Type 4 hair is notoriously fragile, and it's no secret that fragility leads to breakage. But contrary to popular belief, type 4 hair is incredibly strong and versatile — if you have the right tools and products to back you up. That's why I put together a list of the best type 4 hair products and tools for those in search of strength, growth, and a life void of tangles.
Before I began making my own hair products, I searched endlessly for products that would retain long-lasting moisture and prevent flaky build-up in my tight curls, and it was a long, hard search, especially when some products targeted towards afro-textured hair are still carrying a ton of "hair baggage." Parabens and sulfates still run rampant, and they will straight-up run amok in type 4 hair by stripping the scalp of its ability to produce its own moisture.
Making hair products isn't as easy as it looks — it takes research, trial and error, and a helluva lot of patience to concoct a prescription for your hair, and I know not everyone has that time. TBH, I barely have the time, and making my own hair tools is a laughable notion. Fortunately, when I don't have a few hours to knock out a hair science project, I can fall back on a few favorite hair products for type 4 curls to keep my tresses looking as fly as the natural 'dos in Bey's Lemonade.
1. Prevent Moisture Loss With Organic Botanical Formula
Giovanni Direct Leave-In Conditioner, $9, Amazon
After my big chop, Giovanni's leave-in formula was the first successful purchase I made for my natural hair. I was awkwardly perusing a hair supply store when a beautiful large afro approached me and gently touched my hair, saying, "You should try Giovanni's Leave-In, it's perfect for your texture." Whoever that man was, his words continue to save my hair on the reg. This leave-in conditioner is so light, you may worry it's not heavy enough for type 4 hair, but trust, its organic botanical formula seals in moisture and has substantial detangling abilities.
2. Avoid Curl Shrinkage With Hydrating Silk Proteins
Shea Moisture Coconut Hibiscus Hold & Shine Daily Moisture Mist, $11, Amazon
One thing I've learned about Shea Moisture is that their hair products are no joke. If Shea Moisture says "Hold & Shine" you better believe it's going to hold and shine. This is ideal for Type 4 hair, as it's prone to shrinkage, and this product will weigh down the curls enough to avoid premature shrinking after a blowout or twist out. (But be careful: A little bit goes a long way!)
3. Save Yourself Time (And Sore Fingers) By Detangling With Double Rows
Ouidad Double Detangler Comb, $21, Amazon
I have been finger-detangling for years — and it also feels like it takes me years to detangle when using my digits. This comb has made my kinky dreams come true. The double rows of teeth prevent curls from springing back and re-tangling, and the long teeth will reach the densest part of your curls. During detangling, the double detangler comb has become my finger's personal assistant, saving me time and sore fingers.
4. Keep Chemicals From Damaging Hair With Organic Jojoba & Aloe Mix
Aubrey Organics Jojoba & Aloe Desert Herb Revitalizing Conditioner, $17, Amazon
At this hair juncture in my life, this is the only conditioner I purchase in lieu of making one myself. First off, the smell of Aubrey Organics is so natural and refreshing, you'll never go back to conditioners that smell like chemicals. This conditioner, and many others by AO, can double as a leave-in. With the right sealant, it should leave type 4 tresses feeling silky smooth for the entire week.
5. Prevent Hair From Becoming Dehydrated By Sealing It With Unrefined Coconut Oil
COCOMD 100% Raw Coconut Oil, $20, Amazon
Speaking of having the right sealant, coconut oil has been sealing in the moisture of afro-textured hair for thousands of years. This is one of the few fixed oils that are both conditioning and moisturizing, making it an especially effective hair sealant. Coconut oil has properties to promote hair growth, restore moisture, and reverse damage, but only if you purchase oil that hasn't been compromised. Look for brands like this one, which have unrefined, organic oil that hasn't been processed with heat to keep the integrity of the coconut alive in your curls.
6. Avoid Direct Heat Damage With Gentle Steam Cap To Improve Elasticity
Cordless Deep Conditioning and Hot Oil Treatment Thermal Steam Heat Cap , $45, Amazon
If you've ever had a facial steam, you know they are infamous for stimulating pores. This steam cap sends moisture to the cuticle of your hair, and according to sources at Naturally Curly, hair steaming can improve the elasticity of hair while moisturizing and conditioning. However, putting direct heat on type 4 can promote dryness and increase the fragility of individual strands. This steam cap is a happy medium — gentle, and way more affordable than a hair steamer.
7. Don't Let Product Build Up In Curls — Tea Tree Offers Deeper Cleanse
Tea Tree Triple Treat Shampoo By Giovanni, $20, Amazon
Before I ditched 'poo for good, Giovanni's tea tree shampoo was my go-to method for cleansing my scalp and removing oily build-up from my coily curls. This clarifying shampoo is great for type 4 hair because it's pH formulated and incredibly gentle on type 4 strands. Tea tree is great for controlling oil and removing build-up on the scalp. This 'poo has plenty of healthy ingredients for your tresses without the parabens, sulfates, and phthalates.
8. Avoid Damaging Delicate Curls With Smooth Detangling Brush
Cricket Ultra Smooth Detangling Brush, $10, Amazon
While type 4 hair comes with its own set of problems, it also comes with loads of perks too. Being able to rock a fluffy, textured afro that blows gently in the wind and quickly finds its place is high on my list of type 4 perks. This detangling brush by Cricket has afforded me many afro hair days without losing a bunch of hair. Brushing on dry hair isn't ideal; however, many with type 4 hair find the wetter the hair, the more delicate and prone to breakage the hair becomes. This brush has never failed me, whether I'm brushing on dry or wet hair.
9. Detangle Curls Without Greasy Build-up Using Avocado Oil
NOW 100% Pure Avocado Oil, $12, Amazon
When you detangle (whether it’s finger, brush, or comb), it’s always a good idea to accept a helping hand from Mother Nature. Avocado oil is an excellent detangler and it’s perfect for those days when you want to add some moisture while you detangle. This one's formula lubricates your scalp and locks without adding the greasy build-up of heavier oils, and many find the light texture of avocado oil penetrates deep into the hair shaft. When you find a pure form of avocado oil, like this one, you reap the benefits and enhance your type 4 hair styling.
10. Stop Letting Water Escape By Incorporating A Nourishing Vitamin E Formula Into Your Routine
Ouidad Moisture Lock Leave-in Conditioner, $46, Amazon
Water is essential for hair growth and strength, but type 4 curls tend to need a little extra help retaining moisture. Ouidad’s leave-in conditioning formula provides a foundation for moisture to stay in each individual strand of hair. Made with prickly pear seed oil (cactus), it has serious hydration skills that will combat frizz, excessive dryness, and breakage.
11. Instead of Leaving Super-Dry Hair Open to Damage, Work In Olive Oil & Mango Butter
Elasta QP Leave-In Conditioner, Olive Oil/Mango Butter , $9, Amazon
It may seem as if there aren’t enough leave-in conditioners for type 4 hair, but as it turns out, there are plenty of high quality formulas to choose from! Elasta QP’s leave-in conditioner with olive oil and mango butter is amazing for hair that’s incredibly thirsty and suffering damage. It’s definitely hefty enough for 4C hair, but often damaged hair needs a bit more umph in its products. Plus, this leave-in gets bonus points for being affordable and smoothing frizz.
12. Don't Forget to Deep Treat — Cocoa Seed Butter Encourages Natural Texture
Deva Curl Heaven in Hair , $28, Amazon
This deep conditioner will definitely keep your scalp and tresses feeling moisturized, rich in emollients, and free of excessive toxins that strips afro-textured hair of moisture and texture. Deva Curl’s moisturizing treatment is a hydrating formula that type 4 hair will guzzle up. Whether your type 4 curls are processed or flowing naturally, a little dollop of this deep conditioner will actually feel like heaven in your hair.
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Image: Scarlett Lillian (1); Amazon.com (11); Ouidad (1)