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How to wash 4c hair

How to wash 4c hair

If you are new to this site, then you may not know that I am German. Yes, I was born and raised in Germany, but my parents are from the D.R. of Congo, which means my hair is as 4c as it gets. 

Unfortunately, due to the location of my upbringing, I did not grow up having a lot of black beauty stores to my availability. The choice of black hair products was very scarce and included mostly chemical relaxers and the infamous pink conditioners. 

That’s it. 

This meant that until I was way past my mid 20’s I did not learn how to take care of my natural hair. 

I didn’t know the do’s and don’ts of natural hair care and always struggled to grow my 4c hair. Hence, why once I started learning, I decided it was time to share that knowledge with all my 4c hair sisters out there. 

And one of the most basic pieces of information that we need to share is how to wash 4c hair correctly. Knowing how to clean and moisturize your hair is so important and yet many of us don’t know-how. 

In this post, you will learn how to wash your 4c hair to foster optimal growth and care. 

How many times a week should you wash 4C hair?

Okay, why not start with the most complicated topic first: “How often should 4C hair be washed?”.

Now the reason why this question is such a hot topic for black women is that everybody will tell you something different. 

While some women swear you should only wash your hair once a month, others prefer twice a month. And if you grew up in an African household, chances are high you only used to wash your hair when it started itching. 

So, how many times a week should you wash 4c hair? The official answer is, you should wash 4c hair with shampoo every other week. 

Get it? 

The rule of thumb has become that 4c hair should be shampoo-washed every two weeks while co-washing your natural hair on off-weeks. 

That way you avoid using shampoos, which are prone to harm your hair, while still getting all the necessary nutrients and moisture weekly.

How to wash 4c hair

As you may know by now, keeping your hair moisturized is the most important step of growing healthy and long 4c hair. Our hair is naturally dry and therefore needs a lot of outside moisture. 

Of course, the best way to do that is by implementing a natural hair-washing routine that provides your hair with all the good nutrients. 

Lucky for you I’m sharing my complete wash day routine for short 4c hair below.


Steps to washing natural hair

Step 1: Separate your 4c hair into sections

I recently started separating my hair into sections whenever I wash it. Now that it has grown and it takes me longer to detangle it, separating it makes it easier to get to every part of the hair. 

I usually create four sections that allow me to be more effective and penetrate the hair better. When you section up your hair, you can twist or braid your hair strands. Doing that will help you avoid creating more tangles once you shampoo it.

Step 2: Pre-poo your 4c hair

Pre-pooing your natural hair is probably the most underrated step in most black women’s natural hair-wash routine. And I had to do a lot of research before I took it more seriously myself. 

In essence, the reason why we pre-poo 4c hair is to apply a protective layer to your hair before you use shampoo. Because many shampoos will strip your hair of its moisture and most conditioners are not enough to restore that moisture, pre-poo-ing is a good way to lock in that moisture. 

In addition, using a pre-poo treatment helps you to detangle your hair a lot easier than after it’s washed.

So, what can you use to pre-poo? You can use a simple conditioner to pre-poo your hair. However, I like to use rice water or aloe vera. Both, include nutrients I usually don’t get by using my 4c hair products.

Step 3: Pre-detangle your hair

The next step in my wash day routine for natural hair is to pre-detangle it. Now that your hair is lubricated from the pre-poo product it is easier to slightly detangle your hair with your fingers

This is a smart step for girls with very coarse hair because it helps to get out any tangles before using shampoo.

Step 4: Shampoo your hair

Finally, we have arrived at the first step that makes sense in a hair-wash routine. But it’s true, shampooing your hair is not the first thing you should do, as you can tell from the prior 3 steps. 

However, once you get here it’s important to understand that shampoo is not for the hair but to cleanse your scalp. The goal is to remove all the product residue from your scalp.

In addition, make sure you utilize a shampoo without sulfates or parabens.

Step 5: Deep-condition your 4c hair 

Deep-conditioning your 4c hair is the most important step in your entire wash-day routine for 4c hair. No matter what your hair type is, deep conditioning is important. That is when you add all the nutrients and moisture that your hair needs. 

A good deep-conditioner will improve your hair’s manageability, appearance, and how it feels. And in addition, it will boost and strengthen the moisture and protein on your hair strands.

You can use hair masks or deep-condition treatments for this step. 

Step 6: Steam your 4c hair

As you might have noticed, I did not say to rinse out the deep-conditioner in the last step. And the reason for that is that you want to leave the deep-conditioner in for at least 30 minutes. 

And for even better results you want to steam your 4c hair

By adding heat and moisture to the routine, you open up your hair cuticles and better penetrate the hair. Which means more moisture is applied. 

Now, this step is more or less optional. Rather than steaming your hair, you can use a hooded hair dryer cap or simply leave it in your conditioner for 1-2 hours. What is important is that the deep-conditioner gets to penetrate your hair cuticles for a while.

Step 7: Detangle your 4c hair

After you rinsed out the deep conditioner, you want to detangle your natural hair while it is still soaked. That is important, as 4c hair is much easier to detangle while it is still wet. For that, you can use your fingers, a wide-tooth comb, or a detangling brush that works for you. 

Make sure you are gentle and take your time, as this is the step that will determine whether you retain your hair growth or not. 

Now, these 7 steps conclude how to wash 4c hair, however, there are three more that help you wrap up wash day completely.

steps to washing natural hair

What to do after washing natural hair

Step 8: T-shirt dry your 4c hair

This step is rather short, but I figured it’s worth mentioning still. After you are done rinsing out the deep conditioner you must use a t-shirt to dry your hair rather than a towel. 

Because of its fabric, towels tend to create friction with your hair and therefore break off the hair ends. That’s why using a t-shirt or a microfiber towel is much better for your 4c hair.

Step 9: Apply moisture to your 4c hair using the L.O.C. method

If you have been reading any other posts on this blog, then you know that I am a fan of the L.O.C. method. It’s a method that helps you apply and retain moisture on your hair. I write about it in detail here. 

You want to start with a leave-in conditioner of your choice, then add oil to your scalp, and finally lock the moisture in using a cream. This step will ensure maximum hydration and keep your hair healthy for several days.

Step 10: Style your hair in a protective style

Wash day does not end until your hair ends are securely tucked away in a protective style. Of course, you can choose from several different protective styles, but very common ones are twists or braids.

Once your hair is in a protective style you are officially done!

Is water bad for 4c hair?

Now on to a few myths about washing 4c hair that we need to dismantle. 

Did anybody else grow up thinking that water damages your hair? If so, welcome to the club. My mother used to tell me that washing my 4c hair every day was bad, which I believed. Meaning that I would avoid getting my hair wet at all costs. 

Turns out water is not bad for your hair! 

Contrary to common belief our 4c hair needs to be hydrated, and water is the source of that hydration. However, that doesn’t mean you should wash your natural hair every day. But simply wet/moisturize it.

You have to create a natural hair regimen that will keep your hair moisturized for days after wash day and only require minimal work in-between. I share a few tips on how to do that in this post. 

how to wash 4c hair without shrinkage

Is it bad to wet natural hair every day?

As mentioned before, wetting your hair every day is not harmful to your hair. Depending on your hair porosity it may be very much needed. 

A good way to wet your hair every day and provide some moisture if your hair feels dry is by using a spray bottle. Simply fill it with some water or a mix of water and leave-in conditioner and spray it onto your hair. 

That will keep your ends from becoming brittle and breaking. 

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Monday 17th of October 2022

Thank you! I needed this refresher as I am growing out my hair, after wearing it cropped for several years.


Tuesday 18th of October 2022

Glad it helped!


Friday 11th of February 2022

Iā€™m confused when it comes to my hair porosity. I did the test with cold water and my snaked to the bottom in less than a seconds. I did it with warm water and it was floating. Can you help me understand it. Thank you