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An Introduction to 4C Hair: Types, Characteristics, and Care Tips

With its tight coils and sharp angles, 4C hair is the tightest and coarsest of all the curl types. The 4C hair type curl pattern is made up of super-tight zigzags that are densely packed. 4C curls are less defined than the other curl types, with strands ranging from very fine to super coarse. We love 4C natural hair, but we know that maintaining it can be intimidating, as 4C curls experience shrinkage and are prone to dryness and damage — especially when faced with chemicals or heat. If you’re a 4C curly girl or guy and you’re ready to upgrade your routine for hydrated, defined curls, this is your guide. We’re telling you how to care for your curly hair and giving you tips to keep your 4C hair happy ahead!

How Can I Tell If I Have 4C Hair?

While 4C natural hair types can range and vary in terms of the tightness of the curl, coils are a major indicator that you have 4C hair. This hair type is made up of tightly-coiled, fragile strands with a zig-zag pattern that is sometimes discernible to the eye. In its raw state (freshly washed or without product) 4C hair does not have a defined curl pattern. Curls must be defined by twisting, braiding, or shingling. Some more defining qualities of 4C hair include:

  • Hair dries out quickly, or struggles to maintain moisture
  • You experience extreme shrinkage, sometimes up to 75%
  • Hair is prone to tangles and matting if not regularly detangled
  • Hair is fragile and prone to hair damage and breakage

How to care for 4C hair type

Common 4C Hair Struggles and Solutions

4C hair types often struggle with excessive dryness, breakage, knots and frizzy hair. These are the most common solutions. 


Shampoo strips your already-dry curls of their natural oils, leading to frizzy hair, so limit shampooing your hair to once or twice a month and opt for co-washing instead.


Deep conditioning

Natural 4C hair dries out so quickly because of its tightly coiled curl pattern. Deep conditioning your hair is a great way to add moisture back in. Lather your curls with a hair mask at least twice a week.

Gentle detangling

4C curls knot and tangle easily. Knots can be difficult to detangle, as well as painful as. Use a wide tooth comb and gently detangle it damp, after prepping with a leave-in conditioner. Start from your ends and work your way up to minimize breakage. 

Protective styling

Breakage is another struggle for 4C hair types, but protective styles can help. Promote hair growth, while looking chic and protecting strands in hairstyles like braids and bantu knots. 

What Products Work for Type 4C Hair?

When it comes to your type 4C hair steer clear of sulfates and isopropyl alcohol. Sulfates can strip your hair of its natural oils and isopropyl alcohol is drying. Over time, these ingredients will weaken your hair making it look dull, and become even more prone to breakage and split ends. Products tailored to 4C hair will work differently depending on your individual hair type so it's important to experiment with products to determine which ones work best for you. Here are a few of our favorites:

LOVE Curl Cleansing Cream

All in one shampoo and conditioner cleansing cream that gently removes impurities and makes the 4C hair extremely soft.

LOVE Curl Mask

A mask with nourishing and conditioning power for softness, hydration and elastic, workable 4C curls.

OI Oil

This multi-function hair oil adds shine and softness to 4C curls while detangling and fighting frizz.

LOVE Curl Controller

A cream for controlling curls with an anti-frizz effect for 4C hair. It defines the curl pattern leaving soft, elastic curls even in high humidity.

This is a Curl Gel Oil

A transformative gel-to-oil formula that provides shape and definition.

LOVE Curl Primer

This moisturizing leave-in milk makes untangling and styling 4C curls a breeze, with an anti-humidity effect and heat protection.

This is a Curl Gel Oil

Some Tips For Styling 4C Hair

These are some of our favorite hair tips for styling and caring for 4C curly hair.

Add moisture

4C hair, like all curly hair types, is naturally dry. So it’s prone to becoming brittle, weak and can easily break, snap and feel like straw. A moisturizing hair routine is key. Starting with a moisturizing cleanser and conditioner.

Try the LOC method

One method that naturalistas find tried and true is the LOC method, which details the order products should be applied for bouncy, defined curls. The LOC method follows this order:

  1. L for water-based leave-in conditioner to add moisture
  2. O for hair oil to create a layer around the hair shaft, preventing moisture from escaping
  3. C for cream, the heaviest and final ingredient ensure strands retain as much moisture as it can take in

Avoid excessive heat

Heat styling (and chemical treatments) should be done sparingly on 4C hair. Instead rely on curl-defining products and styles to tame your frizzy hair. If you can’t avoid heat, prep your 4C strands with heat protection.

Detangle gently

To combat frizz and breakage, you should gently detangle your strands regularly. But 4C hair is fragile. This means that even one rough detangling session can result in major breakage. Only detangle while wet and saturated in a product. 

Protect your curls at night

Sleeping on your 4C curls can be stressful on them as they snag and tug on the pillow while you move around. Protect them from this frizz-causing friction and minimize breakage by wrapping your hair in a silk scarf or a satin pillowcase to minimize while you sleep.

Get frequent trims

Ward off split ends and breakage by trimming regularly. Snipping your split ends every six to eight weeks helps to keep your 4C curls bouncy and defined, as will help you retain length. Even though you’ll technically be losing an inch or two, the end result will be longer and stronger hair.

Take care of your scalp

Scalp care is a must no matter what your curl type, but it’s especially to those with 4c curls. Healthy hair starts with a balanced scalp, so incorporate a scalp scrub in your wash and co-wash routine. Follow your scrub with hair oil massaged into your scalp to keep it hydrated.

Don't neglect your ends

Your ends are the oldest part of your hair meaning it’s especially brittle.Keep your ends up and tucked in protective styles when you can. This allows them to grow without breakage. You can also oil them daily.

4C Hairstyles to try

4C Hairstyles To Try

  • Wash and GoA wash-and-go is when you wear your hair in its natural curl pattern without manipulating the hair with any styling tools, braids, or stretching. It’s a wet set style consisting of using a sulfate-free shampoo, conditioner, a leave-in conditioner and styling gel.
  • Bantu KnotsThis look is playful and edgy. Part your hair into your desired number of small sections. Lightly spray each with water and your styling product of choice, before twisting and rolling into a small top knot and secure it. 
  • Box BraidsThese braids are quick and easy to DIY. Start with squeaky clean hair, because you’ll likely leave this style in for a few weeks. Separate your hair into about ten sections and braid each section before securing with an elastic. 
  • High PuffIf you have longer hair, slick it into a high ponytail and secure it with a hair tie. Use a hair pick to tease the ponytail for big volume. 
  • Faux-HawkSeparate your hair into three or four sections horizontally across your head. Secure each section with hair ties or pins. Tease out each section for volume. 
  • TwistsIf braiding is a bit too difficult to DIY, try this two-strand twist instead. Part your hair into your desired sections and working with one at a time, split it into two parts and then twist each section separately before twisting them together.
  • Space BunsThis is another fun look that can be done on both short and long 4C hair. Part your hair into two sections and pull each section into a bun towards the crown of your head. If you have shorter strands create the buns closer to the front of your head and fluff out the back.

Final Thoughts

If you’ve got 4c hair and you’re struggling with your curls, tweak your current hair care routine to include our hair tips and product picks. Use only high quality moisturizing products like our hair masks and OI Shampoo on your 4C curls — and if you have any other care tips for your 4C hair, be sure to share with our community in the comments below.

by Jaclyn LaBadia, featured contributor

Conditioning cleansing cream for wavy or curly hair.

Controlling and nourishing mask for wavy and curly hair.

Transformative gel-to-oil for hydrated, well-defined curls.

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