4C Hair Definitive Guide


Ever since Oprah’s stylist Andre Walker invented his famous hair classification system years ago, people have been obsessed with figuring out their hair types. Knowing your hair type can help you determine exactly how to take care of it and help it look its best. Black hair is one of the most versatile hair types in the world, spanning an enormous range of textures ranging from loose, wavy and thick to rich, intensely coily and dense. Many people have multiple hair textures on their heads, making maintenance and care challenging at times.


4C hair is probably the most misunderstood hair type. This is primarily due to the fact that people didn't know how to take care of it. It's now recognized as one of the flexible and unique hair types.

What are the different hair types?

Hair types are based on a number system that assigns a number to different curl patterns. Straight hair is "1",  wavy hair is assigned the number "2" , "3" is used for curly hair, and "4" is used for hair with tighter kinks, curls and coils. Within those classifications, there are additional subcategories. These sub-classifications are based on the letters a through z and are determined by the diameter of the wave the curl or the coil.

  • Type 1 hair is straight hair. It is considered the strongest of all hair types due to the fact that the sebum can easily flow from the follicle through to the end of this strand, loving V strands remain strong. This type of hair also reflects the most Sheen.
  • Type 2 hair is wavy hair. It varies between straight and curly and can be very frizzy at times. Within type 2 hair, you have type 2A, type to be, and to see. Type 2A is considered wavy, fine and thin. It has a slight as pattern and can be curled easily. Type 2B is wavy medium, this hair type tends to be a little bit frizzy and is more resistant to styling. Type 2C hair is wavy in court. It can get very frizzy the thicker it is, and it can be difficult to style.
  • Type 3 is for curly hair. Within the type 3 category, you have 3A, 3B and 3C hair. Type 3A hair is considered curly loose. It has a distinct "s" pattern that features strands with loops. Type 3B hair is similar to type 3A but it has a tighter curl pattern that features a deeper S shape. Type 3C has lots of defined coils and curls that frequently clump together, and the curls tend to have the circumference the size of a straw.
  • Type 4 hair has the tightest coils. Type 4A is is  mass of dense kinks and curls. It can be very fragile, the curls are tightly coiled similar to a pen spring, and the spiral patterns is very distinct. 4B is considered kinky wiry. This hair texture is similar for a but it has z-shaped strands vs the s-shaped strands of 4A hair. 4C, is considered kinky wiry, and it has virtually no visible curl pattern at all.  

What is 4C hair?

The definition of above for 4C hair is a bit limiting. Yes,  4C hair is made up of strands of hair that have no curl pattern. What that looks like on different people's heads varies greatly from one person to the next. 4C hair is considered the most naturally dry hair because  sebum, the oil produced by the scalp's sebaceous glands that is intended to keep hair strong and supple, is not able to coat the hair as smoothly and as easily as it can with straighter hair. This makes for hair that needs to be infused with moisture and oil constantly in order for it to remain moisturized and free from damage and breakage. It also gives 4C hair its reputation for being difficult.

The texture of the 4C hair itself can be fine or coarse. Whichever texture it ends up being will determine what it looks like growing out of the scalp. When it gets wet, 4C hair can shrink down to as much as 70% of its actual length. This phenomenon, known as shrinkage, is simultaneously frustrating and fabulous! 

One thing that people blessed with 4C hair should know is that the absolute versatility of 4C hair makes it possible to do almost anything with it. Due to its propensity towards breakage and dryness, many people feel that 4C hair is the most difficult of hair types. It is true that it can be challenging, but the very features and aspects of the hair that make it challenging are also the very features and aspects that make it amazing. What you need to do is learn how to work with the hair in order to make it look it's absolute best. Who else can rock what looks like a teeny, tiny afro one day and the next day show up with a massive textured bun - and it's all the same hair? A 4C vixen. 

Think about it. Once upon a time the entire world believed that the best thing that you can do for your hair is to shampoo it frequently and constantly. Conditioning was simply a necessary afterthought. This was true whether your hair was type 1 or type 4. Only in the past two decades have beauty companies and the general public started to realize that too-frequent shampooing strips the hair of essential oils, making all types of hair damaged, dry and prone to breakage. People with all hair types have rethought the way that they approach hair care, learning to focus on babying their hair, infusing it with moisture so that it looks its best. In other words, people had to rethink how they thought about hair care in order to yield the absolute best results.

The same is true for 4C hair types. For the longest time, people thought that shampoo and conditioning was the way to go when it came to their 4C hair. Their hair routines didn't differ from anyone else's. It's only in the past decade or so that people have finally begun to realize exactly what they need to do to take care of and nurture their 4C hair. They understand that it's not just about washing. And it's not simply about conditioning. And it's not solely about the style of hair that you choose. It's about all of those things and detangling, and moisturizing, and coming up with a system that will help the hair look its best. 

This is what this guide is for. It's an opportunity for people blessed with 4C hair to recognize the true beauty and value of their hair and to  learn how to deal with it so that it can become their true crowning glory.

Do you have 4c hair?

You may be wondering if you have 4C hair. You may also be wondering why it even matters if you have 4C hair. Can't we all just get along? Shouldn't all hair be equal? All hair is equal, but all hair is not created equal. You can't grow a lemon tree in the same way you'd grow a head of lettuce because they're different plants. The same goes for hair. No two hair types are alike, and therefore no two hair regimens are alike. People with 4C type hair have an amazing challenge on their hands; they need to figure out how to bring out their hair's very best qualities This is what this guide is meant  to do: help people tame and control engineer church and celebrate the gloriousness of their 4C hair.

It's very easy to figure out if you have 4C hair. Simply wash your hair. After washing, allow your hair to dry without putting any products on it. If you don't see a clear and definite pattern in your hair strands and they look like they're extremely tightly coiled, then you most likely have primarily 4C hair. Remember, it is possible to have 4C hair mixed with other types of hair. What you want to look at is the predominant texture on your head. If a predominant texture is 4C hair, then you can read on for tips and how to manage it.

How to Wash 4C Hair

One of the most important tasks that people do for their hair is to wash and clean it. People with 4C hair have to be particularly careful when washing their hair. They need to view their hair as a fragile network of fibers that needs to be tended to carefully in order to help it remain beautiful. Many people look at type 4C hair and automatically assume that it's really tough. The truth is that It's actually quite fragile and prone to breakage. Due to this fact, you need to remember how incredibly fragile the hair is and to make sure that you handle each strand with tender loving care during the washing process.

Co-washing or shampooing?

Decide if you're going to be shampoo washing your hair or co-washing your Hair. Co-washing your hair means washing your hair with a conditioner product instead of using traditional shampoo. The reason that many people choose to co-wash their hair is that regular shampoos strip much-needed oil from 4C hair, rendering it even more dry and fragile.

By washing 4C hair with a moisturizing conditioner, you're washing it with a product that adds moisture to the hair, protecting the strands from splitting and breaking. Many people with 4C hair co=wash their hair almost exclusively, occasionally clarifying it in order to remove any buildup and residue from styling products and conditioning agents. If they do wash their hair with shampoo, they use sulfate-free shampoos. Sulfate extra leather and shampoos, working as a surfactant so that your shampoo can get rid of grease and sebum from your hair and scalp. The problem is. The very last thing of 4C hair type wants to do is remove sebum. Sulfate-free shampoo allows you to get rid of dirt and grime build-up without eliminating much-needed oils.


  • Divide your hair into manageable sections.

  • Spritz your hair hair with a mixture of water, conditioner and moisturizing oils so that the knots and tangles melt away as you work your fingers through them. 

  • Using your fingers or a wide-toothed comb, detangle the hair, working your way from the bottom up.

  • Twist each section as you finish it, leaving the twists intact for the next step in the process.


  • Keeping your hair in the twists, apply your cleansing product. If you’re doing a co-wash, rinse the hair with an apple cider vinegar/water combo. This combo helps strip the hair of dirt, debris and build up. Drench the hair and scalp with your conditioner and warm water, smoothing it through until every bit of hair is fully coated. Gently massage the conditioner into your scalp, careful to use your fingertips and not your nails. Leave on for at least 15 minutes. Cover your hair with a shower cap so that the conditioner is able to be deeply absorbed.

  • Rinse out your cleansing product with cool water, keeping the twist intact and letting the water run until it runs clear. Follow up with an apple cider vinegar rinse to help close the cuticles, sealing in the moisture.

  • Your twists are now cleansed, detangled, and ready for styling.

Best Types of Shampoos for 4C Hair

When it comes to shampoos for 4C type hair, remember that you need to look for shampoo that is paraben and sulfate-free. The goal is to prevent precious oils from being stripped from the hair strands. You're looking for conditioning shampoos without stripping agents, but that instead have ingredients that add moisture and emollients to your hair so that it remains healthy, strong and shiny.  Although many shampoos now consider themselves or call themselves sulfate-free, check the ingredient list to make sure that the companies haven't added alternative ingredients that are just as damaging . Choose shampoos that have emollients high on their ingredient list like castor oil and shea butter. You could also add these products directly to your shampoo if you have a shampoo you like that doesn't have them.

There are a number of really great shampoos on the market that are perfect for 4C hair. That list includes the following:

SheaMoisture Strengthen, Grow and Restore Shampoo and Conditioner Set: this set works by getting rid of product buildup that builds up over time. It's infused with tons of moisturizing ingredients, including Jamaican black castor oil.

Cantu Shea Butter for Natural Hair Double Combo Shampoo and Conditioner: The Cantu products line is a big hit in the natural hair community, and for good reason. The company has gone out of its way to create products that Infuse natural hair with moisture, protecting it from environmental and heat damage. This combo shampoo and conditioner set moisturizers hair and repairs damaged caused by the use of multiple styling products. Hair ends up deeply conditioned, making it easy to style.

Other great shampoo products include Bask & Bloom Essentials Gentle Herb Cleanser as well as the company's Rhassoul & Bentonite Clay Shampoo Bar, and Honeydew Natural Daily Shampoo for Thick and Curly Hair, tgin Moisture Rich Sulfate Free Shampoo, and Carol's Daughter Black Vanilla Sulfate-Free Shampoo.

Best Types of Conditioner for 4C Hair

Moisture is absolutely essential for hair, and 4C hair needs it more than any other type of hair. Conditioning products bring moisture, shine and softness to hair, protecting it from breakage. You need to find excellent moisturizing products that go above and beyond the call of duty to help ensure that your 4C hair remains strong, moisturized and intact.

Keep in mind that when it comes to conditioning 4C hair, you want to ensure that you are deep conditioning at least once a week and regular conditioning on a more frequent basis. Another key facts to keep in mind is that water, not oil, is the basis for moisture. Water is what keeps your hair strands plump and hydrated. You need to find water-based conditioners in order to make sure that your hair has the moisture that it needs. Oils won't do anything if water has not been used first to pump out the cuticles in the hair. Water needs to be one of the main ingredients of any conditioner that you choose.

Deep conditioners:

The purpose of a deep conditioner is to provide extra deep conditioning to the strands so that they're soaked with moisture, making them strong and tensile. To that end, look for deep conditioners that are loaded with emollients like shea butter, olive oil, avocado oil, raw honey and aloe vera. Some of the most popular ones on the market include Neutrogena Triple Moisture Daily Deep Conditioner, Neutrogena Triple Moisture Deep Recovery Hair Mask, SheaMoisture Raw Shea Butter Restorative Conditioner, and Moroccanoil Intense Hydrating Mask.

Leave-in Conditioners 

Whether you're going to use conditioners exclusively, or you're planning to do a mix of shampoo and conditioning, the conditioners for 4C hair have one job: moisturize and protect those precious 4C locks. In addition to your regular conditioning products, you'll also want to use a leave-in conditioner. A leave-in conditioner provides an extra layer of hydration on a daily basis, it's an added layer of protection that helps protect your hair from dryness and breakage while giving it a rich, supple look and feel. Water-based leave-in conditioners infused with moisturizing oils like shea butter, avocado oil and coconut oil are extremely important for 4C hair.

Some of the most popular leave-in conditioners include SheaMoisture Coconut & Hibiscus Hold and Shine Moisture Mist, an iodized water based mist infused with coconut oil, shea butter and silk proteins that work together to rejuvenate thirsty locks. Jane Carter Solution Revitalizing Leave-In Conditioner is another extremely popular leave in, consisting of deionized water, watercress, myrrh, aloe vera and comfrey root that work together to create an extremely hydrating mist that leaves your hair feeling soft to the touch and your ends feeling supple . Other options include tgin Butter Cream Daily Moisturizer, Aphogee Curlific Moisture Rich Leave-In, and Qhemet Biologics Alma and Olive Heavy Cream.

Best Oils for 4C Hair

Although water is key for moisturizing 4C hair, emollients and oils play an extremely important role as well. These ingredients are the ones that keep your hair shiny, smooth, and form a seal of protection from the elements, locking in the moisture so that your strands stay supple all day.

Coconut oil:

Coconut oil is loaded with monounsaturated fatty acids as well as critical vitamin E, ingredients that help decrease or eliminate breakage, make the hair stronger, and promote hair growth. It's also vital for helping detangle hair, literally melting away knots as it's smoothed upon the strands.

Extra virgin olive oil:

Commonly called evoo in hair circles, extra virgin olive oil is critical for 4C hair because it helps penetrate the hair shaft, softening and strengthening the hair. It also helps gets rid of build-up and stimulate hair growth.

Jamaican black castor oil:

This nutty, rich oil is practically considered manna from heaven for people with all hair types. This rich oil helps increase blood flow to the scalp, helping hair get stronger and thicker and longer. It has antibacterial and antifungal properties that help rid the scalp of buildup and dead skin cells, allowing the hair to grow out healthy. It is also an excellent treatment for people suffering from thinning edges as it helps create the perfect surface for hair growth.

Final Notes

You may have believed that 4C hair is difficult. You've now learned that it's beautiful. Taking care of it isn't impossible. It needs to be nurtured with the best 4c hair products and taken care of as carefully as you take care of your skin. You need to be gentle with it. You need to keep it refreshingly hydrated so that it can perform optimally. You need to enjoy its ability to be molded into a multitude of different styles, allowing you to change your look as needed. 

Once you find out the secret formula for your specific type of 4C hair, you'll love everything it does for your mind, body and soul.