Ahh, you think as you feel the warm water running over your hair and onto your scalp. With your eyes closed to keep out any stray shampoo bubbles, you dig your hand into a jar of deep conditioner and lather it all over your head. This moment, right before you have to step out of the shower, is the most tranquil part of wash day for many women with natural hair. Under the steady stream of water, our strands curl back up and rehydrate after days of styling, retwisting, and slicking back.
But when you have 4C hair, the tightest coil pattern, it can be an uphill battle to find products that give your curls the moisture they need from your scalp to your ends. So when ads for 4C ONLY popped up on my Instagram, I thought the FBI agent in my phone tapped into my brain and discovered my frustration over all the money I’ve spent on countless products with high hopes only to be disappointed. Methods and ethics of targeted advertising aside, 4C ONLY is a real brand created for women with hair texture as coily and susceptible to the ridiculous power of shrinkage as mine.
To understand why 4C ONLY is such an appealing brand, we have to understand the complexities of hair texture in the Black community. Andre Walker, Oprah Winfrey’s go-to hair stylist of many years, created the now-canonical Hair Chart to promote his hair-care line in the 1990s. Since then, it’s been used by many companies and within online communities to help guide consumers to specific products based on their curl pattern. The hair chart has been subject to criticism over the years for the idea that it helps perpetuate the belief that straighter hair is more desirable. Others are appreciative of the categorizations because of the guidance it gives in their quest to buy products — hence the name 4C ONLY for a brand that’s stepped in to help women feel confident with their kinky hair.
I’m not the only Black woman with more hair products than space for them, but I had to try this line for myself and worry about storage later. Right off the bat, the packaging gives off bright spring vibes between the peach box, reflective travel pouch, and stickers; all the ingredients to make my inner child excited. The company currently has four products: shampoo, conditioner, leave-in conditioner, and a styling cream, all in 12 oz tubs. Opening the jars unlocked a memory of a scent I couldn’t quite put my finger on — think Trident Tropical Twist gum, and that explosion of sweetness is what you get from these thick products.
To put the styling products to the test, I tried my go-to bantu knot twist out. The worst part of a bantu knot takedown is when the product you prayed over doesn’t actually give you the deep curls you had in mind after watching countless YouTube videos — but thankfully, 4C ONLY came through. The crowning champions in this set for me were the leave-in conditioner and the styling cream because they kept my curls moisturized for days without making my hair feel weighed down. When I undid my twists, my curls were very defined, and even after combing out my hair and retwisting it into bantu knots, the curls still held their own.
Impressed by my results from the line, I reached out to the company’s Chief Marketing Officer, Alicia Ferguson, to learn more about 4C ONLY’s mission and journey.
Refinery29: What was the inspiration for creating 4C ONLY?
Alicia Ferguson: “‘If I didn’t define myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.’ — Audre Lorde
We've all been told stories about ourselves, especially as Black women in relation to our hair. My team and I wanted to redefine the story around 4C hair and so 4C ONLY was birthed to normalize the beauty and texture of 4C kinks and coils.”
R29: Why is 4C hair often left out of the natural hair-care movement?
Ferguson: “It's hard to pinpoint why, especially since the natural hair-care movement was born to embrace and explore kinkier hair textures. I would say social constructs and Western ideologies have played a big role in what's deemed ‘acceptable’ in terms of hair texture, skin color, and body shape. Unfortunately, 4C hair falls at the latter end of that scale and is met with inherent biases.
Marketers and consumers alike can shoulder the blame for this. Advertisements usually showed racially ambiguous-looking women with big voluminous ringlets of curls. Consumers were driven by these aspirational images that made the natural hair movement appear monolithic. By providing much-needed representation, we get to celebrate and acknowledge all the varieties of textured hair.”
R29: What makes 4C ONLY different from other brands that claim they cater to all textures?
Ferguson: “We are designed specifically for 4C textured hair! We've done our research, and we know moisture and moisture retention is the primary key for our kinky hair friends. Firstly, our chemist is a kinky-haired Black woman, and when we partnered to search for ingredients, we didn't limit ourselves to the ingredient profiles you usually see in hair care. We came with a fresh perspective that centered on 4C hair's needs.
Our products include unique ingredients such as squalene and slippery elm, which typically are in facial products, and cabana wax, which is found on fruits. The ingredient combinations are designed to add an abundance of moisture to strands along with a soft frizz-free hold. That means juicy twist-outs that retain moisture for days and defined coils that can withstand humidity and shrinkage. We also placed all our products in 12 oz jars since we know 4C folks like to scoop their products vs. squirting them. As a bonus, the entire Too Easy Collection is thick, rich, and highly concentrated. Since water is our hair's best friend, just add water — and trust me, a little product goes a long way.
From the ingredients we choose to the stories we share and the diverse imagery we create, uplifting 4C hair is always the focus. Of course, people of other natural hair types can use the brand, but 4C ONLY is truly made to place those with 4C kinks at the forefront, whereas other brands say they work for all hair types and it's not possible. The hold that a 3C curl needs is not the same level of hold that 4C requires for a style to last.”
R29: What message or impact does the company hope to have?
Ferguson: “There's so much work that needs to take place in the beauty industry with hair texture-shaming and colorism. 4C ONLY will be at the forefront of redefining and creating space for new stories to be told that put 4C folks front and center, because we believe the revolution will be moisturized.”
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