Caring for Type 4 Hair
Type 4 hair has the tightest curl pattern of all the hair types. 4C hair is characterised by tight s-shaped or z-shaped coils. The A-C subcategories further define the tightness of the coil. Of course, all individuals will have varying hair densities, porosities and potentially a mixture of several hair types, also. So it’s important to remember that no two heads of hair are the same, even if they have a similar hair type.
Identifying Your Type 4 Hair
Type 4 kinky, coily hair is very fine with densely packaged together stands of hair. Type 4 hair is one of the most common hair types amongst black hair. For a more detailed breakdown the hair types 3-4, have a read of our Ultimate Guide to Finding Your Curl Pattern.
Type 4A hair
4A hair contains tightly packed strands which take on an “S” shaped pattern when stretched. This type of hair can often be confused with 3C hair but can be discerned more easily by the tightness of the coils.
Type 4B hair
4B hair has a slightly less defined curl pattern, and when stretched the pattern of the curl has a more “Z” like appearance with sharper and more angular features.
4C hair has the tightest curl pattern of all hair types. The hairs can form either “S” or “Z” shaped patterns. Due to the tightness of the coil, 4C hair can be prone to breakage as the hair dries out quicker than other hair types. Individuals with 4C hair can experience up to 75% shrinkage.
Starting your Haircare Journey
So, once you’ve identified your hair type(s), it’s time to learn how best to address the unique challenges having type 4 hair can sometimes bring. The first step is to curate a natural hair regimen that works for you and your hair.
Purifying and Cleansing
Yes, it’s very important to keep your scalp and hair clean to prevent product build-up and remove dirt and oil. The problem arises when type 4 hair is washed to excess. Shampoos containing sulfates can strip the natural oils that keep your hair happy and healthy, so over-washing your hair will lead to dryness and potential breakage. Opt for milder shampoos with fewer sulfates to avoid this, or skip using sulfate-containing shampoos altogether and go for a co-wash, which will still remove the majority of dirt and oil from your hair without the harsher chemicals. Shampoo mindfully, and try not to shampoo more than your hair can tolerate, try to lengthen the time between washes to at least once every 2 weeks, and if you’re experiencing itchy scalp or product build-up perhaps opt for a co-wash or apple cider vinegar rinse, instead.
Moisturising and Conditioning
Type 4 hair needs to be kept moisturised, even if you have low porosity hair the coils and kinks of 4C hair make the distribution of the natural oils throughout your hair more difficult. This means that type 4 hair dries out faster than other curl patterns and extra care must be taken to prevent this. A good moisturizer and sealant are essential for healthy type 4 hair. Oils such as jojoba oil, olive oil or shea butter are very effective at sealing in moisture.
A quick and convenient way to hydrate your hair is to mist your hair lightly with a few spritzes of water from a spray bottle and sealing with your favourite moisturising cream or oil. Try this daily and your hair will surely reward you with happier, healthier locks.
As well as this, we also recommend that those with type 4 hair deep condition once to twice a week for an additional layer of moisture. Type 4 hair thrives when properly moisturised and weekly deep conditioning treatments will help to keep hair nourished, shiny and healthy. Well-moisturised hair is less prone to snagging and tangling which if left untreated can result in breakage and hair loss.
Deep conditioning with a protein treatment every 4-8 weeks can work wonders for maintaining health or repairing damaged hair. The hydrolyzed protein will help to reinforce your hair, retain moisture and prevent breakage.
Don’t overlook the importance of styling when it comes to the health of your hair. Type 4 hair is more delicate and styles that require low manipulation will be better for your hair. Excessive styling can lead to breakage, and ideally, you’ll want to opt for styles that require less manipulation so as to give your hair a break, from time to time.
Type 4 hair is often renowned for its incredible shrinking ability but we know this shrinkage can be frustrating as it keeps you from seeing your hair growth and can make your hair more susceptible to tangling. Explore heat-free styles that stretch your hair out like twists, Bantu knots or protective styles such as braid outs and box braids. As we’ve mentioned before not all protective styles deserve the title! Try to avoid any protective styles that tug at your hairline or require frequent use of heat and lots of manipulation - such styles are bound to weaken your hair over time and cause breakage.
Check out our previous blog post for some inspiration if you’re looking for new protective styles to wear.
We know that type 4 hair can be challenging when learning to care for. Remember that your hair care journey is a marathon and not a sprint, and allow yourself some time to learn and adjust to your hair’s needs. Keep positive and persistent and before you know it you’ll have hit all your haircare goals!