What is 4b Hair: The Science Behind the Strand

Your hair type dictates your style and how you care for it, so knowing your hair type can help you determine the right kind of routine and products. If you have 4b hair, knowing your hair’s characteristics can help you successfully manage any issues that come your way, as well as prevent them from happening in the first place. 

Learn what makes up 4b hair, how to take care of it, and steps to take to keep typical 4b issues from occurring.  

4b Hair Type 

Although you may have more than one type of hair on your head, chances are the majority of your hair is one specific type. 4b hair is considered coily, meaning it might be considered spongy with a very tight curl pattern. Your 4b hair texture can vary widely, from coarse and wiry to soft and fine. Although knowing how to manage 4b hair may feel daunting, there are definitely steps you can take to caring for it well. 

What Does 4b Hair Look Like? 

4b hair is made up of less defined curls like some other types of hair and looks more like a Z pattern under the microscope. Shrinkage is a typical trait, meaning if you cut 4b hair or let it air dry after cleansing, it’s likely going to look a lot shorter than it is once it’s dry.  

4B hair is also defined by having open cuticles, meaning that you can gain moisture easily but also lose it. The natural oils that typically help keep hair hydrated and looking great may be slower to move from your scalp to other parts of your hair, so using products packed with moisturizing ingredients is essential.  

Caring for 4b Hair Type 

When caring for 4b hair, keeping moisture at the top of your mind is important. This may mean including leave-in conditioners and hair mask to your regular routine, as well as avoiding products that could dry out hair.  

Check your shampoos and other cleansing products for ingredients like alcohol or sulfates. These are known to dry hair out, and you can’t afford to lose moisture when you have 4b hair. If your shampoo is labeled a clarifying shampoo, even better! 

When using shampoo, it’s not a great idea to plop product directly into the hair, then massage and rinse. Work in sections to cleanse hair from the tip of your hair to the roots. Doing this not only retains your hair’s length and reduces shrinkage, but prevents breakage by treating every section with care.  

A conditioner while cleansing is great, but so are leave-in products that lock in moisture after you’ve finished your shower. Products that have natural oils such as argan oil, kukui nut oil, or jojoba oil are better for 4b hair, as they act like the body’s natural oils to keep the hair shaft moisturized.  

Caring for Tangles with 4b Hair 

Caring for 4b hair means being careful to avoid breakage whenever possible since the hair is fragile. Detangling hair while damp, using either your fingers or a wide tooth comb, is ideal. Avoid detangling when hair is dry, as it can lead to frizz, breakage, and a broken curl pattern.  

Caring for Dryness with 4b Hair 

It can’t be overstated how important keeping hair moisturized is when you have 4b hair. Although your hair may be receptive to moisture, the fact that it can lose moisture just as easily means careful hair care management is key.  

Dryness may occur not only because of lost moisture, but product buildup may cause it to happen as well. If hair isn’t cleansed enough, and product and debris isn’t removed, it can lock out moisture. Hair can become dull or lifeless when it’s not moisturized, so be sure to care for hair well and remove product, such as styling products, regularly. Avoid silicone and other products that might prevent conditioners and other moisture-rich ingredients from hydrating hair.  

Caring for Shrinkage with 4b Hair 

No matter your length of hair, if you have the 4b hair type, you’re likely to experience shrinkage, or your hair looking shorter than it is because of the curl pattern. To prevent this from occurring, follow these steps: 

  1.  Section and twist hair while you wash: Because 4b hair usually shrinks as it dries, preventing it from happening takes some careful planning while it’s wet. Use hair pins or clips to section off hair, then wash with shampoo each section separately.  

  2. Stretch hair while wet: As you wash each section of 4b hair and apply conditioner, pull it gently away from your hair to make the most of the length you have.  

  3. Condition using coconut milk: With rich fatty acid content and proteins, coconut milk is the perfect ingredient to use to hydrate hair and prevent shrinkage. 

  4. Use aloe vera: Smooth and elongate your curls with products using aloe vera. Some brands use it rather than water for hydration, and it’s no wonder! Aloe contains enzymes and amino acids your hair needs to look and feel great. 

  5. Use anti-frizz products: Frizz can contribute to shrinkage, so using products that reduce frizz can be useful to also prevent shrinkage.  

Take Our Hair Quiz 

If you have a feeling that you’ve got a good routine going for your 4b hair type but want more guidance on how to amp up your practices, take the HairCode quiz to learn what kinds of hair care products can enhance what you’re doing.

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