Type 4 Hair; Anatomy, Care and Styles

Hollie Shirley / Hair & Skincare Editor

Read on to find out more about type 4 hair and our tips to help make it look its best.

What is Type 4 Hair

In this post, we want to further explore the different types of type 4 hair. This hair type is identified as being kinky with a zigzag pattern. It is the hair type that most black women have and is tightly coiled and very fragile, and comes with its own pros and cons and requires special care to keep it looking its best. It’s quite common for us to have more than one texture. Your edges may be 4b while the majority of your hair is 4a type. Or you may have 4a hair with some 3c strands for example. Remember no two heads of hair are alike.

This hair type can often be mistaken for being very coarse when in actual fact it is normally very very dense and fine hair strands. Because of the structure of the cuticle, it is the driest hair type and requires the most care to avoid breakage.

The Different Types of Natural 4 Hair

Generally speaking, afro hair is type 4 hair, but there are different variations of type 4 hair:

Type 4A has a defined curl that is almost like an S shape. It retains moisture fairly well but can still be prone to dryness and breakage.

Also read: How to take care of 4A hair


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Type 4B has more of a Z shape and is prone to dryness and breakage due to the bends and curves in the hair strand. This hair type can also shrink up to 60% so appears a lot shorter than it actually is.


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Type 4C looks similar to type 4B, but on closer inspection is much tighter coils and in its most natural product free state has no defined curl pattern. Coils have to be defined with products and styling with twists or braids. It can also shrink by up to 70% and is very prone to breakage due to the bends in the hair.


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How to care for type 4 natural coily hair

Type 4 hair is the most delicate hair texture that exists and as such requires extra care and attention. Caring for type 4 hair requires gentle handling and should be styled with as little manipulation as possible in order to promote length retention, volume, and growth. Natural type 4 hair should be well maintained due to its fragile state and with a little TLC and a delicate touch, your natural hair will grow longer, stronger and healthier.

Washing tips

Shampoo infrequently: no more than once a week, and as little as once every 2-3 weeks. Experiment with your regimen to see what works for your hair.

Remember that once your hair is wet it is in its most fragile state and will be more prone to tangles which leads to breakage. Handle your hair with care!

Concentrate shampoos on your scalp and not the lengths and ends of your hair. Avoid sulfates at all costs, along with any other ingredients that dry out your hair such as silicones and parabens.

Moisturizing Coily Hair

Use lots of conditioner on wet hair to help with moisture and detangling, and look for products with a lot of slip. Be gentle; your curls are fragile. Using a wide-toothed comb will help remove tangles and help disperse conditioners throughout your hair. After shampooing, use a deep moisturising conditioner to rehydrate your hair.

Moisturize every day with a leave-in conditioner, moisturizer, or steam to keep your curls soft and hydrated.

Use oils to seal moisture into your hair at the ends to enhance your curls and keep frizz at bay. Apply oils to the roots to keep them in optimal health.


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Deep Conditioning

Deep condition every 1-2 weeks to add moisture and nourishing ingredients to your hair to keep it strong and free from damage. If your hair feels weak or lacks elasticity, use a protein conditioner to strengthen the hair follicles and prevent breakage. Type 4C hair, in particular, needs to be deeply conditioned once a week to soften, strengthen and moisturise the hair. We would recommend using butters, natural oils and natural moisturisers.

Ensure that you wrap your hair in a silk hair wrap or sleeping on a silk pillowcase to protect your hair from rubbing against cotton, reducing bed head and tangles, and helping your hair to retain the moisture you worked so hair to put back into your hair.

Styling type 4 coily hair

Protective styling is a popular method for retaining length and encouraging new growth. This can include braids, faux locs, box braids, Havana twists crochet braids and Bantu knots to name a few. Wigs are also a popular choice as it allows you to give your natural hair a break from manipulation and you can change your style however you wish.

Low manipulation styles such as tucked hairstyles, braids and twists will help to reduce the need to style your hair daily that could contribute to breakage.


Straightening Type 4 hair

Don’t run away in horror, you can straighten this hair type. There are some fantastic hair straighteners you can use that will ensure you minimise heat damage while straightening your hair, however, we wouldn’t recommend doing it often, overheating this delicate hair type can lead to breakage. Make sure you use heat protectants and don’t go over the same section of hair more than once, and seal with protective oil or serum.  You can straighten this hair type without heat using roller setting, but results will vary depending on your hair condition, and the results may not last as long.

A Silk press is an option that can be used to straighten and style this hair type. Unlike traditional press and curl technique that used hot combs and oils in the past, a silk press uses high-quality straighteners and moisturising systems to press natural hair straight with very little damage. This can last up to 3 weeks depending on your hairs health. The next time you go to wash your hair your curls will return to their natural state. Wearing your hair in a silk hair wrap will ensure you get the very best from your silk press.


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Hollie Shirley
Hair & Skincare Editor

Hollie Shirley is SILKUP’s hair and skincare editor. She’s obsessed with all things hair care and results-driven skincare, that is kind to the environment and your wallet. She has a weakness for limited edition eyeshadows and is always testing out the newest and greatest deep conditioners. Hollie has a passion for hair and is studying Trichology, working towards becoming a Member of the Association of Registered Trichologists.