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Microscope Photos Reveal Bentonite Clay Works Better than Conditioner for Curl Clumping in 4C Hair

Avatar • Oct 12, 2014

After the last post on clumping curls in 4c hair, many of you wanted to see a strict conditioner only vs bentonite only set of results.I have now had the chance to repeat the experiment and this is what I did.

The Experiment
— My own hair — 7 inch segment cut from the crown area (details here). This cut is selected for this experiment as all the hair comes from the same general area and should therefore clump if it can. Hair is kinky curly with very tight coils. I am not a fan of hair typing but most would call it 4c hair.

Experiment 1 — Shampoo + Conditioner + Rinse
‑Hair detangled first then shampooed (2 mins), rinsed (2 mins), conditioner applied (1 hr with heat) and  imaged before being  rinsed (2 mins) and imaged

Experiment 2 — Shampoo + Bentonite Clay + Rinse
— Hair detangled first then shampooed (2 mins), rinsed (2 mins), bentonite clay suspended in water applied (20 mins)  then imaged and one final rinse (2 mins) then imaged.

In both experiments the exact same hair swatch was used. This is because I wanted to do a direct comparison on the same hair. You therefore see the effect of using either clay or hair conditioner. Additionally all hair was shampooed to remove traces of previous products.

Results
Experiment 1 — Shampoo + Conditioner + Rinse 

I placed the images of the hair in all the key stages in the image below.  Hair conditioner for my hair (emphasis on my) does not really clump curls. It does start off the process and the hair strands get more orderly but there is no real curl clumping. The final rinse image can be expected to shrink down to the complete shrinkage state as the hair dries out.

Appearance of 4c hair from complete shrinkage, stretched and conditioned

 

Close- up view of the effect of hair conditioner on 4c hair — before and after rinsing

Experiment 2 — Shampoo + Bentonite Clay + Rinse 

I would normally always shampoo and condition before applying clay but I did the experiment with shampoo to cleanse followed by direct application of bentonite clay as some readers wanted to assess whether the clay on its own was actually responsible for the clumping result

Curl clumping in 4c hair induced by bentonite clay

 

Close- up view of the bentonite clay curl 4c clumping effect — the image to the left shows hair with clay sitill on it and the one to the right shos the hair with the clay rinsed out.

Please note that these are the results for MY hair. Your hair may behave differently. I also would not in practice shampoo hair and then apply bentonite clay. I would always condition hair first because I find it easier to detangle with conditioner rather than with clay. These are MY preferences and you need to create rules for your own hair.

Additional Notes:
Conditioning time: In practise, I never usually use heat or condition my own hair for extended times 20- 30 mins at most, but in the interest of doing what many naturals do, I chose to apply heat and extend the conditioning time to the swatch.

Products: Herbal Essences Dazzling Shine Shampoo, Tresemme Naturals Conditioner, Bentonite Clay from Detox People

 

Ladies, have you tried bentonite clay for curl clumping and definition? Share your experiences!

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KP
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KP

These are microscope photos?

Elle
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Elle

Lol …

MuggleAmbitions
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MuggleAmbitions

Very interesting. I have been natural for about 2.5 years now, but I have yet to try bentonite clay. I also have 4C hair. I think I should give it a try — I’m curious to see if I get similar results!

Kai
Guest
Kai

Uh where are the microscope images? Those look like regular distance images to me.

Jc
Guest

Microscope magnification ranges from x1 to x400

Jc
Guest

Kai, I do have high mag images but they are not particularly informative. I have to rethink how I am placing the hair as when strands are in different optical planes, you end up with fuzzy images.

Cryssi
Guest
Cryssi

I’m not good at hair typing but from what I’ve seen online and in person I wouldn’t call that hair 4c. From what I think I understand of hair typing that looks like 4a hair to me. I don’t know and now I’m even more confused when it comes to this hair typing system.

Bianca
Guest
Bianca

I agree! Her hair looks similar to mines and I classify my hair as 4a/4b.

Jc
Guest

Cryssi, I think many people share your view and I think it is mainly because of the curl clumping which is not associated with 4c hair. We are more used to seeing 4c hair like this

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-pj_b-M6lUxk/Us_CE3_PZ7I/AAAAAAAABO8/O‑H3rxAzdks/s1600/4c_natural_hair.jpg

http://www.thenaturalhavenbloom.com/2012/05/detangling-dry-natural-hair-why-it.html

http://www.thenaturalhavenbloom.com/2012/07/mid-shaft-splits-cause-and-prevention.html

I have never seen 4a or 3c hair fail to show clumps at the conditioner stage. I would also say the level of shrinkage in my hair is not what 4a or 3c hair does. I am from Kenya and in Kenya, my hair is regarded as tough (which means super extra kinky by an African standard).

Stace
Guest
Stace

I think you are associating degree of shrinkage with curl type/pattern and getting the two confused. I have 4a hair with bits of 3c around the perimeter and my shrink is at least 75%. Just because your hair shrinks a lot does not automatically make it 4C. Additionally, In my experience with my hair type, different conditioners give me different results in terms of clumping. Protein conditioners on my hair result in little to no clumping. Moisturizing conditioners without glycerin will give me good clumping and curl formation, and those with glycerin will give me the most clumping/curl definition but… Read more »

Kim
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Kim

I think you’re proving Jc’s point. You say you have 4A hair which clumps well with moisturizing conditioner, which is exactly what she said it’s expected to do. 4C hair typically does not, as is demonstrated by the images above. With 4C hair, my hair behaves the same way with conditioner and doesn’t clump, at least not after rinsing and drying. I’m yet to try bentonite.

Stace
Guest
Stace

If you read in totality you would see that I wrote that my hair reacts differently to different types of conditioners. Not all conditioners clump my 4a hair. The point was that it may be the conditioner that someone is using that results in clumping or not clumping.

Jc
Guest

No I am referring to my hair as 4c because it is in the class of hair that has small tight curls, multiple kinks and high shrinkage.

There is no conditoner that I have used that will clump my curls (At a guess, I have probably used over 50). The tightly curly technique or applying gel directly to my hair does not result in curls. 4a and 3c hair is very different from 4c hair, it shows curl clumping at the conditioner stage.

Stace
Guest
Stace

I agree with your definition of 4C. In regards to these pics, it may be subjective because I see some clumping in your conditioner stage. I see clumping and elongation. It’s definitely type 4, maybe its the magnification I don’t know, perhaps if we see your hair on your head in full then it would be more apparent which kind of 4. At any rate I don’t think it matters for the experiment because this and your other previous article got me to try out the clay mask/wash on my hair. It is definitely going to be a longstanding part… Read more »

Lenora
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Lenora

This is awesome. Thank you for the experiment

loverlyone
Guest
loverlyone

I have used bentonite clay on my 3c/4a hair, and I can definitely attest that it INDEED does clump your curls. I however mix bentonite clay along with ACV and distilled water, and apply directly to my scalp. It works great and I can definitely see how it differs to conditioner, in regards to curl clumping.

Jacky
Guest
Jacky

Nice job!

Experiments like this are great and very helpful.

I think Bentonite clay can officially be added to the natural hair books as a great curl clumper, not just as a hair cleanser.

Jo
Guest
Jo

I cringed at the amount of hair you’ve been using for these expirements

Jc
Guest

lol Jo!I have learned to love and manage APL hair, it is the length I like. So I cut off 7 inches to go back to APL. For me, longer hair does not get easier to manage, just more work. Sometimes I can do it but when I start moaning and complaining, I cut it.

Monique
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Monique

For me and my hair nothing works better than Bentonite clay. I used to only do the mask every two weeks but then, obsessed with the results, I cut out shampoo and only use a mixture of Bentonite clay, acv, and aloe Vera juice followed by my conditioner and my hair has never been this soft and shiny and my curl pattern is just popping. I will always recommend bentonite clay

mlank64
Guest
mlank64

Yes, I agree monique. On my hair, bentonite clay is the business. I get incredible curl definiation, moisture, and a really clean scalp. I’ve done deep conditioning treatments using cheap, moderate, and expensive conditioners but nothing comes close to giving me complete moisturized hair like bentonite clay is unreal. Sometimes I’ll do my deep conditioning before I wash because the bentonite is so moisturizing that I don’t want it coated again with a conditioner. The only problem is I buy Terresential Mud Wash and I’m getting pretty tired of the high cost. I need to find a mud recipe I… Read more »

T.
Guest
T.

I use bentonite clay mixed with apple cider vinegar and some honey and grapeseed oil, mixed to a consistency I like. I’ve never used Terressentials so I can’t compare, but I find that my basic clay mix gives me fairly good results. From things I’ve read you could also mix it aloe vera juice and other oils (olive, coconut, sweet almond, etc.) and maybe some essential oils for fragrance.

Jadaya
Guest
Jadaya

Naptural85 has a tutorial on the clay wash she makes. She also used to use Tressentials mud wash. Hope this helps 🙂

JenniD
Guest
JenniD

Lol at people saying this is not 4c hair. My hair looks exactly like that when wet and dries the same as the pics Jc posted. Don’t let the clumping fool you.Been following this experiment here and over at your blog Jc. I enjoy it a lot. I never tried clay washes. Is it hard to wash out of the hair and does it clog your drains? I live in an old apartment building with old pipes and I don’t want to clog up the line trying to rinse the clay out of my hair lol. This is some very… Read more »

Dananana
Guest
Dananana

^Agreed.…remember when the 4c category used to be part of the 4a category? To those that don’t, it’s really kind of a generic catch-all for small circumference spiral curl patterns with high degrees of shrinkage. The idea that 4c hair can’t clump is a myth. I have varying type 4 textures and curl sizes on my head. Even the irregularly patterned ones will clump with conditioner and/or clay. I’m not Jc, but I can tell you about my clay experience. I was very skeptical of it for the reasons you listed (weak/poor drainage), and I was afraid of damaging my… Read more »

mlank64
Guest
mlank64

If your hair felt mushy…it seems to be a classic sign that your hair may need a boost of protein. The clay mixes are uber moisturizing.

Dananana
Guest
Dananana

Yeah, I was thinking that…I tend to be protein sensitive though, so I’m weighing my options on what I might try to remedy that. Any suggestions?

AGREED
Guest
AGREED

I like coconut oil in my favorite conditioner as a protein treatment. Anything else will leave my hair a tangled mess.

Jc
Guest

JenniD — There is actually some bentonite clay that is milled very finely such that it will not clump (the clay itself) and will wash down the drain. I got mine from Amazon (search for non clumping bentonite clay). I do have the same concerns about the drain so I pour some drain unblocker too just in case every other week. It has only been 3 months but I have no issues so far. I also only use it twice a week when I swim, other times I just rock the shrunken fro (that is not 4a or 3c lol).… Read more »

Kristen
Guest
Kristen

Question though…Is there any harm in applying a deep conditioning treatment (using heat) right after rinsing out the Bentonite clay? My hair always feels tacky/weird due to the clay and I’m not sure how to combat that.

Jerri
Guest
Jerri

I wondered about this as well. Also I wonder if the clay rinse actually removed the benefits of the conditioner. The first and only time I tried it, I used a leave in after I rinsed the clay out and that definitely helped.

Christina Patrice
Guest

Kristen, I’d definitely say try re applying a little conditioner after rinsing the clay. I had the same experience, and I found that working a handful of conditioner through my hair then rinsing it out solves the problem and leaves the hair soft and silky!

Kristen
Guest
Kristen

And thanks for doing this experiment again, you’re awesome!

elodie
Guest
elodie

more like 4a than 4c to me but very informative article

Jerri
Guest
Jerri

And this further leads me to believe the the “clay rinse” in the MHM routine is what leads to the curl clumping, not those other tedious steps. I have 3c/4a hair and can attest that bentonite clay did wonders for clumping mu coils, even better than henna and conditioner. The max hydration mess is a complete waste of time, money and product.

Jadaya
Guest
Jadaya

It’s funny that I see this article because I just attempted to do my first wash n go using Dickey’s suggested method for kinkier hair textures and it did not work for me. The tut is on Taren’s YouTube, any who I’m gonna give this bentonite clay a try and see what happens.

Adeola @ TheManeCaptain
Guest

I use bentonite clay to cleanse, not so much for clumping. But I noticed that my hair felt a bit more smooth and curls clumped a bit when I use rhassoul clay.
http://www.coilsandglory.com

Chris88
Guest
Chris88

I gave myself a strong protein treatment recently and experienced protein overload symptoms. To wash away some of the protein without having to use shampoo(which I haven’t used in 6–9 months), I used bentonite clay every other day followed by a creamy leave in and shea butter. And wow! My hair has never felt as heathy. I have been using bentonite clay to cleanse and condition my hair for 2 weeks now and my hair feels AMAZING! It is clumping without gel or custard. It’s still kinky coily and curly, but it’s so thick and healthy and conditioned! OMG! So… Read more »

chelsea d.
Guest
chelsea d.

I noticed that when I stopped combing my hair after washing it but finger detangle instead, I know have more defined curls. Cause now I’m not combing through them. *I have 4c/a little 4b hair* but it’s shrinkin

Jack
Guest
Jack

This works for me as well. I have type 4 hair.

pdg
Guest
pdg

I tried bentonite clay out of curiosity and was amazingly surprised at the results. My hair was very soft and had a nice sheen to it. It looked and felt very clean. My coils were more noticeable than with the typical wash, condition and rinse. Using the clay will become part of my hair routine.

Leah James
Guest
Leah James

I have 3c/4a hair and I’m trying bentonite clay .

Leah James
Guest
Leah James

The last Few Pics Look Like 3c and 4a Curls Not 4c. 4c has tighter coils than that .

Chika
Guest
Chika

Curls that are properly hydrated appear to be looser in texture. Judging by the previous pics, it’s definitely 4c hair.

Hope Tweenie Kay
Guest
Hope Tweenie Kay

i live in Uganda, east africa . where can i get bentonite clay. #sigh . ive looked for it everywhere. do u think it can be shipped to African :/

Raven
Guest
Raven

When I rinse the clay for my hair, my curls no longer clump like they did when the clay was in my hair. Is there a product that will allow my curls to clump like the clay does? Also, when I moisturize my hair any curls that remain are disturbed and lost forever. Any tips? I have 4c high porosity hair.?

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