4A Natural Hair Guide

type 4a hair

4A Hair Type

Odds are, you’re familiar with the term “hair typing,” but there is often a little confusion around the meaning of the term. For the sake of clarity in this article, the phrase “hair typing” will be used to refer to the popular system that’s based on the shape of your strands or curl pattern: more specifically, the system that uses series of numbers and letters to describe the shape and tightness of one’s curls. According to this system, straight hair is type 1, type 2 is wavy, type 3 is curly, and type 4 is coily/tightly curled. Keep reading to learn more about how to care for 4A hair.

1What is 4A Hair?

According to Andre Walker’s popular hair typing system, 4A hair has a tightly-coiled “S” shape. While all type 4 hair types share similar characteristics, they each have unique qualities.  4A hair is usually pretty easy to identify because its unique shape tends to maintain its definition pretty well when it’s moisturized. 4B and 4C also have distinct shapes that are even more tightly coiled than 4A hair. Because tightly coiled hair is prone to dryness and frizz, which can alter the natural shape of your strands, the easiest way to identify your hair type is to examine your hair when it’s been freshly washed and moisturized. When type 4 hair is wet and/or saturated with conditioner, it’s often very easy to identify its curl shape.

2Characteristics of 4A Hair

As previously mentioned, 4A hair has a tight “S” shape. As you can see from the chart, its shape is similar to that of 3C hair, but it is much tighter; 4C hair has a similar shape, but it is even more tightly coiled. In general, the tighter the curl, the more prone it will be to dryness. This is because the shape of the hair makes it more difficult for the scalp’s natural oils to coat the entire length of the strands. It’s usually pretty easy to do a wash and go on 4A hair, as long as you use the right products and techniques. But like all type 4 hair, 4A hair can experience a great deal of shrinkage when worn in wash and go styles.  Styling products with medium to strong hold will help 4A curls maintain their definition and keep frizz at bay.

3Best Products for 4A Hair

Like all curl types, 4A hair craves moisture; keeping your hair moisturized will help combat common challenges like dryness, breakage, tangles, and frizz. Certain ingredients in many common hair products can actually exacerbate some of these curly hair problems, so it’s important to choose your products carefully. Avoid products that contain sulfates, drying alcohols, and sometimes silicones; it’s not that silicones are necessarily bad for your hair, but certain types can build up on your hair over time, which can cause problems. Water-based products that contain ingredients like aloe vera, shea butter, and jojoba oil are often your best bet. But everyone’s hair has different needs, so it’s important to build a hair care routine that works best for you. Keep reading for some product recommendations for 4A hair.

4Best Cleansers for 4A Natural Hair

Using the right cleanser is one of the most vital steps in caring for 4A natural hair. While you want to avoid shampoos that contain harsh detergents that can strip your hair of all moisture, you still want to make sure you’re able to remove dirt, excess oil, and product build-up on a regular basis. Luckily, there are some great cleansers available that will gently clean your hair. Eden BodyWorks Coconut Shea Cleansing CoWash is a great product for 4A hair because it moisturizes your hair while gently removing build-up. Cowashing is a great option for all type 4 hair, but you want to make sure you do a deeper cleanse in between cowashes to clarify your hair with a product like Eden Bodyworks Peppermint Tea Tree Shampoo, which will remove anything cowashing leaves behind and give you a fresh start on wash day.

5Best Conditioners for 4A Hair Type

Everyone should have a good conditioner in their stash. Regular conditioning will help keep 4A hair healthy and moisturized. The Camille Rose Coconut Water Penetrating Hair Treatment is a great conditioner for 4A hair because it deeply hydrates dry strands, leaving the hair feeling soft and defined. You can leave it on for a few minutes or up to 20 minutes for deeper conditioning. The Giovanni Smooth As Silk Conditioner is another good conditioner for 4A hair. Its blend of botanical ingredients moisturize the hair and provide slip for easy detangling.

6Best Moisturizers for 4A Natural Hair

A good moisturizer will help your hair stay hydrated in between wash days. Mielle Organics Avocado Moisturizing Hair Milk is an ideal moisturizer for 4A natural hair because its lightweight formula provides hydration and helps impart shine without weighing down your hair. The CURLS Brand Creme Brulee Whipped Curl Cream is a perfect product for 4A hair because it moisturizes and provides definition and it can be used on wet or dry hair; it can also be used daily if needed.

7Best Styling Products for 4A Hair

The Camille Rose Naturals Curl Maker is a popular styling product for 4A hair because it helps define curls while providing moisture, shine, and strong hold. This product is great for wash and go styles, but it can also be used for long-lasting rod sets and twist outs. Speaking of great products for twist outs, the Jane Carter Curl Defining Cream is another wonderful product for 4A hair. The As I Am Twisting Cream is also popular among type 4 curlies because it provides lots of definition and it can also double as a moisturizer.

8Best Styles for 4A Hair Type

There’s really no limit to the ways you can style 4A hair. Aside from wash and go styles, 4A hair also looks great styled into twist outs, braid outs, buns, puffs, updos, rod sets, and more. Styles like twist outs and braid outs are a great heatless way to stretch 4A hair, which is a plus if you’re trying to combat shrinkage. Wearing stretched styles every now and then can also help keep tangles at bay.

9Styling 4A Hair

To prevent breakage, always handle 4A natural hair gently when styling, work in small sections and make sure your hair is thoroughly moisturized. If you use heat styling tools on your hair, try to limit your usage and be sure to use a heat protectant. Use the lowest possible heat setting that still gets the job done. Indirect heat, like the kind from hooded dryers, is generally much safer for hair. Using a hooded dryer can also help set styles like rod and roller sets, twist outs, Bantu knots, and braid outs and make them last longer.

10Tips For Preventing Breakage and Promoting Growth

Like all type 4 hair, 4A hair’s unique needs can make length retention and healthy hair growth challenging. But building a regimen that suits your hair’s needs is the best way to conquer these challenges. Daily styling can wreak havoc on your strands and lead to breakage, so low-manipulation styles are helpful because they eliminate the need to handle your hair every day; they also save you time and make your daily routine easier. Protective styling is also really useful because it keeps your hair tucked away and protected. Just make sure you don’t leave protective styles in too long, or they may cause more harm than good.

11More Tips

In addition to regular deep conditioning, 4A hair can also benefit from occasional hot oil treatments and occasional or weekly/bi weekly pre poo treatments. These treatments can help your hair retain more moisture and help make detangling and styling easier.

12Other Things To Keep In Mind

While this guide is meant to provide tips and recommendations for 4A hair, it’s important to know that curl type is not the only factor you should consider when it comes to building a hair care routine. Other characters like porosity, density, and strand size affect the way your hair looks and feels. So the products and methods that work well for some people with 4A hair may not work on all 4A curlies. Never feel pressured to follow a trend or recommendation just because it’s popular. Pay attention to how your hair responds to products and styling techniques and adjust your approach wherever needed.

134a Hair Type – Summary

In closing, there are many fun ways to style 4A hair and with the right products and techniques, caring for this hair type can be hassle-free. Just remember that moisture is type 4 hair’s best friend. Protective styles, low-manipulation styles, and gentle detangling methods can all help with length retention. While hair typing can be helpful when it comes to choosing products, always take your hair’s other qualities (porosity, density, etc) into consideration as well. Limit your use of heat and always protect your hair at night with a satin bonnet, scarf, or pillowcase. The most important thing to remember is that your hair is unique, so sometimes it takes trial and error to find what works best.