a girl showing how to grow 4c natural hair
Curly Hair Care

Here’s Why Your Type 4c Natural Hair Isn’t Growing

A short time ago, we wrote about how to grow Type 4 natural hair. And now, we're taking it one step further - how to grow 4c natural hair.

There are a lot of misconceptions around learning how to grow 4c natural hair. Some people think it’s tough, rough, tangled, hard to manage, and most damning of all, impossible to grow.

And to be honest, that type of thinking is ignorant AF.

Hair grows, period. If it didn’t, we’d all be bald. And because Type 4c natural hair needs a bit more love, it’s been written off as unmanageable and unattractive.

Contrary to popular belief, learning how to grow 4c natural hair is possible. It can grow thick, long and healthy, just like every other hair type. And screw anyone else who thinks otherwise, sis!

Ready to learn how to grow your 4c natural hair? Let’s do this!

girl overlay showing how to grow 4c natural hair

What is 4c Natural Hair?

4c natural hair, the tightest of all the natural hair textures, has a unique z and/or s pattern. This pattern plays a large role in why growing Type 4c natural hair seems impossible.

Type 4 natural hair is fragile, and that’s just a fact. Because of its inherent curl tightness, the coils twist and turn around so much, they twist onto other strands and cause immense friction (and thus causing those dreaded two-strand knots).

Plus, each of these inflection points in the curls are points of weakness, and if the hair isn’t properly moisturized or protected, it can mean that these inflection points are more susceptible to breakage.

Breakage is the woe of every Type 4 natural, but is especially true for the Type 4c naturals, who are the coiliest of the coilies.

This is why Type 4c natural hair seems to “not grow” and why learning how to grow 4c natural hair seems so hard.

Really, it’s a matter of keeping the length you have, rather than trying to force more growth (*subtle shade to all those hair growth vitamin companies*).

Black hair grows in a way that requires intentional care. It’s no accident that some people have achieved long, healthy Type 4 natural hair. They were intentional with their routines and remained consistent.


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How To Retain Length for Type 4c Natural Hair

Know Your Porosity

Knowing your natural hair's porosity is an integral step in learning how to grow 4c natural hair.

Natural hair Porosity

Natural hair porosity is the ability of your hair to absorb and retain water and/products. 

Low porosity natural hair has a low absorption rate, because the cuticles are stubbornly closed. It is difficult for this hair porosity to absorb moisture.

High porosity natural hair has a high absorption rate, because the cuticles are always open. It is difficult for this hair porosity to retain moisture.

What does this mean for 4c natural hair? If you have high porosity hair, water and products are evaporating out of your strands like lightning. If you're low porosity, it's not even absorbing it in the first place.

Be sure to read up on your hair's porosity before diving into the below tips.

Use Latex Gloves

One of the easiest way you can start retaining length is switching up your technique. Especially when it comes to product application.

Did you know that your fingers can accelerate breakage? There are little grooves in our fingertips that can cause cuticle irritation and slowly nick at your hair shaft, creating microtears. This microtears, if further irritated or propelled with dryness, will lead to full-on breakage.

An easy fix to this is using latex gloves. The gloves will create a barrier between your fingertips and your hair and ensure that you aren’t accelerating any breakage!

Alternate Between a Moisturizing Shampoo and a Clarifying Shampoo

Don’t be fooled by labels. Not all shampoos that are “sulfate-free” are good for natural hair. In fact, the alternative detergents used in these sulfate-free shampoos can be even WORSE for our hair than the sulfates!

Natural hair already falls on the dry end of the spectrum, we don’t need our shampoo making it worse.

Your wash day routine is essential to maintaining your 4c natural hair length. Any wash day routine for natural hair is important, but it is even more critical for this hair type. This is because 4c natural hair is more susceptible to breakage, hydral fatigue, and hair loss.

Furthermore, product buildup can lead to further dryness and breakage, and if your wash day routine does not include a clarifying shampoo... well, this could be a key reason why you're not seeing any growth.

Every week, use a “light” shampoo to get rid of the grime and product of that week (don’t forget to pre-poo first!). A cleansing ingredient that works well for black hair is cocamidopropyl betaine. It's a less harsh sulfate but still gives a good clean.

But, once a month you should be using a stronger, clarifying shampoo. These shampoos are going to deeply penetrate into the hair and scalp and remove all the dirt that your regular shampoo might not be able to remove. Be sure to use a moisturizing conditioner afterwards!

Which brings us to the next point…

Use a Steamer with your Deep Conditioner (If You're Lo-Po)

One of the most frustrating aspects of natural hair is not only is it inherently dry, it doesn’t absorb our products easily that are supposed to moisturize it. You may be using the best of the best products (and thus usually more expensive), but it just sits atop your hair.

How annoying is that?

This is because our hair cuticles vary between naturals. Your friend, who also has Type 4 natural hair, may be able to absorb products in her hair and thus her hair is more moisturized than yours.

It sucks, but it’s not the end of the world. We just have to coax our hair a bit more to take the products in.

How, you ask? Two words: HAIR! STEAMER!

Hair steamers are AMAZING for natural hair (I’m currently saving up to get this one). There are numerous benefits to using one, including:

  • Opening up stubborn cuticles to allow product absorption;
  • Relieves dry, itchy, flaky scalp;
  • Soften hair strands, and;
  • Generally provides additional moisture.

Basically, hair steamers should be an essential part of Type 4c natural hair, but this is especially the case for low porosity naturals who struggle to retain moisture.

They can be quite expensive, but a good alternative is a hot head thermal cap or a blow dryer attachment. Although not as effective, these alternatives can still provide heat to your hair and allow your deep conditioner to fully penetrate into your strands.

Protective Style and Low Manipulative Styles

If length retention is the name of the game, then protective and low manipulative styles should be the crux of your natural hair journey.

Think about it: the more exposure our hair has, both to the environment, our clothes, and our hands (I used to play with my curls absentmindedly ALL the time), we run the risk to aggravating our hair strands.

The result? Broken ends, sis!

This is why naturals report “increased growth” after taking down protective styles like braids. Really, it’s length retention, not a boost in the growth cycle, but the end result is still the same = longer hair.

The best protective styles have the following characteristics:

  • Completely seal the ends of your hair;
  • Hair is to be deep conditioned and thoroughly moisturized prior to installation, and;
  • The style must be taken down no later than six weeks after installation.

These are non-negotiables when it comes to protective styles. Otherwise you run the risk of causing further damage to your Type 4c natural hair. Nobody got time for that!

Some Type 4 naturals claim that the longer they keep a style in, the drier their hair becomes. To have more flexibility in your routine, one suggestion could be to flat twist or flat braid your hair. That way, you aren’t breaking the bank for a style only to not get the most out of it, and you can re-moisturize as you please.

Another option is low manipulative styles. These are great because you can still rock your natural hair but in a way that fosters proper moisturization techniques. So if you do a braid or twist out, your hair will have sufficient time to absorb the products before you untwist or unbraid it.

The key here is that you go an extended amount of time not touching your hair – less is more. With a low manipulative style, one retouch during the week with a washday on Sunday is a great routine to start.

Remember: protective and low manipulative styling is more than just a “style” – it’s a strategy. This is the most effective way to retain length, increase moisture and protect your hair from the outside world.

Use a Water-Based Moisturizer

The first four to five products in an ingredient list sets the tone for what a product will do for you.

We’ve touched on this before when it comes to choosing the best hair oils for natural hair, but if your moisturizer contains petroleum and/or mineral oil in the first five ingredients, throw the whole thing away!

Why? Petroleum oil/mineral oil are byproducts of the crude oil industry, and although they are "natural", they are a nefariously deviant addition in natural hair products. They weigh the hair down and sit on top of the hair shaft without really doing anything. 

You want to stay away from these “occlusive”-based products, which occlude or block the entry of ingredients into your hair cuticle. These act as barriers, and while they can prevent moisture from leaving, they also prevent moisture from entering (thus causing product buildup). These include mineral oil, waxes, silicones and petroleum. These should be at the bottom of the ingredients list. 

First things first, water should be the first ingredient in any natural hair moisturizer, PERIODT! Remember that moisture comes from water, no product can deliver water.

For Type 4c natural hair, we’re looking for ingredients such as aloe vera gel, honey, shea butter, mango butter, and glycerin, as well as essential oils. Plant-based oils are the top hair oils for natural hair, and are the best ingredients to look for in a natural hair product.

Emollients like ceramides and cetyl alcohol, although they sound like harmful chemicals, are actually very gentle on natural hair and smooth out the hair fiber. Just what we want in our products! 

Learning how to moisturize natural hair is more than just the products you use. Knowing further information about you hair, such as porosity and density are also critical factors in knowing how to moisturize natural hair

Take Care of Your Scalp

Scalp health should be top priority for a solid, 4c natural hair routine. Scalp is the birthplace of natural hair, so why do we neglect it in our routines?

Your scalp needs to be clean (hence the shampoo) and moisturized at all times to support healthy follicles. 

If possible, use oils to moisturize your scalp rather than oils. Your scalp is sensitive and any harmful ingredients can cause contact dermatitis, psoriasis and other scalp issues (the DevaCurl scandal is a prime example of this!). 

The Bottom Line

Type 4c natural hair may sometimes seem frustrating to deal with, but the possibilities are endless once you’ve achieved a hair routine that works.

Focusing on hydration (using water-based moisturizers and using a steamer during deep conditioning sessions), protective styling and clarifying properly will ensure that you’ve set yourself up for success when it comes to growing your hair.

What are your secrets to growing Type 4c natural hair? Comment down below!