demonstrated by bloggers would not necessarily turn out the same with my hair and I would have to adapt them accordingly. Also, when it came to my hair care regiment I was able to develop techniques that worked best for my hair type. I understood that not every method would work the same with my hair.

However what happens when hair typing becomes detrimental to the way you see your hair or to the way other people respond to you. Have we just replaced the derogatory terms ‘good hair’ and ‘bad hair’ with type 3 and type 4 hair. Unfortunately this is the negative result of hair typing and I think it is becoming more and more evident.

There are a few hair typing systems. One of the most popular ones is the one formed by celebrity hairstylist Andre Walker. Have a look at the diagram below:

While this information can be useful it should not be used as a ranking of good to not so good. We must respect the fact that natural hair is very diverse. Some women don’t have one hair type overall, their hair may be made up of a combination of the different hair types. So not everyone fits into a particular box  of a certain hair type.

Esperanza Spalding
4a

Shingai Shoniwa
4b hair

We spend a lot of money on curl enhancing creams, puddings and serums. When the fact is if the curls aren’t there to begin with they are not magically going to appear just because you apply these  products.  Rather than being disappointed, a person in this position should accept their hair the way it is and focus on the many of styling options that are available to them to create curls and waves. I hope these products haven’t become the new ‘creamy crack’. I dread to think that another woman would look down on someone with hair that is say 4b as opposed to the more curl defining hair types. Corinne Bailey Rae and Tracee Ellis Ross have stunning hair but they are not representative of everyone with natural hair,  when you consider the shear diversity of natural hair. Other hair types are just as stunning but in a different way, neither one is superior or better. If you fall into the trap of thinking like that you need to remember why you went natural in the first place. For many of us  it was to be free from the pressure to conform to what society typically states is beautiful and to embrace our natural beauty.

Debra Messing
3a hair

Keri Russell
3b Hair

I’ve heard horror stories of certain naturals attending hair care events and being told that their hair wasn’t kinky enough (simply because they were of mixed heritage) or being told that their hair was too kinky for the products on display and both were made to feel like they didn’t belong there.  Neither scenario is acceptable and is the result of nothing but ignorance and the same attitude people had about natural hair being inferior to straight flowing European hair. I know white women who use afro hair care products because they have very curly hair, would we turn them away just because they’re not black? That would be absurd.  Some of them can relate to us because they felt the pressure to straighten their hair for years. I have  also heard of some YouTube vloggers who have decided to close their accounts and delete their videos because of  a lack of interest in their channels.  They have claimed it is because they don’t have what is perceived as the ‘good hair’ type that usually is related to having super defined curls and really long hair.

We are supposed to be moving forward not replacing derogatory terms with different ones with the same sentiment.  More and more women are deciding to go natural, this is a good thing that should not be met with disappointment. If we accept that natural hair is diverse we can avoid this. The same applies to women who have relaxed hair, it all comes down to choice and it would be just as wrong to make someone feel inferior for having relaxed hair as well. Inspire them don’t bash them!

Alicia Keys
3c hair

What do you think about hair typing? Is it a good thing or has it set us back to where we were?