Type 4 hair is the epitome of black beauty. It’s thick texture and tight curl pattern represents the very best qualities black culture and history – resiliency, strength, and power.
It represents the very essence of what it means to be black.
If you have Type 4 hair, there’s a very nasty stigma that you’ve had to live with, probably for your whole life.
You’ve seen this message perpetuated in media, where hair commercials only show straight hair and Type 2 hair products on the TV, and through beauty campaigns and Instagram news feeds.
Sometimes you’ve even seen this message from our own black owned companies.
The message is this: Type 4 hair cannot grow.
And my job is to tell you that this message is bullshit.
Not only can Type 4 hair grow, but it can grow fast, quick, and efficiently. It can thrive in all seasons (including the icy death that is winter), and it can be thick and luscious at the same damn time!
I’m not here to shame other hair textures. But there’s something majestic and ethereal about Type 4 hair. And it’s unfortunate that it has never received the proper attention and recognition in the past.
It’s time to fix that. Let's get into how to grow Type 4 hair.
What is Type 4 Hair?
Type 4 hair is tightly coiled, wiry curls. It is naturally dry and can range from being spongy and soft, or coarse and wiry. The strands form tight zigzag shapes and is highly prone to shrinkage.
Because of the curl tightness, many Type 4 naturals experience trouble trying to grow their hair. Many naturals also experience intense tangles, lack of moisture and extreme shrinkage. The struggle is real!
The Type 4 category is further categorized into three hair types: 4a, 4b and 4c.
Okay, So How Do I Grow My Type 4 Hair?
Now, all of this information begs the question: how do we grow Type 4 hair?
First things first, let's address the elephant in the room.
The problem isn’t that your hair isn’t growing.
It’s the fact that it’s breaking.
Hair is always growing. It grows continuously, in a cycle. The problem is that your hair, namely your ends, are breaking at the same rate that it’s growing. It’s no wonder why you’re not seeing any growth!
Growth is directly related to retention. So therefore, to grow your hair, you need to shift your attention to retaining the length that you have.
It’s important to note that there are techniques you can implement to increase your natural growth cycle, such as exercising and drinking water. But that’s a topic for another day.
Here's the exact formula to grow your Type 4 natural hair:
Know Your Porosity
Knowing if you have low porosity natural hair or high porosity natural hair is the most important thing when learning how to grow Type 4 natural hair.
Without this knowledge, you won't know which products to use, and HOW to use them.
Natural hair Porosity
Natural hair porosity is the ability of your hair to absorb 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.
Be sure to read up on your porosity type to know which one you are!
Latex Is Your Friend!
Next time you are styling your hair, look down at the sink and your fingers. You might be surprised at what you find – little coils sitting in the sink and in between your fingers.
That’s not a good sign.
For one, it could mean that you need a trim, so that may be a good place to start.
But sometimes when we are applying our products, we’re a tad heavy handed. We are applying our products too rough, and as a result we’re causing unnecessary breakage ourselves.
In addition to this, our nails, the little grooves in our fingertips and even hangnails may irritate our cuticles and can create microtears in our hair strands.
Nobody got time for that when trying to grow out Type 4 hair.
The way around this (after you’ve gotten your trim, sis!) is to use latex gloves. Using latex gloves will act as a barrier between your hands and your delicate curls, minimizing the amount of breakage when manipulating your hair.
Get Your Wash Day Right!
Your wash day routine for natural hair is incredibly important for Type 4 natural hair.
Moisture starts with your wash day, the products you use, and how you use them. And remember: with moisture, comes length!
Make sure you follow our simple 6-step wash day routine to make sure your wash day routine is on point.
Balance Moisture and Protein Treatments
Many Type 4 naturals are bombarded with information about the importance of moisturizing their hair. As such, they deep condition often, they use hydrating products, drink their water, everything they are supposed to do, right?
But they’re missing one thing: protein.
Protein treatments are ESSENTIAL for any curly hair routine, regardless of hair type. Our kinks and curls are made of protein, called keratin. If we are over moisturizing, we are not supplying our hair with the necessary protein boosts to keep our hair curly and bouncy.
Too much protein (but not enough moisture) makes our hair dry, brittle and stiff. Too much moisture and not enough protein, called hygral fatigue, makes our hair weak, limp and lifeless.
For the most part, natural hair is drier than it is lacking protein (if you’re not suffering from heat damage). So, if you are deep conditioning once a week (or four times a month), one out of 4 weeks should target protein.
Make one wash day in the month a protein treatment. I suggest using a medium one (such as the Aphogee Two Minute Protein Reconstructor). If you are more on the protein sensitive side, try a light protein deep treatment, such as the ORS Hair Mayonnaise instead.
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Deep Condition with Heat
If you’re still deep conditioning overnight via the bag method, you’re sleeping, sis.
There is no more effective and essential way of deep conditioning than with heat. Heat opens up the hair follicles and really allows the product to really penetrate. This is especially important for low porosity natural hair.
Overnight baggying is way too much moisture for the hair to absorb. Doing this method is merely slightly opening up the follicles, but there’s not enough body heat for your body to funnel the products into the hair.
The solution? Use a microwaveable heat cap or a hair dryer attachment. Slap on your favourite deep conditioner and sit under it for 30-45 minutes, but no more than that. Rinse it out with cold water and immediately style. You’ll never have softer curls.
Style the Right Way – Use Thick Natural Ingredients
Because of the tight and dense coils of Type 4 natural hair, lubrication between strands is major key to ensure minimal breakage.
This will ensure that there is no friction between strands, minimizing two-strand knots and split ends (which almost always lead to breakage).
As a Type 4 natural, you want to use as many natural ingredients as possible, which are rich in vitamins and minerals your hair will love.
Some of the worst ingredients for natural hair are found in products that claim to be "natural" and "organic". Make sure you learn how to read ingredient labels!
Protective Style Three Weeks out of the Month
Protective styling is critical when retaining Type 4 length because you’re sheltering your hair away from all things that can break your ends – your clothes, your hands, the environment. The list goes on!
Another benefit to protective styling is that it will facilitate product absorption. When you moisturize your hair and leave it open to the elements, many of the properties in the products evaporate into the atmosphere, drying out your hair.
However, make sure you are taking down your style regularly to re-moisturize. You can braid your hair with your own natural hair or with the addition of new hair.
If you are using your own hair, take down the style at least biweekly. If you are putting in extensions, four to six weeks is ideal.
The Bottom Line
Type 4 hair can be long, bouncy and voluminous, regardless of hair type. The inherent fragility of this hair type may call for a more rigorous regimen, however the steps outlined above are guaranteed to keep your Type 4 hair healthy and growing.
What are your tips for maintaining and growing Type 4 hair? Comment down below!