This week in Beauty School is an exciting one! With the launch of our new Dear Black Girl 4C hair kit, we’re going deep into the many ways to show a little tender love and care to one of the least represented hair types out there. Our first topic of conversation? Co-washing. We’re breaking down what it means, how to do it, and why it could make or break the health of natural hair!
WE ARE SO, SO EXCITED TO ANNOUNCE #DEARBLACKGIRL: THE ULTIMATE 4C HAIR KIT!
This kit is so incredibly special to us. We wanted to create something for girls who’ve had trouble finding products that actually work for them, for girls who have struggled to feel represented, who want to see themselves celebrated and appreciated. Dear Black Girl, this is for YOU!!
CAN WE JUST TAKE A SECOND TO ACKNOWLEDGE HOW BEAUTIFUL 4C HAIR IS?
Its texture is gorgeous and it is so amazingly versatile. Because 4c hair is super unique, we created some unique products tailored specifically to nourish and treat 4c hair! Each ingredient was chosen to moisturize and strengthen 4c hair, and encourage healthy hair growth!
WHAT IS 4C HAIR?
On the curly hair spectrum chart, 4c hair is the last (and ultimate tbh) type of curly hair. It has super tight kinks and coils, is relatively dry by nature, and usually doesn’t have an obvious curl pattern without any product. 4c hair is the most sensitive of all hair types and requires a lot of moisture and maintenance to avoid breakage. With 4c hair, it’s important to use products that don’t have harsh chemicals that can strip the hair. Finding a balance of protein and moisture is the goal for keeping 4c hair healthy, shiny, and breakage free.
LET’S TALK CO-WASHING…
This term has been thrown around for some time now and if you’re in the natural hair community, I’m sure you know exactly what it means. For some of us though, it’s still a mystery. It’s a really simple concept that even people without 4c hair can adopt. Co-washing is simply washing your hair with conditioner. No shampoo. Just conditioner. Shampoo is usually full of stuff we shouldn’t be putting anywhere near our bodies, let alone our hair–lots of sulfates, parabens, silicones….just things that are going to strip and suffocate the hair. Conditioner can have these things too, but the whole purpose of conditioner, to begin with, is to condition the hair. That is, add moisture. Co-washing is great for natural hair since it can get rid of buildup, dirt, and oil without stripping the hair dry. There are a ton of co-washing conditioners on the market.
WHY IS CO-WASHING SO IMPORTANT FOR 4C HAIR?
Co-washing natural hair is super beneficial for maintenance. Since 4c hair tends to be prone to dryness and breakage, co-washing adds nourishing moisture that helps keep the hair’s cuticle strong. It also helps reduce shrinkage (if you have curly hair you know the struggle) and increase length retention. If you dye your natural hair, co-washing can help keep it healthy and strong in between color touch-ups, which use harsh chemicals. Split ends will no longer be an issue and the hair will be way more manageable and easy to style. Co-washing is also super beneficial for natural hair that’s transitioning. It keeps brittleness at bay and can keep transitioning hair healthy, making the process that much easier. Natural hair requires a lot of maintenance and product to keep it manageable and easier to style. Co-washing is a great way to keep natural hair healthy and nourished, while also cleaning out buildup, without stripping the hair of its natural oils. The greatest thing about it is that all curly types can benefit from co-washing, it’s just a matter of finding the right co-wash conditioner for you.
HOW TO CO-WASH 4C HAIR
The steps to this method, of course, depend on the length and condition of your hair. If you’re new to the process of co-washing or are transitioning your hair, you should try following these 5 steps to get into the swing of things.
Wet your hair. You want the hair to be completely saturated and ready for conditioner before adding the co-wash. Make sure the water is warm (not hot!!) to open up the cuticle a bit since 4c hair tends to be lower porosity. This will open the hair cuticle just enough to let moisture in without being too open that it just slips through without any of the benefits. It’ll also help the co-wash penetrate deeper.
*Pro tip: Section off the hair (especially if it’s super thick or long) to make this process easier. With kinky and curly hair textures, you’ll find that doing pretty much everything in sections makes for much smoother washing, styling, etc.
STEP 2: APPLY CONDITIONER
This step is a chance to feel out the best method for applying the co-wash depending on the length, texture, and overall condition of the hair. You want to make sure that every strand is covered in conditioner, so start by sectioning the hair into smaller, more manageable sections. This will allow you to apply the right amount of conditioner to every part of your hair, which allows it to get all the TLC it needs.
To get the most benefits out of co-washing and prevent further damage, opt for a conditioner without silicones, parabens and other icky ingredients. These things can actually build up on the hair and make you think your hair is moisturized when really you have a layer of silicones sitting on the hair shaft, and moisture from water and products can’t get in. Look for clean products to avoid this super common problem.
STEP 3: DETANGLE
This might give you war flashbacks of sitting between your mom’s legs as a little girl while she tried to detangle and style your hair. Detangling is intimidating, especially for coarser hair types. This allows the conditioner to really be worked through every. Single. Strand. Our advice is to stay away from combs and brushes and to stick with detangling with your fingers. This way, you’re a bit more gentle with it and it prevents you from ripping the hair from the root, which can be bad for the follicles. Brushes and combs tend to snag, creating breakage. Finger detangling loosens the curls softly and allows the natural curl pattern to become more prominent.
*Pro tip: you might find that detangling in the shower is a bit difficult. If that’s the case, try pre-pooing and detangling during that stage. It makes a huge difference and there’s not too much work to do once you get in the shower.
STEP 4: RINSE (AND MAYBE REPEAT)
Leave the co-wash on for 10 to 15 minutes so it can really get to work on your hair. Rinse it out with warm water and if you feel like you need to, you can re-section the hair and reapply the co-wash for another 5 to 10 minutes. A double co-wash could be beneficial to super damaged or dry natural hair. If you’re transitioning and getting moisture back into your hair is a major concern, consider doubling up on conditioner. Your hair will be extra clean and manageable.
STEP 5: RINSE ONE LAST TIME
Whether you’ve applied the co-wash once or twice, the last rinse is super important. Make sure to rinse all of the conditioner with warm water, switching it to cold water at the very end to seal the cuticle and lock in the moisture and shine. After rinsing, always always always use a cotton t-shirt or microfiber towel to dry the hair. Terry cloth towels create frizz and breakage and we don’t want that for our curls anymore! Seriously, every time I see a curly YouTube guru use a terry cloth towel to dry their hair, I cringe. Cotton t’s work just fine to absorb excess moisture. Make sure the hair is damp before styling or applying any products.
SOME TIPS FOR CO-WASHING NATURAL HAIR
If you’re wondering how often to co-wash your hair, it really depends on the state of your hair and your lifestyle. As a general rule of thumb, try to co-wash once a week to maintain healthy, natural hair.
You can apply oils to the hair right after co-washing. Adding oil as a leave-in will create a seal for the hair and provides more concentrated moisturizing benefits. Try applying coconut oil to the ends to nourish them if they’re split, or Jamaican black castor oil to the scalp to stimulate growth and enhance thickness.
Make sure the hair isn’t soaking wet when you go into styling. This makes it harder to work with. And please, don’t dry your hair with a terry cloth towel!
When picking a co-wash conditioner, it doesn’t necessarily have to be one that’s labeled “co-wash.” It really can be any conditioner that’s free of harmful ingredients that will strip the hair and cause further dryness. Make sure it’s free of sulfates, parabens, phthalates, and silicones. All these ingredients do is suffocate and strip away oils, leaving your hair squeaky (it literally squeaks) clean without any of the good stuff.