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What Is Type 4a Hair and How Should You Care for It?

BY Jana Russick

Using the word curly to describe 4a hair is a major understatement. Yes, your hair’s got curls but that’s just the beginning of it. The tight coils of type 4a hair are thick, voluminous, and no doubt capture plenty of attention. 

But let’s be honesthaving type 4a hair is no easy feat. Letting your natural hair texture shine can mean dealing with dryness and frizz on a daily basis. It can also be frustrating if you compare yourself to straight and wavy hair types whose daily hair care routines might seem much easier to manage than yours. 

However, there’s no need to make such comparisons because your 4a hair is stunning, mesmerizing, and the envy of those who can’t maintain volume to save their life! Type 4a hair can be a challenge, but creating your own specialized haircare routine can help take your hair from incredibly unruly to utterly fabulous.

All You Need to Know About Type 4 Hair

Also referred to as black hair, afro textured hair, or kinky hair, type 4 hair is coarse, coily, and naturally voluminous. When you pull a strand of type 4 hair, you’ll see it multiply in length. That’s because the natural coiling effect of type 4 hair causes the strands to shrink and widen.

Though it can look similar to other tight curl types, type 4 has a thicker and more coarse hair texture, which becomes increasingly denser as you go up the type 4 hair scale. Let’s take a closer look at the different classifications of type 4 hair textures.

Type 4a Hair

Type 4a hair has a dense, kinky curly texture with lots of volume to spare. The size of each curl is about as wide as a crochet needle. The coily texture has more of an S pattern than other type 4s, which is why it experiences much less shrinkage when going from wet to dry.

Though less than other coily hair types, type 4a hair experiences dryness due to the hair’s difficulty transferring oils from roots to tips. (It’s why straight-hair types typically struggle more with oily hair since oils from the scalp easily travel down the hair shaft.) Dryness can lead to frizz and may require major hydrating efforts to bring back to its healthiest-looking, most well-defined state.

Type 4a hair is the loosest and softest of all coily textures, which can be a gift and a curse. Although it’s the silkiest to the touch, it can get unruly when touched or brushed too often. Also, treatments such as dyes and relaxers can certainly lead to hair damage. We understand that it’s fun to change up your hair every now and again, but steering clear of these harsh treatments and embracing your natural hair texture is the best way to avoid damage. 

Pro Tip: Discover the moisturizing benefits of using shea butter for coily hair.

Type 4b Hair

The curl pattern of 4b hair has a noticeably dense, zig-zag shape formed by each coil. There’s lots of volume at the crown of type 4b hair. However, the strands tend to get looser at the ends and begin to fall towards the face as the hair gets longer. 

The zig-zag texture of type 4b hair makes it harder for oil to travel from the roots to the ends of the hair. That’s why this hair type struggles to maintain moisture. If the ends of the hair don’t receive an added dose of oil and hydration, they can get overwhelmed with frizz. When treating type 4b hair, it’s important to focus on detangling the locks and increasing shine.

Pro Tip: Learn how coconut oil can help keep your coily hair moisturized.

Type 4c Hair

Type 4c is the densest of all type 4 hair categories. It’s the quintessential image of volume, with hair that reaches towards the sky and resists the downward effect of gravity. Yes, 4a curls are in a league of their own. Their microscopically tight coils are the most resistant of all hair types. The well-defined shape of each coil cannot be altered or interrupted without the use of powerful chemical or heat processing.

Because of how tight the coils of type 4c hair are, friction enforced by brushing can cause tangles and knots to occur. Therefore, 4a hair types should be very careful with how they handle their locks. Brushes made specifically for fragile 4c hair should be used to avoid breakage

Pro Tip: Find the best brush for your hair type.

Hair Care Tips for 4a Types

If you have coily hair that’s not quite as dense as type 4b or 4c but tighter than curly hair types, you probably have type 4a hair.

Now that we’ve defined this beautifully coily texture, it’s time to focus on designing a haircare routine for 4a hair. As you may have guessed from all the talk of dryness, we’re going to start off with moisture.

Up Your Hydration Game

There are plenty of hair products that will momentarily make your hair feel less dry. But when you take a look or touch it 10 minutes later, your tresses feel just as dehydrated as they did before. So what’s the best type of product for hydrating your type 4a hair? A leave-in treatment that’s meant to hold in moisture even after you’ve applied it.

Leave-ins can help maximize the silky soft texture that your 4a hair already has. Even better, they can also help protect your locks from dryness and tangles, and deliver much needed hydration without weighing hair down. Function of Beauty’s custom leave-in treatment includes ingredients like avocado oil, argan oil, and coffee extract to give your coils an extra dose of moisture, shine, and softness whether you apply it to wet or dry hair.

Plop It Up

Have you heard of the plopping method? If not, let us explain. It’s a technique designed to maximize softness and moisture retention for curly hair. Here’s a quick breakdown of this four-step method that could be your new go-to trick for 4a hair:

1. Squeeze Out the Water

When your hair is wet, use a microfiber towel or cotton T-shirt (not a regular terry cloth towel) to carefully squeeze out all the water in your hair. 

2. Add a Little Product

Apply a leave-in treatment to your entire head then add a few drops of hair serum to the ends for added shine and frizz control. 

3. Plop That Hair

Take a long sleeve T-shirt, lay it down on the bed, and plop your hair down in the center with the collar at your forehead. Then, pull the bottom of the shirt around your head and tie the sleeves at the back of your neck. 

4. Let It Dry

Let your hair completely dry with the T-shirt wrapped around it. Once dry, release to see super soft yet ultra defined curls. This method is great for absorbing product without causing your coily locks to get all crunchy. 

Customize Your Washing Routine

What’s an easy way to maximize your type 4a hair routine? Get a shampoo and conditioner that’s made just for you. This can be achieved with Function of Beauty’s custom shampoo and conditioner. This duo is formulated with ingredients you can personalize for your specific hair type. If deep conditioning, hydration, and frizz control is what you need to maintain your most beautiful 4a hair, your formula will include ingredients paired to complement your unique texture.

Maximize Your 4a Hair Care Routine

Type 4a hair is dramatically voluminous and undeniably coily. Its ability to maintain definition rivals that of type 3 curly hair. But this hair type doesn’t come without its challenges. Those blessed with the gift of 4a locks often struggle to fight off frizz, dryness, and damage. But with the help of hydrating leave-in treatments, a customized washing routine, and moisture enhancing tricks like the plopping method, you can achieve your 4a hair goals. 

Wondering what ingredients can help maximize your natural texture even more? Take this hair quiz to create the ideal formula for living your best 4a hair life.