What is type 4 hair?

What is type 4 hair? | Everything you need to know

Taking care of your natural type 4 hair, can be hard when you don’t know where to start. Fortunately, you’ve come to the right place for all you need to know about your natural hair. In this blog, you will read what natural hair is and what factors are important for your hair routine. This will help you understand your type 4 hair much better and give you the confidence to take care of your hair. Scroll on!

 A black woman with long coily hair

What is type 4 hair?

Type 4 hair also known as coily hair, is tightly curled hair. The unique texture of your hair is the result of the shape of your hair follicles. In afro hair, the shape of the hair follicle is oval as opposed to the round shape found in straight hair. The hair follicle is curved and it grows almost parallel to the scalp. This causes the hair to rotate on its own causing it to curl.

Who has coily hair?

Coily hair type is mostly found in Africa and the African diaspora, but don’t be fooled, people of other races can also have type 4 hair, though it may not be as common. Despite popular belief, natural hair type comes with different textures, shapes, colours, and lengths. It appears very voluminous and thick but is dryer than looser hair types like straight, wavy, and curly hair. Before we get to the explanation as to why that is, let’s take a closer look at this hair type.

What does Coily hair look like?

natural hair is unique. This is because type 4 hair comes in different forms. Different factors such as individual hair characteristics and genetics determine how your hair grows. For example, you have different hair textures and hair thicknesses.

Some people with natural hair have thick, curly hair that jumps in all directions, while others have finer, looser coils that has less volume. In addition, hair also comes in a variety of hair colors from dark brown to black, possibly with highlights or lighter or darker areas to even blonde hair.

A close up of coily hair

Why is coily hair dry?

Coily hair is naturally dry because it’s hard for oils to travel all the way to the ends of the hair strands because of the tight curls. Without getting too technical, our scalp produces a natural oil called sebum. Sebum helps to protect and moisturize our hair and scalp. You can imagine that for the sebum to travel all the way to the ends of our hair strands, it’s going to be harder for type 4 hair than straight hair or even looser hair types to cover the full hair strand.

Because of this, our hair type tends to be a lot drier than our counterparts, which is one of the reasons our hair is more fragile than we think. Despite how thick and robust our hair may look, it is in fact the most fragile hair type and needs an extra hand to help retain moisture.

sebum on the scalp

Different hair textures in type 4 hair

There are four categories that determine which hair type you have. The four major hair types are straight, wavy, curly and coily/kinky hair. Afro hair has three subcategories which are again divided into 4A, 4B and 4C hair. These subcategories are indicators of your hair pattern and how tight your curls are.

How do you identify my hair type?

To identify your hairtype, you can look at a hair type chart. When you look at the chart, you can see different strands that range from straight to coily.

Hair type chart

A hair type chart

Using a hair type chart is one way to identify you hair needs. It’s definitely not the only way to do it and for most, it’s not the most important factor. Other factors such as your hair- density, porosity, elasticity and strand size could be more beneficial when it comes to figuring out what hair products could work for you and how to handle your hair. If you are not familiar with these terms, I will quickly explain what these terms mean.

A young blacj girl with an afro puff

Hair porosity

On the outer layer of your hair strand, you can find the hair cuticle which is made up of dead cells. The cuticle is responsible for the strengthening and protection of your hair and it also regulates the moisture that goes in and out.

This brings us to your hair porosity which determines the ability to take in and hold on to moisture. Hair porosity ranges from low to high porosity.

When you have high porosity hair, there is much space between the hair cuticles. This allows moisture to easily enter and escape the hair not allowing the hair to maintain moisture. On the other hand, with low porosity hair, your hair cuticles are too close to one another which makes it very challenging for moisture to enter the hair.

An image that shows what a hair strand looks like from up close when they have high, normal or low porosity hair

Hair density

The density of your hair determines the number of strands growing from your scalp ranging from high to low density.

Image of hair density ranging from low to high density hair

Strand size or Hair thickness

The strand size is how thick or thin 1 strand is. Knowing the width of your strand is extremely helpful as it will allow you to know how much manipulation your hair can handle. Your strand size can range from fine to coarse hair.

Different strand sizes

What is the difference between hair thickness and hair density?

It is important to note that hair thickness (strand size) and hair density are not the same thing. Hair thickness has to do with the individual strands of hair while hair density looks at the number of hairs on the head. This means a person can have thin hair with high hair density or thick hair with low hair density.

When talking about thick hair, it is important to specify what is meant by this as it is often used interchangeably.

Hair elasticity

Your hair’s elasticity refers to how long a single strand of hair can stretch before it returns to its normal state. It helps you see how strong and healthy your hair is. In addition, it can tell you whether you have a good balance of protein and moisture. Your hair may have low, medium or high elasticity.

That was a quick run down of the basic knowlegde you need to know to get started on building you hair care routine. It may take some time to find the perfect products that will satisfy your hair needs. The best way that I can describe this journey is as a “trial-and-error journey”. You can read reviews and look up people with a similar hair type for references although you should know that what works for them, may not work for you.

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