Know Your Hair Type- Are you 4C?

Loise Mang'anaUnderstanding 4C Hair1 Comment

What is 4C hair?

The most important step to taking really good care of your hair is knowing your hair type. This is because your hair is unique and requires care that is designed for its type. There are different hair classification systems that have been used to classify hair. The most common systems are the Andre Walker system and F.I.A. Hair Typing System. Both of these systems broadly classify hair into four categories:

  • Type 1: Straight Hair
  • Type 2: Wavy hair
  • Type 3: Curly Hair
  • Type 4: Kinky Hair/ ‘Really’ Curly hair

What is 4C Hair?

What is 4C hair type? Loving Kinky Curls defines 4C hair as a type of hair with beautiful tight coils and unlike 4A and 4B, in its natural state, it almost has no natural defined curl pattern. It has more of very tight ‘Z’ pattern.

In this article we shall be focusing on the 4C hair type, otherwise referred to as ‘kinky hair‘ by the Andre Walker system. This type of hair can also be described as ‘woolly’, ‘nappy’ or ‘afro-textured’. Keep this in mind should you come across such terms.

Most hair typing systems classify type 4 hair into 4A, 4B and 4C hair. All these types have different curl patterns and that is what distinguishes them.

All hair types are uniquely beautiful and require specialized hair care regimen. The intention of this article is not to praise one hair type over the other, it is to help you understand the different hair types particularly type 4C.

Also, it is important to note that, one person may have different hair types. For instance, my daughter’s curl pattern at the front is completely different from the back.

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What is the curl pattern of 4C hair type?

4C hair is similar to that of 4B in that the 4C is tightly coiled. In its raw state, freshly washed and no products added, it does not have a defined curl pattern. Coils in this type of hair can be defined by either twisting, braiding or shingling through the strands. This type of the hair tends to shrink much more than that of 4B and 4A and without stretching it, it can look shorter than it is. Like all hair, 4C hair is beautiful and easy to care for as long as you know how to properly cleanse, moisturize, and style it. To minimize breakage from tools like combs, little manipulation is encouraged.

4A hair has a defined curl pattern that looks like ‘S’ shape. It retains moisture fairly well but can still be prone to dryness due to its curly nature.

4B hair has a defined ‘Z’ shape pattern and has a more fluffy, cottony appearance. It is susceptible to dryness and breakage due to the bends and curves in the hair strand. This hair also shrinks greatly, without stretching it, it looks shorter than it actually is. A lot of moisture penetration and deep conditioning of 4B hair is essential to protect the hair from breakage and damage.

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How long can 4C hair grow?

The results of a study done in 2005 in journal International Journal of Dermatology shows that the rate of hair growth varies from race to race. On average the rate of hair growth in African women is 4 inches (10cm) per year, in Asian women, the hair growth rate is about 6 inches(15cm) per year and in Caucasian women, about 5 inches (13 cm) per year.

Because most women from the African race have 4C hair, then the assumption is that 4C hair grows at a rate of 4 inches (10cm) per year. This, therefore, means your hair can grow as long as you wish it to grow for as long as you maintain a good hair regimen which will minimize breakage. 4C type of hair is believed to have a twisted structure and thinner diameter compared to other hair types.

Due to the tight curls of 4C hair, it becomes difficult for the oils from the root of the hair to travel up to the ends of the hair thus the reason why it’s prone to dryness and breakage. If not well maintained, the breakage can be massive leading to an overall effect of ‘stagnated’ growth. In principle, the hair is growing but if breakage is not contained, the growth is negated by the breakage.

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How Can You Retain 4C hair length

In order to maintain the growth, proper care is needed in 4C hair much like any other hair. Poor maintenance and treatment of the hair will result in loss of the gained inches. You need to treat your 4C hair with a lot of care by cleansing and de-tangling it gently and avoid the use of harsh products on your scalp and hair.

Below are some of the tips I have personally used to retain length, volume and overall health of my hair.

5 Tips for retaining length, volume and overall health of your hair

1. Proper care of yourself from the inside out

For the hair to grow healthy, it requires nutrients, minerals, and water. Below are some of the essential Vitamins and minerals for hair growth.

  • Vitamin A provides vital nutrients to the hair roots which stimulates hair growth.
  • Iron, deficiency in iron may cause or worsen hair loss.
  • Niacin improves circulation to the scalp making a positive effect on hair growth.
  • Zinc contributes to cell regeneration, sebum production and protein synthesis.
  • Vitamin B12 is important in hair growth and deficiency can result to hair loss.
  • Biotin supports the growth of healthy hair by playing a key role of keratin, a protein that is always present in our hair and hails of our bodies.
  • Calcium stimulates the hair follicle and is recommended to make the hair grow faster.
  • Vitamin E helps to prevent and hair loss and has the ability to grow new blood vessels and increase circulation to the scalp.
  • Iodine supports thyroid function which supports hair growth

2. Cleanse your hair gently in sections

Develop a hair cleansing routine. Use a shampoo that does not dry your hair. What works for one person may not work for you. Most shampoos have been created with oily hair in mind and so don’t reach to what your favorite”‘Youtuber” has advised without doing your own research by reading the ingredients and testing the shampoo before committing to it. It’s is recommended that you get small quantities of any product when you are testing so that in the event that it doesn’t work well for your hair, you will not incur huge losses when you discontinue the use of the product.

Washing your hair in sections will minimize tangling and breakage. This is because you will be handling a small section at a time, working your way with your fingers through the tangles and then setting the de-tangled section aside by either twisting, braiding, and using a band or a clip. This method also helps you keep your hair stretched by the time you are done with the washing.

3. Moisturize and Deep Condition

4C hair is prone to dryness and hence keeping it moisturized is essential to prevent breakage. To retain the moisture for longer, use the Liquid-Oil-Cream (LOC) method. With this method, start by spritzing your hair with water, followed by applying an oil such as Coconut or Olive oil. Finish off by applying a leave-in conditioner.

4. Wear your hair in protective styles

There has been a lot of debate on what styles are protective or not. A protective style is not protective unless you have first taken good care of the hair by cleansing, moisturizing and locking in the moisture before putting it in a protective style.

Protective styles are styles with minimal manipulation when installing and do not exert a lot pressure on the hair leading to breakage. The technique of installing and the amount of manipulation is what makes the style protective. Examples of protective styles include the two strand twists, Bantu knots and wearing your hair in a bun.

5. De-tangling and styling the hair with fingers

Too much combing and brushing of the hair will cause mid-shaft splitting and breakage. It is advisable to use your fingers to de-tangle the hair. When styling, try to minimize the use of the comb, you can master the art of parting with your fingers, but even if you have not, be gentle when using the combs and brushes.

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Why is 4C hair fragile and more prone to damage?

The hair shaft (the outer layer) on 4C hair type is not always complete and tends to have more open area than those with straight or wavy hair causing it to coil making certain parts of the hair cortex be exposed to damage.

Mechanically, 4c hair type is more fragile and prone to breakage because every bend in the strand is a point of weakness. The curlier the hair, the more the bends. Sebum has a harder time coating the strands hence leaving the 4C strands less protected.

Related Question: Is it normal for hair to shed?

Yes, it is normal to shed hair according to American Academy of Dermatologists. It’s is normal to lose about 50 to 100 hair strands per day. Hair grows and dies in phases, each strand is in a different phase of hair growth. Nutrition, hygiene and stress play a role in hair shedding. Whilst you may not be able to count the number of hair shed on a daily basis, good hair care routine will ensure that you keep your shedding at the normal levels.

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One Comment on “Know Your Hair Type- Are you 4C?”

  1. Pingback: What is Going Natural, Is It Worth the Hype? | Loving Kinky Curls

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