The Implications of the Max Hydration Method for 4C Hair

Today’s guest post is by Judith, a fellow Harvard alum and long-term transitioner, so show her some love!

Remember the popular Drake parody “Wash N Go’s Don’t Work On Nappy Hair” on YouTube? Well, according to the Maximum Hydration Method, it CAN work. To get a curl pattern, you simply have to follow a multi-step process to achieve it…

But wait, what happened to 4c hair not having a natural curl pattern, and that being okay? What of the movement to embrace 4c hair as it “naturally” is – clump-free and all?

If you’re even somewhat involved in the online hair community, you have probably heard about the Maximum Hydration Method and how it has been sweeping the natural hair community by storm. In short, the Maximum Hydration Method, or MHM, touts the steps recommended to achieve maximally hydrated hair.

MHM in a nutshell, courtesy of msdeekay.com.
MHM in a nutshell, courtesy of msdeekay.com.

It is mostly targeted at those with type 4c low porosity hair because of the belief that such hair types have the most difficulty holding and keeping moisture. In fact, the creator of MHM – Pinke Cube of BlackHairMedia.com, argues that the reason why some naturals have trouble creating clumped uniformed curls is due to the lack of moisture. Now, this thought is not without some controversy as it has many implications for what desirable healthy hair is supposed to look like, especially among type 4c naturals who struggle to fit the archetype.

According to some pictorial demonstrations of curl  patterns, type 4 hair is described as having small tight curls; it does not necessarily mean that a curl pattern is non-existent. Maybe MHM is on to something.
According to some pictorial demonstrations of curl
patterns, type 4 hair is described as having small
tight curls; it does not necessarily mean that a curl
pattern is non-existent. Maybe MHM is on to
something.

Some believe that the MHM feeds into the natural hair hierarchy or hairtype desirability; there is no secret that looser hair patterns receive more love in the natural hair community than tighter/nonexistent curl patterns, as evidenced by the types of natural hair blogs and YouTubers who seem to get the most support, or even the types of “kinky-curly” weaves we tend to buy. Even among those with the kinkier hair types, many of us seem to be biased against hair that cannot clump or hold a curl. Does the MHM provide us a legitimate excuse in the form of “maximum hydration” to seek out clumped curly hair without shame of “betraying” ourselves as proud nappy naturals?

And then there are some of us who do see the health benefits of MHM: moisture. How can one debate with that? Moisture is a good thing in the natural hair community. MHM is not a method directing you to put damaging heat or chemicals to “tame” your natural tresses. Rather, it is positioning you in the best possible way to receive the most moisture into your delicate strands, because without moisture, our hair is more likely to experience breakage, which is universally unacceptable across all hair types. Therefore, MHM is about hair health, and it just so happens that clumping is a visible effect and marker.

MHM on a looser hair type. It's not just for type 4 hair.
MHM on a looser hair type. It’s not just for type 4 hair. Click the photo to learn more from Christina of The Mane Objective!

So what are the real implications of MHM for 4c natural hair?

Is the fact that it is so popular among type 4 naturals an indication of internalized bias against kinky hair? Or could it be that we just want healthy hair even if it takes us a bazillion steps to reach there? Which is it and what does it mean for those of us with puffy clouds of hair with no visible curl pattern on a healthy hair journey?

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Comments

  1. Jeez! Everything needs maintenance and care even the dead cells (hair) in order for them to look good. I refuse to suffer in pain of detangling and getting my nails stuck in meshes and webs of my thin strands of 4c hair that do not even get wet wen water is poured on them for long minutes, doesn’t even absorb the lightest of oils. If the MHM solves dis problem for me, I will advertise it a lot. To all y’all haters of the method, I mean, why even moisturise ur skin? Or try to get rid of acne? Or try to remove cellulites or stretch marks or even apply make up or use jewellery? Some pple are so funny. Mhm doesnt changes anything. It just gives life to dull, drab 4c hair. Dnt diss the method bcos u cnt do it. Let those who can, do it and just appreciate them for having the courage. After all, some of us are self taught while others spend half their lives in school. Appreciate! Dnt be a hater! Jeez! After all its their hair, no one is forcing u to do it.

  2. Hmm. I understand why people want to do the MHM. But it is untested. Why? Because there are no testimonies on the use of the MHM for a period of YEARS. The method is essentially using lots of acidic and abrasive ingredients to open up the cuticle and allow moisture in and swell the cuticle to recieve as much as possible. Then lower the cuticle. The do that whole process again. Is it possible that the abrasive baking soda and the constant manipulation of the pH of the hair is causing long term damage?
    Also, None of the ingredients actaully CLEAN you hair. So at what point do you actually clean your hair?
    I think this is a great once in a while temporary method. But permanently? The jury is still out on whether this is safe to do indefinitely.
    This also messes with the psychology of type 4 girls, by saying that yes you’re natural, but you’re no the desirable type of natural. What you need is hair that curls, not coils. Which is the antithesis of the narrative of natural hair as far as I’m concerned.

    This method is artificial. Your hair is not actually that texture. You’re manipulating it, to get it to that texture. I love curls as much as the next person. But this seems extreme to want to permanently maintain this hair texture by doing this untested method al the time. Why don’t these girls just go the whole 9 and get a texturiser? who’s to say that they’re not sustaining an equal amount of damage for mdoing this ktichen beautician treatment, as somethign that’s been tried and tested in a lab?

  3. Great article.

    I don’t like these multi-step regimens myself. There are people with straight hair who do almost nothing to their hair but shampoo, and their hair looks great. Though I understand we should approach our hair differently because too much shampoo is bad for our hair, that doesn’t mean we have to do many things to it to get it to look a certain way. There is nothing wrong with our hair the way it looks, and it has nothing to do with “moisture” or “hydration” or “health”. I think whatever it is that we have to do to our hair fo it to be healthy it has to be simple and a matter of hygiene only, unless you have problems with your hair, of course, which I believe is not everyone’s case.

    I think we have to ask: are people really and truthfully starting to accept their natural features or is this just a way to hide their desperate need for the next “natural way” “fix” it?

    If this is the case then it is very sad we still haven’t reached the freedom we are looking for.

  4. I am not sure where the idea of low, medium, and high porosity hair came from. I’m not sure if this is an actual scientific fact or something pushed by hair companies. But let’s say it’s a fact. Then low porosity should be the best type of porosity. The fact is, hair that is damaged has raised cuticles or gaps. If low porosity hair means that the cuticle is completely intact and flat, how in the world could that be a bad thing? MHM is designed to get low porosity hair to become “medium” porosity hair by forcing the cuticle to be raised so that it accepts moisture. So basically changing a cuticle that’s in good shape into one that’s not. Why would you ever WANT to do that? For curls? No thank you.

    And then people keep pushing that your hair needs moisture. No your hair does not need moisture. Your hair does not need anything because once it exists the scalp, it’s dead. Fact. We want it to have moisture because it will feel and look a certain way when it does. But again, hair is dead. Like anything else that is dead, it breaks down over time. So every time we attempt to raise the cuticle to put moisture in it, we’re speeding up the break down of hair. Even rain water and wind which we can’t control, damages hair. Look up weathering and hair and you’ll see that these are scientific facts. Hair’s condition will never improve. It will only decrease. I’m not saying don’t pursue moisture. We all want our hair to look and feel a certain way. But we’ve proliferated this lie that hair can be healthy and that healthy hair looks a certain way. That has lead to a bigger lie, which is that there is something wrong with 4c hair when it doesn’t clump or shine like other hair types. No, it’s protein bonds that gave its shape are just different than other hair types. There’s nothing wrong with that. So don’t get bogged down by these diy hair scientists telling you that there is something wrong with your 4c hair.

    1. The porosity thing is true and verifiable by putting hair under a microscope, although personally I don’t know why anyone would want to because I think hair looks disgusting under a microscope, like some destroyed landscape, but there you have it. However, I have not been able to find any scientific evidence behind the max hydration method besides: erase cuticle, insert moisture, slather with gel. I always appreciate a scientific opinion on any of these newfangled hair methods. Everything you said was very interesting and validating, as I’ve thought of some of those things before but never heard anyone voice it out loud. Also I feel very lazy most times and don’t follow/agree with most people’s ideas of how to maintain hair. I have 2 questions: do you think moisturizing hair is at the very least putting off the ever-looming threat of its depreciation? Do you think keeping the cuticles down at all times (i.e. keeping hair at low-porosity) is the best course of action towards this end, as long as you don’t lose moisture? As I have seen, people who rarely manipulate their hair and/or people who moisturize religiously have the longest hair, and I must admit to wanting longer hair, but without all the 20-step processes.

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