4B Hair Type: How To Take Care Of And Style It

We've done our research to give you everything you need to know about this curl type!

Reviewed by Monica Dickenson, Certified Trichologist Monica Dickenson Monica DickensonCertified Trichologist facebook_iconlinkedin_iconyoutube_iconinsta_icon
Written by , BA (Literature & Psychology), PG Diploma Arshiya Syeda BA (Literature & Psychology), PG Diploma linkedin_icon Experience: 7 years
Edited by , BSc Shatabdi Bhattacharya BSc linkedin_icon Experience: 2.5 years
Fact-checked by , BA Anu Pallavi BA linkedin_icon

Not all curly hair is the same. There are multiple curly hair types ranging from 2C (light curls) to 4C (tightly coiled hair). So, join us on a journey to discover everything about the 4B hair type. To give you a bit of backstory – Andre Walker invented the hair typing system, a blessing for African women! When you know your exact natural hair type, you can buy hair products, use hair styling techniques, and have a specific maintenance routine accordingly. So often, all African hair types are clubbed into one category, which is an atrocity. Discover all there is to know about 4B hair – its curl definition, hairstyles that best suit this hair type, and maintenance tips. But before that, let’s start with the basics. Scroll down to know what exactly is type 4 hair.

What Is Type 4 Hair?

Three kinds of type 4 hair
Image: Shutterstock

Type 4 hair refers to a specific category of curly hair that features tight curls or coils that have a distinct “S” or “Z” pattern, commonly called coily or kinky hair. People with this hair type often experience significant shrinkage, causing their hair to appear shorter than its actual length when dry. This hair type also requires adequate moisturization, protective styling, and patience due to its unique texture and tendency to be more prone to dryness and breakage.

Type 4 hair is further divided into subtypes 4A, 4B, and 4C. Scroll down to the next section to find out what 4B hair type is and how you can distinguish it from other type 4 hair types.

What Is 4B Hair Type?

4B hair is a coily hair type, categorized between 4A and 4C hair types. The coils of 4B hair are sharply angled in Z-shaped curls and are loosely defined when compared to 4A hair. Therefore, they appear more zig-zagged and fluffy than curled. And, while both 4B and 4C types are tightly coiled, 4B’s curl pattern can be identified to an extent whereas 4C shows no definite hair pattern.

What Is 4B Hair Type
Image: Shutterstock

With 4B type, you can either have fine, wiry textured hair or rough, coarse textured hair. Since the sharp Z-shaped pattern of this hair type acts as a major obstacle for the natural oils from the scalp to travel down the length of the hair, the best way to take care of it is to treat it with coconut or castor oil before washing it to retain some moisture,

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You can look up to popular celebs with 4B hair like American rapper Lauryn Hill, bassist Esperanza Spalding, and actress Yvette Nicole Brown for hair inspiration.

Another interesting feature of the 4B afro hair type is that it is prone to hair shrinkage. This means that it coils up quite tightly and makes your hair look significantly shorter than it actually is. But, proper care and hair maintenance can help you deal with this problem. Keep reading to know more.

How To Take Care Of 4B Hair?

4B hair, with its delicate texture, a propensity to drying out, and tendency to shrinkage, requires some very special tender loving care to maintain its health. So here’s what you need to do:

  • Moisturization is key: As we all know very well by now, 4B hair has a strong tendency of drying out because of its tightly coiled texture. So, the primary focus of your hair care routine has to be on restoring and retaining moisture in your hair. Now, washing your hair will definitely add moisture to it. But, you need to go the extra mile to really hydrate your hair and prevent damage and breakage. There are a few different things that you can try out here:
    • Treat your hair to a hot oil massage with coconut oil, castor oil or almond oil at least once a week to deeply nourish it from within. Just leave the oil in for a couple of hours before washing it off.
    • Condition your hair every time you wash it and go for a deep conditioner at least twice a month to add and retain moisture in your hair.
    • Pamper your hair with a leave-in conditioner after stepping out of the shower and keep applying it every morning to give your hair that extra boost of moisture.
  • Wash your hair in sections: This little tip may sound a bit strange to some of you, but it really makes life a lot easier for anyone with 4B hair. Wash your hair in sections to prevent it from getting tangled up and breaking. This also helps in stretching out your hair and retaining its length. You could section your hair in chunky braids or twists or even with the help of sectioning clips.
  • Detangle with fingers: There’s nothing worse than struggling painfully with a comb/brush to detangle your hair only to see it come away with a clump of your hair. Since 4B hair type is quite delicate in nature, the best way to detangle it is with your fingers or a wide toothed comb right after you have washed it as your hair is more pliable when damp.
  • Stretch out your hair: Perm rods, twist outs, and bantu knots work well to stretch out 4B coil hair and make it look as long as it really is. It also prevents your hair from getting too tangled up and breaking. You can stretch out your hair when it’s damp right after you’ve washed it or spritz some water on it to dampen it.
  • Protective styles are the way to go: When you have 4B hair, the less you touch or try to comb it, the better. That way you don’t risk tangling or breaking it. The best way to follow this low manipulation approach to maintaining your 4B hair is by doing it up in a protective style. Styles like box braids, bantu knots, twists, and updos protect your hair from damage and breakage while giving you the choice of styling your hair in funky and colorful styles and extensions.
  • Get yourself some beauty sleep: Your hair care routine for your 4B hair does not end when you are asleep. My only advice here would be to switch out your cotton pillowcase as it dries out your hair like nobody’s business. Go for a satin/silk case instead. Also, tie your hair in a pineapple and tie it in a silk/satin bonnet before going to sleep.

Now that you’ve pampered your 4B curls to the core, let’s take a look at some gorgeous styles that you can style it in.

7 Stunning Ways To Style Your 4B Hair

1. Pixie

Image: Shutterstock

Embrace your 4B hair texture and go for this chic pixie cut. With this cut, feel free to experiment with your makeup and accessories to switch up the look occasionally.

2. Bantu Knots

Bantu Knots
Image: Shutterstock

Bantu knots are versatile and a boho-chic version of a protective hairstyle. You can style them in several different ways, and each time these knots will blow your mind.

3. Layered Afro

Layered afro for 4b hair type
Image: IStock

If you’re looking for a simple 4B hairstyle, you should go for this layered look. Getting your hair cut in layers will help your 4B coils to unfurl in all their glory as well as prevent them from getting too tangled.

4. Undercut Cornrows

Undercut cornrows for 4b hair type
Image: IStock

Now here’s a style that’s a great combination of protective and natural styles. Style your 4B hair in some thin cornrows on one side and a side parted pixie on the other to create this total ‘Don’t mess with me’ style.

5. Voluminous Afro

Voluminous afro for 4b hair type
Image: IStock

This is what I call embracing your gorgeous natural 4B hair in all its glory. This voluminous afro is gorgeous, vivacious, and the perfect hair look to sport to let out your inner goddess.

6. Frosted Highlights

Frosted highlights for 4b hair type
Image: IStock

Whoever said you couldn’t color or highlight kinky hair was dreadfully wrong. Case in point, this caramel-highlighted look. The rich natural brown of her curly 4B hair has been accentuated with the help of caramel frosted highlights at the periphery of her hair.

7. Dreadlocks

Dreadlocks for 4b hair type
Image: IStock

It’s chic, it’s cool, and it’s what you need in your life right now. This dreadlocks style is equal parts badass and feminine and bound to be the best hair decision you’ve ever made.

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Popular actress Zendaya wore dreadlocks to the 2015 Academy Awards.

The blogger shares a hack of a wash-and-go style for 4B hair. She explains a routine that she devised with a trial and error method and finally became successful. She wrote, “This style took me one and a half hours from start to finish. If I do it regularly, I will be able to do it faster. I like this style because it did feel like an actual wash and go, probably because most of it was done in the shower (i).”

Infographic: Six Ways To Take Care Of 4B Hair Type

Due to its uniform Z-shaped pattern, moisture is hard to spread evenly through 4B hair, making it dry. To ensure proper growth and healthy-looking locks for this specific hair type, it’s always better to know what suits you and what doesn’t. Check out the infographic for six ways to help you take care of 4B hair.

six ways to take care of 4b hair type (infographic)

Illustration: StyleCraze Design Team

With the 4B hair type containing a Z-shaped coiled pattern, the natural oils from the scalp do not trickle down the strands, thus causing dryness. Hence, people with this hair type should focus on keeping their locks moisturized as much as possible through hot oil massages with castor or coconut oil and conditioners. Wash your hair in sections to avoid tangles, and go for low-manipulation hairstyles like twists, Bantu knots, and updos to prevent damaging your hair. Do not use any heat styling tools and instead go for hair-stretching techniques like perm rods and twist-outs.

Frequently Asked Questions

How often should you wash 4B hair?

If you have an active lifestyle that leads to sweat, which can impact your scalp health. Certified trichologist Monica Dickenson says, “Growing up I was taught to shampoo my hair every 2-4 weeks. This is an age-old myth. Then I learned as a trichologist that it’s best to shampoo your 4B hair every 3-5 days.” However, it is advised to section your hair and rinse and moisturize your scalp every other day and make sure you dry them properly.

How can I make my 4B hair grow faster?

Getting a low-manipulation, protective hairstyle done will protect your hair from damage, keep moisture locked in, and encourage healthy hair growth. Remember to wash your scalp to clean any buildup. If you keep your hair and scalp healthy and moisturized, you will not lose your hair to damage.

How can I soften my 4B hair?

Adopting a healthy hair care routine that is specific to your hair type will allow you to keep your hair moisturized and conditioned. Follow through with the hair regimen and avoid using too much product to prevent buildup – and you will soon see your 4B hair grow softer and shinier.

Key Takeaways

  • Type 4B hair is commonly referred to as coily or kinky hair. It is naturally very dry in texture and thus prone to breakage.
  • 4B hair is densely packed and often has Z-shaped curls with sharp angles.
  • Hot oil massage, deep conditioning, washing the hair in sections, and going for protective hairstyles are some ways to maintain 4B hair.
  • Hairstyles such as pixie, bantu knots, layered Afro, undercut cornrows, dreadlocks, etc., are great ways to style 4B hair.
4b hair type

Image: Dall·E/StyleCraze Design Team

In the detailed tutorial video below, learn how to get defined curls with 4B/4C short natural hair. Get step-by-step instructions and tips to achieve defined, bouncy curls that last.

Personal Experience: Source

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Monica Dickenson

Monica DickensonCertified Trichologist

Monica Dickenson has more than 30 years of experience as a dedicated technician and business owner. She is very passionate about providing the best service possible to anyone experiencing hair loss and has certifications in hair replacement and holistic trichology. She was awarded USTI Associate Trichologist of the year in 2018.   Monica graduated from Garfield High School in Woodbridge,...read full bio

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