How to Wash 4B Hair: Detailed Step-by-Step Wash Day Routine

A black female with natural hair strands in a wash-and-go style highlighting her curl pattern and wiry textured hair.

4B hair is one of the hardest hair types to manage in general, and wash day can be a real nightmare if you don’t know how to get it done.

4B hair is only as difficult as you allow it to be, and we seek to prove that in this article. We’ll tell you how to wash 4B hair step by step so that you can master the process and get on to doing what you love!

How to Wash 4B Hair: Detailed Wash Day Routine

No matter how you look at it, washing your 4B hair is a multi-step process that should be approached in a methodical way. In this section, we’ll take you through every single step. 

Start by Prepping with a Pre-Poo Treatment

My Prepoo Routine From Start to Finish | Natural Hair Tips

If you’ve never heard of pre-pooing, now’s the time to get in the know. Pre-pooing is a protective hair treatment that helps to minimize moisture loss from shampoo.

Since 4B hair is naturally dry, you need to do everything you can to keep it from being stripped of moisture on wash day. 

To pre-poo, you’ll follow the below steps: 

  1. Choose a hair-friendly oil, like argan, coconut, or castor. Either of these will act as a layer of protection against the drying effects of the average shampoo. 
  2. Part your hair into several small sections with your hands. Be careful manipulating your hair, as it won’t be very elastic in its dry state. 
  3. Apply the oil to your hair very liberally. Don’t stop applying the oil until every single strand of hair is coated. Run your fingers through your hair very carefully if you can. Doing so will aid in product distribution. 
  4. Move on to the next step in your hair-washing regimen. 
African American female with a 4B hair type has experienced healthy hair growth since starting her natural hair journey.

Wash Your Hair 

Your 4B curls are now coated in oil, and you’re ready to move to the main part of your wash day: shampooing. The goal of the shampoo step is to preserve as much moisture at the ends of your hair as possible without encouraging tangles.

My Hydrating Wash Day Routine | 4B/4C Natural Hair

Here’s how you’ll shampoo your curls: 

  1. Get your hands on a gentle yet effective shampoo. Many hair care brands have created shampoos specifically targeted toward type 4 curls; we love the Design Essentials Honey Creme Moisture Retention Shampoo. It’s free of sulfates and leaves your hair clean and hydrated. 
  2. Wet your hair down. Ensure that all of your hair is completely drenched. If your curls are low-porosity, it could take a couple of minutes to wet down your hair.
  3. Dispense some shampoo into your hands and then rub them together for a second or two. 
  4. Choose a medium-sized section of your hair and apply some shampoo at the roots.
  5. Scrub your scalp thoroughly with the pads of your fingers (not your nails). You may need to hold the bottom of the section as you scrub your scalp. 
  6. Move on to another section of hair, apply shampoo, and then scrub your scalp. 
  7. Repeat steps 4 through 6 on all the rest of your hair. 
  8. Rinse the shampoo away. You may not think that the mid-lengths and ends of your hair will get clean, but the water will move the shampoo down the length of your hair as you rinse. At that point, the rest of your hair will be cleansed. 

Your hair should be clean now, but it doesn’t hurt to check. Walk over to a mirror and look at your hair and scalp.

You shouldn’t see any traces of buildup or product residue on your roots or throughout your hair. If you do, repeat the shampooing process. 

A cute black girl after using a deep conditioner on clean, soaking-wet hair to retain moisture before drying her curls.

Replenish the Moisture with Conditioner and Detangle

Now that your hair is clean and ready to receive hydration give it a boost with your favorite rinse-out conditioner. Your conditioner should be water-based and full of hydrating oils, nutrients, and humectants.

It will give your hair a proper pick-me-up after the cleansing portion of your wash day. Another thing to look out for when choosing a conditioner is how slippery it is.

In this 4B wash routine, you’ll detangle your hair while the conditioner is still on it. The slipperier the conditioner is, the easier it’ll be to get rid of those tangles. 

A black girl with a beautiful complexion has dry hair styled with a leave-in conditioner that contains coconut oil.

Here’s how to properly condition your 4B curls: 

  1. Gently separate your hair into a few sections. 2 to 4 should work just fine. 
  2. If you have elastics or ponytail holders at your disposal, use them to secure each of the sections. 
  3. Remove the elastic/ponytail holder from one of the sections and apply some conditioner to the hair. Start at the ends and slowly move up to the roots. The ends of the hair are the most fragile and need the most conditioner.
  4. Repeat the previous step on the rest of the sections. 
  5. Leave the conditioner on your hair for up to 10 minutes. Reference the instructions on your conditioner for an exact time recommendation. 
  6. While you’re waiting for the conditioner to do its magic, use a wide-tooth comb to detangle your hair. Since your hair is coated in the conditioner, it’ll be relatively easy for you to get your hair tangle-free. 
  7. Once time is up, you’ll rinse the conditioner out of your hair and move on with your styling routine. You can either blow dry your hair or braid it up and let it air dry. 
A member of the natural hair community wearing a wash-and-go style created with natural oils, creating curl definition.

Alternative Step: Deep Condition Instead of Condition

4B hair is prone to dryness, split ends, and breakage. If your hair needs some extra help in the hydration department, you can deep condition your hair.

All it takes is switching out your rinse-out conditioner for a deep conditioner. Follow the instructions on the packaging for even softer, smoother, and more manageable hair. 

How Often Should You Wash 4B Hair? 

On average, people with 4B hair tend to shampoo their hair once or twice a week. This is ideal for most, considering the fact that 4B hair rarely gets oily on its own (the twists and turns of the hair prevent scalp sebum from lubricating the strands).

Unless you have dandruff, use a ton of styling products on your hair, or exercise a ton, you can probably get by with a weekly wash day. 

Your hair-washing frequency will depend on your personal preferences, how quickly your hair looks and feels dirty, the amount of time you have to devote to wash days, and more.

A beautiful African American female that keeps her hair moisturized with moisturizing shampoos and aloe vera juice.

How Not to Wash Your Hair 

You now know how to get your 4B hair clean while ensuring it stays as healthy as possible. Still, there are many ways things can go wrong at certain points during the process.

In this section, we’ll tell you what not to do when washing your curls.  

  • Don’t leave the shampoo on your hair for a long time. Doing so can dry your curls out, even if the shampoo you’ve chosen is sulfate-free. 
  • Don’t wash your hair every day. Washing your hair daily is one of the quickest ways to get crunchy, dry strands. 
  • Don’t rush through the process. You need time to adequately wet your hair before applying the shampoo, scrub your scalp, detangle your curls, etc. Rushing through the process can lead to a less effective washing session and an increased risk of breakage

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So, there you have it–step-by-step instructions to follow when washing your 4B curls. It may seem like a monumental endeavor, but it will get easier as time goes on.

We hope you found all the information you need to get your curls clean and minimize breakage and frustration along the way. Keep this article in your back pocket on your next wash day!

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