Afro hair

How to Style 4c Hair

Published By: Kennedy

Last Updated: January 13, 2022

4c hair is probably one of the least understood textures, but there are so many things you can do with it. 

The more you know your styling options, the more your hair can shine for the beauty it is. 

What to Know About 4c Hair

4c hair is not considered curly, but coily. It has the tightest curl pattern on the curl type chart. It is very versatile and has the most shrinkage out of all the other hair types. 

In addition to being very coily, it is also very delicate. 4c hair may look super strong, but it is actually very prone to snapping and breaking if not cared for properly.

The main reason that 4c hair is so prone to damage is that it has a tendency to be very dry. 4c hair needs to be moisturized and infused with protein in order to help it grow healthy. Deep conditioners are a great way to impart necessary hair nutrients and moisture into the hair before styling.  

This type of hair also is very dense, so the styles that are done with it need to be specifically for this hair type. Just because someone has 4c hair, that does not mean that it has a specific density or porosity. Different people have different densities and porosities, so knowing whether either of those is high or low will also determine what is best for your hair. 

Shrinkage is a very big factor when it comes to styling 4c hair. Shrinkage is the coily effect that makes the hair look much shorter than it actually is. 4c hair can shrink more than 75% of its actual length. Styling 4c hair in a way that stretches the hair, not only maximizes length but also prevents the hair from tangling around itself.

How to Style 4c Hair

There are many different styles you can do with 4c hair because it is so versatile. The styles you do for the most part, however, should keep the hair healthy because it is such a delicate hair type.

Protective Styles

Protective styles are styles that tuck in the hair in order to cover it from the elements – especially the ends which are the most delicate. These styles are also free of heat and chemicals, in order to facilitate hair growth and health. 4c hair may benefit the most from protective styling because it is the most prone to damage. When you are as gentle as possible with this hair type, that is when you will see it look and feel its best. 

Protective styles will also lock in any moisture that you put into the hair before styling. There are many different protective styles that you can do, but here are a few that are very beneficial and durable for 4c hair.

1. Box Braids

Box braids are very popular for afro hair, and they are a very beautiful styling option for 4c hair. 

Box braids are generally done with synthetic hair braided into the natural hair to add length. Adding hair is fine to do, and will give this style more versatility – but there should not be too much hair added because the heaviness will pull too much on the scalp, which could cause breakage over time. 

In order to do box braids, you will first need to blow-dry the hair and part the hair into sections of small squares. Applying oil to the hair before blow-drying, such as argan oil, will help the hair to retain some moisture after it is heated. After parting the hair, it can then be braided into single braids, along with adding in the desired synthetic hair.[1]

One of the best features of box braids is that the synthetic hair covers much of the natural hair, shielding it from the environment and helping the hair to stay in place. You can also choose different colors of hair – spicing up your style. 

2. Twists

Twists are a must for 4c hair, at least for a week out of every month. They are a style that does not require any heat and allows for the hair to soak up any moisture for an extended period of time. 

In order to twist the hair, it will need to be freshly washed and de-tangled because this style is easier done while the hair is damp. The hair would then need to be parted into sections, similar to box braids, and then twisted using two strands of hair. This is really a two in one style because the hair looks nice when you unravel the twists as well.[2]

A great product accompaniment to this style would be curl cream or hair butter. A curl cream or hair butter will help the hair to be moisturized and bring out the curliness so that the hair wraps around itself better. These products will also help the hair look shiny and juicy, which is a really good look. This style is super easy to do and is a great go-to if you just want to leave the hair alone to grow. 

3. Flat Twists

Flat twists are similar to cornrows but use the two-strand method instead of three. These twists lay flat on your head and are very flattering for people with curly/coily hair. You can even just flat twist the top of your head and place the rest of your hair in a bun.[3

This is a protective style that locks in moisture and keeps the ends tucked – as well as being super cute! It might take a while to get the hang of, but once you do there are so many ways you can style it!

4. Crochet Braids

Crochet braids are so ideal when you don’t feel like actually braiding the hair. The average time for box braiding is about 4 hours – crochet braids cut that time in half! Crochet braids come as synthetic single braids that you literally loop through your natural hair. 

Your hair can be cornrowed first, rubberbanded, or just put into one ponytail. Crocheting hair is not that difficult to do as long as you have a flat surface. This is a great way to protect your hair are leave it free of heat and chemicals. Braids are not the only crochet styles – you can crochet twists, faux locks, and more.[4]

This style is very versatile while also being a great way to not veer too far from your natural look. 

Stylish Styles 

When you are not wearing a protective style, you may want to do something that is simply stylish. There are many ways to style 4c hair, but here are a few options that look absolutely gorgeous with this texture. 

1. Pineapple Ponytail

A pineapple ponytail is a ponytail that is styled to sit on the top of your head – mimicking the top of a pineapple! This style is done by slicking the hair down in the front and back with gel, and using a hair tie to pull the rest of the hair in a pretty, voluptuous ponytail.[5]

 In order for this style to look its best, you will need to use a curl cream or gel to really define those coils. It would also help if you use your finger to twist those coils to get them to clump together. This is such a cute style for 4c hair because it shows off its volume and curl pattern very well. 

2. Slick-Back Bun

Some people think that 4c hair cannot be slicked back on the head as other textures can – but that’s not true! It will take some effort – and a lot of gel – but it will lay flat.

 After laying the hair flat on the head, you can do any type of bun in the back and swoop your edges on the side to create a stunning, yet simple look. 

3. Tapered Haircuts

4c hair looks great long, but it also looks very cute when it’s cut short. A tapered haircut is a style that going to look great but doesn’t require much maintenance every day. 

Some people do a tapered haircut as a means to do “the big chop”, which is a way of getting rid of all the damaged parts of the hair and leaving the healthy parts to grow out. Others, simply want this style because of how seamless it looks and easy to take care of.

 A taper is when the hair is cut lower around the sides and in the back than it is on the top. You can leave the hair on the top as long or as short as you want. If you do leave the hair longer, then defining the curls with gel or curl cream is a great look that bursts with confidence. 

Adding color to your cut will really compliment your style as well as getting designs cut onto the sides – why not? Even though it’s short, there are so many ways to express yourself with this style.  

4. Fro Hawk

A frohawk is one of my favorite bold looks. It looks like a mohawk but with curly hair, and it does not need to be cut on the sides. To achieve a frohawk, you can simply comb the hair on both sides to the center, and pin the hair in place with bobby pins.[6]

This style can be done with your natural length, or you can stretch the hair beforehand through twisting it to give it a little something extra. Either way, this style will showcase your texture the way it deserves.

Processed Styles

Processing your hair with heat and chemicals should not be done to 4c hair on a regular basis – but that doesn’t mean never! There are a few things you can do that will really enhance your hair for those special times of the year.

1. Press and Curl

Shrinkage is a big factor when it comes to 4c hair, but straightening the hair will really showcase your hair’s actual length. The hair should be deep conditioned and oiled before applying this much heat, to avoid damage as much as possible. 

When straightening 4c hair it is best to only go over the hair once with the straightener, any more than this could cause the hair to look dull and stiff. After the hair is straight there are several things you can do to add volume and variety. 

Using hair rollers will add curls to your hair without the heat. You could also use a curling wand to add beautiful symmetric curls all over your head. The great thing about 4c hair is that holds styles really well and its density gives the style plenty of volume.  

2. Add Color

The coils in 4c hair may not be discernible to the eye darker colors, but adding different colors will help with curl definition.

Lighter colors will give the hair a more noticeable definition, but you want to be careful with going from dark to light because this can damage the hair if not done right. Highlights or changing the color of your hair completely can open a whole new world of style options.

Should you Style 4c Hair Wet or Dry?

It is best to comb your hair when it is damp – not dripping – but it needs to be a bit wet. If you comb your 4c hair while it is dry, it will be much more difficult to comb through and that could lead to breakage. 

For natural hairstyles such as twists and ponytails, you will find that the hair soaks up products better while it is damp and leaves a better-looking result after it air dries. Even before you blow-dry your hair, you want to part the hair in the direction you want your part to be while it is damp, because the hair tends to stay in place after it dries. 

The Final Word 

You have so many options when it comes to styling 4c hair. Knowing how to do these styles correctly will ensure your hair stays healthy and looks fabulous.

 Practice makes perfect, so choose a style and just repeat it until you get it right! 


I have always had a love for writing and have been blogging for about 3 years now. I have a passion for teaching what I have learned over the years, especially about hair. I have had almost every hairstyle - typical of a cosmetologist’s daughter- including the big chop in 2015. With all the knowledge I have gained, I feel it is my duty to help others on their healthy hair journey. I believe education can be fun, and I strive to make it fun to learn about beautiful black hair.

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