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4b Hair: A Guide to Understanding This Coily Hair Type

BY Jana Russick

Let’s get into the beautiful curl patterns and coily shapes that make up type 4b hair. The distinct nature of this ultra-sturdy hair type is best explained as curly hair squared. Each piece of 4b hair is tightly wound and extends horizontally beyond the scalp, creating a densely voluminous body of hair. That said, 4b hair types don’t always have it easy.

If you’re endowed with this bold and bouncy hair pattern, you know that maintaining it can be a battle. The zig-zag pattern of 4b hair can make it hard for oils to evenly distribute, causing the locks to become frizzy and dry. And when products like relaxers or perms are used to straighten your natural hair texture, it can often cause damage and breakage that may require many years and trims to repair.

For 4b hair types, moisturizing your hair is of the utmost importance. Having well-hydrated locks is what can take your hair from dull to dynamic. But before diving into haircare tips, let’s explore the complexities of type 4 hair.

The Ins and Outs of Type 4 Hair

Type 4 hair is the predominant hair texture among Black and African American people. Within the hair typing system, type 4 hair gets progressively denser, coarser, and more coily as it goes up the scale. Understanding the advantages, weaknesses, and characteristics of African American hair textures will help you determine the best products and practices to use.

Those unfamiliar with coarse hair types might see type 4 as extra-curly hair. But that’s a major understatement. Type 4 hair care is nuanced and varies greatly from naturally curly hair types. Because there are so many distinct textures within the coily hair family, type 4 is broken down into 4a, 4b, or 4c hair types. With a balance of volume and coil definition, type 4b hair lies right in the middle of this spectrum.

Type 4b Hair

Kinky curly texture, horizontal hair growth, and an abundance of volume are the defining characteristics of 4b hair. As opposed to the softer ringlets of type 4a and 3c hair, 4b hair strands have a wiry Z-shaped structure that’s extremely stiff and dense. When you pull on a strand of 4b hair, you’ll see that the hair length multiplies. That’s because the densely packed Z shape of 4b locks causes hair shrinkage and makes the length appear much shorter than it actually is.

Isolating an individual strand of 4b hair is challenging because the strands tend to join together and form piecey coils. When optimally styled, these coils can take on a beautiful spiral shape. Because it can be hard for natural oils to make their way through kinky hair textures, 4b tresses often fall victim to dryness and frizz. When the coils aren’t properly defined or hydrated, they can form into clumps of frizz that make the hair look deflated and dry.

The key to great-looking 4b hair is maximizing shine and bringing definition to each coil. So how do you combat the dryness, frizz, and shrinkage that often occurs? By combining the right styling products made for your hair type with good haircare habits.

For a little inspo, check out this woman’s journey to loving her 4B hair.

How to Liven Up Your 4b Hair

Since we know that 4b hair is prone to dryness, wouldn’t a moisturizing deep conditioner seem like a natural first response? Yes, but it’s gotta have the right combination of ingredients for your hair texture.

Treat Yourself to Deep Conditioning

Dryness and frizz can take a toll on the feel of your hair. Not only do these annoyances rid your locks of definition, they can also make the texture of your 4b hair feel super rough. To soften your tresses and make them more manageable, consider a deep-conditioning treatment once or twice a week.

Function of Beauty’s custom hair mask is formulated with ingredients like Japanese sake extract, argan oil, and jojoba ester oil that’ll help deliver the moisture your 4b hair needs. Apply this creamy mask from the mid-shaft to the end of your hair after your shower for more hydrated-looking locks. 

Pro tip: Discover three tips on how to strengthen hair.

Wrap a Bow (or Scarf) Around It

Some people opt for protective styles like braids and twists to help grow and guard their 4b hair from damage. While these styles are super fun and fashionable, they aren’t the only way to defend your natural hair texture against breakage, frizz, and other elements that can damage hair. You can also use a smooth satin scarf to fend off damage.

Sporting a satin scarf around your 4b locks can help keep your curl definition intact and prevent tangles from forming overnight. Follow these simple steps for creating a product-free, 4b-friendly hairstyle:

  1. Fold the scarf into a triangle.
  2. Place the long sides of the triangle at the back of your neck.
  3. Pull the ends around your head to tie at the forehead. 
  4. Pull the tip of the triangle over the back of your head. 
  5. Tuck the tip into the front knot to enclose hair. 

Satin scarves can prevent tangles from forming in your hair at night. They can also be wrapped around daytime updos to protect your hair from the elements — and look super cute doing it! Both day and night use of satin scarves can help reduce frizz and breakage, leaving your 4b hair looking softer and more secured.

Pro tip: Try these no-heat hairstyles you’re sure to love.

Give Your Hair Some Shine

While using a deep conditioning treatment can give your 4b hair hydration, adding a hair serum can deliver a finishing touch of shine that’ll enhance the look of your beautifully coily texture. Hair serums coat the surface of your hair to maximize the look of smooth, moisturized locks. They can also protect against frizz-causing elements such as humidity, pollution, and thermal heat. 

Function of Beauty’s custom hair serum has been tested to improve detangling, reduce frizz, and protect hair from damage up to 400 degrees. Made with a blend of argan, jojoba, and sunflower oils (plus your own customized ingredients), it’s lightweight yet effective. Simply apply a small amount of this serum to damp or dry hair (just avoid your roots!) for a more defined, smoother finish.

Pro tip: Learn how to protect your hair from the sun.

Make Your 4b Hair Type Work for You

Your 4b hair is one of the most charismatic hair types out there. Its abundance of body, thickness, and dimension can be shaped into a variety of fabulous hairstyles. But because of its distinct coily and dense texture, it is prone to dryness, frizz, and shrinkage. Fortunately, these challenges can be contained with the right haircare products and practices. Adding moisture, shine, and protective styling techniques to your 4b haircare routine can help you maintain more defined, hydrated-looking locks.

Want more ways to maximize your 4b hair? Take this hair quiz to create a profile based on your unique hair type, texture, and moisture level. Then, add your hair goals for a fully customized set of haircare products made just for you.