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4C Hair Master Guide: Everything You Need to Know

November 2, 2022


Verna Meachum

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 We treat our blog with a curious, open-minded, and customer-focused attitude. We ask lots of questions about everything.

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Hi,I'm Verna

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Last Updated on November 3, 2022 by Verna Meachum

I feel you. It’s easy to find hair guides on every other texture, but if you have 4C hair – you sometimes feel a little left out.

Don’t worry, we’re here to help. 4C hair can seem like a bit of a mystery, but with the right techniques and products, you understand your hair like never before.

Whether you’re transitioning from relaxed to natural, or just want to learn more about 4C hair, this full hair resource is here to give you the information and support you need.

With so many different products and techniques available, it can be difficult to know where to start. In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about 4C hair – from defining and moisturizing your curls, to choosing the right styling tools and products.

Hair Typing Systems

Andre Walker Hair Typing System - for 4c hair.

You’ve probably heard about hair typing systems by now. When investigating your hair type, two common go-to sources are Andre Walker’s Hair Typing System, and the Curl Type System from NaturallyCurly.

Why use such a system?

The road to understanding and embracing your texture can be long and frustrating, especially if you’ve been using the wrong products or techniques.

By defining your hair type and learning more about how different textures work, you can find the right products, techniques, and styles to help your 4C hair thrive.

While everyone doesn’t agree or rely on a “hair typing system” when it comes to their hair, it can be a useful tool for understanding your texture and finding the right products and techniques that work best for you.

No need to overcomplicate things. Keep things simple – this is just a starting point for you to use as a “guide.” Guides are meant to offer general direction, not be the only source of information.

There really isn’t a 100% all-encompassing, one-size-fits-all answer to every curl type. Everyone’s hair is unique and different; no two heads are exactly alike (even if someone has similar hair texture as you).

Even though hair typing systems aren’t perfect, they can be a great way to start learning about your hair. The key is to experiment and find what works best for you – whether that means using the products or techniques recommended for your hair type, or finding something that works even better!

What is 4C Hair Type

African American woman with 4C hair.
Photo credit: Pinterest

So what exactly is 4C hair type?

A general rule for hair types is that there are four categories:

  • Type 1 (straight)
  • Type 2 (wavy)
  • Type 3 (curly)
  • Type 4 (coily or kinky)

There are also subcategories within each of these categories; A, B, C, and 4C hair falls into the 4 category (refer to the chart above).

4C hair falls into the Type 4 Hair category (or tightly coiled) on the hair typing system, and it has some unique characteristics that make it stand out.

4C Hair Characteristics:

African American woman with 4C hair.
Photo credit: Pinterest
  • Very fragile and delicate, with a tightly coiled and densely packed curl pattern.
  • The lack of elasticity in 4C hair, which means it is more prone to breakage and damage (if not properly cared for.
  • The ability of 4C hair to absorb moisture, which makes it important to use products that moisturize and condition your hair regularly.
  • Easily becomes tangled and dry.
  • 4C hair is a type of hair that can be coarse or fine in texture.
  • Shrinkage occurs the most in the 4 hair type category.
  • The thickness and size of 4C coils can vary greatly (from thin to thick).
  • The curls are so tight that it’s often hard to see definition.
  • The shape of type 4 curls is more similar to a zig-zag than S-shaped or ringlet curls.


In simple terms, hair porosity refers to how well your hair can absorb moisture.

To better grasp the idea of hair porosity, it’s helpful to have an understanding of the composition of your hair.

Your locks are made up of three layers:

Photo credit: Research Gate
  • The cuticle: Similar to shingles on a roof, the cuticle is the outermost protective layer of your hair.
  • The cortex: The middle layer that makes up the bulk (and pigment color) of your hair. It is made up of long keratin filaments that are held together by disulphide and hydrogen bonds.
  • The health of the cortex is largely dependent on the strength (integrity) of the cuticle.
  • The medulla: Located in the innermost layer of the hair shaft that is the most soft and fragile.

Your hair will stay healthy and hydrated when water, oils, and other moisturizing products are able to pass through the cuticle to reach the cortex.

If your cuticles are too close together, it becomes difficult for water and oils to penetrate the hair strands. This then creates difficulties for moisture absorption, and your hair may become dry as a result.

If your cuticles are spaced too far apart, it will be harder for your hair to hold onto moisture and stay hydrated.

Porosity is determined by how easily your hair can absorb water and products. If you find that your hair has a difficult time absorbing water and products, then it’s very likely that you have low porosity hair.

If on the other hand, you find that your hair tends to absorb water very quickly and easily, then it’s likely that you have high porosity hair.

Medium (normal) porosity has cuticles that are neither too close nor open. This allows for easy moisture penetration as well as easier retention of that moisture for an extended amount of time.

If your hair takes color well, is easy to style and can hold styles for a good length of time, it doesn’t take too long for your hair to air dry, your hair tends to look healthy—it may be medium porosity.

Low Porosity 4C Hair Tips

Hair porosity for 4c hair

One of the main challenges with low porosity 4C hair is that it can be difficult for moisture to penetrate the cuticle, which means that your hair may become dry and brittle over time.

However, there are certain tips and tricks that you can use to help moisturize your 4C hair and keep it healthy and hydrated.

The first step is to work on sealing in moisture with a good conditioner or oil. This can help improve its ability to hold onto moisture and keep your 4C hair hydrated.

Another useful tip is to use a co-wash, low-poo or color-safe shampoo that gently cleanses your 4C hair without stripping it of its moisture.

Lastly, try using heat to open the cuticles and help allow moisture to penetrate your 4C hair. A hot oil treatment, steam towel, or steam cap can all help improve moisture retention and help keep your 4C hair looking healthy and hydrated.

There are two ways to hydrate and moisturize hair. Both of these strategies work together in hair care science to not only add water molecules, but also preserve those that are already there.

Butters and oils work on the surface of hair to lubricate the 4C hair cuticle and lock in moisture that can make styling 4C hair a much smoother process.

Another way to hydrate and moisturize hair is to use Emollients and Humectants, which are known to impart water molecules to the hair fiber and boost hair moisture content.

Look for hydrating products with ingredients such as:

  • aloe vera
  • flaxseed
  • glycerin
  • honey
  • small proteins
  • sorbitol, etc.

High Porosity 4C Hair Tips

Although high porosity hair can quickly take in moisture, the difference is that this type of hair also loses moisture just as easily.

To address this, you need to work on sealing in moisture by using heat, deep conditioning treatments, products that contain penetrating ingredients like oils and butters, and protein treatments (when needed).

Another important step is to avoid products and styling tools that can damage your 4C hair, such as heat tools without a proper protective barrier and harsh chemicals that can strip away the natural oils in your 4C hair.

Overall, properly hydrating and moisturizing 4C hair requires a combination of both surface and deep treatments, as well as careful consideration of the products and tools that you use. With the right strategies, however, you can keep your 4C hair looking healthy and hydrated no matter what the weather or season may bring.

How To Keep 4C Hair Healthy

African American woman with 4C hair type.
Photo credit: Pinterest

Most people have no idea how to take care of 4C curls, so a regular curly hair routine won’t cut it.

4C hair is tightly coiled and often fragile, making it prone to breakage and moisture loss. To care for 4C coils, you need to prioritize moisture and avoid harsh chemical treatments.

Here are a few tips for keeping your textured hair healthy and easier to manage.

Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize

Everyone knows that curly hair is dry, but what many people don’t know is that 4c curls are the driest of them all. Moisturizing your hair regularly is key to maintaining healthy, strong locks.

Without proper hydration, these coils become brittle and weak- almost to the point where they feel like straw when you touch them. Not only does this damage the curl pattern, but it can also lead to breakage and split ends.

Although all conditioners might appear to serve the same purpose, they are not all created equal. There are three types of conditioners:

  • Rinse-out conditioner only hydrates the outer layer of your hair. It can also be helpful for softening strands, but not much else.
  • Leave-in conditioner can be a lifesaver for those with dry, frizzy, or difficult-to-manage hair. These lightweight styling products help to enhance moisture retention, control frizz, and make detangling much easier. Leave-in conditioner creates a barrier around the hair cuticle, which locks in moisture and makes the hair shaft smooth. For best results, use leave-in conditioner in conjunction with your other hair care products.
  • Deep conditioners goes a step further by penetrating into the hair shaft. By doing so, it helps hair to retain (and restore) moisture, bolster elasticity and may even mend damage.

Best 4C Conditioners

Rinse-out conditioners:

Mielle Organics Mongongo Oil Hydrating Conditioner

Righteous Roots 2-n-1 Conditioner

AG Hair Natural Boost Apple Cider Vinegar Conditioner

Leave-in conditioner/treatments:

4C ONLY Too Soft Leave-In Conditioner

Alikay Naturals Lemongrass Leave In Conditioner

Mielle Organics Pomegranate & Honey Leave-In Conditioner

Carol’s Daughter Goddess Strength Leave In Conditioner

Soultanicals Hair Sorrell Knappylicious Kink Drink

Camille Rose Herbal Tea Seal and Soften

Naturall Club Nourishing Avocado Leave-in Conditioner

Mizani 25 Miracle Milk Leave-in Conditioner

Deep conditioners:

4C ONLY Too Thicke

Monoi Repairing Hair Mask

PATTERN Beauty Treatment Mask

Soultanicals Afrotastic Curl Elastic

tgin Honey Miracle Hair Mask

Mielle Organics Babassu & Mint Deep Conditioner

Camille Rose Algae Renew Deep Conditioner

Alodia Deep Conditioning Masque

Carol’s Daughter Coco Creme Curl Quenching Moisture Mask

As I Am Hydration Elation Intensive Conditioner

Oyin Handmade What The Hemp Deep Conditioner Moisture Mask

The Mane Choice Ancient Egyptian Anti-Breakage & Repair Antidote Hair Mask

Shea Moisture Manuka Honey & Yogurt Hydrate + Repair Protein-Strong Treatment

EDEN BodyWorks JoJoba Monoi Deep Conditioner

Be gentle when detangling

Regularly detangling 4C hair may seem tedious, but it’s necessary to maintain healthy length. The very tight curl pattern of 4C causes it to tangle much quicker than other textures. Without taking proper care of your hair, it will become matted and eventually break.

Those with 4C hair need to be extra careful when combing their hair, as even one session can result in disastrous breakage.

Detangle your hair while wet and saturated in a product for the best care. Or, pre poo with conditioner or oils to soften the strands and reduce friction. It’s best to use a wide tooth comb, detangling brush, or your fingers to gently pull apart kinks and knots. Never yank, as this can cause it to break and snap off.

Best 4C Detanglers

Black Vanilla 4-in-1 Combing Creme

SheaMoisture Raw Shea Butter Deep Moisturizing Detangler

Carol’s Daughter Goddess Strength Ultra Shield Pre-Shampoo Treatment

Soultanicals Knot Sauce Coil Detangler

Taliah Waajid The Great Detangler

Creme of Nature Pure Honey Knot Away Leave-In Detangler

4C Hairstyles

A video tutorial is a far better way to show you how to style your hair than simply listing a bunch of hairstyles! Check it out below.

Video credit: The Faye Fairy

Use protective styling to your benefit

If you have 4c hair, then you know that protective styling can be your best friend.

Protective styles, like wearing your hair in a bantu knots, twists, or braids, help to keep your strands from being damaged by harsh weather and everyday activities.

It’s also a great way to prevent split ends since most protective styles tuck the ends away.

Best 4C Styling Products

Coco Creme Extreme Moisture Routine

Soultanicals Marula- Muru Moisture Guru

Mielle Organics Pomegranate & Honey Sculpting Custard

Carol’s Daughter Mimosa Hair Honey Shine Pomade 

Design Essentials Natural,Almond & Avocado Honey Curl Forming Custard

Soultanicals Can’t Believe It’s Knot Butta

Soultanicals Clump & Curl Afro Vegan Styling Custard

PATTERN Beauty Styling Cream

Camille Rose Brown Butter Melt

Oyin Handmade Whipped Pudding Rich Natural Moisture Cream

As I Am Double Butter Cream

Eco Style Curl & Wave Gel 

Don’t forget to take care of your scalp

A healthy scalp is paramount to having healthy hair, no matter your curl type. This is especially important for those with 4C curls who love using products on their hair.

To keep your scalp in top condition, incorporate routine practices like a pre-poo or scalp scrub. You can also add oil to your scalp to hydrate it and prevent itching and irritation.

Although washing your hair is crucial to a healthy scalp, you don’t need to shampoo every time you shower. In order to achieve the best results, alternate washing your hair with a co wash and sulfate-free shampoo.

When washing your hair, it is best to divide it into small sections to avoid tangles.

Best 4C Shampoos / Co Wash

4C ONLY Too Clean Shampoo

Carol’s Daughter Wash Day Delight Water-to-Foam Sulfate Free Vegan Shampoo

Wash Day Delight Aloe Vera Shampoo and Conditioner Set

PATTERN Beauty Hydration Curl Shampoo

Carol’s Daughter Black Vanilla Curly Hair Sulfate Free Shampoo and Conditioner Set 

Design Essentials Natural Almond & Avocado Moisturizing & Detangling Sulfate-Free Shampoo

Cantu Sulfate-Free Cleansing Cream Shampoo

Camille Rose Naturals Sweet Ginger Cleansing Rinse

SheaMoisture Curl and Shine Coconut Shampoo

Kinky Curly Come Clean Natural Moisturizing Shampoo

Mielle Pomegranate & Honey Moisturizing and Detangling Shampoo

Mielle Organics Detangling Co-Wash

EDEN BodyWorks Coconut Shea Cleansing Cowash

As I Am Coconut CoWash Cleansing Conditioner

Scalp scrubs / Oils

My Black Is Beautiful Invigorating Scalp Scrub

dpHUE Apple Cider Vinegar Scalp Scrub

TPH BY TARAJI Never Salty Exfoliating Sugar Scalp Detox Hair Scrub

Righteous Roots Oils

Take care of your ends

The ends of our curls are the oldest part of our hair, which means they can become brittle, dry and fragile over time. To keep your 4C ends looking and feeling their best, be sure to use a high quality moisturizing product on them every day. You may also seal them with oil by using the LOC or LCO method.

The LOC/LCO method is an excellent way to keep your hair hydrated and moisturized.

The letters in the LOC method show you the steps of using your hair products. You start by adding a leave-in conditioner, then an oil, and lastly a cream to act as a sealant.

Using the LCO method, you start by applying a leave-in conditioner. Then, add a cream to your routine. Finally, finish by sealing in moisture with an oil.

Both methods help your 4c hair achieve a softer, more defined curl pattern while reducing dryness and frizz.

Best Oils for 4C Hair

Righteous Roots Oils

Jamaican Black Castor Oil

Almond oil

Grapeseed oil

Jojoba oil

Olive oil

Don’t Skip Trims

It’s important not to skip out on regular trims. Regular trims help to keep 4C hair looking healthy, free from split ends, and retain length!

Though you may appear to have shorter hair at first, stick with the trims–you’ll notice longer, stronger strands over time!

The material you sleep on matters

It’s also important to be mindful of the bedding and materials that you sleep on. 4C hair, in particular, is vulnerable to breakage, which can be exacerbated by rubbing against coarse or harsh materials.

Traditional cotton pillowcases can strip your hair of moisture overnight, leading to a dry and lifeless look by morning. Invest in a satin pillowcase instead. You can also use a satin bonnet, scarf, or wrap during the night to help protect your 4C hair while you sleep.


Which ingredients are not good for 4C hair?

Sulfates in and of themselves are not bad. However, when used in excess, they can cause irritation, dryness, and a number of other adverse effects.

Sodium Lauryl Sulphate, Ammonium Lauryl Sulphate, TEA Lauryl Sulphate, and Sodium Laureth Sulphate are the most common sulfates found in shampoos and other hair care products.

Some ingredients to avoid in 4C hair products include sulfates, silicones, drying alcohols, and heavy oils. These can dry out

Parabens are also a common ingredient found in many 4C hair products, though they are still controversial, some have found that it can cause irritation.

Mineral oils and petroleum products should generally be avoided, as they can clog your pores and prevent 4C hair from absorbing moisture.

Phthalates should be avoided, as they are commonly used in hair and beauty products to help them stick to the skin. However, they have been known to cause irritation and other adverse effects, especially when used in products that are meant to be applied near the scalp.

However, according to the FDA, “At the present time, the FDA does not have evidence that phthalates as used in cosmetics pose a safety risk.”

Curl care

 We treat our blog with a curious, open-minded, and customer-focused attitude. We ask lots of questions about everything.

We think that people should take what information they need and leave what they don't. We suggest things we enjoy and believe are worth your attention.

Above all, we value your trust above anything else. We're so glad you’re here!

Hi,I'm Verna

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