Of all the hair types, 4C has the tightest curl pattern — it grows in a tight coil that resembles a Z. When it comes to taking care of 4C hair, according to Michelle Dixon, a hairstylist at the Chicago-based Maxine Salon, there are two important things to remember: keeping it moisturized and making sure the ends are trimmed. It’s also vital to remember, she says, that curl pattern isn’t the only determining factor when it comes to assessing what products your hair will respond best to: It’s also important to consider thickness, density, and porosity, and to keep in mind that one head of hair can often include a wide range of textures. All of this basically just means that it might take trying a few different products and methods before you figure out what works best. One way to hasten that process is to find someone who has a similar texture to yours, and see what works best for them.
We spoke with eight stylists and hair influencers who have 4C hair about the very best products and tools for taking care of 4C hair — from the brush almost every single person recommends to the macadamia-infused gelée that one hairstylist says manages to hold curls without making them crunchy.
Best shampoos for 4C hair
All of the stylists we spoke to agreed that sulfate-free shampoo is a must, as sulfates can be stripping and drying on the hair. While this is relevant for all hair textures, it’s even more important with 4C hair, which is particularly prone to dryness and tangling. Hairstylist and owner of Magic Fingers Studio Stasha M. Harris likes this one from Design Essentials, which she says makes caring for 4C hair “a breeze.” “It cleanses all buildup as well as softens the texture,” she says, which, paired with the accompanying conditioner, makes it easy to detangle and prevents breakage when combing through your hair.
For 4C hair, Dixon recommends shampooing every other week, to help offset the dryness that can come with shampooing more frequently. When wash day comes, she recommends this shampoo from Oribe, which she uses on herself and her clients. Infused with amino acids and panthenol (this helps to hydrate and condition), it’s formulated to help combat damaged hair, but works well to impart an extra dose of moisture into 4C strands.
If you want to wash your hair more frequently, Dixon recommends using a cleansing cream like this one during the weeks you aren’t using shampoo to help maintain moisture. “It has lemon and orange (natural astringents), and caffeine to help stimulate the scalp and balance the natural oils,” she says, noting that ingredients like coconut oil and artichoke-leaf extract (rich in vitamin A, B, and C) help to replenish moisture and soften the hair.
For a more affordable option, Dixon likes this shampoo from TGIN, which she says is “high quality, but affordable.” Another sulfate-free shampoo, it contains aloe vera, which cleanses hair without stripping its natural oils. It also has vitamin B5, a go-to ingredient for reducing breakage and adding even more moisture to hair.