Why 4C Hair Needs Its Own Set Of Curly Girl Rules

4C coils behave differently to 3C curls, says the Dominican Hair Alliance, so it’s time to tear up the old advice and start afresh with these new oily girl rules for 4C hair

If you have 4C hair you may be puzzled why your natural haircare regime isn’t bringing out the best in your coils. You may be struggling to replicate the routine that worked so well for your favourite YouTube guru. Then, something finally clicks. It’s not working and it’s probably never going to.

​Natural hair advice is often sold as universal, but it’s not. Most curly rules are actually based on Type 3 hair, and the further away your hair is from this, the less likely it is to work. In other words, that advice could be why your natural hair struggle is so real right now – not your texture.

These seven tips are some of the most counterproductive on 4C hair. Ditch them and you could see your ‘fro finally start to flourish.

Myth 1: It’s not the product, it’s the method

Photo by Lindie Wilton

Often offered up as well-meaning but condescending advice when a 3C influencer’s methods fail to work for her 4C followers, this tip is a trap.

When you’ve heard it so many times, it’s easy to think something is wrong with you, or with your hair. But here’s another way to look at it: Most curly products are designed specifically for Type 3 hair. From a Type 3 perspective, a lot of products can seem pretty interchangeable.

But for 4C it is about the product. Because the porosity is so low, 4C hair is very selective about what it will let in. Using the wrong product sets off the tripwire: stiff strands that won’t respond, buildup for days, it can even break off the ends of your hair. While methods do matter – especially how well you work it in – without the right products, you’re fighting a losing battle.

So what are the right products for 4C? Generally, this hair type will only respond to formulas that can adapt to its resistant surface. Cleansers like atrActiva Anti-Stress Shampoo should clear the debris that blocks moisture, without depositing more residue. And conditioners need to be like La Aplanadora Treatment: super rich to quench the dryness, but penetrating enough to sink into its low porosity surface. Water-based leave-ins work best: try Jessicurl Aloeba or La Aplanadora Leave In. You can seal them in with butters, botanical gels or heavier moisturisers like Crece Pelo Leave In.

Myth 2: 4C hair should be washed in cool water

Hotter water is better at removing grease and grime, while micelles – the structures which cleanse in shampoos and condition in conditioners – typically work better at higher temperatures. Hotter water is more moisturising, too; its lower surface tension makes it easier to penetrate and hydrate your hair, leaving it softer.

However, you should still avoid overly hot temperatures, which can dry out your hair and scalp, but staying around the hotter end of warm will make 4C hair happier.

Myth 3: 4C hair needs oil


Oiling the hair is a practice passed down for generations – and most curly hair loves it. But despite the tradition and assumptions that oils are a universal good, most oils don’t work on 4C hair.

Why? 4C hair usually has super low porosity. Not just low, but super low. Its surface is so compact, most oils can’t even bind to it properly, far less penetrate. That makes them less able to seal its strands the way they do higher porosity hair. In some cases, oils actually ruffle the cuticle, making it rough and stiff.

If you’re one of the rare 4Cs who gets soft, moisturised hair from using straight oils, don’t stop doing what works for you. But if you’ve tried oils and got the tell-tale greasy, crackly hair, just know that most oils are probably not for your hair type.

Because the porosity is so low, 4C hair is very selective about what products it will let in

Dominican Hair Alliance

Myth 4: Leave in some of your conditioner

Standard curly hair advice recommends leaving in conditioner for more moisture, definition and manageable curls. That’s not the effect it has on 4C hair.

4C strands are so compact, there is very little space inside to leave conditioner in when it’s wet. Once your hair dries, the slippery feel disappears, and your strands are left dull, stiff and covered in buildup. But when you have a strong conditioner, you don’t need to leave it in. Concentrated formulas like La Aplanadora Treatment or Halka Baba de Caracol Moisturizing Hair Mask deeply hydrate and soften your texture so much so, that the smoothness remains even when you rinse it all the way out.

And there’s another reason not to leave conditioner in: many have ingredient levels that are safe in rinse-out formulas, but can be irritants when left sitting on the hair. For Black women, who tend to use higher amounts of product than estimated by manufacturers, this risk is higher. Therefore, only leave in those conditioners that are formulated as all-in-ones, like Jessicurl Deep Conditioning Treatment.

Myth 5: Apply your products on wet hair

On Type 3, wet hair looks completely different from dry hair – it’s smoother, more defined, often with looser curls. But 4C hair looks pretty much the same wet as it does dry. Its extremely low porosity strands don’t take in enough water to transform your curls the way other hair types do when wet, so applying products on wet hair won’t “lock in the curl” – or the moisture. Instead it can over-saturate and damage your hair – as well as causing extreme shrinkage and buildup.

There’s a much easier way to make curls pop on 4C hair: Start with shampooed, deep conditioned and air-dried hair. In sections, work in La Aplanadora Leave In, followed by a thin coating of Jessicurl Deep Conditioning Treatment. Then, just glaze your fingers with Jessicurl Spiralicious Gel for 4C curl definition that’s clumpier and lasts way longer than a wash ‘n’ go.

Myth 6: Do twistouts, braidouts and rod sets on wet hair

Photo by Leighann Blackwood on Unsplash

Just like applying product on wet hair, this is usually a bad idea. 4C’s super low porosity makes it less tractable when wet than other hair types. As it dries, it’s also resetting its own, strong patterns. Trying to superimpose new ones while this intense shrinkage is underway is not advisable.

You’ll get way better results if you do twistouts and sets on air dried or dry hair. Your stylers will absorb better and your hair will be more cooperative.

Myth 7: A little product goes a long way

A 50p-sized amount of product for your whole head might go the distance on 3C or fine 4A curls.

However if you have 4C hair, be prepared to use a lot more. On super low porosity 4C, products take longer to absorb and they absorb less. That means you need to apply more to get the same effect. Working it in helps a lot, but your hair will still need more than the label or the typical 3C influencer advises.

In conclusion, what’s best for 4C hair is often the opposite of what works on Type 3. So don’t feel bound to advice that doesn’t work for your hair type. To succeed in this natural hair game, 4C hair needs its own curly girl rules.
For hair strategies custom-built for 4C, go to: www.dominicanhairalliance.com

More 4C Hair…


  1. by Reshayah on 02/11/2021  6:16 PM Reply

    Porosity is not exclusive to curl pattern... 4C is the tightest curl pattern, but I'm 4C, and I started as HIGH porosity. There are a lot of 4c influencers who are high porosity. So the logic following this is incorrect. Secondly, oils provides nutrients, and locks in moisture... Certain oils make hair softer and more pliable for better styling and less breakage. WATER is what you want first for moisturizing your hair, then you lock it with SEALING oils, like jojoba, and or a leave in conditioner. The thinner the hair, the lighter the oil you want to use. Coconut oil penetrates the hair, and it binds protein so your hair retains it. Whether or not you do a twist out on wet or dry hair depends on the look you want. The longer your hair gets, the better the wet twist out look. Not all oils do the same thing, so this advise is also wrong. They either penetrate, seal, or evaporate. Essential oils evaporate and are best used with another oil like grape seed. They're good for scalp stimulations and keeping it clean. Penetrating oils penetrate the hair strand regardless of porosity. It may take longer, so if your high porosity you may want to put penetrating oils while the hair is wet and let it sit 30 minutes, then come back with a leave in conditioner....

    You CANNOT listen to a person who does not have your hair type, because successful natural hair requires YOU to know your hair, how it reacts, and how it feels when it's best. There are too many intricacies that are only possible to be detected by the owner. A person whose head your hair is not attached you can't tell you anything. It's up to you to educate yourself on all the product and what they do so you can figure out what works for your hair. It took me a whole year and I'm still learning. That's not gonna happen taking someone's advise who isn't experienced in the hair on your head. It's a personalized endeavor.

    • by Michelle on 04/02/2022  11:25 PM Reply

      What do you use?
      I have 4c hair and I put good products in my hair after I wash it and it is curly. The next day it is dry what am I doing wrong? I am so frustrated
      Thank you

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