4c Hair: All You Need To Know About It

Written by Arshiya Syeda

You know why I love Instagram? I love it because it’s the epicenter of many a body positivity movement. And one hashtag in particular that has become a global phenomenon is #BlackGirlMagic. This hashtag has become a repository of pictures of gorgeous black girls embracing their natural hair in all its glory. And perhaps the most attention has been focused on type 4 kinky coily hair. After centuries of being oppressed and being told that kinky hair is not beautiful, black women are taking back the power, standing up against Eurocentric beauty standards to embrace their natural hair, most of all their tightly coiled natural 4c hair. But before we get into that, let’s first look at what type 4 hair is.

Type 4 hair is characterized by tightly coiled curls and is often referred to as kinky or coily hair. It is wiry and fine textured and is quite fragile by nature. This zig-zaggy curl type dries up quickly and is prone to breakage. Type 4 hair is further subdivided into 3 types:

Type 4a hair – Dense, fine curls that follow an S-shaped pattern and are as wide as a crochet needle.

Type 4b hair – Sharply angled Z-shaped curls that are not very defined and are as wide as a pen.

Type 4c hair – Densely packed, tightly coiled curls with less definition and more shrinkage.

Since the focus of this article is only natural 4c hair, let’s take a more in-depth look at it…

What Is Type 4c Hair?

Type 4c follows the same Z-shaped curl pattern as type 4b hair, but is more tightly coiled. When it has been freshly washed and is free of all products, it does not have a very defined curl pattern. Therefore, women with this delicate hair type have to resort to methods such as twisting, shingling or braiding to add definition to their curls.

4c hair can come in a range of textures from fine and soft to wiry and coarse. But regardless of its texture, it is still the most delicate hair type of all. Which is why women with 4c hair go for protective hairstyles like braids and weaves to protect their hair from getting damaged.

One astounding feature of 4c hair is that it is prone to high levels of shrinkage. This means that the curls get so tightly coiled that they appear much shorter than they actually are. For instance, the actual length of your hair may be 10 inches, but if you have 4c hair, then it looks only 3 inches long.

How To Find Out What Type Of Curls You Have

The best time to figure out what type of hair you have is right after you’ve stepped out of the shower and have absolutely no product in your hair. Step away from the blow dryer and let your hair dry completely. Then all you need to do is observe. If your hair has fine textured, super defined, S-shaped curls, then you have 4a hair. You have 4b hair if your curls are sharply angled, well defined, and follow a zig-zag pattern. Lastly, if your hair is fine textured, has a Z-shaped curl pattern, but is not well defined, then you have  natural 4c hair. You will also notice here that your hair is very tightly coiled and shrinks considerably.

The most important thing to remember when determining your hair type is that you could have a couple of different types of hair on different parts of your head. So, you will need to experiment with the products you use and play around with your hair care routine before you figure out what works best for you! But here are a few things you can keep in mind to take good care of your 4c hair…

How To Take Care Of 4c Hair? (Maintenance)

Since natural 4c hair is the most fragile type of hair, you need to go the extra mile when taking care of it. Here are some things you can do to maintain the health of your hair:

  • Deep conditioning: The reason why natural 4c hair dries out so quickly lies in its tightly coiled curl pattern. These tight curls act as obstacles for the natural oils from your scalp to travel down the complete length of your hair, thus leaving your ends parched for moisture. Deep conditioning your hair at least once every two weeks is a great way to moisture it and make detangling the painful knots and tangles in your hair easier.
  • LOC in moisture: Since type 4c hair struggles to retain moisture and dries out quickly, it is imperative you not only moisturize it generously but also take steps to lock the moisture in the hair. The best way to do so is by following the LOC (liquid, oil, cream) method. Start off by spritzing your hair with water. Then apply coconut oil or olive oil to lock in the moisture. Finish off with a leave-in conditioner to keep your hair hydrated to the core.


  • Protective styling: A big struggle for women with natural 4c hair is growing their hair. This is because shrinkage robs their hair of its length. On top of that, it gets damaged and breaks quite easily. To protect this hair from all sorts of damage and help it grow out, it’s best to wear it in a protective style. Styles like cornrows, weaves, box braids, crochet braids, and bantu knots not only lend your hair some great protection but also look extremely gorgeous. Moreover, you can style these looks any way you want to match your personal sense of style.
  • Gentle detangling: Since natural 4c hair tends to be dry, it also knots up and tangles quite easily. This can prove to be frustrating as it is quite difficult as well as painful to detangle. The key is to use a wide toothed comb, a denman brush or your fingers and only to detangle it when it’s damp. Also make sure you start from your ends and work your way up to minimize breakage.


  • Get rid of split ends: Split ends can be the bane of your existence when you’re trying to grow out your 4c hair that already tends to shrink a lot. Trimming your hair and getting rid of its split ends once every 6 months will maintain the health of your hair and help it retain its length.
  • Co-wash your hair: Since shampoo strips your hair of its natural oils and 4c hair is already prone to drying out pretty quickly, it’s best to avoid washing your hair with shampoo as much as possible. Limit your shampoo usage to once or twice a month and opt for co-washing instead. Co-washing, i.e. washing your hair with just conditioner once a week can cleanse your hair effectively while still retaining moisture.
  • Pamper your hair at night: Many of you may not know this, but you tend to shed a lot of hair at night due to friction between your hair and pillowcase. Your pillowcase could also rob your 4c hair of its moisture. So the best way to avoid this damage is it to tie your hair in a loose ponytail or pineapple it and tie a satin/silk bonnet around it before going to sleep. If you don’t want to tie your hair in a bonnet, then a satin pillowcase is also a good alternative.
  • Avoid using too many products: The temptation to use every curl defining cream and leave-in conditioner in the market can be very real when it comes to tending to your natural 4c hair. But piling these products onto your hair can do more harm than good. So, step away from those bottles and tubs of products and stick to one or two things that you know work for you!

So now that you know how to properly take care of your 4c hair, let’s look at the trendiest ways that you can style it!

5 Awesome Ways To Style Your 4c Hair

1. Trendy Fauxhawk

Summer days are hard as it is without your hair falling all over your face and neck and irritating you. So here’s a totally cool way that all you 4c ladies out there can deal with this problem. Gather all your curls and tie them up in ponytails vertically down your head to resemble a cool mohawk!

2. Badass Pixie

Now here’s a badass hair look if there ever was one! You may associate cutesy pixie cuts with straight hair, but you couldn’t be more wrong. 4c hair looks super edgy and cool when cut in this style, especially when parted on one side and paired with a super chill denim jacket.

[ Read: Style Your Short Curls In 50 Ways ]

3. Brushed Out Afro

When most people were concerned about maintaining the pattern and definition of their 4c curls, Solange Knowles (like the badass that she is) decided to throw caution to the wind. She brushed out her hair and styled it in a super crazy and voluminous afro that, quite obviously, makes her stand out in any crowd.

4. Bleached Blonde

When you’re an icon like Solange, you best believe you’re going to make it twice on this list. And she really goes the distance with this bleached blonde look. Her short 4c afro is the very definition of ‘unconventional’ and is exactly the hair look you need to stand out in a crowd.

5. Side Parted Bob

Girl, you best believe you’ll be slaying the hair game if you sport this chic and feminine hair look. This short bob style is super cute and trendy as it is. But part it deeply on one side and you’ll end up with the hottest 4c style of the season.

[ Read: 60 Bob Haircuts For Black Women ]

Natural 4c hair may require a little more care and effort to maintain but the gorgeous end results are well worth it! Hope you now have a clearer picture of what natural 4c hair is, how to maintain it, and how to style it. If you have any more questions, just comment below to let us know.

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Arshiya Syeda is an editor and certified counselor. Ever the lover of the written word, she served on the editorial boards of her school and college newsletters. Writing articles on hairstyles, hair care, and nutrition helped her combine her love for reading, writing, and research. As an editor, she helps her team members deliver polished and meticulously researched content. Arshiya is fluent in English, Urdu, and Hindi and aims to become a multilinguist by learning German and teaching herself American Sign Language (ASL).