type 4 hair

Type 4 Hair | A Guide Caring For Coily, Natural Hair

If you have type 4 hair then I’ve got this guide for you! This article explains how to take care of natural type 4 hair, the best products for type 4 hair, hairstyles for type 4 hair and so much more!

African American hair textures that are coily and kinky are often referred to as type 4 hair.

This type of hair isn’t technically curly as it doesn’t form properly defined spirals but it coils tightly onto itself to form a springy sort of texture. 

In fact, some type 4 hair textures are not even curly and have a zig-zag shape instead.

I personally have type 4c coily hair which is the tightest of the type 4 hair so I know some of the challenges that come with caring for this type of hair.

For years, I had silk pressed hair to make it more manageable before discovering the type 4 hair care community and learning to love my natural hair.

So today, I thought I’ll share some of that knowledge with you and let you know how to take care of your natural type 4 hair in the best way possible.

Type 4 Hair Texture 

The type 4 hair texture is usually associated with black people but there have been instances when someone of a different race can also have type 4 hair. However, it is believed that they might have an African ancestor somewhere up their family tree for this anomaly to come about.

Type 4 hair isn’t curly despite a lot of people calling it so. It doesn’t form proper ringlets or spirals and the curl definition is hardly visible.

This type of hair is usually called “coily” as it forms really tight spring-like strands. And due to this shape, it becomes nearly impossible for the scalp’s natural sebum to reach this hair, making type 4 hair the roughest and driest of all hair types.

Type 4a, 4b and 4c Hair

Like all other hair types on the Andre Walker Hair Typing System, type 4 hair is also further subdivided into type 4a, 4b and 4c hair. 

Type 4a Hair

is my hair 4a or 4b
Source: Instagram@alineliu_esp1

This is the least “springiest” of the natural hair type and it’s very easy to confuse it with type 3c  hair, as 4a hair has  tightly woven “s” shaped curls. However, unlike type 3 curls they do not form complete ringlets and are very coarse in appearance. 4a hair also lacks the curl definition that is present in 3c hair.

Type 4b Hair

4b hair texture
Source: Instagram@ifshesopleases

The type 4b hair is the easiest to identify because of its unique zig zag pattern. Unlike the spiral curls of 4a hair or coils of 4c hair, 4b tresses have an angular zigzag texture. Because of this shape it’s very prone to dryness and is often “floofy” due to frizz. 

Type 4c Hair

type 4 hair texture
Source: Instagram@tash_kai

4c hair is the most tightly wound and least porous of all the type 4 hair textures. It’s very, very prone to shrinkage due to its shape. So you might have waist length 4c hair when straightened but it will appear as shoulder length when taking its natural Afro shape. This is the hair texture that forms cloud-like Afros people usually associate with African American hair.

Hair Care Tips For Type 4 Hair

  • Type 4 hair is prone to be low porosity. So during wash days stand under the shower for a while till your hair is completely soaked through before shampooing or conditioning. Using hot water at the beginning can also help.
  • Do NOT detangle type 4 hair dry. Ever. I use the tangle teezer brush to remove knots from my 4c hair while deep conditioning. This also helps add slip to the brush.
  • Try co-washing where you only wash your hair with conditioner and completely skip shampoo if your type 4 hair feels too dry.
  • Protective hairstyles are your best friend. If you want to prevent breakage and grow type 4 hair wearing it in braids, locks, etc. is very helpful.
  • I always keep my hair in a pineapple bun and use a bonnet before sleeping. Using a silk/satin pillowcase instead of cotton ones can also help prevent dryness as these fabrics are not absorbent. 

Best Products For Type 4 Hair

Best Shampoo For Type 4 Hair

best shampoo for type 4 hair

I would personally recommend going for a co wash instead of a shampoo if you have type 4 hair, especially if you have 4c hair.

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But those who have oily scalps and want stronger cleansing can go for a sulfate-free shampoo that contains rich, nourishing ingredients such as coconut oil, shea butter, almond oil, etc. This way you get clean hair without compromising on the moisturization.

My go-to shampoo for type 4 hair has always been the SheaMoisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil. It’s my favorite as it contains apple cider vinegar which is great at clarifying your hair without drying it out.

I also love the way the Jamaican castor oil and shea butter nourish your hair.

Best Deep Conditioner For Type 4 Hair

best deep conditioner for type 4 hair

Okay, so I love SheaMoisture products as I’ve found them the most effective in managing dryness on my tresses. So the SheaMoisture Intensive Hydration Hair Mask has always been my regular deep conditioner.

I use it on my hair during wash day after I’ve showered and detangle my hair during this bit too.

The richness of this hair mask is something else. And my favorite part about it is that it has a water base and contains humectants like glycerin. So if you have low porosity type 4 hair, this mask is a blessing.

Best Leave In Conditioner For Type 4 Hair

best leave in conditioner for type 4 hair

I have low porosity hair so I prefer something water-based on my hair as it adds more moisture to hair before locking it in with emollients. 

So I love the Mielle Organics Pomegranate & Honey Leave-In Conditioner as it is both hydrating and moisturizing at the same time. 

Yes, it might be a bit lightweight for some hair types so I always layer it with coconut oil. I usually follow the LOC (Liquid, Oil, and Cream) sequence as suggested by the Curly Girl Method when applying product to my hair. 

Hairstyles For Type 4 Hair

FAQs about Type 4 Hair Texture

How do you know if your hair is Type 3 or 4?

Sometimes it can get difficult to tell the difference between curly 3c hair and 4a hair. So the easiest way to identify your hair type in this case is to check the shape of your curls. Type 3 hair usually has cylindrical curls with a distinct spiral shape. On the other hand, type 4 hair isn’t curly but coily. It’s very tightly wound and has almost no curl definition. Some type 4 hair also has a zig zag pattern to it which is never seen in type 3 hair.

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Is my hair 4b or 4c?

It’s actually quite easy to differentiate between 4b and 4c hair. While 4b hair has a distinct zig zag pattern that sets it apart from other type 4 hair, 4c hair has a more springy texture. 4c hair is very tightly wound and is also more prone to shrinkage than 4b hair. You might also notice that 4c hair forms lumps of sorts at the ends and this isn’t the case with 4b hair.


Why does 4C hair break so easily?

Type 4c hair lacks moisturization and tends to be really dry because of its shape. In other hair textures, the sebum produced on the scalp travels down to the length of the hair keeping it healthy and soft. 
In type 4 hair and in 4c hair in particular, the tightly wound spring shape makes it more difficult for this to happen. Hence, this hair texture is very dry and vulnerable to breakage. 
The coily texture also makes it easier for strands to get tangled with each other, leading to breakage due to friction. 

Should I wash my 4C hair every week?

This depends entirely on your scalp condition and type of hairstyle you’re wearing. Most black hair care experts say that 4c can be washed every week if you’re using a co-washing product instead of shampoo. Others only prefer to cleanse the scalp and leave hair alone, particularly if you’re wearing protective hairstyles like braids or locs. 

Final Thoughts on the Type 4 Hair Texture

Type 4 is the natural, African American hair texture that is springy and coily instead of being curly. 

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It’s very prone to shrinkage which means that due to the shape of the curls your hair length appears shorter than it really is.

Also, the coily shape makes it difficult to distribute oils throughout the hair, making it the driest and most vulnerable hair texture.

There wasn’t much awareness about proper hair care for type 4 hair. But in recent years, movements like the Curly Girl Method and online communities for black hair care have brought this issue to the forefront.

I hope my article helped you get a starter’s guide to how to take care of your type 4 hair or of those close to you with this hair type. 

Also Read:

How To Soften Coarse African American Hair

Best Anti-Frizz Serums For African American Hair

Best Scalp Moisturizers For Black Hair

Best Hair Growth Products For African Americans

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