When I went natural back in 2012, I was overwhelmed by what to expect on this renewed hair journey. After ditching the relaxer and transitioning for half a year, I finally decided to do the big chop, cutting away all of my permed ends and sporting my natural coily strands.
I’ve spent most of my life with straight hair and for the first time in a long time, I returned to my original texture. How will I style my hair now? How will people react to my afro? How long will it take for my hair to grow back? Apparently, I wasn’t alone in my worries. Through my research in the natural hair space, I found that many women shared the same concerns. When you are bombarded with beauty standards that have zero resemblance to your appearance, it can be a bit difficult to feel comfortable. Thankfully, over the years I’ve learned how to treat and style my hair, as well as build up my confidence in rocking my afro all day, everyday. Perhaps the most challenging thing I overcame was my dissatisfaction with my curl pattern.
In the natural hair world, curl pattern is everything. It can seem like the looser the curls, the better. Popular preference for looser curl patterns is shown through the media, advertisements, and even in the ranks of some of the most popular hair bloggers. Social media also plays a role in this limited beauty standard. The web is chock full of horrible memes that shame kinky textured hair. Though ignorant, meaningless internet trolls deserve zero attention, the message still adds to the wide stigma that 4C hair is not good enough. There’s this huge desire to achieve super defined, loose, spirally, twist-out curls. But, not all curls are designed the same, yet all curls are beautiful. This is a lesson that I wish I’d learned sooner.
I remember watching hundreds of natural hair styling tutorials on YouTube, frustrated that I could not achieve the same curls as the 3C-haired vloggers. During that time, it was hard to find many vloggers who shared my kinky 4C hair type. Through time and experience, and witnessing the beauty of all hair types, I started to expand my own vision of what “good hair” is. To quote the fabulous author and natural hair blogger Nikki Walton, “My advice is always: your hair is good. Healthy hair is good. Whatever is growing out of your scalp is perfect. A lot of women turn to YouTube or blogs for inspiration to get their new styling idea. But often times, they don’t adjust their expectations. They expect their twist-out to come out just like so and so’s. And then when it doesn’t, they feel like a failure. But that’s not true. It’s your twist-out and it’s beautiful! Your twist-out may not look like her twist-out.”
And that’s totally fine!
The best way to embrace your own texture is to explore all of the wonderful things you can do with your hair. Every hair type has its own perks.
Amazing things about kinky, coily ‘Type 4’ curl patterns
- It’s incredibly flexible. You can rock a tight, shrunken afro for a shorter chic look or you can stretch it out for a longer, voluminous look. No scissors or clip-ins necessary!
- It’s great at maintaining shape and neatness in braided or twisted hairdos. You never have to worry about your braids falling or loosening up.
- It’s fluffy! There’s this misconception that coarse hair = rough, hard hair. Coarse hair is prone to dryness, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to get soft hair. Like with any other hair type, if you practice healthy hair habits, your hair will be soft, moisturized, and, because you have 4C hair, fluffy!
- It’s super textured and stands tall. You can really mold and shape your hair into any style, without worrying about it falling flat throughout the day.
Methods that boost and enhance your natural curl pattern
- Use a moisturizing shampoo, like Shea Moisture’s Raw Shea Butter Moisture Retention Shampoo.
- Comb through your conditioner with your fingers or a wide tooth comb. Don’t be shy to use A LOT of conditioner, either.
- Dry your hair with a t-shirt or with a diffuser blow dryer (on low heat).
- Trim away frizzy ends.
- Always twist or style your hair with a thick curl pudding or curl cream.
Hairstyles that are perfect for the 4C curl pattern
I think you can rock any hairstyle your heart desires. Natural hair is super versatile, so truly there is no limit. Personally, since my tight curls are great at holding shape, I love bantu-knots and braid-outs. With any braid/twist-out style, I like to pick my roots with a wide-tooth comb for extra oomph!
How to care for 4C hair
A lot of women with 4C hair are prone to dryness and breakage. It took some trial and error, but I finally found the best way to keep my hair hydrated. Of course, I do the L.O.C. method (it’s like the first commandment in the holy book of natural hair), but I realized that I have or be particular with the kind of products I use. My “L” (liquid/leave-in) is either a water/aloe juice mix, just water, Cantu Shea Butter Leave-In Conditioner, or Creme of Nature Coconut Milk Detangler & Conditioner Leave-In Conditioner. My “O” (oil) is always coconut oil. My “C” (cream) is either Miss Jessie’s Curly Buttercreme or Shea Moisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl & Style Milk. But I don’t stop there, I seal in my moisture with castor oil and extra-seal my ends with pure shea butter to prevent breakage. I also deep condition my hair every week and I treat my mane with a nourishing tea rinse at least once a month.
So sure, my flat twist-out may not come out like curvy, stretch out strands, but they are voluminous zig-zag curls. My pineapple updos may not be a bouquet of ringlets cascading over my head, but it’s a soft and frizzy poof that defies gravity. What I’m saying is, beautiful curl patterns know no bound!