Iconically voluminous, springy, & one-of-a-kind—meet type 4A natural hair. This freshman of Type 4 Hairversity is renowned for its versatility & gravity-defying curls & coils.
Whether you’re looking for some new styling tips—or wondering if you even have 4A hair type—this is the article for you.
We’ve composed an all-encompassing guide for all you 4A curlies out there to maximize the potential of your locks. From protection to styling, we’re covering everything there is to know about making your 4A type hair look & feel its best.
The Hair Type Scale
Hair types start at 1 & go up to 4C, with many levels in between. The differences between 1 & 4C hair types are obvious, with 1 being pin-straight hair & 4C sporting tight coils. But comparing closely-related curly hair types such as 3C to 4A curly hair is where you can start to doubt your hair-typing skills.
Consider this your study session.
Hair begins to wave for those with type 2 hair types & may show off some curls:
You can recognize any type 3 curl type by their stunning curls at various spacing, from root to tip, with an occasional change in texture:
In type 4 hair the strands grow up & out, coils abound & light is absorbed:
Do I Have 4A Hair?
If you’re still uncertain as to whether or not you are rocking 4A hair, don’t fret. Type 4A hair is famous for its stunningly voluminous coils that adore moisture. Check in a mirror to see if the majority of your hair has any of the following characteristics:
- S or 0-shaped coil pattern (or mixed)
- Lots of root lift
- Gravity-defying volume
- Ability to stretch
- Out & up growth
The key difference between 4A & 3C hair is that it shows off more coils than curls, & its S-shape pattern is most visible when pulled.
Does All 4A Hair Have the Same Porosity & Texture?
No. Each hair type includes different porosities & textures, which can impact how you should care for & treat your curls.
What Is Hair Porosity?
Hair porosity is the level to which your hair is able to absorb & retain added moisture, whether that be a moisturizing hair product or just plain water.1
To determine if you have low vs high porosity hair, you’ll want to go into full scientist mode: Place a strand in a glass of water & watch it how it moves.
This is what each result means for your care routine:
What Is 4A Hair Texture?
Hair texture refers to the circumference of a single strand of hair & can vary even with a single hair type such as 4A. Your 4A hair texture will determine the ideal amount of days to space out your washes.2
Let’s explore the three textures:
4A Hair Care
Now that you know your hair type, porosity level & texture, it’s time to dive into all things hair care. As 4A hair can lean towards dryness &, in turn, fragility, you should infuse your hair care routine with plenty of moisture for optimal protection.3
Follow these four tips to keep your 4a hair moisturized & a stranger to breakage.
#1 Protect Your Hair While You Sleep
This isn’t unique to 4A curlies but it’s important all the same. To keep your coily hair as defined & smooth as possible as you sleep, throw your hair up into a high bun or into a luxurious cap, such as PATTERN’s Satin Cap to keep a barrier between your hair & the pillow.
#2 Detangle with Care
Curly hair is a double-edged sword. With voluminous curls come tangles. Fortunately, you don’t have to tear your hair to rid yourself of knots.
We recommend tackling tangles with detangling products such as PATTERN’s Detangling Nectar, coupled with a gentle brush-wielding hand. Thoroughly brush through your curls in the shower when they’re coated in conditioner to prevent tangles upon drying.
#3 Maintain a Washing Routine
Wash day with the right shampoo and conditioner for curly hair is a scalp-refreshing ritual that helps bring all those yummy nutrients back into your curly crown. Next time you jump into the shower, follow these steps to set your 4A hair up for styling success:
- Drench, detangle & condition your hair.
- Distribute conditioner evenly with our Shower Brush.
- Section off & twist your detangled hair to help absorb moisture.
- Let your twists sit in the conditioner for as long as you like.
- When ready, wash out the conditioner, leaving the twists.
- Go in with our Hydration Shampoo formulated with moisturizing ingredients & focus on your roots, passing it a few times down the entire hair shaft.
- Thoroughly rinse all the hair product from your hair, take down all the twists & rinse again.
Pro tip: Don’t forget that you can tweak your wash routine based on your hair’s porosity as well as texture type. It’s possible that conditioning after your shampoo works better for your hair.
#4 Moisturize Post-Shower
The key to caring for 4A hair lies in creating a routine that wards off breakage. The zig-zag nature of this hair type makes it difficult for your natural oil to reach the full length of each strand. This means that your hair is less likely to become oily but more prone to dryness.
The rule of thumb for moisturizing products is to go from lightest to heaviest post-wash & pre-dry. Your product routine could look something like this:
- Leave-in conditioner
- Styling gel or curl cream
- Sealing oil
Once your curls are snacking on pampering products, you have a few options to dry your hair.
#5 Dry Your Curls Damage-Free
Okay, so you’ve washed & moisturized your hair with the utmost care, but how can you dry it without causing damage?
We always recommend air drying as it doesn’t damage your hair. But sometimes you’re pressed for time or simply prefer not going throughout your day with wet hair. In that case, you can diffuse your curls or use a hooded-dryer attachment with PATTERN’s Heat Protectant.
With the right styling products, the options for styling your voluminous coils are seemingly endless, but we’ve narrowed down three of our flourishing favorites to prevent styling stagnancy.
#1 Free-Flowing Coils
Have your coils do what they do best with a let-down style that is sure to not let down.
This style works best on the first few days of your wash cycle as your curls are full of all that moisture you added in the shower. The further away from wash day, the less definition your curls will have, so take advantage of your just-washed curls when they’re at their most moisturized & powerful.
#2 Dramatic Updos
Whether it’s a high pony or bun, type 4A hair seems to be made for dramatic, lifting updos.
Gather your curls at your crown & twist them into a bun with a hair tie or let them loose with a ponytail. If you want a slicked-back look, use gel & a brush to pull back your hair, showing off your showstopping baby hairs.
#3 Protective Twists & Braids
If you’re looking for a style that can stand the test of time, protect your hair & prevent you from having to touch it up too often, opt for easy protective styles like twists or braids.
Section your hair into as many sections as you like & twist or braid down the entire section, focusing on creating a strong base close to your scalp.
Care for Your 4A Curls with PATTERN
Enjoy playing around with what treatments & styles work for your unique crown of curls & coils. Once you’ve nailed down your routine & go-to hairstyles, don’t stop there.
Amp up your curly hair routine with PATTERN’s science-backed products that transform curlies & coilies into their most gravity-defying selves. We put hair health first by formulating each product with decadent ingredients such as Irish moss, honey & biotin that smooth & strengthen your hair.
Take the first step towards your curliest, most vibrant curl pattern with PATTERN products for 4A hair.
- Gavazzoni Dias, Maria Fernanda Reis. “Hair cosmetics: an overview.” International journal of trichology vol. 7,1 (2015): 2-15. doi:10.4103/0974-7753.153450
- Carpenter, Debra. "The 4A Hair Type | Quick Reference Guide & Care Tips." You Probably Need a Haircut. 9 December, 2022. https://youprobablyneedahaircut.com/4a-hair/#Maintenance_and_Care_Tips_for_4A_Hair
- Quammie, Bee. "A Complete Guide to Discovering Your Natural Hair Type — and How to Take Care of Each Texture." InStyle. Updated on 14 August, 2022. https://www.instyle.com/hair/natural-hair-types#toc-type-4