Washing your hair is often seen as something so simple that it doesn’t require a lot of instructions. And while it is an easy process with respect to applying shampoo and conditioner and slathering it on wet strands, there’s more to it for those with curly and kinky hair, like 4B hair types. It can feel like many lessons around shampooing hair — including how often you should shampoo — are typically for those with straight hair that needs to be washed every other day, or even daily.
However, coily hair types need a more dedicated routine to manage dryness, shrinkage, and low porosity. Within those coily hair types is 4B hair, which deserves its own guide to hair washing. With that in mind, keep reading to learn how to properly wash your 4B hair, plus discover the right products and detailed wash day instructions for the healthiest mane possible.
What is 4B Hair?
Before diving into the specifics of how to wash 4B hair, you’ll want to confirm that this is your curl pattern. Among the hair types (1A to 4C), 4B hair has the second curliest hair pattern and has a zig-zag shape that differs from the “S” shape curl of looser curl types. Rather than appearing as curved ringlets, this hair type looks bent, almost crimped, in style with micro coils making up the strand.
You may notice that your 4B hair looks longer when it’s wet or stretched out but appears short when it’s dry. This is because 4B hair is very prone to hair shrinkage, meaning wet hair will begin to reduce in size as it dries, resembling tight coils. You’ll most likely lose a few inches in length but be rewarded with the voluminous bouncy hair that this type is known for.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), thick, curly hair is prone to dryness since the natural oils from the scalp aren’t able to travel down the strand as easily as it does on straight hair. Since 4B hair is one of the extremely curly hair types, it will naturally feel dry and require constant moisture. Additionally, this hair type is most likely to have low porosity, meaning hair takes longer to saturate strands with water and has trouble retaining moisture. This all results in the need for a hair care routine with ample moisturize while avoiding overwashing.
How Often Should 4B Hair Be Washed?
For the most part, 4B hair should be washed once a week or every two weeks, but this will vary from person to person. How often you wash your hair will depend on factors like the environment and hair care products you use. If you live in a climate where there’s a lot of smoke pollution or hot weather that leaves you sweaty often, you may wash your hair more regularly to rid strands of impurities like dirt, smoke, sweat, and oil.
Additionally, if you’re using heavy hair care products that flood your scalp, you may need to wash hair more often to tackle buildup. In general, you’ll want to wash your 4B hair whenever you get the urge to scratch incessantly at your scalp. This could be a sign that your hair and scalp are dealing with a lot of product buildup and need a wash day.
How to Wash 4B Hair
Step 1. Add Moisture with a Pre-Poo TreatmentStart your wash-day routine by adding a moisturizing hair treatment before cleansing your mane. Pre-poo treatments are a great way to strengthen, protect, and detangle hair before lathering tresses with a shampoo. Treatments like Goddess Strength Ultra Shield Pre-Poo with Castor Oil for Curly Hair infuse hair with a protective layer of moisture to prevent breakage and minimize dehydration that shampooing may bring.
Before stepping in the shower, section your hair and saturate 4B hair from root to tip with this creamy hair treatment. Your hair will appreciate the formulation of castor oil, black cumin seed oil, and ginger that help hair absorb and retain moisture. Allow your dry, unwashed hair to soak in all the nourishing ingredients for 10 minutes before thoroughly rinsing hair in the shower. For a more effective treatment, cover your hair with a shower cap to lock in the moisture.
Step 2. Eliminate Residue with ShampooSaturate your 4B hair with water for 45 seconds to a minute, depending on your hair’s porosity level. If you have low porosity (which is common for 4B hair) it may take longer to soak your hair. Just make sure your hair is dripping wet all over before applying shampoo for the most effective lathering and cleansing session.
Section your hair in four parts (or more if you have long hair) for intentional shampoo application and apply your hair wash of choice to your scalp only. Allow your shampoo to lather at the scalp before bringing the suds down the length of your hair to cleanse the hair at the ends. Your scalp can handle direct shampoo application since it’ll be oilier than your length which tends to get dehydrated.
Use a sulfate-free shampoo like Goddess Strength Fortifying Shampoo with Castor Oil which won’t strip hair of the natural oils it needs while cleansing hair of impurities like dirt, oil, and product buildup. This shampoo moisturizes hair while it cleanses to minimize breakage and strengthen hair.
If you’re rocking a protective style (like box braids or locs) or have gone a few weeks without shampooing, reach for a micellar water shampoo like Wash Day Delight Sulfate Free Shampoo for Curly Hair for deeper cleaning. This water-to-foam hair wash offers precise scalp cleansing with the pointed nozzle tip that makes it easy to apply the product with minimal parting.
Step 3. Lock Moisture in With Conditioner and Deep ConditionerWashing 4B hair is all about ridding hair of impurities while adding and keeping moisture in tresses for a more defined, detangled coil. After rinsing out shampoo, follow up with a hydrating conditioner like Goddess Strength Fortifying Conditioner with Castor Oil to soften and strengthen 4B coils from the roots to the ends. This creamy conditioner fortifies hair with castor oil, black cumin seed oil, and ginger for deep nourishment that minimizes breakage and promotes hair growth.
A good way to keep moisture locked in your 4B hair is by adding a deep conditioner to your strands after conditioning. Once a week or every other wash-day, envelop your mane with Goddess Strength Cocoon Hydrating Hair Mask for an intense moisture treatment that helps restore, rebuild, and protect hair for more nourishment between shampoos. Activate the deep conditioner by rubbing the formula between your palms and working the creamy conditioner through your wet hair. Let it sit for five minutes and rinse thoroughly for soft strands that are reinforced with protein for healthier hair.
Step 4. Detangle Hair with FingersIf you shampoo and condition your hair with the previously mentioned products, your hair will gently detangle in the shower, allowing you to finger-comb any remaining knots. You can also use a wide-tooth comb to work conditioners and deep conditioners throughout your hair while they do their moisturizing jobs. However, hair will be more nourished and softened after rinsing the hair, making it easy to detangle using your fingers to limit harsh pulling and tugging on your head.
Step 5. Finish By Drying And StylingAfter all is said and done in the shower, you’re ready to dry and style your hair. Before completely stepping out of the shower, squeeze as much water out of your hair as possible to expedite the drying process. Wrap your hair with a microfiber towel (as opposed to a cotton towel that tends to be rough on hair, promoting frizz and tangles). How you dry your hair is up to you, you can use a blow dryer (with a diffuser attachment to minimize heat damage), let hair dry overnight while wrapped in a satin or silk scarf or bonnet to reduce friction damage, or let it air dry.
Regardless of your drying method of choice, add even more moisture to your hair with lightweight products that won’t weigh down the hair and make styling easier. If you’re using any hot tools on your hair use a heat protectant like Monoi (Repair + Protect) Multi-Styling Milk which limits heat damage up to 450 degrees for frizz-free, defined curls and coils. A good style choice post-wash-day for 4B hair types is the classic wash-and-go that keeps hair in its most natural state while adding nourishing hair care for softer more shaped curls.
3 Tips When Washing 4B Hair
1. Intentionally Apply ShampooWhen shampooing your hair be mindful of how much product you’re using and where you apply it. Repeating an earlier note, prepare your 4B hair before adding shampoo by sectioning your mane in four (or more) sections depending on length. If you have a short cut you don’t need to worry about this part.
Keep a few hair clips or stretchy hair ties in your shower to clip pieces of hair away for the most intentional shampooing session. When you do apply shampoo, focus on the scalp only and apply product to the perimeter of your head before working the shampoo into a lather and targeting the top of the scalp.
2. Avoid Washing Hair DailyAt this point, you should know that 4B hair doesn’t need to be washed as regularly as looser curl types (3A, 3B, and 3C curl). Unless your scalp is naturally producing excessive oil or you find yourself always getting strands caked with dirt, you don’t need to wash your hair daily. Not only is it time-consuming, but daily hair washing will leave 4B hair brittle, dry, and dehydrated. Instead, wash your hair once a week or every other week if wearing a protective style. And when you do wash your hair, heed the advice in this guide for the most nourished and cleansed wash-day routine for 4B hair.
3. Allow Yourself GraceWashing 4B hair takes time and commitment to keep coils hydrated and tangle-free. The process can be frustrating, especially if you’re new to natural hair care, so it’s okay if you need to switch things up and try new methods or hair care products. Just be mindful of how you care for your 4B hair, allow yourself to make mistakes, and don’t be afraid to try something new.