Despite the overwhelmingly positive curly hair movement encouraging women with all curl types and textures to embrace their hair, there doesn’t seem to be enough information about caring for and styling 4C hair. We reached out to Daryce Brown-Willis, Mizani artist and brand ambassador, to understand what makes 4C curls so special and how to properly care for them—she even gave us some style inspiration.
What are the defining characteristics of 4C hair?Brown-Willis says the most defining characteristic of 4C hair is that there is no single curl pattern. Women with 4C hair will typically have a mix of waves, coils, curls, and zigzags throughout their strands. However, there is one thing most women with 4C hair have in common: Their strands are typically in desperate of moisture.
“4C hair is usually naturally dry and brittle to the touch because the natural oils from the scalp have a hard time reaching the entire hair strand due to that inconsistent pattern down the strand,” Brown-Willis explains.
As you might imagine, it typically requires more maintenance than other curl types.
“Because of its natural dryness, it’s actually the weakest [curl type],” Brown-Willis says. “It naturally tangles, causing single strand knots—therefore requiring more frequent trimming and more treatments such as moisture and strength boosters.”
Even though 4C hair often requires more maintenance, there are several benefits to being born with this hair texture.
“Some advantages are the versatility in styling and the longevity of styles,” the stylist says. “This particular curl pattern can be manipulated to mimic any of the other curl types.”
What is a healthy hair care routine for someone with 4C hair?We know that 4C hair is among the weakest and driest hair types, so maintaining healthy curls is paramount. Luckily, Brown-Willis says a healthy hair care routine for 4C hair is relatively simple. When beginning to figure out which products work best for your curls, start simple. The stylist says a moisturizing shampoo, conditioner, and cream-based leave-in conditioner are essential for anyone with 4C hair.
If you’re not sure where to start, Brown-Willis recommends Mizani’s True Textures Moisture Replenish Shampoo and Conditioner as well as True Textures Intense Moisture Replenish Treatment (when your hair needs a little extra TLC). The stylist also recommends Mizani’s 25 Miracle Milk as a leave-in detangler and Mizani’s Curl Defining Pudding for styling.
Having the right products is important, but Brown-Willis says how you use those products is just as crucial. The stylist recommends sectioning off your hair before applying detangler or leave-in to ensure even distribution. Follow the leave-in with a cream-based product that is both hydrating and has hold. Once you’ve applied both products, your hair ready to be styled. Brown-Willis recommends twist outs or braids that can stretch out your locks.
“In my opinion, keeping this hair type stretched is best so that you can make sure that it does not tangle on itself—causing breakage and friction that leads to dryness,” she explains.
While keeping your hair moisturized is of the utmost importance, one thing you should never do to 4C hair is load it up with oils while it’s still wet.
“Oil forms a barrier between your hair and the moisturizing products you would be using and is also really hard to shampoo out, which causes a perpetual state of dryness,” Brown-Willis reveals.
Caring for your hair at home is only half the battle. Routine trips to the salon are an absolute must for 4C hair. While you should head to the salon fairly regularly, Brown-Willis says you shouldn’t feel beholden to a particular hair trimming schedule. You and your stylist can determine how often your hair should be trimmed and whether or not it can benefit from any in-salon treatments. Brown-Willis says her favorite thing about 4C hair is that you can style it any way you like. If you’re looking for a little style inspiration, the stylist shared a few of her go-to styles.
Begin by parting your hair, forming enough sections for your desired amount of knots. To make sure your look is as uniform as possible, keep the sections relatively the same size (but feel free to get creative with the way your part your hair). You can add a cool visual element to your style by parting your hair so the base of your knots forms a geometric shape.
Once your hair has been sectioned off, coil each section around itself until it forms a tight twist. Then, wrap that twist around itself to form a “knot” and secure it with bobby pins or a small elastic.
Begin with clean, damp hair, parting enough sections for your desired amount of twists. The smaller the twist, the tighter the curl pattern will be once it’s released. Apply a light hold styling cream throughout each section before creating a basic two strand twist. Secure each twist with a small, clear elastic. Allow the twists to dry completely (you can sleep in them!). Once dried, unravel each twist and fluff for a voluminous final look.
Beginning at the back of your head, working with 2-inch sections of hair of clean, damp hair. Spray each section with a heat protectant before blow drying the hair from root to ends on a low heat setting. Bump up the heat and go over the hair again with a paddle brush, drying section by section. If you’re looking for a sleeker style, add a third step and follow up the blow dry with a flat or curling iron.
Wet Lacer Set
The most unique characteristic of 4C hair is that it usually has a mix of waves, coils, curls, and zigzags throughout. While the combination of curls is a delight to look at, sometimes you want your hairstyle to have a little more uniformity. That’s where lacers come in handy. Lacers are a hair tool similar to flexi rods that allow you to wrap your hair around them and set a uniform curl pattern.
Faux ‘Fro Hawk
If you love the look of a mohawk but can’t imagine parting with your long coils, this style is quickly going to become your go-to. This ‘fro hawk allows you to show off your curls and channel the punk rock vibes of a mohawk without touching the clippers.
To create this look, begin by applying a firm hold pomade like Mizani’s Edge Control Taming Gel to your edges all over and brush through until they lay completely flat. Working with one side at a time, brush your hair toward the center of your head and use several bobby pins to hold your hair in place. Repeat the same steps on the opposite side of your head. Once your faux-hawk is secured, use a pick to fluff your hair and create major volume all over.
As much as we love big, curly hair, sometimes we want our strands up and away from our face—but we hate to sacrifice style for function. Cornrows are the perfect compromise. The protective style keeps your hair secure while looking incredibly stylish. You can create a style as simple as two cornrows straight back or an intricate design with countless braids—the options are endless!
For this look, you’ll need a brush, a hair pick, a firm hold pomade, and an elastic. The key to a flawless poof is to make sure your edges are laid and your poof is as big as possible. Begin by using a hair pick to create volume all over your head, then apply a firm hold pomade like Mizani’s Edge Control Taming Gel to your edges all over and brush through until your hair lays completely flat. Next, gather all of your hair on the top of your head and secure with an elastic. Once your poof is secure, fluff to make sure it’s even on all sides.
Wash-And-GoWash-and-go’s are a staple for any nauralista. The key to a flawless wash-and-go is to use the right hair products, which is why we recommend Mizani’s Perfect Coil Oil Gel. The oil-gel hybrid is your key to no-fuss style, defining and shaping your curls and coils for your next wash day while helping to keep them moisturized. Interested in personalized information about how to care for your hair? Use our salon locator to book an appointment at a salon near you. You may also like: How To Take Care of Natural Hair: The Complete Guide
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