Type 4 natural hair: How to work out your curl pattern, the cheats way

Get to know the A, B, C's of type 4 natural hair!  

From wavy, curly and coily, there is a multitude of different hair types out there; so knowing which category you fall into isn’t always easy. And when you throw natural hair into the mix, well, it can sometimes feel like a guessing game  until now! We’ve gathered all the need-to-know information about type 4 natural hair into one handy guide, so you can get the best out of your mane.

Continuing on from our hair type series, we are embracing all things natural. So if you are thinking of following in the likes of Alicia Keys, Sanaa Lathan and Gabrielle Union (to name just a few) in embracing your natural hair, where better to start than determining whether you fit into the type 4A, 4B or 4C category?

Imaan Hammam black curly type 4 hair on runway
Model Imaan Hammam rocks her type 4 hair on the runway. Credit: Rex by Shutterstock

Type 4A

Celebrity 4A inspiration: Teyonah Parris, China McClain, Tracee Ellis Ross, and Andrea Lewis

The key characteristics of type 4A natural hair are tightly coiled strands that still maintain a visible ‘S’ shape curl pattern, much like the model above.

Type 4A hair, just like other curly hair types, can be prone to dryness. However, those with type 4A hair have the advantage of being the perfect texture for wash-and-go styles, you just need to find the right hair care routine.

Editor’s tip: If you have type 4A natural hair, you may find your hair can be fragile, so we suggest using a co-wash (AKA a cleansing conditioner).

Not only do we love the TIGI Bed Head Calma Sutra Cleansing for its no-foam formulation, which gently cleanses curly tresses, but also because it will leave hair feeling smooth, soft and shiny.

black model on runway with curly type 4b hair
If your hair is tightly coiled you may be a type 4B. Credit: Rex by Shutterstock

Type 4B

Celebrity 4B inspiration: Solange Knowles, Willow Smith, Janelle Monae, and Yaya Dacosta

Moving down the alphabet, type 4B hair has a ‘Z’ shaped pattern with more tightly coiled and less-defined curls. With type 4B hair, the texture can range from fine and thin, through to wiry and coarse, so caring for your tresses can sometimes feel like a struggle.

If you ever feel like your type 4B hair is looking short, no matter how much you grow it, fret not, as 4B hair experiences a lot of shrinkage, making hair appear much shorter than it really is. Protect your tresses by styling in protective styles like buns, twists and braided hairstyles.

Editor’s tip: Due to the hair bending in sharp angles (which form the ‘Z’ shape pattern), hair can be susceptible to dryness and breakage, so using the right products is crucial to keeping your tresses looking and feeling their best.

We suggest stashing a bottle of the TRESemmé Platinum Strength Stay Soft Leave-In in your handbag (or at your desk) for times when your hair needs that extra moisture boost.

black model on runway with type 4c hair
If you have type 4c hair you will be in good company. Credit: Rex by Shutterstock

Type 4C

Celebrity 4C inspiration: Lupita Nyong’o, Viola Davis, Alek Wek and Lauryn Hill

Type 4C hair looks very similar to type 4B, however, the key difference between them is that type 4C is more tightly coiled and lacks the curl definition seen in type 4B. This may not be immediately obvious, as type 4C is densely packed together which can also cause hair to be prone to dryness and breakage. But it’s not all doom and gloom…

To enhance your curl definition, try twisting or shingling your tresses to promote the curl pattern. And as type 4 hair is the most prone to breakage, it requires a gentle touch; so try protective styles that don’t require much manipulation to the hair. Go the extra mile and protect your tresses by sleeping with a silk or satin cap to avoid friction and breakage.

Editor’s tip: Give your locks the TLC they deserves by using the Dove Advanced Hair Series Pure Care Dry OilThe lightweight, non greasy formula with intensive nourishing properties, instantly helps replenish lipids, softens and adds shine. Go on, add it to your hair kit now!