The 4C Hair Struggle Is Real, I’ve Been There and I Understand

The 4C Hair Struggle

I get tons of emails from women who struggle with their kinky textured 4C hair type and believe me, I get it. While I love to celebrate the beauty of 4C hair, I am the first to admit that sometimes things aren’t always peachy. In truth, many of the issues that us 4C ladies experience other hair types just don’t understand. Which is why although some may find hair typing to be separatist, I find it nice to have some categorization.

Some naturals will never experience…

Wet styling fail

Setting my hair in two strand twists, bantu knots, or braid outs after a fresh wash always looks horrible. Besides the shrinkage, I get matting and breakage. It usually works best if I stretch my hair out first using the pineapple method or simply blow dry my hair.

This is how drastic my shrinkage is

comparison of shrunken vs stretched natural 4c hair

The left is my towel dried hair after a wash and the right is my hair stretched out from pineappling over night and fluffing out the next day. Stretching my hair after washes is a necessity.

The only time I have had wet styling success is if I use The Max Hydration Method, which has fabulous results, but is super time consuming. Or if I use my faux wash n go which again is done on stretched hair.

Dryness on another level

Yes, all curly hair types do have an issue with dryness. However, when you haven’t mastered keeping your hair moisturized, kinky coily hair can get outrageously dry.

The time investment

Wash day can take up half of your day and if you are going for a more detailed style it definitely can be more time consuming.

Your frustration with your hair is totally valid!

I am sure many of you transitioned from relaxed hair expecting to see tons of growth and healthy hair only to find the opposite. Unfortunately you can try all the products or the techniques that gurus recommend and still struggle. I was particularly touched by YouTube Vlogger, GlamFun’s hair story in which she tells the raw truth about her experience as a 4C natural.

So what’s the solution? Be unconventional and set your own standard.

You can always use YouTube, blogs and professional guidance for hair tips, but ultimately you must develop a regimen that is specific to you. Sometimes you have to do the unconventional and go against the grain. For instance many sources preach against heat use. While heat damage is definitely a possibility if you are not careful for some people using the blow dryer for stretching works best because ultimately you will have less tangles to deal with. Not to mention, it can be easier to retain moisture in stretched hair. Some naturals aren’t too fond of wigs and weaves but many naturals have an easier time retaining length using them.

It takes a little bit of experimentation, understanding what works for you, time and patience. Hang in there! The styling and maintenance of my relaxed hair was easier. However, once I learned what did work for me my natural hair is much fuller and healthier than my relaxed hair ever was.

Vent out your frustration or share some encouragement in the comment section!

49 thoughts on “The 4C Hair Struggle Is Real, I’ve Been There and I Understand”

  1. Yes I have 4c hair and I have a time with it my scalp gets extra dry to the point I have dandruff and little sores, but my hairdresser told me it was cause I wasn’t getting any zinc and copper in my diet, and now I take the supplement and it has gotten a lot better.

    1. Mecia, you sound like my hair twin. I’m a 4b/c and have been having quite a time with dry hair and scalp this winter, with the dandruff and sores on the scalp too. I’m at a loss in terms of what to do and my hairdresser hasn’t been much help. I have been taking iron tablets and vitamin c with zinc, but regularly, so I don’t know if they are helping or not, but my scalp is driving me crazy.

      1. Anita,

        I had the same issue. The problem lies with the lack of moisture in the air during the winter. That and the dryness of the heat in our homes/apartments is what causes dryness in our scalp and hair. Black hair and skin needs moisture. However just putting grease in it without sealing in moisture only suffocates it and causes it to still itch and be brittle. I found a solution that works the best with me, and maybe you can try it and see if it works for you as well. The solution is unprocessed coconut oil and water moisture. In the morning, I spend 10 minutes in the bathroom steaming (that’s what I like to call it). I turn the shower water on extra hot, close the curtains (so the water doesn’t get on my floor), put a towel under the bathroom door, and sit in the bathroom steam. The bathroom starts to feel like a sauna and my exposed hair and scalp collects all the moisture. Then I seal it with the coconut oil and put on a scarf to trap all the moisture in. At night before bed, I do the same thing, accept I usually massage my scalp for 5 minutes while putting on the coconut oil. The massaging stimulates the healthy hair follicles and feels amazing when I go to bed!

        Hope this helps!
        Tai

        1. That sounds like that would help a lot Tai I will definitely try that cause my scalp gets very irritated by some of the products out of the store, and my hairdresser uses coconut oil to lift the dandruff off my scalp so I will try this method out thanks for your advice

        1. Mecia,

          I had the same issue with products. You just don’t know what is in those ingredients that is causing the irritation. Many products say coconut oil or Shea butter but when you read all those ingredients on the label, most of them contain glycerin and alcohol. Those ingredients cause dryness even though its supposed to be a moisturizer. And products that have mineral oil and or petroleum oil clogs your pores.

          You could also do a hot oil treatment with coconut oil. Make sure you get the unprocessed coconut oil. It should be white oil and not yellow. That makes a huge difference.

  2. Thanks for this article! I thought I was the only one who couldn’t figure out why my natural hair is harder to maintain than when my hair was relaxed…but I love the look of natural hair so much, it’s worth the struggle.

    I’m going to try the stretching with a blow dryer. Sometimes the more controversial techniques work with my crazy hair 🙂

  3. I have been natural for over 15 years, wearing locks. Recently I cut them, I have been wearing a wig; however I am looking for someone who specializes in natural hair. I would like to get a good hair cut. Can anyone help me? I am located in NY

  4. I don’t have 4b or 4c hair so I can’t understand the kinky 4b 4c struggle but I do have a tighter curl pattern with like 4 inches of shrinkage so I do understand some of the struggle .

  5. After being 4C natural for 30 months I found stretching my hair with a blow dryer or a roller set greatly decreased my dryness and almost eliminated tangles/SSk It felt wrong at first using heat, but the results are great. Low tenseion blow drying.

  6. Man, I learned that the biggest things about managing natural hair at all is 1) Patience 2) Self-Esteem/Self-Love. Those are really the biggest challenges of being natural. If you can overcome those 2 obstacles, then having natural hair is a much better experience (esp for those transitioning or who are still trying to grow their hair to a length they are satisfied with). I know that I am still in my growing process and I have achieved the length I like when I blow dry my hair—lol. But it’s shrunken more often than its straight so my growth goal is to achieve the length I want when it’s shrunken so that when I straighten it, I’m all “va-va-voom”. I’ve also been really against straightening my hair for the first stages of my transitioning process (I didn’t do the big chop) because I wanted to force myself to accept my hair exactly as it grows from my head. That’s the biggest challenge honestly, especially growing up wearing relaxers most of your life. I have 4c hair so my hair is super duper kinky and it shrinks like crazy—but I’ve learned to love and be patient with it. I still have some growth goals to obtain but the ride is much more, I realize, when I’m not doing “length checks” every other day and getting upset about a twist out not coming out the way I wanted. Patience and self-love. That’s what’s making my natural hair journey so much easier. I’ll NEVER get a relaxer as long as I live. Hear no perm. See no perm. Speak nooo perm! lol. 4C naturals, you can do it! Keep going and have PATIENCE! xoxo

    1. I have been in transition for about 6 months. With my second to the last relaxer in had a short hair cut done to my nape and it whisped out on one side. I said that to say that I have different lengths especially in the back and hopefully it will not be a very long transition period. I have had many struggles in transition. I washed, conditioned,blow dried and curled my hair until it was just too poofy to continue to wear it that way. Then I would wash, condition, blow dry and do one twist on each side and wear a cotton headband. This past Wednesday after reading so many blog and articles on what to do and what not to do, I decided to lay off the heat. I never even thought about getting products to start taking care of my natural hair. I was still focused on my relaxed hair and maintaining it to avoid breakage. Wednesday I shampooed, deep conditioned, used a product for natural hair and did individual twist. I only did the twist as a way to have control while combing out my hair. I thought what am I going to do in the morning? I had no idea and no plan. Morning came and I decided to leave the twist in and tie a silk scarf around my head leaving my twist out on top and in the front. Thankfully I had already seen this on a YouTube video. I have tied the scarves in different ways and yesterday I took apart a few of the twist up front and wore a crinkled updo with the scarf. I have been getting positive feedback but I think what is there hardest thing is that I actually have 3 different hair types to include the relaxer. Also I struggle with product knowledge. There are sooo many products and I really don’t understand what they all do to achieve what exactly. The hair butter I purchased I like a lot. I also purchased and shine custard in hopes of using it in place of gel on my straight ends. I guess I will figure it all out with time.

    2. THANK YOU FOR YOU COMMENT. I TRUELY BELIEVE ITS ALL ABOUT BEING HAPPY WITHIN YOURSELF SOME DAYS ARE GOOD HAIR DAYS OTHERS ARE NOT. BUT WE ARE ALL BEAUTIFUL INSIDE AND OUT WITH ARE KNINKY HAIR THANKS FOR THE POST.

  7. I’m a 4b/4c and had major struggles with dandruff even when my hair was relaxed. My space/home doesn’t allow for a sauna type experience like Tai otherwise I would try it, it sounds great. What I do is a hot oil treatment with cold pressed coconut oil on wash day (once a week), and for my daily routine, I have a spritzer bottle and in it, is a mixture of coconut oil, olive oil and pure castor oil in water. I part my hair into sections and spray my scalp with this mix daily and have seen a great difference in my hair texture and the condition of my scalp. Dryness is a thing of the past.

  8. Thanks for this post,i have 4c hair ,very tough and kinky,and my hair shrinks like crazy and no matter how i stretch it it still shrinks,pls how can i avoid this?

    And also the hair behind my head refuses to grow past 4.5 inches,i trimmed the front part so it would grow with it but the front is now 6.3inches but the back is still the same,how can i get it to grow?

  9. hello everyone, I have 4/c hair. this is my 3rd year chopping it off and will be my last. I grew up having relaxers in my hair in my hair really never did so good with them. I love to have my natural hair out but it can be difficult because my hair is dry and course I also have 4/c hair. I moisturize my hair and it still get dry. Some times I put on wigs so I don’t have to deal with my hair.

  10. This is funny (in a positive way) and right on time for me. This morning I’m sitting here thinking to get scissors myself and just wack it off. My husband loves my natural hair the way it is (he hates relaxers), but it is driving me nuts. I love to stay in water but the results are horrible. Guess I better wait since I’m not sure.

  11. I have 4c hair and I find it difficult to stretch my hair. I have shoulder length hair but my shrinkage is insane! Easily 80% shrinkage.

    When I take out my twists or braid outs (overnight) my hair starts to shrink immediately! So much so that by the time I get to the back, the front looks like I did nothing at all to my hair.

    The only method that seems to work somewhat is French braiding and even with this my hair is back to where I started halfway through the day.

    Right now I am considering texlaxing (I’ve been natural 4 years) hoping it will help with the shrinkage.

  12. I need some HELP! No matter how much my hair is moisturised, I could have just done the Max Hydration metho but my hair looks dry and dull, I’ve tried LCO, Eco styler gel, edge control, Coconut Oil and oil shine (which I didn’t like to much, it was a last resort), but when I braid my hair it still looks dry and dull. I’ve tried Eco styler Olive OIl gel while braiding my hair to lay it done flat (I was doing goddess braids) but my, my hair look so dry but I only moisturised it a few seconds ago. I was so ashamed of the dry, dull hair that I am currently wearing my ‘go-to-everyday’ hat until my hair doesn’t look so dry. Please any suggestions to make dry, dull looking hair look shiny?

  13. When I wash my hair it retains water a long time, but when it drives there is no shine at all. Olive Oil and Coconut Oil don’t help. Any ideas and how do you determine hair type (wet or dry hair) and what products work?

    1. Try a ACV rinse also I combine coconut oil and my favorite hair conditioner, leave in over night with plastic cap. Then wash out. Then ACV. Wow did wonders for my hair. Then I do the LOC, leave in conditioner, I use Shae moisture then I put almond oil and jojoba oil. My hair is now growing. My hair hates coconut oil and Shae butter to leave in. You have to find what works for you. YouTube also is a excellent tool to learn about your hair. Good luck. Blessings!!!

  14. Help when I wet my hair it comes out so tangled and matted that I have to cut or pull it out and when its not wet its soo dry and crucnch can’t find a good moisturizer help

  15. I am so so excited I found this blog. I technically just started paying attention to my natural hair. It’s 4c and it’s always so hard and dry. I can literally wet a section with coconut oil, water and conditioner one minute and it would be disgustingly crackly and dry by the time I’m done with the next one. I really need an affordable and stress-free way of managing this mane of mine. Thanks

  16. Stephanie Padgett

    Hello I stumbled across this blog. My hair is thick, and long (should not be complaining, right) and it gets braided every month. I am getting to the point where my mom cannot braid my hair anymore. I don’t know what to do. I used the Eco Styling gel and it dries and cracks making my hair look dirty {dandruff}. I hated it. I know I can’t take everyone else’s hair as an example, but I need to learn how to do it to that is acceptable in the corporate work environment. Pinterest has guides, but my hair is not long or loosely curly. I have to dry it or else I will look like Ms Frizzle with 20 times more frizz. I want to do a deva cut to break away, but I am scared of the results.

  17. Sharaya Smith

    Greetings My Natural 4C Sista!

    I’m really happy to have come across this post! I hate to feel like I’m self loathing when I am led to posts like this but I have thick, 4C kinky coily hair (even saying it that way sounds way too nice). It’s nappy. Oddly enough however, it’s fine – or at least I think it is. It’s also low porosity. I know that there are people who feel that none of these qualifications matter but they do. I’ll get to that later. Either way, sharing in my feelings helps to make me feel not so down on myself.

    I began my natural journey in the Spring of 2012. I had long since grown frustrated with hair salons, relaxers, tight braids, weaves, wigs that were always too big… I had been keeping my hair natural for a short while beforehand but I had finally gathered up the courage to stop covering my natural with wigs. My edges were damaged quite a bit, I have a small head, and no real curl pattern so even though I felt free I didn’t feel pretty. As my hair grows out, I still struggle with that.

    As the years pass, I’ve tried pretty much everything. I grew obsessed with YouTube videos, blogs, tutorials, products, and Pintrest pages of naturals that I eventually wanted to look like but it didn’t take me long to realize that my natural just was not going to be like theirs.

    I started out giving myself 5 years to learn my hair and grow it out and if I failed I would either lock my hair or go back.

    I have one more year to go and it’s been really rough. Especially seeing the speedy growth of so many other naturals. I still don’t have any real hangtime and I’m not at neck length unless I flat iron my hair. My edges are doing very well though. Yay! And I found a multi-vitamin that my body doesn’t reject. That was an issue for a while.

    One thing I did learn, though was that I MUST use the blow dryer. I really wish I would have realized that sooner. I also realized that I can’t leave my hair in styles that are meant to stay in for weeks on end because my hair gets way too dry to maintain length while in those styles even if I spray my hair with water and leave in conditioner while those braids or twists are in.

    I’m interested to see how I feel in another year.

    God Bless,

    Shay

    1. Hi Shay, I hope all is well with you! Curious about what your last year has been like and what you will decide to do with your hair.

      Fellow 4c girl
      Angela

  18. So glad this exists! I’ve had my hair locked for the past 8 years, but this year I decided it was time to comb them out and see what I’ve got. Turns out I’ve got 4C super dry kinky hair. It’s been a little over a month of trying this and that but I still haven’t nailed down any products I would swear by. Seriously getting discouraged, even though it hasn’t been long, I can tell it’s going to be a rough road ahead. I remember all those years before I locked my hair and I can honestly say I’m not looking forward to that again. But I’ll continue to try things for a while. I was really hoping I could have had that 3b hair that I never had. Like having locks would magic away my dna or something…lol.

  19. Well i have been taming my natural hair for over 4years now wit no improvement.i use different product co-wash my hair yet it is stil stunted.also eco styling gel makes it worst

  20. I really liked your video I’ve been natural 1 yr and it tough. I too have been thinking about going back to a perm. I truly miss my hair being straight and curled and cut short. I haven’t found anyone yet to perm it that would care about my hair. I have low porosity hair. I found some products that work so it’s not so hard to detangle. My hair have grow, I keep moisturing with leave it conditiner and spritz with warm water and put in protective styles.

  21. I started my natural hair journey in 2013, after years of having a desire to know and experience the hair I believe God himself chose just for me. Although I would love to share a positive experience, mine has been quite challenging. I will admit I have never felt more beautiful with my hair; I just don’t feel the ease I feel other women have with styling. My hair hasn’t grown in the four years either, I hope this will change. I need help, but I can’t afford to go to the natural hair shops in my area. I am hoping for a break through soon.

    Angela

    1. Hi Angela!! I know the struggle all to well. I have a suggestion for you. What changed my life is a shampoo bar. It is from the Youtuber 22nd Century Natural Woman. You can get it on her website Moorket.com. It’s very reasonable. It works best if you’re using all natural products on your hair though. Please check out her videos to learn how best to use her products. Another suggestion I have for you is to add pure coconut cream to whatever conditioner you use!! It works like a dream for softening and Detangling while conditioning. If you decide to use 22nd Century’s conditioner I would just use it as is…. I would not add coconut cream to it. I would also suggest Organix’s quenching coconut curls leave in conditioner as your moisturizer and seal it with Castor oil. Using 22nd Century’s hair products has made managing my hair so much easier!!! P.S. I bought her products for me and 5 to 6 members of my family so I HIGHLY recommend them!!!!

  22. I am so glad I stumbled across this page. I have been transitioning for roughly 9 months. (I know not a lot of time), and I the 6 month mark (Christmas day), I stood in the mirror and did the big chop, because I had two extremely different textures (relaxed/natural new growth) and I just got tired of trying to maintain it. Too much product, limp ends, too little product, dry and cracking scalp. I could not find the balance. Now 2 months after the big chop, some days I absolutely can not stand my 4C hair. I can tell I am getting a little length, however after washing it the shrinkage is real…There are some mornings my hair looks like a cotton ball. Yesterday was the first day I actually regretted cutting my hair and going on this natural journey. I was so close to finding a stylist and getting it cut, relaxed and styled. I do not know what to do with my hair and I am getting so frustrated. I tried the wig thing, its too hot, I can’t handle it. My hair doesn’t do well with braids, I don’t know what else to do. if anyone has any suggestions, products, styles, please help me.

    1. Hi I’ve been natural since 2014. I’m also a 4c. It is not an easy journey you guys. It’s worth every “Why did I do this?” “I think I look crazy!” moment. Find other naturals with similar textures to you for inspiration. start a pinterest. So I recently had to do a large amount of cutting and re-evaluating of my hair. I have found that being a 4c it is key to find what works and stick with it. For me it is natural products and simple styling techniques. When I say natural products I mean shea butter, grapeseed oil, Olive oil, and Coconut oil. I use a water leave in conditioner mix to detangle and I co-wash more than shampoo. I do hot oil treatments with a mix of the oils I listed and usually do a 2 strand twist styles. I have also found that drinking water makes my hair thicker. I do want to try Jamaican black castor oil I’ve heard that it is very good on thickening hair. If anybody would like some extra tips or just moral support follow me on instagram @ justlovely010 or my hair journey board on pinterest UN:Jackee Turner

  23. I know I’m late but I was looking for a place to vent lol! I am SOOOOOO frustrated with this beautiful 4c hair of mine because just when I started getting my products, my methods, and regimen down pact. Just when I started falling in love with my hair…. I realize my roots are thick and my ends have beautiful never before seen coils and they are thin. With protein treatments and heat protectant I still realize I still have heat damage. Been natural since ’04 and have big chopped 3 times already!! I refuse to start over! I have no idea how to salvage it…another learning curve with a bajillion YouTube videos and blog opinions. I’m just tired lol just want to wake up and finally have it right! [insert sigh of life here] [end vent].

  24. I’ve been natural for 3 years, but last year I had a lot of hair loss from tight braiding and stress in a large patch near the back. Also I’d never really bothered to learn about care and I used heat a lot. I’ve cut many times.

    Finally I’ve started learning more and experimenting. I’m seeing improvement in breakage over the past 1 month and I feel great. My key to avoid frustration is moderation. I can’t swear off heat but I’ve reduced it to blow dry and quick flat iron every 2 weeks. I plan to braid in the summer and winter for 1-2months each. I still use regular shampoo but I add some Apple cider vinegar to ph balance. I add a little tea tree oil to regular conditioner and also to coconut oil to deep condition. That’s it, and I’m sticking to this simple way. Also I drink a lot of fruit smoothies and use blended veggies to make stew, and I feel healthier.

    It’s actually fun when it’s so simple and it seems to work. It’s the extreme, complex and time consuming routines on YouTube that make me want to pull out my hair!!

  25. I’m so happy to hear I’m not alone. This 4c natural hair is truely a JOURNEY! I’ve never been able to braid anyone’s hair let alone my own! I was the flat iron queen of short hair! This hair care is frustrating and time consuming but I love my super thick hair!

  26. I’ve been natural for a year now and I’ve learned so much, but its still a struggle. Wash days used to take the whole day for me but now I’ve cut it down to an hour a half. Stretching my hair was a nightmare until I changed the way I detangled and my stretching method. Yet I still can’t get my styling to work well for me. One reason for this is breakage, before going natural I would get tight single braids done and would not take breaks in between. That went on for 12 years. So since then styling my hair has been difficult because of uneven hair length and excess shedding.
    I haven’t yet found a hairstyle that works for me but I’ll keep trying.

    The best thing that’s worked for me while being natural is having a method that works for washing and stretching my hair. I would of had huge bald spots If it wasn’t for the natural ladies on YouTube like Naptural85 and Greenbeauty. Thanks to them I believe in a few years Ill have long healthy thick hair.

  27. I think I probably have the most frustrating hair on the planet. It doesn’t retain moisture no matter what I do. I hardly ever go out with just my natural hair because whenever people touch it, they always say things about it being overly dry and strong. Most times, I resort to cornrows but even that is a struggle. I actually cry because of the pain when I’m getting my cornrows done. I’m this close to cutting my hair. I need help.

  28. OMG !!!!!!!!! i chopped my hair 2 months ago from anger of not being able to tame it . its growing back fast but fuller and i hate it soooooooo much ! its mad expensive , it always sucks alll of the moisture of any product yet its ALWAYS FREAKKN DRY like i just threw some water on there . it doesnt matter how much i twist , bend , bantu knot , straighten WHATEVER it will be matted a couple of minutes later … someone PLEASE tell me some good deep conditioners before i end up chopping all my hair off AGAIN

    1. Girl I’m in the same boat. My Hair is dryer than the Sahara Desert!! Its dry no matter what I do. I blow dry when my hairs twist outs become dryouts even when I hydrate & mosisturize. Maintenance of blow outs are challenging to because they to Don t last to brittle and dryness. I have been natural for 20 yrs. Not a new natural by far.

  29. I am growing my hair out from a tapered low cut and I am having the hardest time. After washing my hair, I will flat twist it overnight. The morning after wash day it looks horrendous. I’m so frustrated. It takes forever to stretch after washing it but I know I can’t just NOT wash my hair. Does anyone have any tips of what products I can use on freshly washed hair or what I can do after washing it to make it look presentable. I’m incredibly frustrated…

  30. My hair always goes through an up and down phase and it’s stressful . I feel like no matter what I try nothing helps keep it in the up phase . I see people who don’t put effort into their hair and it’s flourishing meanwhile I’m here struggling . My 4c hair hates me honestly , I’m convinced.

  31. I am struggling! I transitioned last January! Right away I started using Cantu. My hair was healthy and growing. My twist outs were popping! I wasn’t ever able to pull off a wash and go! Fast forward to this year. My hair is at the same length, not much growth. Recently I found out that all my products contained protein. Now my hair is breaking off in the back.

  32. I love that you highlight doing what works best for you! It is so easy to get caught up in all of the natural hair products available and youtubers showing off their keys to natural hair success. When I stopped following the natural hair rule I saved myself a lot of time and money, doing what works for me. For instance, years ago Oprah shamed us all for using hair grease on her show and while it is true concerning hair straightening, Going back to hair grease for sealing moisture in my natural hair was the best decision I ever made.

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