How Often Should You Wash 4C Hair? (With Sample Wash Routines)

Margaret Muthee4C Hair CareLeave a Comment

How often should you wash 4C hair

4C hair should be Shampoo-washed once or twice a month and Co-washed in between. Shampooing is important in maintaining a clean and healthy scalp. However, washing your 4c hair with shampoo too often strips the hair of its natural oils and moisture which may lead to damage. Therefore it is recommended that you limit exposure to shampoo.

Shampoo Washing 4C hair – When and how often to shampoo your hair is totally personal and will vary depending on lifestyle, personal preference and many other factors but if you want to retain length, while maintaining a clean scalp, then limit your exposure to shampoo but ensure you keep the scalp clean by co-washing (conditioner washing). As such, 4C hair should be mindfully shampooed. Remember to choose a sulphate free moisturizing shampoo and finish off with a conditioning treatment.

Co-washing 4C hair – Co-washing is the processes of washing hair using a conditioner. If you are not wearing a long-term protective style, then it is recommended you co-wash your hair in between the shampoo washes. This will help you minimize exposure to shampoo while ensuring that your scalp is kept clean.

Below are two sample wash routines that you can consider if you have 4C hair:

  1. Shampooing twice a month– Week 1: Shampoo wash, Week 2: Co-wash, Week 3: Co-wash, Week 4: Shampoo wash and then repeat the cycle.
  2. Shampooing once a month: Week 1: Co-wash, Week 2: Co-wash, Week 3: Co-wash, Week 4: Shampoo wash and then repeat the cycle.

I have been using the second routine (shampooing once a month) on my 4C hair and my hair absolutely loves this routine!. Feel free to adjust the routine, with natural hair it’s about experimenting until you find what works best for you.  

Why should 4C hair be shampooed less frequently?

Being able to distinguish your hair characteristics is an important aspect in considering how to best care for it. 4C hair has a densely packed curl pattern which assumes the z shape. These features make the hair prone to breakage, dryness and shrinkage of up to 75%. It is the most fragile of all hair types and should therefore be gently handled. Due to its delicate nature 4C hair needs tender love and attention. Due to the above characteristics, 4C hair should not be shampooed too often. Shampooing or washing too often strips 4C hair of all moisture.

How to wash 4C hair: Step by Step Guide

1. Prepare for washing (Pre-poo)

You’ve probably experienced that dry frizzy feel on hair after shampoo washing. Pre-poo, short for pre-shampooing, is the process of treating your hair with oil or conditioner or a mix of both in preparation of shampooing. The process is mainly performed in order to strengthen the hair from the stripping effects of the shampooing process.

Pre-poo has a wide range of benefits.  Shampoo washing stresses your hair due to the manipulation. It strips the hair off its natural oils and alters its natural PH. Pre-poo is important as it protects the hair from the dry frizzy effect that would normally come about after a shampoo wash. The oils used during the pre-poo process help in making the hair manageable during the washing process.  The detangling process can also strip the hair off some strands. However, with a pre-poo process, the hair is easily more manageable.

How to pre-poo 4C-hair

  1. Divide the hair into manageable sections using your fingers.
  2. Coat each section of damp hair and scalp with the Pre-poo treatment you are using.
  3. Loosely twist or braid each completed section.
  4. Cover the hair and let it sit between 1hr to overnight. If you are leaving it in for a short time, to reap maximum benefits wear a heat bonnet or cover with a plastic cap before adding a fabric cover.
  5. Proceed to wash hair normally. Be sure to clean the oil used well to prevent its accumulation on your hair follicles consequently leading to bacterial and fungal infections which lead to dandruff. 

2. Finger detangle using a conditioner

Finger detangling is the process of using your fingers to gently remove the knots and tangles in your hair untangling or rearranging hair just as you would with comb. Finger detangling is especially important in 4C hair because of the tight coils that tend to tangle up very easily.

1. To start the process, you must first lightly mist your hair with water or a liquid moisturizer of your choice.  Moisturizing your hair prepares your strands for manipulation, by reducing the opportunity for breakage during the process.

2. Gently divide your hair into small sections.  You will work through each section one at a time until the detangling process is complete.   Working with small sections ensures that you do not get overwhelmed.

 3. Starting at the ends of your hair, slowly separate the sections untangling the strands and removing shed hair as you go.  When you encounter any knots, slowly and carefully remove each strand attached to the knot until either the knot gives way completely or until it cannot be reduced any further.  If you’re left with a smaller knot, take out your hair scissors and snip the hairs as close to the knot as possible, so that you can preserve as much of the length of the strand that you can.

3. Use a gentle sulfate free shampoo

Sulphate free shampoos cleanse your hair without stripping it off all its moisture. These shampoos are gentler on the hair and retain the much needed moisture and especially for 4c hair which loses moisture too quickly.

4. Wash in sections

Washing your hair can feel like a tedious process especially for those with long curly hair. Here are 4 reasons why washing in section is better that dealing with a head full of hair, all at once:

  1.  Washing your 4C hair in sections ensures that you clean throughout as opposed to the overall wash which could leave some parts unclean.
  2. This method of washing gives you more access to the scalp and allows you to pay more attention to it than you otherwise would. 
  3. Washing in sections also allows you to easily manage your mane. It further helps in reducing the tangles caused by washing.
  4. Additionally, by washing your 4C hair in sections, you end up using less shampoo or product than you otherwise would.

Simply divide your hair into sections.  You can section it off with duck billed clips or by twisting up the sections. Wash each individual section paying attention to the scalp and ensuring that you reach all strands of hair. Repeat this for other sections.

5. Condition after washing

Conditioning helps your hair maintain that healthy and lustrous look.

  • After washing, section the hair and apply the conditioner. Do not be afraid of being generous with the product. 
  • Apply thoroughly through the sections. Focus on the ends as they need extra attention.
  • Detangle your hair using your fingers as you work the product through the hair.
  • After you are done, wrap your hair in a plastic cap.
  • Leave the conditioner on for about 30 minutes then rinse with warm water.
  • Use a t-shirt to dry your hair. Once damp, apply your product and style.

6. Lock in the moisture using the LOC method

LOC (Liquid, Oil, Cream) Method is a technique for moisturizing hair. It consists of hydrating the hair with water based product which is the liquid, sealing in the moisture with oil then applying a cream product to close the hair cuticle thus preventing moisture loss. 4c hair has a low porosity.

How do you know it’s time for a wash?

Here are the factors to consider when deciding when to wash your hair.

1. You are itching too much

An itchy scalp is an indication that all is not well with your hair. If you have not been diagnosed with a skin condition like Psoriasis, have no dandruff issues, and are using all the right products, an itchy scalp could indicate that you have a product build up and your scalp cannot breath from the clogged up pores. One of the most effective treatments of an itchy scalp is a thorough shampoo scrub to remove loose and scaly skin.

2. You have taken down a protective styles that has stayed for a while

Natural hair styles keep evolving. Currently, there is a wide variety of protective hair styles for natural hair.  When you’ve taken down a protective style that has stayed for too long, it is important to wash it thoroughly to ensure that you get rid of dirt and open up clogged pores.

3. Your hair has product build-up

In most cases, product build up leads to excess oiliness on the scalp and clogged hair follicles which in turn lead to itching. Hair with product build up should be thoroughly cleaned.

4. You sweat a lot

You do not necessarily need to shampoo your hair after a sweaty work out. However, a hair rinse, exfoliation by rubbing your fingers through the hair and on the scalp can help remove build up, salt and dirt.

Key tips to remember on washing 4C Hair

In summary, here are the things you need to remember about washing your 4C hair

  1. Due to the structure of 4C hair, the hair tend to dry out fast and there limit exposure to shampoos as they often strip off moisture from the hair
  2. As you space out the shampoo wash, keep your scalp clean by co-washing
  3. Use a gentle shampoo that is designed for natural 4C hair
  4. After experimenting, develop a simple routine that matches well with your lifestyle and be consistent
How often should you wash 4C hair

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