4A Hair Guide: Hair Care and Styling Tips + Top Products To Use

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Figuring out whether your natural hair is type 3 or type 4 can be a little tricky because curly and coily hair types have been lumped together for a long time. 

It gets even more complicated when we get to the subtypes — determining if you have 4a hair becomes seemingly impossible.

a beautiful black woman with 4c hair

In this article, we’ll help you figure out if this is your accurate hair type.

So if you’re dying to finally get a clear answer, keep reading! 

We’re giving you a thorough guide to identifying 4a hair, caring for and styling it, and using the top products to reveal the true beauty of your natural hair.

What Is the Hair Type Chart?

It’s important to note that several hair typing systems exist. 

However, more professionals and hair care brands have used the hair typing system developed by celebrity hairstylist Andre Walker in the 1990s.

This system divides hair types into four main categories: type 1 for straight hair, type 2 for wavy hair, tpe 3 for curly hair, and type 4 for coily hair. 

Subtypes A, B, and C were later added for each category for more precise typing by considering hair texture.

The Andre Walker Hair Typing System is used as a common point of reference to help buyers find suitable products for their hair type. 

You’ll also find that many hair professionals recommend hairstyles and hair care routines by identifying hair types based on this system.

What Is 4A Hair?

The first subtype of coily or kinky hair based on Walker’s hair chart is 4a hair.

It’s also commonly referred to as 4a curly hair, so it’s easily mistaken for 3c hair, even though they have distinct characteristics in terms of curl pattern and shrinkage factor.

So what does 4a hair look like exactly? Let’s take a look at the most noticeable features of 4a hair to help you determine whether this is your hair type. 

curl pattern chart infographic

Curl Pattern

Whether 4a hair is wet or dry, it should have a clear S-shaped curl pattern.

To determine if you have this hair type, just gently pull out a few strands, and you should also see defined S-shaped curls.

Type 4 hair generally has tightly packed coils, although the coils of 4a hair are looser in comparison to 4b and 4c hair types. 

The curls of 4a hair are also commonly described as ringlets with a circumference that can fit a pen or a crochet needle. But this isn’t a universal characteristic for everyone with 4a hair.

You can have larger or smaller ringlets and still have the definitive 4a hair curl pattern.

Shrinkage Factor

Kinky hair types tend to shrink a lot, which is why type 4 hair, including 4a hair, looks short. 

Lightly stretching the strands of 4a hair will reveal they’re actually longer than they appear by a few inches. But they tend to spring back due to their natural coily patterns.

Density and Texture

Density refers to the number of hair strands per square inch of the scalp.

In general, 4a hair has high density, so it typically appears thick and voluminous.

Hair texture, on the other hand, pertains to the width of each hair strand.

It is categorized as fine, medium, and coarse, which can all be present in one specific hair type. 

So the texture of 4a hair can vary from one person to another.

Is 4A Hair Prone to Dryness, Frizz, and Breakage?

The coily pattern of 4a natural hair makes it exceptionally beautiful, but it’s also one of the main reasons it needs a bit more TLC.

Its curl pattern makes it harder for natural oils (sebum) from the follicles on the scalp to move down the hair shaft, leaving coily hair types more prone to dryness.

The way 4a hair grows also makes it prone to getting tangled, making it more vulnerable to split ends and natural breakage. 

With dryness and breakage being common concerns, people with the 4a hair type often have to deal with frizzy hair.

a thoughtful young woman looking outside the window

Is 4A Hair Low- or High-Porosity?

Hair porosity refers to how well hair can absorb and hold moisture, and it’s mostly determined by the structure of the cuticles in every strand.

Hair is categorized into three levels of porosity:

Simply put, high-porosity hair typically absorbs moisture well but loses it fast, which is why it needs more help to remain moisturized. 

On the other hand, less porous hair can be more challenging to style because it may not absorb styling products that well.

Not all 4a hair has the same porosity level. 

The good news is there’s a very easy way to test your hair porosity. Just follow these three steps:

  1. Fill a clear glass with water
  1. Take a strand of hair and drop it in the glass of water.
  1. Observe how your hair reacts within the next minute.

    If it sinks easily, it suggests that you have high-porosity hair. If it ends up floating halfway, it indicates you have medium-porosity hair. If it remains on the water’s upper level, your hair has low porosity.

Hair porosity is less discussed when it comes to crafting hair care routines. But it’s incredibly important because it affects how well your hair will react to certain products and ingredients. 

That’s why some shampoos work better for low-porosity hair, while other products are more suitable for high-porosity hair.

On top of determining your hair type, take time to establish your hair porosity level to shop for the top 4a hair products and create an optimal 4a hair routine for you.

How To Take Care of 4A Hair

Hair texture and porosity may vary from person to person, but everyone with 4a hair should see a similar pattern and shape in their locks.

As such, there are common ways to care for this particular hair type.

Be Gentle When You Detangle 

Coily hair types naturally have gorgeous volume, but it comes with a small caveat — persistent knots and tangles. 

One of the unique things about coils and curls is that it’s easier to detangle 4a hair type when wet.

The boost of hydration will make it easier to get rid of the smaller, more stubborn knots while avoiding breakage.

To make it even easier, we suggest applying a moisturizing product like a leave-in conditioner or detangler cream like the Cantu Coil Calm Detangler before going in with a detangling brush like the Lily England Detangler Brush.

You can also use any wide-toothed comb with flexible prongs.

Don’t Forget To Moisturize

As we mentioned, 4a hair is more susceptible to losing moisture regardless of porosity and texture. 

It will need help from the like of leave-in conditioners to prevent dryness and frizz, which are issues that could lead to further damage.

Choosing shampoos and conditioners with hydrating ingredients like glycerin and panthenol will reintroduce much-needed moisture to your hair. 

Also, use leave-in products with coconut oil or shea butter, which act as moisturizers and sealants to prevent loss of moisture.

Follow a Wash Day Routine

Wash day is an important part of your 4a hair routine because it gives you a great chance to revitalize your hair. 

You can follow this basic wash day routine and customize it based on your hair’s specific needs:

  1. Wet your hair and gently detangle it.
  2. Use a curl-friendly shampoo and work up a lather by massaging it into your scalp and roots to remove dirt and any buildup. 
  3. Clean the strands by running your fingers through your hair. This will allow the shampoo to reach your hair while letting you work on any remaining knots and tangles.
  4. Rinse the shampoo thoroughly by massaging your scalp. Avoid rubbing your hair too much while rinsing to ensure you won’t create new knots.
  5. Apply conditioner downward from the midsection of your hair and let it sit for a few minutes. Rinse it well.
  6. Remove excess water from your hair. While it’s still damp, apply a leave-in conditioner for a moisturizing end to your routine.

You can customize this process to get a deeper cleanse by using a clarifying shampoo and deep conditioning your hair afterward bi-weekly.

Remember That a Healthy Scalp Is Key

Don’t forget that maintaining your scalp’s health is crucial to your hair’s overall health as well. 

You can do so by keeping to the regular wash day detailed above, which allows you to cleanse your scalp and hair follicles of any dirt, sebum, and product buildup.

This will help prevent your scalp from getting itchy or flaky. 

But it’s also important not to wash too often to avoid stripping your scalp of natural oils. For 4a hair, you should generally have a wash day once a week.

Additionally, we recommend using a sulfate-free shampoo. It will be gentler than regular shampoos, and it will not strip your scalp and hair of moisture

Minimize Styling With Heat

This is one of the biggest care tips for 4a hair type because minimizing heat styling can help reduce damage, frizz, and dullness.

There are a few ways to style or maintain your curls without heat styling, such as by using foam rollers.

Styling with these tools might take longer, but you won’t have to worry about heat damage.

That said, you can use heat styling if you really need to from time to time.

Minimizing the use of heat on 4a hair can also mean using your styling tool on lower temperature settings and using a heat protectant for coily hair types.

a beautiful young woman posing fierce at the camera flaunting her 4c hair

Top 4A Hairstyles

Here are some of the top and most beautiful 4a hairstyles that will keep your hair in tiptop condition:

  • Wash-and-go styles. These include wearing your hair loose or putting it up into low-effort buns and updos. 

    A good example of this is a pineapple bun, which you can create by gathering your hair into a loose ponytail at the top of your head with your favorite scarf or bandana.

    The natural volume of 4a hair makes it suitable for hairstyles like these.

    They’re also gentle on your hair and scalp because they don’t require heat styling and excessive manipulation. 

    Plus, these styles can also protect your hair while you sleep to minimize tangles.
  • Bantu knots. This is an all-time stunning hairstyle where sections of hair are twisted into coiled or spiraled knots. It can protect your kinky hair from exposure to environmental elements that can cause damage. 

    Plus, putting your hair up in Bantu knots minimizes manipulation and helps the strands hold moisturizing products.
  • Braids and twists. These are created by intertwining strands of hair, and they will never go out of style. Best of all, they can keep your hair from accumulating too much dirt or drying out.

    When done right, these styles can last through your next wash day, so you don’t have to touch up or manipulate your hair that much.

Top Products for 4A Hair

Here are some of the 4a hair products you should try next, whether it’s to treat dry and dull hair or boost the overall health of your hair and scalp.

SheaMoisture Intensive Hydration Shampoo

For 4a hair that needs a little help from dryness and damage.

Key benefits: Deeply cleansing; hydrating and doesn’t strip hair strands; improves hair softness and shine


  • Manuka honey seals in moisture
  • Mafura oil conditions hair
  • Fig extract moisturizes and detangles hair

This sulfate-free shampoo will help restore your hair’s health and imbue it with much-needed shine.

This shampoo has everything that a 4a hair type needs. It cleanses the hair and scalp well without removing their natural oils. 

And with its moisturizing ingredients, your hair can stay hydrated while looking terrific. 

African Pride Moisture Miracle Aloe & Coconut Water Pre-Shampoo

A must-have for your wash day!

Key benefits: Easy and gentle detangling; conditions hair; helps strengthen strands


  • Aloe vera nourishes hair to fight breakage
  • Coconut water for moisturization
  • Natural formula free of parabens, sulfates, and petrolatum

Fans of this product have learned to enjoy the dreaded wash day much more with this pre-poo gem.

Wash day, especially when undoing braids, will be a more pleasant experience once you incorporate this pre-shampoo product into your 4a hair routine. 

It softens your hair, making detangling so easy. Best of all, it strengthens the hair, so it’s perfect for long 4a hair.

Cantu Sulfate-Free Cleansing Shampoo

If you’re looking for another sulfate-free option, you must try this Cantu shampoo.

Key benefits: Removes product buildup; gentle on sensitive or irritated scalps; lathers well


  • Shea butter moisturizes hair and soothes the scalp
  • Glycerin helps retain moisture
  • Panthenol (provitamin B5) strengthens and protects hair

With this shampoo, you can wash your hair while moisturizing every strand.

This one comes highly recommended for all hair types, but even more for 4a hair and other curly hair types. 

The shampoo has a creamy texture, but it’s easy to lather on your hair without stripping the strands and scalp of their natural oils.

Carol's Daughter Black Vanilla Moisturizing Leave-In Conditioner Spray

Here’s a leave-in conditioner that won’t weigh down your lovely locs.

Key benefits: Makes hair more manageable; revives dull and brittle hair; boosts the health of coily hair


  • Aloe promotes hair growth
  • Soy protein for softer and smoother hair
  • Lavender has antimicrobial properties for a healthier scalp

Your hair will thank you for adding this as an after-shampoo moisturizing routine.

This is one of the top leave-in conditioners for 4a hair, especially if you’re wearing a wash-and-go style because it feels super light. 

You can also use this before styling 4a hair because it makes detangling much easier and improves manageability. 

Aunt Jackie's Curl La La Curl Defining Custard

For days when you just want to let your gorgeous hair down.

Key benefits: Helps manage frizz; moisturizes dry hair; defines curls and coils without making the hair stiff


  • Shea butter for shinier hair
  • Olive oil nourishes damaged hair
  • Soybean oil has tremendous moisturizing properties

This can also take care of frizzy hair even in unfriendly weather.

Unruly strands can stifle the true beauty of your hair, and that’s where this product becomes extremely helpful. 

Your coils and curls will certainly pop because this product also adds shine, moisture, and definition to them.

Maui Moisture Curl Quench + Coconut Oil Curl Smoothie

A nourishing styling cream to achieve eye-catching and healthy-looking hair.

Key benefits: Restores hair’s shine and smoothness; very hydrating; bouncier and more defined coils and curls


  • Coconut oil promotes overall hair health
  • Aloe leaf juice softer and stronger hair strands
  • Papaya fruit extract nourishes and conditions damaged hair

With its hair-loving ingredients, it also helps tame frizzy hair.

This product works in two ways because it adds more body to your hair. 

But it also serves as an excellent styling cream that gives your hair a layer of moisture and protection before you style it into twists or braids.

Tgin Butter Cream Daily Moisturizer

You’re going to love this daily hair moisturizer to keep dry and frizz away from your hair.  

Key benefits: Super hydrating; encourages hair growth; softer and shinier hair


  • Cocoa butter is a superb conditioning agent
  • Vitamin E has antioxidant properties to fight damage
  • Shea butter revitalizes dry and dull hair

You can use this as a leave-in conditioner or as a nourishing setting cream.

This one’s a crowd-favorite hair moisturizer because it gets the job done in keeping 4a hair hydrated in between washes. 

It’s also amazing for minimizing flyaways, making hair more manageable, and improving hair strength to promote growth.

Mielle Organics Mint Almond Oil for Hair and Scalp

This is a great product to round out your hair care routine.

Key benefits: Keeps the hair from getting dry; soothing for the scalp; may help lessen breakage and shedding


  • Sweet almond oil repairs damage and locks in moisture
  • Soybean oil can improve hair’s moisture barrier
  • Peppermint oil is wonderful for dry and itchy scalp

Seals in much-needed moisture and improves scalp health.

One way to help your hair look healthy and hydrated is by locking in moisture from your 4a hair care products; this oil blend can help you with that. 

Scalp health contributes a lot to the strength of your hair, and this product also takes care of that.

young bright african american woman with sunflower on her ear complementing 4c hair

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do I Keep My 4A Hair From Drying Out?

Here are some hair care practices that you can follow to keep your 4a coils properly hydrated:

  • Use gentle shampoo and conditioner that moisturizes and locks in moisture.
  • Don’t skip the leave-in conditioner.
  • Avoid overwashing your hair.
  • Deep condition once every two weeks or once a month.
  • Wear a satin hair cap while sleeping. This will help prevent the cotton fabric of your pillowcase from absorbing the moisture in your hair while you sleep. Alternatively, you can opt for silk or satin pillowcases.

What Are the Top Tips for How To Grow 4A Hair Faster and Longer?

It’s a common misconception that type 4 hair can’t grow longer. With proper care and hairstyles, it can gain more length over time. 

It just seems like it’s not getting longer because of the shrinkage factor that results from its naturally coily structure.

It will greatly help if you opt for hair products with ingredients like argan, coconut, and grapeseed oils that strengthen hair strands. This could lead to less breakage and encourage hair growth.

Trimming your hair to remove split ends can also help.

By doing so, you’re removing damaged parts of your hair, allowing it to grow healthier.

Let the Beauty of Your 4A Hair Dazzle With Proper Care and Styling

Curly and coily hair types like 4a hair have been stigmatized as being difficult to care for and style for a long time.

However, that’s simply not true, and all it needs is to receive the right hair care routine for the natural coils and curls to shine through. 

Thankfully, the hair care industry has evolved over the years allowing for more 4a hair products to be easily accessible. 

Now it’s easier to experiment and build the perfect 4a hair routine for your needs to unveil your stunning natural hair.

Level up Your Hairstyling Game! 

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  • Ashley Pena

    Ashley Pena brings over 13 years of seasoned writing and editing expertise, fortified by her Bachelor of Science in Management. Esteemed in the beauty domain, her content captivates readers with its depth and authenticity. While she navigates a broad spectrum of beauty trends, Ashley shines particularly as our resident K-beauty guru. Her articles are a harmonious blend of passion and profound knowledge, inspiring readers on their unique beauty journeys.

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