I was watching one of my favorite vloggers showcase another tutorial, with her thick waist length hair. I scanned the comments, most of which were gushing about how beautiful her hair is, only to find one that had a lot of replies. One unsuspecting viewer made the mistake of asking if the vlogger, Naptural85 was mixed. I’m sure she wasn’t expecting it to become a heated discussion. Many commenters began to tell her off for implying that Naptural85 must be mixed with another race, in order to have long, luscious hair. Another began to educate her about this misconception and what someone is really saying when they ask this question. Then another inferred that ALL black people are mixed and this started a whole new debate. There were discussions about our ancestral links to other races, the intermixing that took place during slavery and so forth. Others gave examples of the diversity of Africa and how you would find tight kinky hair, to loose curly curls and even straight hair, within the vast continent. During such discussions someone always tries to be the voice of reason and say, it’s just hair people! Although it is true that this all started from a simple hair tutorial, here are some reasons many would consider this emotive topic to be about more than ‘just hair’. Continue reading Is it really ‘just hair’? – The historical significance of black hair.
Can wash and go’s really work on 4b hair? Here are some methods that may be more suitable for this hair type.
The first time I tried a wash and go I vowed to never do it again. The method I first used was to; wash my hair, coat it with Eco Styler gel and then literally go. This resulted in severe shrinkage; my hair looked like a TWA. I didn’t mind the look but the next day my hair was severely tangled. I had to painstakingly separate every strand as carefully as possible or risk breakage.
So what has changed? I have tried a number of methods in the last few months. Now I believe the wash and go is a styling option for me. Stretched out styles are better for my hair because they result in less knots. However, wash and go’s are great for women who work out a lot and enjoy frequent co washing. Here are some of the methods I found useful.
The Winter Wash and Go
This method was demonstrated by Naptural85. The style is prepared overnight and there is no need to rake gel or curling puddings through your hair. Wetting and washing your hair helps to bring out your natural curl pattern and putting your hair in large twists allows it to remain stretched. Some wouldn’t call this a wash and go but it is the most convenient method of bringing out your curl pattern. It simply involves washing and putting your hair in twists, while in the shower. So it encompasses the convenience of a wash and go, that may be lost with the traditional method. It’s ideal for winter because you don’t have to walk around with wet hair all day.
Conditioner only wash and go
Instead of using gel, perhaps try the ‘shingling’ method with your favorite conditioner. All of this can be done in the shower. Use your fingers to rake the conditioner through the hair. Some choose to leave a little conditioner in their hair, not rinsing it out completely. Now with other hair types, air drying may work best. However, with my 4b hair I found that this resulted in too much shrinkage, as my hair is very tightly coiled. Using a diffuser to dry my hair, gently stretching it with my fingers in the process, worked much better for me. To seal in the moisture you could also add some oil to the hair and rinse it slightly so that your hair doesn’t turn out to be too greasy. This is called an oil rinse. Simply using conditioner as opposed to raking gel through my hair resulted in far less shrinkage. The curls were not as defined and quite frizzy but I liked the level of volume my hair had.
Check out Alicia James’ wash and go tutorial, where she uses a diffuser to stretch her hair.
The traditional method
The traditional method is washing your hair and using gel or a styling product to enhance your curls. This usually ends with allowing your hair to air dry throughout the day. I believe this method is less effective for 4b hair because the amount of shrinkage experienced can be excessive. There is also a level of uncertainty about how the style will turn out because your hair will shrink gradually. Many women become disillusioned with their 4b curl pattern because it isn’t usually as defined as 4a or type 3 hair. While others can enjoy the convenience of this method and see their curls pop easily, 4b girls may not have the same experience. The other methods highlighted in this post may be more suitable.
It is simply a matter of trial and error. Most importantly, remember that a styling product cannot naturally create curls that do not already exist. I believe gel is more effective than a curl enhancing pudding/smoothie when trying this method on 4b hair. 4b strands need hold, in order to clump together. Otherwise the hair becomes more puffy and frizzy. However, I would avoid gels with maximum hold as they will cause too much shrinkage. Try gels that offer light to medium hold.
The fake wash and go
This is simply making a twist out look like a wash and go. Put your hair into small to medium-sized twists when wet, for more definition. When untwisting, instead of separating the hair three to four times, separate the twists once. This takes longer than a twists out, as the twists are smaller. However, you can wear your hair in a protective style for a few days and take your hair down for the weekend. This way you get two or more styles out of one. I find that this style lasts longer than a normal twist out because the twists are more defined. It looks like a wash and go even though my hair would never look like that after a real wash and go. There is no shrinkage to contend with and you will avoid the dreaded tangles that 4b hair usually experiences after a traditional wash and go.
Check out the tutorial for this method by Alicia James.
Don’t be discouraged
If the end result is the same it doesn’t matter which method was used, or that you were unable to achieve a wash and go by the traditional method. Do what works best for your hair type. 4b hair isn’t inferior to other hair types simply because it is kinky rather than curly. Your hair will have its own unique strengths, which you will discover as you practice caring for it.
Have you tried a wash and go? Share your experiences below.
Some women declare that they do not have time to manage their hair in its natural state, and therefore cannot go, or stay, natural. If relaxer had never been invented, I doubt they would make such a claim. Rather, they would have simply learned how to manage their natural hair like everyone else. Adapting your hair care regimen to suit your schedule and time constraints is important, whatever a person’s hair texture.
The use of chemicals should be an informed choice, not a necessity. There is nothing inherently wrong or unmanageable about our hair in its natural state. We simply have to realise the importance of educating ourselves about natural hair. And most importantly, our children’s natural hair. If we do this, we will develop the ability to adjust our hair care accordingly. Initially, it is going to take patience and practice, but trust me, it’s worth it!
Here are some suggestions on how to save time when managing your natural hair:
1. Deep Condition your hair before shampooing
Deep conditioning or hot oil treatments don’t have to be done after shampooing. It can become tedious, shampooing, getting out of the shower, deep conditioning, sitting under the dryer, and getting back in the shower, all over again. If you deep condition or do a hot oil treatment before shampooing, you only have to use the shower once. This will save water and time.
If your shampoo is natural and free of sulphates, which strip the hair of moisture, the benefits of the deep conditioning will not be ‘washed away’. If you are using a shampoo that contains Sodium Lauryl sulphate and others chemicals, deep conditioning will at least prepare your hair for this. It is likely to result in less moisture depletion.
Some people would call this a ‘pre-poo’ (pre-shampoo). I believe the result is the same, regardless.
2. Detangle in the shower before co-washing
This may not be an option for everyone, as wet hair is weaker. So detangling in the shower, may make the hair more vulnerable to breakage. However, if you use conditioner to detangle, this can be done in the shower and you can go straight into co washing. Put your hair into 6 to 8 sections. Detangle and co-wash one section at a time, and re-twist straight away. The downward motion of the shower water, helps to ensure that your strands are flowing in the same direction and helps with detangling.
Check our Naptural85’s demonstration of this method and a convenient style to do, during the process:
3. Alternatives methods to finger detangling
Studies show that those that finger detangle, have a thicker hair density. However, finger detangling does not work for everyone. There are others who prefer to use a wide tooth comb to detangle, after saturating their hair with conditioner or a mixture of ingredients. Check out KKKM’s method, using her homemade ‘detangling cocktail’. This softens the hair and cut her detangling time down to ten minutes!
4. Keep hair stretched out during the week
If you keep your hair in a stretched out state in-between washing, your hair will be easier and quicker to detangle. Twist-outs and braid-outs are great styles, to keep your hair stretched. Roller sets, flexi-rods and curl formers also keep the hair stretched. If you finger comb your hair after it has been in one of these styles, it will appear in a blown out state. Buns are also great for keeping the hair taut. High buns, low buns, top knots and side buns, all help to keep the hair stretched. When you take your hair down from a bun you will notice this.
So there should be less knots, and the hair will be more manageable. This will cut down your detangling session. Detangling your hair after a wash and go, or after it has shrunk during the week, takes a very long time, in my experience. Hence, the reason why I have only attempted a wash and go once, with my 4b hair.
5. Divide the hair into large sections
In my experience, the longer your hair becomes, the less sections you need to divide it into. Dividing your hair between 4 to 6 sections, should make it quicker to wash. We’ve all been there, working our way through the sections, anticipating getting to the last one. When there are less sections to work through, this moment comes around sooner.
6. Try to remove shed hair whenever possible
Whilst styling my hair, I always take the opportunity to gently remove shed hair. This ensures that less shed hair tangles with the existing hair. There will also be less shed hair to remove on wash day. So while finger combing my hair before styling, I take less than a minute to remove any shed hair. This reduces the build up of shed hair overall.
When you are short on time, here are some quick hairstyles to try.
Roll, tuck and pin
Short Natural Hair (TWAs)
For short hair and TWAs try spraying the hair with a water and glycerin mix, to moisturize and enhance your curls. Add a cute accessory, such as a flower or head band. You can create a side parting and pin one side down with a clip.
What do you do to save time with your hair care regimen? Please share your suggestions below.
My top six tips for caring for 4b hair and retaining length.
1. Moisturize regularly
Afro textured hair has a tendency to be dry. With all the kinks and curls it is difficult for moisture to penetrate every strand thoroughly. Therefore we constantly have to keep our hair moisturized. Moisturizing in advance is better than waiting for your hair to dry out before adding moisture. This will also minimize the breakage that occurs as a result of dryness. A moisturizing deep conditioner applied after shampooing will give your hair a well needed moisture boost. How often you do this is up to you. I try to do mine once a week but if my hair is in a protective style like mini twist I find it easier to do a hot oil treatment instead.
Washing your hair doesn’t just clean it; it adds moisture that you can seal in for days or even the whole week, depending on how well your hair absorbs and retains moisture. After shampooing and conditioning, use a good sealant to lock in the moisture. A natural oil such as extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil or Shea butter will work well for sealing in moisture. Then check your hair during the week to ensure that it isn’t getting dry. A spray bottle with water can be used to top up the moisture of your hair or you can use a leave in conditioner of your choice. Make sure any leave in conditioner you use is water based. Water should be first on the list of ingredients. Some people prefer to use a leave in conditioner especially if they have their hair in a twist out or braid out style. Spraying your hair with water can cause frizz and not allow your style to last as long. I usually just lightly mist my hair and then rub some oil into my hands and pat my hair lightly. It depends on what style my hair is in. If your hair is in twists, you can spray or moisturized more easily. You have to do what works best for you. I think the main rule is to take action if you notice that your hair is getting dry, don’t simply ignore it.
Plastic caps are also good for locking in moisture after lightly misting your hair. You could wear one around the house during the day or to bed at night. You will notice that the moisture has remained in your hair overnight and your hair should feel soft and moist in the morning. Cover your head with a silk or satin scarf or use a satin pillow case. Cotton pillow cases absorb moisture and dry your hair out. Most importantly be aware that moisture comes from within, so don’t forget to drink plenty of water throughout the day.
2. Handle your hair with care
Once your natural hair gets longer you will find that your level of patience must also increase. Afro-textured hair is usually more delicate than Asian or European hair because the strands are finer in diameter, especially around the bends and twists of the strands. Therefore our hair is more prone to breakage with heavy manipulation and rough handling. 4b hair in particular is tightly coiled and every kink, curl and bend presents a potential breaking point. Growing up, I always believed I had ‘tough’ hair because my hair has a thick density. However, I know now that my individual strands are quite fine. According to The Science of Black Hair by Audrey Davis-Sivasothy; medium-sized strands are the same size as a strand of frayed thread. If your strands are thinner than this they are considered to be fine. If your strands are larger than this, then they are thick. I must be extra careful when handling my hair. It’s just isn’t wise to do my hair when I’m in a rush because there will be little broken hairs on my shoulders or on the floor! Be careful when styling your hair and use your fingers as much as possible to detangle, before using a wide tooth comb. Hair should also be handled when damp as it is more pliable in this state. Finally split your hair into sections before styling. This makes it less daunting and allows you to concentrate on one section at a time. This will minimize the damage and breakage from styling and manipulating.
3. Low manipulation and protective styling
Almost every time we style and manipulate our hair there is always the potential for breakage or damage. The aim is to keep this breakage to a minimum. If you have 4b hair, separating your strands through combing, detangling and styling is always risky business. Therefore the less manipulation your hair goes through the less breakage it will experience. Keeping your hair in protective styles or low manipulation styles like buns, twists, braids or updos, will give it days, weeks or months of little to no manipulation. This will give you a break from managing your hair and protect the ends of the hair from damage. It will also help you to retain length, maintain the volume of your hair and reduce tangles and knots. Be aware that leaving your hair in a protective style for too long may cause the shed hair to tangle with the existing hair strands and create more knotting. Also, failing to moisturize your hair while in a protective style, can counteract the benefits of that protective style.
4. Keep your hair stretched
The first time I tried a wash and go I literally washed my hair, raked some gel through it and went to dinner. My hair was completely shrunken, it looked like a TWA. I was happy to have tried a new style but I suffered the next day. My hair was so tangled I thought I would never get it back to normal. Although I tried to remove the knots and tangles with my fingers as carefully as possible, I couldn’t avoid the breakage and damage that occurred as a result. So I realized the importance of keeping my hair stretched. Other hair types may thrive with wash and goes but it is not always the best choice for us 4b girls, considering how tightly coiled our hair is in its most shrunken state. Others hair types may not shrink as much and thus avoid the tangles that result the next day.
Hair can be stretched without using heat simply by putting it in large twists, braids, bantu knots or through banding. Twist-outs, braid–outs and roller sets are also great styles that allow your hair to remain stretched throughout the week. When your hair starts to shrink in between washes, it may be time to take action. Spray it lightly with water (or use your leave in conditioner) and put it in some twists or braids before going to bed, to refresh your style. Even when I wear my hair in a puff I like to put the ends in twists at night so that it is stretched out in the morning before styling my hair again. Otherwise I find that the puff gets flatter and smaller throughout the week as my hair gradually shrinks. This creates more knots and tangles and makes detangling more difficult.
I have since found a better technique of doing wash and gos (see below) but the experience taught me a valuable lesson.
Naptural85 Winter Wash and go technique
Maintaining a Wash and Go
Banding technique for stretching natural hair
5. Trim when needed
It’s simply a myth that trimming your hair helps it to grow, as hair grows from the roots. However, if your ends are split, they will break off eventually anyway. Therefore it is better to remove them yourself as a preventative measure. If you are looking after your ends by keeping them well moisturized and tucked away through protective styling, you will not have to deal with damaged ends as often. Therefore you do not have to trim religiously, regardless of whether it is needed or not. This will simply result in you cutting off perfectly healthy ends and reducing your length for no reason. However, when your ends are damaged, trying to hold on to them can cause more harm than good. This can result in more tangles and knotting and your ends will look see-through and frayed. Hair in this condition does not look very healthy. So in order to avoid more knotting and tangles, difficulty in styling (as your ends are unlikely to hold well) and breaking hair, trim when needed.
6. Limit the use of heat
When I first went natural in my naivety I thought the only way to stretch my hair was to blow dry it. I blow dried it once a week after washing but I wasn’t deep conditioning to prepare it for blow-drying and I certainly wasn’t moisturizing it enough to replace the moisture lost in the process. This affected my length retention and I didn’t achieve the length that I could have. Since refraining from heat, I have retained much more length and noticed the benefits. Blow drying and flat ironing strips your hair of moisture and there is always the risk of heat damage, which is irreversible. I’m not against using heat but it should be limited if you have certain goals for growth and length retention. Try not to rely on heat but use it more as a treat or for when you feel like a change. Learn about the alternative methods of stretching your hair and experiment with them.
Feel free to add any more tips for caring for 4b hair and afro-textured hair in general. You may do things differently for your hair. Share below.
If you haven’t seen part 1 check it out. Here are some more examples of why natural hair is so versatile. It certainly dispels the myth that I had when my hair was relaxed, that you can’t do as much with natural hair. I haven’t covered everything as there are many more styles and techniques I am yet to discover myself. I hope this inspires you and really gets you to explore the different styling options available to you. Of course the beauty of natural hair is that it can be straightened as well. The only difference is that it isn’t permanent (if you take care when doing it). So you can try out all these different styles and still straighten your hair occasionally or wear wigs and weaves. There are many options available to women with natural hair.
This is definitely my back-up style. If all else fails I just put my hair in a puff. I also found this style suitable for work and very convenient to do in the morning. You can cut off the leg of an old pair of tights or pantyhose and use that to put your hair in a puff. Or you could use a stretchy headband. I use the Goody brand. You don’t need to gel your hair back first, you could just use Shea Butter or Aloe Vera gel to smooth your edges.
I haven’t actually tried these myself (curl formers are expensive!) but they show how versatile natural hair is. Check out these tutorials.
Again I never thought it was possible to put natural hair in rollers or rods (I know, silly right?). I thought perhaps natural hair was too thick to stay in the rods and that our natural curl pattern would interfere somehow. Anyway, below is my favourite flexi rod tutorial. These styles would be great for special occasions. Putting your hair in flexi rods or curlformers also helps to stretch out your hair, so you could take advantage of this by doing a twist-out or braid-out afterwards. It will turn out great with stretched hair.
Great for work and formal occasions. There are so many updo styles I can’t list all of them in one post! Below are some of my favourite ones.
High bun (without donut piece)
Grecian inspired French twist
This is one of my favourite protective styles. It is easy and quick to do and lasts for about one week. I can’t really do one big twist all the way around my head so I do two on either side. Check out the tutorial below.
Cornrows and Flat Twists
These are great for protective styles and when you are transitioning. I have started cornrowing my hair and it is a skill I really want to develop. I believe it is a skill that will come in handy when you have children. YouTube is great for learning how to cornrow and flat twist. Below is a picture of a style I achieved through following a tutorial. The video taught me how to section my hair before cornrowing. Although it was a style done one a child’s hair, I thought I’d give it a go, and I was happy with the results. Unfortunately that YouTube account has since been closed.
If you are feeling really creative natural hair is so versatile you could try out all sorts of styles with cornrows and flat twists. You can even create your own styles when you become really good at it. Who knows what you could come up with? All it takes is practice and creativity and you could practically learn anything with YouTube
This style is great for going on holiday or for when you miss your hair resting on the back of your neck. Mini twists are a good low manipulation style, meaning that once they are done you can leave your hair alone for a while. I usually try to keep them in for a month. You can wash and deep condition your hair in mini twists and you can curl them and try out different styles. Check out Naptural85’s tutorials and styling ideas on mini twists.
No explanation needed.
I hope this has been helpful. Share your favourite hair styling ideas here and anything I may have missed. I’m sure there is a lot more to discover.