Ah, you think as warm water flows through your hair and onto your scalp. You close your eyes to keep any stray shampoo bubbles out of your hands and apply deep conditioner over your head. This moment, just before you step out of the shower, is the most serene part of the hair-washing day for many women with natural hair. Under a steady stream of water, our hair curls back up and regains moisture after days of styling, re-twisting, and backward combing.
But when you have 4C hair, the tightest curl pattern, finding products that will give your curls the moisture they need from scalp to ends can be an uphill battle. So when the 4C ONLY ad appeared on my Instagram feed, I thought the FBI agents in my phone had bugged my brain and discovered my frustration with the countless dollars I had spent on numerous products only to return disappointed. Methodology and ethics of targeted advertising aside, 4C ONLY is a genuine brand created for women who, like me, have coarse hair and are susceptible to the ridiculous power of contraction.
To understand why 4C ONLY is such an attractive brand, we must understand the complexities of hair in the black community. Andre Walker, Oprah Winfrey’s go-to hairstylist for many years, created the now-classic “hair chart” in the 1990s to promote his hair care line. Since then, it has been used by many companies and online communities to help guide consumers in selecting specific products based on their curl patterns. Over the years, the hair chart has been criticized for helping to perpetuate the belief that straight hair is more popular. Others appreciated the categorization because it guided them to purchase products – hence the brand name 4C ONLY to help women feel confident with their weird hair.
I’m not the only black woman with more hair products than space, but I had to try this line and worry about storage later. Right off the bat, the packaging exudes bright spring weather with its peach box, reflective travel pouch, and stickers, all of which excite me. The company has four products: shampoo, conditioner, leave-in conditioner, and styling cream, all in 12-ounce bottles. Upon opening the jar, I was reminded of a scent I couldn’t pinpoint-think Trident Tropical Twist gum; an explosion of sweetness is what you get from these chunky products.
To put the styling products to the test, I tried my usual Bantu knot twist method. The worst part about tying Bantu knots is that the products you pray for don’t give you the deep curls you want after watching countless YouTube videos – but luckily, 4C ONLY did. For me, the champions of the set were the leave-in conditioner and styling cream because they kept my curls moisturized for days without weighing my hair down. When I untwisted, my curls were so defined that even after combing my hair and retying it into Bantu knots, the circles held their own.
I was so impressed with the collection results that I reached out to Alicia Ferguson, the company’s chief marketing officer, to learn more about 4C ONLY’s mission and journey.
What was the inspiration for creating 4C ONLY?
Alicia Ferguson: “‘If I don’t define myself, I’ll be crushed in someone else’s fantasy of me and eaten alive. – Audre Lorde.
We’ve all been told stories about ourselves, especially as black women, about our hair. My team and I wanted to redefine the story around 4C hair, so 4C ONLY was created to normalize the beauty and texture of 4C kinks and curls.”
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 movement was created to embrace and explore more hair textures. I would argue that social structures and Western ideology play a large role in what is considered “acceptable” regarding hair texture, skin color, and body shape. Unfortunately, 4C hair textures fall on the back end of that scale and encounter inherent biases.
Both marketers and consumers can be held accountable for this. Advertisements often show racially ambiguous women with massive rings of curly hair. Consumers are driven by these aspirational images, making the natural hair movement appear static. We can celebrate and acknowledge all varieties of textured hair by providing much-needed representation.”
What makes 4C ONLY different from other brands that claim they cater to all textures?
Ferguson: “We’re specifically designed for 4C textured hair. We’ve researched and know that moisture and moisture retention are the primary keys to our freaky hair friends. First and foremost, our chemist is a black woman with weird hair. When we collaborated to find ingredients, we didn’t limit ourselves to the ingredient profiles you typically see in hair care products. We brought a fresh perspective focusing on the needs of 4C hair.
Our products include unique ingredients such as squalene and slippery elm, typically used in facial products, and cabana wax, which is found on fruits. Combining these ingredients is designed to add a lot of moisture to the hair while keeping it soft and frizz-free. This means juicy twists that hold water for days and defined coils that can withstand humidity and shrinkage. We also put all our products in 12-ounce jars because we know 4C’ers like to scoop their products with a spoon, not a spray. As a bonus, the entire Too Easy line is thick, rich, and highly concentrated. Since water is our hair’s best friend, 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 images we create, enhancing the 4C’s of hair is always the focus. Sure, other natural hair types can use the brand, but 4C ONLY is designed to put those with 4C hair at the forefront, and it’s impossible for other brands to say they work on all hair types. 3C curls require a different hold level than 4C for a style to last.”
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.”