4c Hair Guide: How to Care and Style Your Stunning Natural Hair (2024)

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Getting to know your hair is vital to finding the right products and coming up with the best hair care routine, and it starts with knowing what your hair type is.

Thankfully, the discussions for a more inclusive hair typing system never cease, and they’ve led to the recognition of diverse hair types, including 4c hair.

Because of this, this kinky hair type is no longer lumped together with 4a and 4b hair.

Now many hair care brands, hairstylists, and hair enthusiasts better understand the specific needs of 4c natural hair types, leading to more customized hair care routines and more suitable products for moisturized, stronger, and shinier hair.

4c Hair Guide: How to Care and Style Your Stunning Natural Hair (1)

If you’re still wondering if you do have 4c hair, keep reading because we’ll help you understand the characteristics of and the best hair care tips for this hair type.

Table of Contents

  • 1 What Is the Hair Typing System?
  • 2 What Is the 4C Hair Type?
  • 3 How Is 4C Hair Different From 4A and 4B Hair Types?
  • 4 How To Care for 4C Hair
  • 5 Best Styles for Natural 4c Hair
  • 6 Frequently Asked Questions
  • 7 Having the Best Care Routine Starts With Understanding Your Hair Type

What Is the Hair Typing System?

Some hair products are labeled as suitable for certain hair types.

These hair types are categorized based on the hair typing system developed by Andre Walker in the 1990s, known as the Andre Walker Hair Typing System or The Hair Chart.

Each hair type is identified with a number (ranging from 1 to 4) and a letter (ranging from A to C), such as 3a, 1b, 2c, or 4c.

Here’s what the number in each type means:

  • Type 1 — straight hair
  • Type 2 — wavy hair
  • Type 3 — curly hair
  • Type 4 — coily hair

The letters refer to the hair subtypes, which are distinguished by their curl pattern and other characteristics.

4c Hair Guide: How to Care and Style Your Stunning Natural Hair (2)

What Is the 4C Hair Type?

Type 4c hair is kinky hair with the most tightly packed coils.

Originally, coily hair had only two subtypes — 4a and 4b — for S-shaped and Z-shaped curl patterns, respectively.

However, hair bloggers helped popularize the inclusion of 4c natural hair as a separate category because it has its own unique characteristics.

The texture, density, and porosity of your hair are important to consider when building a care routine and shopping for products for 4c hair.

Take a look at the features of 4c hair below.

Curl Pattern

Type 4c hair doesn’t have a defined curl shape unlike 4a and 4b hair. In most cases, the coils create an irregular zigzag pattern.


Due to its tightly packed coils, 4c hair shrinks more than other coily hair types.

It makes 4c hair look 75% shorter than its actual length, leading to the common misconception that kinky hair can’t grow longer.

Note that the shrinkage of 4c curly hair is natural, and it shouldn’t be seen as a “downside.”

If your kinky hair strands spring back after being stretched out, this is an indication that they are growing into their natural pattern. This also shows they have healthy elasticity.


Hair density has to do with the number of hair strands on every square inch of your scalp.

So when you hear someone say they have “thick hair,” there’s a very good chance they’re talking about hair density.

So is 4c hair thick? If you’re talking about density, yes, like other coily hair types, 4c hair is commonly dense.

It also tends to grow upward or in a horizontal direction, so it appears thick regardless of texture.


Hair texture refers to the width of each strand. So the three common hair textures are fine, medium, and coarse.

While specific hair types share similar characteristics, factors like texture can vary for people with the same hair type.

As such, the texture of 4c hair can vary. Coily hair can have a fine texture, just like straight or wavy hair can also be coarse.

It’s also not uncommon to have multi-textured 4c hair. This means having fine strands and medium to coarse strands.

It could be due to genetics or just how your hair has fared from previous treatments.


Hair porosity refers to how well your hair absorbs and retains moisture.

And knowing whether your hair has low or high porosity is vital when learning how to maintain moisturized 4c hair.

For instance, shampoos and conditioners with silicone can be too heavy for low-porosity hair.

On the other hand, high-porosity hair can absorb moisture well but lose it faster. This is why products with ingredients that seal in moisture are important for hair with high porosity.

4c hair mostly has low porosity; it doesn’t absorb moisture as much as other hair types, which is why dryness and brittleness are the most common hair problems for those with 4c hair.

Therefore, caring for 4c hair is very much like caring for low-porosity hair in general.

However, there are indeed people with 4c hair that has high porosity: those with fine 4c hair. Fine 4c hair has a lesser number of cuticle layers, making it easier for water and moisture to penetrate the strands.

How Is 4C Hair Different From 4A and 4B Hair Types?

The best way to know if you have 4c hair and not 4a or 4b is by closely examining the shape of your hair’s curls.

The curls of 4a hair are easily distinguished by their S-shaped pattern.

On the other hand, as previously mentioned, 4c hair doesn’t have a defined curl shape. Instead, the coils have more of a zigzag pattern.

Differentiating 4b and 4c hair types may be more tricky.

One way to tell is that 4b hair has a more defined curl pattern with sharp angles and a Z shape. By contrast, the curl pattern of 4c hair is less defined than that of 4c hair.

How To Care for 4C Hair

Have you figured out your hair type, texture, and porosity?

If you’ve determined that you do have 4c hair, it’s crucial to note that this hair type is more prone to dryness, breakage, and tangling. In fact, it is regarded as the most delicate hair type.

This is because the structure of the tightly packed coils of 4c hair makes it harder for natural oils to travel from the follicles on the scalp down to the hair shaft.

So caring for 4c hair is all about keeping it strong, healthy, and moisturized.

Here are the basic hair care practices that fit the needs of 4c hair:

Stick to a Good Wash Day Routine

Wash day is a chance to reinvigorate your hair.

Shampooing 4c hair regularly boosts it after exposure to environmental stressors, dirt, and product buildup.

When choosing a 4c hair shampoo, use a sulfate-free one because it’s less likely to strip natural oils from your scalp and strands.

The best 4c hair shampoo should also contain hydrating ingredients like coconut oil, shea butter, and olive oil.

One excellent example of this is Aunt Jackie’s Oh So Clean! Moisturizing and Softening Shampoo.

However, shampooing your hair is just one of the steps for a proper wash day routine. It’s best to tailor your routine to your hair’s specific needs.

You can follow these steps to have a good starting point:

  1. Doing pre-wash prep. Use a pre-poo product to help detangle your hair before stepping into the shower or washing your hair.
  1. Cleansing or co-washing. Typical cleansing involves shampooing 4c hair with a sulfate-free and moisturizing shampoo.

    Co-washing involves cleansing your hair with just conditioner. So it’s milder than cleansing with shampoo, making it great for keeping your hair hydrated.

    You don’t have to choose between shampooing and co-washing because you can do them on alternating wash days.

    This can give you the right balance of keeping your hair soft while preventing product and oil buildup from irritating your scalp.

  1. Deep conditioning. Most deep conditioners need to be left on the hair for up to 30 minutes.

    During the deep conditioning process, you can also introduce heat or steam using a hooded dryer or a hair steamer or by simply wrapping your head with a warm towel.

    The subtle heat will help hair cuticles to open up, allowing the nourishing ingredients of the deep conditioner to seep into every strand.

  1. Using a leave-in conditioner and/or a sealing oil. You can apply a leave-in conditioner once your hair and scalp are clean.

    Section your hair to make sure the product is well-distributed. Then apply enough hair oil to lock in moisture into every strand.

  1. Drying your hair. Let your hair dry completely before styling.
4c Hair Guide: How to Care and Style Your Stunning Natural Hair (3)

Keep Your Hair Moisturized

Taking care of your hair doesn’t end with washing and styling.

You need to ensure it gets enough moisture throughout the days or weeks before your next wash day. This will help you manage your hair’s susceptibility to dryness and frizz.

So it’s important to keep your hair moisturized in between washes.

You can do this by using 4c hair moisturizers or conditioners formulated for daily use every day. These should be lightweight to ensure they won’t weigh down your curls.

You can also make a DIY leave-in conditioner spray by mixing water and some leave-in conditioner in a spray bottle and spritz your hair whenever it starts to look dry and dull.

4C hair types will also benefit from hair oils that can seal in moisture, such as jojoba oil, avocado oil, sweet almond oil, and Jamaican black castor oil.

Note that these hair oils serve as sealants; they shouldn’t be used as a replacement for conditioners.

Remember That Deep Conditioning Makes a Big Difference

Since dryness and breakage are common issues, a good deep conditioner should be a staple in your hair care arsenal.

You will reap amazing benefits when you deep condition 4c hair every wash day.

Adding a deep conditioner to your routine may seem a bit tedious, but it’s a must for 4c curly hair.

Aside from adding much-needed moisture, the process helps reduce frizz and damage. It can also improve your hair’s shine and manageability.

Be Gentle With Your Hair

This hair type is delicate, but that doesn’t mean it’s difficult to maintain.

You’ll just need to be extra patient and gentle when detangling and styling to avoid further breakage.

How? First, avoid detangling your hair dry, which can cause breakage. Instead, use detangling products to soften your hair and make the process easier.

This will also help minimize breakage as you work on undoing hair knots.

Then start detangling with just your fingers, then you can switch to a paddle brush or a wide-toothed comb.

Additionally, being gentle with 4c hair means reducing manipulation, such as pulling and tugging your strands when detangling and styling natural 4c hair.

Minimize the Use of Heat

The structure of 4c natural hair makes it more vulnerable to heat damage, so it’s common advice for coily hair to minimize the use of blow-dryers and heat-styling tools.

Limit the use of heat and experiment with heat-free styling tools like flexi rods and hair rollers.

For the few times you really need to use heat-styling tools, make sure to use a heat protectant spray like the Chi 44 Iron Guard Thermal Protection Spray to minimize potential damage.

Best Styles for Natural 4c Hair

4c Hair Guide: How to Care and Style Your Stunning Natural Hair (4)

When it comes to natural kinky hair, choosing the right hairstyle can be considered a part of proper care and maintenance.

One of the best things about having coily hair is that it’s so versatile, and the ideas for 4c hair styling are practically endless.

Protective Styles

Pay more attention to using protective styles like braids, twists, Bantu knots, and box braids.

You can leave these styles on for the rest of the week or until it’s time to wash your hair.

They can protect your hair from dirt and environmental stressors and help minimize manipulation that could lead to breakage.

Buns and Updos

These styles typically start by securing your hair into a ponytail.

If you have short 4c hair, you can put it up into a high, loose ponytail and let the curly ends stay upright to create the pineapple bun style.

Long 4c hair can also be tied into a ponytail or wrapped into a bun with your favorite scarf or bandana.


If you want to show off your gorgeous curls (because why not), go for wash-and-go 4c hairstyles for a natural, lovely look.

After washing and moisturizing, let your natural curls air-dry, and they’ll be good to go.

Your hair should look shiny and bouncy with proper care. So let the world know how beautiful it is by rocking a full afro or a tiny weeny afro for short hair.

Elegant Styles

For special events, you can go for more stylish looks like spiral or pin curls on 4c natural hair, which are achieved by rolling the hair with perm rods to create tight and well-defined coils.

Those with shorter hair can also achieve an Old Hollywood style with the classic finger wave on 4c hair, which involves styling short locks into S-shaped waves with gel.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Type 4C Hair Grow Long?

Absolutely! The idea that 4c hair, or any kinky hair type, can’t grow longer is simply inaccurate.

However, it’s also more fragile than other hair types. So if your main goal is to grow it longer, ensure you protect its current length by using hair-strengthening and moisturizing products.

Reducing breakage and damage as much as possible will allow your hair to grow longer.

Should I Wash My 4C Hair Every Week?

Type 4c hair needs much less washing than other hair types because it’s prone to drying out and breakage.

The typical recommendation is to limit hair washing to once a week. But if your hair has high porosity and retains moisture better, you can extend your wash day intervals to a couple of weeks.

As always, the important thing is to observe your hair’s condition. If it’s starting to look dull and dry, that’s a good sign that it’s time for a wash and a deep condition.

What Products Should I Avoid for 4C Hair?

Products with sulfates, alcohol, and harsh chemicals are generally the ones you should avoid.

These can draw out the natural moisture of your hair, making it drier and more prone to damage.

Can I Comb My 4C Hair Every Day?

Natural curly hair, especially with tightly packed coils, doesn’t need daily combing.

It could even be detrimental to your hair’s condition because 4c hair is delicate, and it can be damaged by excessive combing, brushing, and manipulation.

So it’s ideal to just stick to combing your hair on wash days.

However, you do have to undo tangles and knots with a comb as soon as they form to avoid further breakage.

Should I Brush 4C Hair Wet or Dry?

If you’re brushing your hair to detangle, it’s always best to do it when your tresses are wet or damp because they’re more flexible and easier to work on.

Dry detangling may be okay for bigger knots, but doing it forcefully could strain your hair and scalp.

Having the Best Care Routine Starts With Understanding Your Hair Type

Thanks to our evolving knowledge of various hair types, we now know more about the specific needs of 4c hair.

But understanding your hair type requires more than just following an established chart.

You need to take the time to know your hair, its features, characteristics, and condition to figure out the best hair care routine, products, and styles to use.

It’s not impossible, although it can be a little challenging, especially for natural 4c hair. But putting in the effort should be well worth it to achieve lustrous curls.

Check Out These Articles for More Hair Care Tips:

  • Hair Webbing: What You Need To Know
  • 15 Best Clarifying Shampoos for Curly Hair To Remove Stubborn Buildup
  • 7 Best Curl Creams for Wavy Hair: Enjoy Bouncy Locks!

  • 4c Hair Guide: How to Care and Style Your Stunning Natural Hair (5)

    Ashley Pena

    Ashley Pena brings over 13 years of seasoned writing and editing expertise, fortified by her Bachelor of Science in Management. Esteemed in the beauty domain, her content captivates readers with its depth and authenticity. While she navigates a broad spectrum of beauty trends, Ashley shines particularly as our resident K-beauty guru. Her articles are a harmonious blend of passion and profound knowledge, inspiring readers on their unique beauty journeys.

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4c Hair Guide: How to Care and Style Your Stunning Natural Hair (2024)
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