Managing Your 4B Hair Type: What It Is and How to Care For It

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Do you have coily hair with little definition and a zig-zag curl pattern? If so, you probably have 4B hair.

Many people think 4B hair is difficult to look after, but that’s not necessarily true. OK, it does need a little extra care and a LOT of extra moisture, but with the right products and styling techniques, your 4B curls can look amazing.

So this guide will show you how to identify 4B hair, together with hair care tips and some of the best hairstyles for 4B hair. We also have some product recommendations to help you care for your gorgeous natural hair.

What Is 4B Hair?

4B hair is a coily hair type that falls between type 4A and type 4C in the Andre Walker Hair Typing System. 

This system divides all hair types into four classifications (1-4) which describe whether the strands are straight, wavy, curly, or curly. Each category is then split into three sub-classifications (A-C) which describe the tightness of the curl pattern

So 4B hair has a coily curl pattern somewhere in between the defined coils of hair type 4A and the tightly coiled texture of type 4C

Of course, it’s important to remember that hair type is only one factor influencing your hair’s needs. You also need to consider your hair porosity, density, and texture, which will help you create a healthy hair care routine that brings out the natural beauty of your hair. 

If you’re unsure of your exact hair type, our easy hair type quiz will help you work it out.

Identifying 4B Natural Hair Characteristics

The curl pattern is the easiest way to identify 4B hair. It has a Z-shaped or zigzag pattern with sharp angles, rather than distinct coils like 4A hair or the less distinct pattern of 4C hair

If you have hair type 4B, your locks could either be fine and wiry or rough and coarse. The sharp angles of the Z shaped curls make it hard for natural oils to travel down from your scalp to the ends of the hair strands, which leaves your hair dry and looking fluffy. This means that 4B hair needs regular moisturizing treatments to keep it looking healthy. 

Type 4B is also prone to shrinkage and could shrink by as much as 50-75% as it dries.

woman with low porosity type 4b hair hair looking up and away

How 4B Hair Differs From Other Type 4 Hair

If you have type 4 hair, you might not be sure whether you have Type 4B or one of the other two coily hair types. And, of course, most people have a mix of different hair types, although one hair type will be more prominent than the others. So how do you tell the difference between 4B and the other coily hair textures, 4A and 4C? 

Here are a few easy ways to spot the difference: 

4A vs. 4B Hair type

The 4A hair type has springy S-shaped curls about the size of a crochet needle. They are soft, loose, and more defined than 4B. You’ll also notice that 4A coils are less interlocked than 4B curls, spiraling away from each other.

woman with 4a hair type
example of 4a hair

4A curls are looser than 4B curls, making them less likely to tangle and break and less prone to shrinkage. This also gives them a more fluffy appearance than 4B hair.

4C vs. 4B Hair type

Like Type 4B, 4C curls are z shape but tend to clump together, whereas 4B has more distinct hair strands. 

woman with 4c hair
example of 4c hair

4C hair type has the tightest curl pattern in the Andre Walker Hair Typing System, with very springy coils that may shrink as much as 80%. But that means it’s also the most fragile type and can easily break. 

Type 4C is perfect for a bold Afro but needs special care to keep it looking great. 

Caring for 4B Hair Type

4B tends to be dry and fragile, so it needs a little extra TLC to keep it looking fabulous. Here are a few vital tips on the proper care for 4B hair:

Work with your Hair Porosity 

Your hair’s porosity will affect how you care for 4B hair. If you aren’t sure whether you have high or low porosity hair, our Guide to Hair Porosity will help you find out. 

Low porosity hair struggles to absorb hydration because it has tightly packed cuticles that form a barrier to keep moisture out. You should use lightweight moisturizing products containing ingredients like aloe vera. Gel-based styling products will give good curl definition without weighing down your locks.

High porosity locks absorb moisture easily but the raised cuticles make it struggle to retain moisture, and this can be caused by genetic factors or through damage from heat or chemical treatments. You will need a more intensive hydration routine with richer, heavier creams containing ingredients like coconut oil.

Gentle Handling 

The Z shape kinks and dry strands of 4B hair are particularly prone to breakage. So you need to handle your coils with extra care, and it’s better to avoid touching your locks as much as possible. 

Wearing a protective hairstyle minimizes the times you have to touch and handle your hair, which can help reduce breakage.

Optimize Wash Routines

Your wash day routine is essential to good hair health, and you need to ensure you have the best products on hand. 

Curly and coily hair needs masses of moisture, so look for moisturizing shampoos packed with emollients to soften, smooth, and hydrate your hair. It’s also best to follow up with a rinse-out conditioner before layering on additional moisture after your shower.

Leave Longer Between Washes

One benefit of the 4B hair type is that it doesn’t need washing as often as some other hair types. You can start by washing your locks every 3-5 days, but you might find that they only need to be cleansed once a week. 

If you have a very active lifestyle or find that your scalp becomes irritated with infrequent washing, you may need to wash your hair more frequently. If so, pick a gentle shampoo and conditioner and follow up with a leave-in conditioner to avoid your hair becoming even drier.

Sectioned Washing

Wash day can be very time-consuming for people with coily or curly hair types, and washing your hair in sections is a great way to make the task easier. Washing your hair in sections makes it easier to cleanse your scalp to avoid scalp irritation, and can also help to stretch out your hair and reduce the risk of tangles and breakage.

woman with 4b hair smiling

Keep Hair Moisturized

4B hair is often dry because the Z shape coils’ sharp angles make it difficult for sebum to travel from the root to tip of each strand. So adding plenty of moisture is one of the keys to great-looking, healthy 4B hair. 

Make sure you have a great range of moisturizing products close at hand, including leave-in conditioners, deep conditioners, hot oils, and hair masks. 

You should replenish moisture daily with a leave-in conditioner, light cream, or oil and pamper it with hair masks or deep conditioner treatments at least twice a month. Monthly hot oil treatments with oils like castor oil or almond oil will seal in extra hydration. Just massage the oil into your hair and leave for up to two hours before washing it off.

The LOC Method

LOC stands for Leave-in, Oil, Cream, and the LOC method involves applying these products to your hair to boost hydration and encourage moisture retention.

You start by adding a leave-in conditioner to your hair and then follow up with a layer of oil to lock in moisture. Finally, finish off with a styling cream to leave you with moisturized, frizz-free strands ready for styling.

Silicone-Free Products

Silicone in hair care products helps make your hair soft and shiny at first. But over time, it will form a coating on your strands and can make your hair feel dry and heavy, especially if you have low porosity hair.

You could use a clarifying shampoo to remove the buildup, but these can be very drying, so follow up with a good moisturizing conditioner. It might be easier to choose silicone-free products instead to avoid the problem entirely. 

Protective Styles

Protective styles like braids, Bantu knots, and updos will give your hair a rest from styling and also stop you from handling your locks too much. This helps to keep moisture locked in and encourages healthy hair growth. 

When your hair has been styled, you need to add extra moisture when needed and wear a wrap or silk bonnet overnight. It’s also important not to wear a protective hairstyle for too long, as this can cause weaknesses in the strands or even hair loss. Advice varies on how long you can wear a protective style, but 8 weeks should be the maximum.

Stretch Out Your Hair

Wearing styles like twist-outs, perm rods, and Bantu knots to stretch out your hair will keep your strands from getting tangled up and make your locks look longer. You can do this on freshly washed hair or spritz your locks with water to dampen them. 

Scalp Care

It’s essential to keep your scalp clean, healthy, and moisturized. Wash your scalp with plain water in between wash days to clean any buildup, and if you’re wearing braids or cornrows, apply a light oil to your scalp once or twice a week. 

Use Silk or Satin Pillowcases

Silk and satin pillowcases are a great addition to your healthy hair care routine because they help to protect your curls from tangling and breakage while you sleep. Wearing a protective style overnight will also give your curls extra protection and reduce hair loss. 

ZIMASILK 100% Mulberry Silk Pillowcase
$20.39

Everyone should have one of these! They prevent wrinkles, frizz, tangles, and feel luxurious. A basic necessity for anyone with curly hair but also skincare lovers.

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02/25/2024 07:22 pm GMT

Detangle with your fingers

Brushes and combs can snap fragile 4B strands and cause split ends, so using a wide tooth comb or your fingers to detangle as much as possible is better. 

Finger-detangling wet hair from ends to roots will help you gently remove knots without causing hair damage. Applying a conditioner or detangling product to wet hair first will make the strands slippier, so detangling is even easier.

Avoid Heat and Drying

4B hair is very fragile and prone to dryness and breakage. Using heated styling tools like curling wands and blow dryers will make your locks even drier, so let them air dry whenever possible.

If you must use heated styling tools, always apply a heat protectant first and use a diffuser on your blow dryer to protect your coils.

Regular Cuts and Trims

Regular trims are incredibly beneficial for all hair types, as they help keep split ends at bay so your hair looks healthier. You don’t need to trim 4B hair as often as some other hair types, every three or four months should be enough for healthy 4B hair.

woman with 4b hair type

Most Effective 4B Hair Products

4B hair needs gentle care, and the best products for 4B hair will nourish it with natural moisturizers. Here are some of the best products to choose for 4B curls:

Gentle Shampoo and Conditioner

Maui Moisture Curl Quench Shampoo and Conditioner

If you have 4B hair, it’s essential to choose a shampoo and conditioner that will cleanse your hair thoroughly but without stripping away its natural oils. This sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner contain a blend of 100% virgin coconut oil and aloe vera to deliver intense hydration, fight frizz and make your curls and coils more manageable.

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02/21/2024 01:42 pm GMT

Moisturizing Products

Carol’s Daughter Hair Milk

4B coils need plenty of moisture, so an excellent leave-in moisturizer will be your hair’s best friend. This Carol’s Daughter leave-in conditioner contains rich, hydrating ingredients like agave nectar and soybean oil to strengthen and protect your strands.

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02/18/2024 01:21 am GMT

Mielle Moisture Rx Hawaiian Ginger Moisturizing Hair Butter

A rich, creamy hair butter is another excellent way to nourish and hydrate your 4B curls. This one is full of ingredients like coconut oil, avocado oil, and essential oils to give your coils moisture and shine. 

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02/19/2024 06:42 pm GMT

Edge Control

Cantu Extra Hold Edge Stay Gel

This extra hold edge control gel will smooth frizzy hair and flyaways to give you a sleek, long-lasting style. It’s flake-free and contains pure shea butter to condition your hair, leaving it shiny and smooth.

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02/18/2024 02:11 am GMT

Curl Definition

Aunt Jackie’s Curls & Coils Flaxseed Recipes Don’t Shrink Flaxseed Elongating Curling Gel 

This curling gel will give your hair bounce and stretch without any dryness or flaking. The flaxseed nourishes your hair and keeps your coils looking fabulous for days. 

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02/20/2024 12:42 pm GMT

Detangling

SheaMoisture Deep Moisturizing Detangler

A good detangler is essential for 4B hair, and this one contains shea butter to help release knots and tangles while softening and conditioning your curls. 

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Beautiful 4B Hair Styles

4B hair is versatile, so there are plenty of options for cutting and styling 4B hair. Here are just a few of the options:

Layered Afro

This layered look is a simple, easy-wear 4B hairstyle that also helps to reduce the risk of tangles and breakage.

Voluminous Afro

A voluminous Afro is dramatic and eye-catching, the perfect way to really show off the full glory of your 4B coils.

Picked Afro

You’ll need some length on your locks to achieve this style, but a big, picked-out Afro is the ideal way to make the most of your natural texture. Be sure to add plenty of moisture and heat protectant before you blow-dry and pick out your Afro. 

Short Afro

If you need to deal with heat damage, why not dare to go short or even rock a Teeny Weeny Afro (TWA), which is a natural hairstyle no longer than 2 inches max. Your stylist will be able to give you some tips on caring for your new short style.

Medium Length Afro

Although chopping your hair to a medium-length Afro might feel scary, it makes transitioning from relaxed to natural hair much easier. 

Bantu Knots

Bantu knots are a traditional protective style that’s been around for over a century. You can keep them in place for up to two weeks, and they are a great way to maintain your growing hair. 

Frosted Highlights

Coloring or highlighting 4B coils is a great way to switch up your style but remember that color can make your hair even drier, so make sure you give it plenty of moisture. 

Dreadlocks

Dreadlocks are cool, chic, and a great way to wear your 4B hair. Depending on how you style them, locks can be as feminine or edgy as you like!

Cornrows

Cornrows are one of the classic protective styles, and you can mix them with a short natural style like a pixie cut for a seriously badass look.  

Box Braids

Box braids are a great protective style for 4B hair, and a box braid bob is a cool twist on this popular look. 

Perm Rods

4B coils hold a curl really well, so a perm rod set will allow you to create gorgeous, eye-catching ringlets.

A Matte Style

For a change from glossy hairstyles, why not try a cool, stylish matte look. 

A Classic Puff Updo

You can’t go wrong with a classic puff updo. This stylish look highlights your hair texture and is a perfect low-effort styling option. 

A Hair Scarf 

Adding a hair scarf is an easy way to style your hair when you’re short on time, and it also helps to give your hairline a break from everyday wear and tear. 

Pixie Style

A chic pixie cut is a great way to embrace your 4B locks, and you can switch things up with different accessories and styling options. 

Two Strand Twist-out

A two-strand twist-out is one of the best protective styles for 4B hair, giving your curls fantastic definition. And your hair will still look amazing after you’ve taken them out. 

Voluminous Curls

Make the most of your curls with this stunning style. You just need to use the right styling products, and the result will be pillowy-soft, voluminous curls. 

black woman with box braids in her 4b hair

FAQs

Are There Challenges to Having 4B Hair?

The 4B hair type is prone to having dry hair that is frizzy and breaks very easily. The advice in this guide will help you choose the care techniques and best products to deal with these challenges. 

Is Type 4B Hair Thick or Thin?

4B hair can be fine or coarse, but it generally tends to be quite dense, which gives the appearance of thick hair. 

4B Hair – Final Thoughts 

Although the 4B hair type can be dry and fragile, with the right care and high-quality products, these dense, zig-zag coils can look absolutely stunning. Because it’s so versatile , you have a wide range of hairstyle options, which means you’re sure to find something that suits your style.

And after reading this guide, you now have all the information, styling techniques and hair tips you need to keep your 4B locks looking their best!

4B hair type pin image

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