What is 4c Hair?
The natural hair movement and its influence on black women in the past decade has seen different ways on how to take care of it. YouTube has been one of the biggest platforms for tutorials where bloggers demonstrate how they do their hair. However, it becomes even more controversial because there are many opinions on curl types, especially the ‘4C’ hair type. There is controversy surrounding how 4C is supposed to look like. What is African 4C and how does it fit into the current natural hair movement?
History of Curl Hair Typing System
The hair typing system was invented by a man called Andre Walker, who was also Oprah Winfrey’s hairstylist for twenty years. The hair typing system was released as a marketing plan for his line of hair products “The History of the Hair Typing System | At Length by Prose Hair.” The hair typing system is used as a guide which begins at the straightest hair being type 1A to the tightest coil (4C). The guide is used to understand and take care of one’s hair. While the chart has provided information that has helped the natural hair community, it has also created curly confusion. Andre Walker’s original chart did not include 4C as a hair type. Walker stated that anyone who falls under the category of type 4 should relax their hair because it is unmanageable.
The 4C Dilemma
In Africa, natural hair content creators have been emphasizing the representation of tightly coiled naturals. In Southern Africa, Sinovuyo Mondliwa( South Africa) has openly shared her views on what she believes is 4C, but also with consideration of adopting a healthy hair regimen. Having more representation will allow the doors to open for more people to share their hair type.
There is an ongoing joke that says that ‘American 4C and African 4C are different. This idea comes from when the natural hair movement was new and people on Youtube with looser curls were using 4C as clickbait to get more views. As a result, many were following these steps for their hair, thinking that their hair would come out the same. The reality of this clickbait is the image one can have of themselves because of miseducation on their hair.
For us on the African continent, there needs to be a revision of the curl pattern chart to also include the different types of curls and to be more inclusive of the intersections( region, weather, water quality) and their influence on how hair grows. Hair Stylist Haircousin explains more on IGTV 4C Dilemma
Texturism plays a huge part in the complex behind having an idea of how African hair looks. The trauma that has been experienced by black women and describing our hair as ‘unmanageable’, ‘nappy’ and ‘unruly’ has also made it difficult to accept our natural hair as it is. The natural hair movement is still quite new in Southern Africa, and more people have now gone back to relaxed hair because of the overwhelming information on natural hair.
Fortunately, there is a growing amount of stylists who are dedicating their time to re-teach the natural hair community about our hair, focusing on type 4 textures. An example in the Southern African region is the salon Ruutos in South Africa. Relearning our hair makes room for new ideas and to recognize that hair cannot be categorized. Also, to focus on having a hair regimen that works for us. Hair Stylist Haircousin explains more on IGTV 4C Dilemma.
In Southern Africa, there has been a rise in events and natural hair care products with ingredients that aid with routine and keeping our hair healthy in relation to our climate and weather.
The hair typing system and our understanding of 4C hair is still to be revised and further understood. While American hairstylists are leading the conversations on the concept, there needs to be a new wave of hairstylists in Africa who are willing to educate young black women about contextualizing hair and using the American system as an example and not an end to all means.
While it will be difficult and overwhelming, given the amount of free information available on Youtube and Instagram, a professional take on how to take care of natural hair from the African point of view will be a new way of looking at our own insecurities about our hair and also acknowledging that there are people who can help our hair fit into our schedules. 4C hair is not just a popular hashtag that is to be used as clickbait. It represents the lived experiences of the majority of black women on the continent, and it should start being taken seriously by us and those who are given the responsibility to care for it.