Tag Archives: Hair types

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:

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I can’t go natural! My hair is too tough (part 2)

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Before concluding that your natural hair is too tough to manage, do some research

When I researched the best way to care for my hair I soon became aware of the mistakes I made and why I had problems managing it. I didn’t even comb my hair correctly.  Not being able to put a fine tooth comb through my hair from root to tip, left me to conclude that there was something wrong with my hair.  I should have been aware that kinky, coily afro textured hair should be combed with a wide tooth comb and combed gently from the ends, working out the knots and gradually moving the up towards the roots.  There are many examples of misconceptions related to detangling, moisturizing and styling natural hair.

If you think your hair is ‘too tough’ to go natural, do your research before concluding this. Here are some important facts about natural hair, if you weren’t aware of these then yes you would find it hard to manage your hair. If you apply these you will find managing your hair easier and become a pro in no time.

  • Water moisturizes the hair not oil (although oil seals in the moisture).  It is your friend not your enemy so don’t avoid it.
  • Hair can be washed while in loose braids or twists. The braided or twisted strands reinforce each other and less shrinkage, knotting and breakage occurs during washing.
  • Many mainstream black hair care products have sulphates, silicones, petroleum and mineral oil. These clog and dry out the hair.
  • Natural hair must be detangled regularly and shed hair should be removed in the process.
  • Finger combing can be just as effective as combing but gentler and less damaging.
  • Never comb your hair when it is dry and tangled. Spray it with water first.
  • Afro textured hair is actually quite delicate and must be handled with care to avoid breakage.
  • Shrinkage is good as it shows that your hair is healthy and reverting back to its natural curl pattern when wet.
  • Natural hair can be stretched without using heat, simply putting your hair in large braids, twists or bantu-knots will stretch it out and make it more manageable for styling.
  • Natural hair is very diverse and has many styling options appropriate for all occasions. Check out the posts: The versatility of natural hair part 1 and 2
  • Rather than tough, natural hair is actually delicate and is prone to breaking off at the ends. Protective styles help to protect your ends and thus retain length.
  • Sleeping on a satin pillowcase or covering your hair with a satin scarf will help to retain moisture while you sleep.
  • Manage your hair in sections (usually 4-6 sections); don’t just plough a comb through your hair as this will lead to breakage. A small section of hair is less daunting than dealing with a full head of hair.

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There is much more information about natural hair relating to products, hair types, styling and even how diet affects the hair.  Do your homework and you will feel more confident about going natural. Everyone’s hair is different and you will have to adapt the information to suit you but that’s what is so wonderful about natural hair. Saying you can’t go natural because your hair is too tough is like a learner driver saying they can’t drive because it is too difficult. Experienced drivers never say driving is too difficult because they know how to handle a car and deal with the roads.  Your hair isn’t too tough; you just haven’t learned how to manage it yet.

What was your main fear about going natural? How have you found the experience so far?

Share your stories below.

Step away from the relaxer (part 4)

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This is not an anti relaxer series. It is simply to encourage those who are transitioning or have recently gone natural, to not give up and keep going. There will be both highs and lows in your natural hair journey. I was so excited when I did my big chop albeit a little apprehensive about having really short hair, especially as I have a round face shape and have never thought short hair would suit me. However, when I had my TWA (teeny-weeny afro) I enjoyed experiencing my natural texture for the first time, and I found my natural texture more interesting and versatile.  When my hair begun to grow out that’s when I faced new challenges and my hair care regiment had to change. It certainly became more time-consuming. I did experience more bad hair days at this point because I was still learning about styling and managing my hair. So over the last four weeks, I have been sharing some tips about getting through this difficult stage.  The following has been covered in previous weeks so go back to the home page and check them out, if you haven’t already:

1. Don’t forget about braids, wigs or weaves.

2. Moisturize correctly

3. Accept the facts and remember the benefits of natural hair.

4. Learn how to manage shrinkage

5. Beware of texturizers

6. Protective styles  give you a well-earned break

7.  Detangle.

As your hair gets longer, the more important it is to detangle regularly.   The sooner you get familiar with this, the easier it will be.  I like to detangle my hair before washing it and I detangle it in sections. Some people detangle in the shower but this doesn’t work for me.  I have 4b hair and I’ve heard the same from other bloggers with the same hair type.   I find that the water causes my hair to become more fragile and at risk of damage while detangling. Before washing I divide my hair into four to six sections and apply some oil to my fingers. Then I begin to work my way through my hair, dealing with knots and removing shed hair. Once a section is detangled I put it into a large twist and move onto the next.

Some people prefer to spray their hair with a solution of water and oil or a detangling product.  Then they simply comb their hair in sections. Using a wide tooth comb, they are able to detangle their hair and remove knots. This is a quicker process. Do whatever works for you and develop your own routine. If you do this regularly you will see the benefits. I have recently tried making my own detangling serum and trying the above method. Check out Kinky Curly Coily Me’s tutorial on making your own detangling cocktail. I found this to be a quicker process and I’m considering using this method from now on.

Finally, remember that your hair is not the same as it was when relaxed. So it should be handled differently; using a wide tooth comb instead of a fine tooth comb for instance. Also, I think combing your dry hair out before styling is unnecessary manipulation. This will simply put extra stress on your hair. When my hair was relaxed I would constantly be combing or brushing it. With natural hair you should never comb it while it is dry and of course you should comb it from the ends and gradually work your way to the roots.  Afro textured hair must be handled with a lot more care, as it is more delicate than we realize.  Combing it while dry would mean simply pulling and tugging your hair, and this will lead to breakage.

I find it easier to put my hair into sections before handling it. This was not something I did when I had a relaxer but is necessary with natural hair. Don’t just plow a comb through it! We have to be a lot more patient with our natural hair. When I do my hair in a hurry I have a lot more broken and shed hairs, so I try to avoid this by taking my time.  Always spray it with water to soften it before styling it, especially if it has been flattened and shrunken overnight.   It doesn’t have to be completely drenched either, just enough to manage it easily.  If you get into the habit of regularly detangling your hair and wearing it in stretched out styles (twist-outs, braid-outs etc), you will not need to spend a long time combing it out before styling it. I prefer to finger detangle whenever possible, rather than combing constantly.  We have developed many habits, from years of dealing with relaxed hair. When you change your mindset you will approach caring and styling  for your natural hair differently.

8. Don’t be too hard on yourself.

If you decide it simply isn’t for you, that’s fine. At least you gave it a shot. If you want to go natural again in the future, you can try again. Jill Scott explained how she likes to change her hair all the time. She got a lot of flack from some, in the natural hair community for relaxing her hair, but she simply felt like a change. She never ruled out going back to her natural hair in the future anyway (check out the post: Jill Scott, Relaxed or Natural?).  If you are at the difficult stage and feel like giving up, remember that a relaxer is permanent! That is what stopped me from going back to it when I was finding it difficult. I knew once I relaxed my hair, that would be it. In order to go back to my natural hair, I would have to do the big chop all over again.  It would take the same amount of time to reach the length I had reached, months and years even.

Consider trying a temporary alternative, before getting a relaxer.  After being natural for a year or so I did get my hair pressed. It was nice to have it like that for a week and I curled it with rollers when it started to revert back. I enjoyed the change but I haven’t done it since. Pressing or flat-ironing your hair gives you the choice of going back to your natural texture. If you are going to press or flat-iron your hair, I suggest you make yourself aware of the risks, as the effects of heat damage are permanent. Go to an accredited hair stylist as well. Some of these hair stylists don’t even use heat protectant, so do your homework and be willing to pay more, it’s worth it. Check out Natural Chica’s vlog, where she straightens her hair:

Don’t get caught up in comparing yourself to others who have been natural for the same length of time. They may have longer hair or a different hair type. Afro textured hair is very diverse. I have a hair type that is not as curly as others and I’ve seen women on YouTube do these amazing wash and go styles, that simply wouldn’t work on my hair.  Also, there are some YouTube vloggers  who haven’t been natural for that long and their hair is already BSL (bra strap length)! So don’t be discouraged just because your hair is different, that’s the beauty of natural hair.   I like subscribing to a variety of YouTube channels with women whose hair is both similar and very different from my own (and channels from people of different races). I enjoy watching videos that show the versatility of natural hair. It doesn’t mean that one hair type is better than another, it is something that should be enjoyed and celebrated. Take the tips and information that you receive and adapt it to suit you as an individual.

What have been your main frustrations since going natural? Have you transitioned or big chopped more than once?

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?