Hair typing has been a controversial subject ever since it began. Some people are all for it, and some people really don’t agree with it.
It can be confusing at first to know what category your hair falls into and why. So in this article, we will break down one hair type that didn’t even make it on the curl type chart in the first place – 4c hair.
What is 4c hair?
4c hair is the coiliest hair type on the curl type chart. It is very versatile and has the most shrinkage out of all the other hair types.
There are different elements that go into what kind of 4c hair you may have because even though two people may both have 4c hair, that does not mean that their hair is the same.
What do you mean by curl type?
The curl type chart, created by Oprah Winfrey’s hairstylist Andre Walker, is a guideline of what type of curl your hair is. Type 4c was not originally placed on the chart by Walker but was later added to represent the many people who have this tight, coily hair texture. The curl chart is mainly used for knowing what products to use, what styles work best for your hair, and how to properly care for your hair.
There are 4 different hair types, 3 of which include wavy or curly hair. Type 1 is straight, Type 2 is wavy, Type 3 is curly, and Type 4 is coily. The hair type is the shape that the curl makes, but the letter specifications represent the width of the curls. The letters range from A-C with A being the widest size and C being the smallest size. 4c hair has the smallest curl diameter, curls that could even be hard to see with your eyes.
If you’re wondering, the curl type of hair depends on the hair follicles on the scalp. The flatter, more oval-shaped the follicle is, the curlier the hair is. If the follicle is more circular in shape, the hair will come out straighter. These hair strands can be either fine or coarse.
Many times, people with curly hair have more than one hair type. So it is possible for someone to have 4c in the middle of their head, but 4b around the edges.
Density and Porosity
The hair type is only one factor that goes into hair, other big factors are density and porosity. The porosity of your hair is its ability to absorb and retain moisture.
Hair absorbs the most moisture because the hair cuticles are literally spread wide and gaping with holes. Moisture easily enters high porosity hair, but it also leaves the hair just as easily – leaving the hair frizzy and prone to tangling. This kind of porosity also leaves the hair dry if not consistently moisturized.
Hair has cuticles that are not as porous as high porosity hair and takes in a balanced amount of moisture, as well as emitting it. This kind of hair usually is easy to maintain because it does not dry out quickly, or is hard to absorb moisture.
Hair has strands that are hard to impart moisture into. The cuticle of the strands are very tight for low porosity and can leave the hair dry and sticky from product buildup. When the hair does absorb the moisture, it is hard for it to escape.
Your hair type does not determine your density or porosity, so you could have 4c hair with high or low porosity. 4c hair has a tendency to look dry, but that could be because it has either high or low porosity. Also, hair that starts out as low porosity can become high porosity due to heat or chemical damage.
Hair density is determined by how closely the strands of hair are grouped together. The density is partly due to the curl pattern and diameter of the curls, but also largely due to how thin or thick the hair strands are.
People with thinner hair have low density, and people with thicker hair have high density. 4c hair is usually high density, but the strands can vary from fine to thick.
How To Know the Porosity of Your Hair
There are several ways to determine the porosity of your hair. Again, if you can have any hair type with either a high, low or medium porosity.
Take a strand of your hair and submerge it in a clear glass of water. If the strand floats to the bottom then your hair is high porosity. If the strand sinks down to the middle, then your hair is medium porosity. If the strand floats at the top, then the hair is low porosity.
Take a strand of your hair and run your fingers along it. If the strand feels very bumpy, that means that the cuticles are lifted and your hair is highly porous. If the strand feels smooth, then the hair is low porosity. If it is somewhere in between, you may have medium porosity.
Wet the hair until it is covered with water, but not dripping. Then, squeeze the water out of your hair. If the hair feels rough, that means it did not absorb the water well and is low porosity. If the hair feels wet with nothing extra about it, then the hair may be medium porosity. If the hair feels sticky from the product on it then the hair is high porosity.
Identifying 4c Hair
Type 4 textured hair is composed of kinky and coily patterns and is prevalent among African-Americans. This is the densest and most voluminous type of hair.
The curls are so tight in fact, that it causes the hair to look shorter than it actually is – this is called shrinkage. It is very interesting to see pictures of videos of people who look like they have a short afro, but then pull their hair down to their shoulders. 4c hair has the highest shrinkage effect.
The curl type of this hair also enables it to grow upwards, defying gravity and giving the hair plenty of volume. Though this hair type looks indestructible, it is actually very fragile and prone to damage. Breakage, tangling, and dryness happen the most with 4c hair, especially when extra heat or chemicals are applied to it, so it has to be handled carefully.
For your reference, some celebrities with 4c hair are Lupita Nyong’o and Viola Davis.
How do I know I have 4c hair?
If after you wash your hair and you don’t see a defined curl pattern, you most likely have 4c hair. 4c coils have to be defined through twisting, braiding, or applying product.
Also, the shrinkage for 4c hair is very noticeable, 4c hair can shrink more than 75% of its actual length, so taking note of the shrinkage will also help you identify if you have this hair type.
The hair will also not clump together like 4a and 4b hair, the strands stay apart, making it look even more frizzy. If you are finding that you have to be very gentle with your hair in order for it to grow long, then this is another indicator of having 4c hair.
Refraining from heat, chemicals, dyes, and styles that pull on your scalp will enable the hair to freely grow without damage.
What products work best for 4c Hair?
1. Gels and Curl Creams
Due to the shrinkage that happens with 4c hair, one way to show your length is to use gels and/or curl defining creams because they stretch out your hair and hold it in place. Stretching the hair will also help avoid tangling.
Heavier products tend to work best for 4c hair because they help clump the strands and define the curls – unless you have very fine-textured hair, then you should use a hair lotion.
2. Satin Bonnet and Pillowcase
The importance of protecting 4c hair while sleeping is often not stressed enough. If you sleep with your hair out on a cotton pillowcase, that material can dry out the hair and contribute to breakage.
Also, rubbing your hair against a cotton pillowcase could be too rough for the hair. Satin is soft and slippery, so sleeping with a satin bonnet or pillowcase will help retain moisture and prevent pulling on the hair too much.
One of the best ways to avoid breakage is to make sure the hair is retaining moisture, especially on the ends of the hair.
The ends of the hair are the most delicate and need to be moisturized in order to stay strong and healthy. Using deep conditioners, oils, and leave-in conditioners will help the hair to absorb and retain moisture – whether you have high or low porosity.
Protein-infused deep conditioners help strengthen the hair strands because the hair is already relatively weak. Leave-in conditioners are a great way to moisturize the hair throughout the day. The best style pair for a leave-in conditioner are twists because they lock in the product and keep it from drying out.
Hot oil treatments are a good way to seal the moisture into the hair. If you have high porosity hair, it is easy for the hair to absorb moisture, but it needs an extra sealant to keep the moisture from coming out.
4. De-tangling Brush
Due to the density of 4c hair, using brushes and fine-toothed combs can pull the hair out. A good product to use to make sure you are being as gentle as possible is using a detangling brush.
These brushes are made specifically to untangle the hair through the placement of the teeth. 4c hair is hard to finger detangle with, so using a detangling brush is the next best option.
Historical 4c Hair Stigmas
The stigma around 4c hair in the U.S. dates back to the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Slave traders would label kinky, coily hair as animal fur and gave the slaves inappropriate tools to use to brush it, like horse brushes and wool cutters.
In 1786, the Tignon Law actually prohibited black women from showing their hair in public. There were other pointless things enforced during the time of segregation, such as the comb test. If someone could not easily run a fine-toothed comb through their hair they could not join certain organizations.
People with a looser curl were seen by white people as having some form of whiteness, and therefore being “better” than those who did not have white features. This stigma perpetuated throughout generations, causing people with Type 4 hair to not only know how to take care of their hair, but to think that their hair was not as beautiful.
Before the slave trade, traditional African societies knew how to care for their hair – such as using hair butter and wide-toothed combs to care for their hair – and still do today. There was no stigma concerning 4c hair in Africa because they knew how to make the hair look its best in its natural state.
It was the conditioning of the slaves that made them lose the knowledge and respect for their hair. Texture discrimination has finally started to fade, especially with the rise of curly hair products and social media – though there is still a ways to go.
There is more knowledge being shared about proper hair care, and more people are being shown accepting their natural hair for the beauty that it is. However, there is a need for awareness that 4c hair is not innately inferior to any other hair, it has just been targeted to form that illusion.
The Final Word
If you have 4c hair, what it will benefit from the most is knowledge. 4c hair is very manageable and a beautiful texture if you know how to care for it.
No head of hair is the same, so when looking for products and styles, it is important to note what your hair does and does not respond best to.