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All About Coily Hair and How to Care For It

BY Jana Russick

The dynamic texture and abundant volume of coily hair transcends even the curliest of locks. Whether it’s in braids, twist outs, or styled naturally, coily hair makes a statement that’s impossible to ignore. Nothing can beat the look of brilliantly defined, hydrated coily hair. But achieving this look is anything but effortless. 

While coily hair is beautiful, it can be very high-maintenance with its thick, dense, and prone-to-shrinkage texture. Fortunately, we’re sharing some solutions for handling this unique hair type. In this guide, we’ll take you through the ins and outs of coily hair, the challenges that come with it, and haircare products to keep your coils in tip-top shape.

Coily Hair 101

We can’t reiterate this enough: coily hair and curly hair are two entirely different hair textures. Though coily hair has a similar spiral shape, it’s much tighter and coarser than curly hair types. Coily hair growth also tends to expand horizontally outwards rather than downward like curly hair. The thick, densely packed coils give this hair type unrivaled volume that even the curliest of tresses can’t rival.

As with curly, straight, and wavy hair types, there are many varieties of coily hair. In fact, there are three distinct classifications of coily hair — also known as type 4 hair — within the hair typing system: 

  • 4a Hair: The coils of this hair type are about the size of a crochet needle. Type 4a textures are looser and less dense than other coily hair types, giving it the appearance of super curly type 3 hair. Because 4a hair is less compact than other coily hair types, it experiences much less shrinkage and is generally less voluminous.
  • 4b Hair: The curl pattern of 4b hair takes on a zig-zag shape rather than the S-shape of curly hair types. The actual curls of 4b hair are much smaller and more compact than 4a hair, making it appear shorter than it is. It also tends to be denser at the roots and looser at the ends. 
  • 4c Hair: This is the densest and most compact of all type 4 natural hair types. The microscopically tight coils of type 4c hair are what give this coily texture so much volume. Type 4c hair grows horizontally and does not give into the laws of gravity, making it the easiest to style into afro hairstyles

Volume, density, and coarse texture are the defining features of type 4 coily hair. These traits do not come without their challenges but can be overcome with the use of helpful tricks and effective haircare products.

Challenges and Solutions for Coily Hair

Having coily hair requires a good amount of patience and product. Here are some of the most common concerns for people with coily hair and how to deal with them. 

Doing Away With Dryness

The condensed texture of coily hair makes it hard for natural oils to travel throughout the strands. Because of this, coily hair tends to experience dryness that makes the hair look dull. So how can you add hydration? By adding moisture-rich products to your haircare routine

One of the most effective strategies for hydrating dry locks is using the LOC method: leave-in, oil, cream. Applying styling products in this order helps lock in moisture and keep hair looking hydrated from root to tip. 

Use this styling trio to fight off dryness and reinvigorate lackluster hair:

  • Leave-In: Whether it’s wash day or not, adding a leave-in will revitalize your coily hair locks. Function of Beauty’s custom leave-in treatment is formulated with ingredients to give damp hair or dry hair an extra dose of moisture. Not only does it fight off dryness, it also combats frizz and adds shine to your locks.
  • Oil: Because coily hair has a hard time circulating its natural oils, adding an extra oil treatment is a must. This can be done using a lightweight hair serum or a DIY coconut oil treatment. Either way, your hair will thank you for this added boost of hydration.
  • Cream: Using a thick cream-based product is a great third step for locking in moisture. Products with hydrating ingredients like shea butter can help fight off tangle-inducing dryness

Pro Tip: Find out what’s causing your dry hair

Shrugging Off Shrinkage

All coily hair types experience some degree of shrinkage. Sometimes shrinkage can be a good thing. It allows us to take advantage of super voluminous hairstyles and can even make hair a little easier to manage. But sometimes we’re curious to see what our actual hair length is — and that can be hard to do with hair that’s so springy.

To combat the shrinking tendencies of your coily locks, try styling your hair in braids. Doing so can help stretch out your tresses and add a bit of length. The best way to add allover length is to divide your hair into multiple braids throughout your head, such as box braids or cornrows. These hairstyles look great on their own and can be untied at any time to reveal noticeably longer locks.

Pro Tip: Learn how to Vitamin E to support healthy-looking hair

Breaking Up With Breakage

Because coily hair has a thick, coarse texture, it seems more resilient than other hair types. But in reality, coily hair has fewer cuticle layers than any other hair type, making it quite fragile and prone to breakage. Because of its sensitive nature, you need to be delicate with your coily hair

There are a few ways to reduce or prevent breakage, such as improving your hair-drying habits and using a wide tooth comb for detangling your locks. But one of the most effective ways is using a deep conditioner. Deep conditioning hair masks have higher levels of oils and conditioning agents and are meant to be left on longer than regular conditioners. This allows the mixture to better penetrate hair strands.

Function of Beauty’s custom hair mask is formulated with a combination of ingredients like argan oil, Japanese sake, and jojoba ester oil that add softness and hydration to coily hair. Plus, this hair mask can be customized to work on any hair type.

Pro Tip: Learn the best ways to use a hair mask for your coily hair

Getting Your Coily Hair Routine Down to a T

If you’ve been blessed with coily locks, we want you to embrace the thick and voluminous texture you were born with. Yes, it’s true that coily hair types have to deal with dryness, shrinkage, and breakage. But using leave-in treatments, braided hairstyles, and hair masks can help you fend off these annoyances and start loving your natural curls even more.

If you want more out of your coily haircare routine, take this hair quiz. Fill out your hair profile and choose your unique hair goals to create a custom hair formula made just for your one-of-a-kind hair texture.