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Home arrow Beauty arrow Hair arrow 4a Hair Type (Coily): Styling Tips and How to Take Care of It

4a Hair Type (Coily): Styling Tips and How to Take Care of It

Written by Rosmy Barrios, MD
Dr. Donika Vata
Fact checked by Donika Vata, MD
Last update: August 1, 2023
10 min read 821 Views 0 Comments
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Learn to embrace the unique beauty of 4a coils and the right way to take care of them with expert tips and advice. Put these tips into practice, wave goodbye to hair frustration, and say hello to gorgeous and well-cared-for hair!

4a hair type

Coiled or type 4a hair is often tricky to manage. While it is said to be voluminous and dense, with defined, springy coils, 4a is also one of the most challenging hair types to care for.

The good news is that taking care of and styling 4a hair becomes a walk in the park once you have a proper routine in place. In addition, mastering the styling techniques that work best for your coils will help turn heads wherever you go.

So, sit back and dive into the best ways to care for your 4a hair: from cleansing to styling and the best products that complement your natural hair texture.

What Is the 4a Hair Type?

According to the Andre Walker Hair Typing System, natural hair is classified into 4 different types: type 1 (straight hair), type 2 (wavy hair), type 3 (curly hair), and type 4 (coily hair). Each type is further broken down into subtypes – in the case of type 4 hair, it is distinguished into 4a, 4b, and 4c based on the curl pattern.

Of the 3 coily hair types, 4a hair features the most defined coils. The coils are tightly wound and springy, often forming an S pattern when stretched. Though the 4a hair type retains moisture well, it is also prone to dryness, tangles, and shrinkage, making it challenging to manage.

Pros of type 4a hair

  • Versatility – whether you want to braid out your hair or wear it in a bun, 4a hair has a defined curl pattern, opening the door to many different styling options. Also, as long as you take proper care of your hair, you will be able to maintain a hairstyle for days. 
  • Volume – 4a hair is quite voluminous and has a full appearance. This makes it a great hair type for those who prefer a bold and dramatic look.
  • Tamable – 4a hair is the easiest to manage out of all type 4s. This is thanks to a combination of factors such as the coil pattern, definition, shape, etc. So, you will need fewer products and less time to achieve a polished, perfectly styled look.

Cons of type 4a hair

  • Dryness – the job of the natural oils produced by your scalp and sebum is to moisturize and lubricate your hair strand and prevent breakage. However, the 4a hair type’s unique shape makes it hard for sebum to make its way down the strands. When your hair strands don’t get enough sebum, they become prone to dryness, frizz, split ends, and other damage.
  • Shrinkage – due to the tight coil pattern, your hair might shrink to nearly 50% to 60% of its total length. This might make it challenging to show your hair’s true length and volume.
  • Tangles – again, the tightly coiled nature of the 4a hair type means that your hair stands are constantly rubbing against each other and getting trapped. The result is lots of tangles and knots, which makes styling and detangling your hair time-consuming and frustrating.

It is true that 4a hair comes with its own challenges. However, a good haircare routine is all that you need to achieve beautiful and healthy hair you can always be proud of.

How to Take Care of Type 4a Hair: 8 Steps to Consider

Caring for your coils becomes much easier when you clearly understand their unique features and qualities. 

Now that you have a good idea about the characteristics of type 4a hair, and its pros and cons, it’s time to look at some haircare tips, so you can create a solid plan for the best hair days of your life.

#1 Limit your washing days

Experts recommend washing 4a hair twice a week. However, how long you can go between washes without your hair getting extremely oily or dirty will depend on your hair texture.

Fine coily hair should be washed once every 2–3 days to avoid oil build-up at the roots. On the other hand, medium coily hair must be washed only once in 4–5 days. This ensures the natural oils aren’t unnecessarily stripped away, and your hair strand gets the moisturizing benefits from sebum. If your scalp feels extra oily between washes, use dry shampoo to soak up the excess oil. 

Lastly, coarse 4a hair can absorb and retain moisture more than medium and fine 4s. Hence, they need to be washed only once a week.

#2 Moisturize pre- and post-shower

All hair types require moisture to stay and look healthier, and 4a hair is no exception. To prevent your hair from drying out and breaking, consider moisturizing your coils both before and after a shower.

Apply coconut oil liberally to your hair strands 30 minutes before washing, and use a thick, deeply moisturizing conditioner after shampooing. This will replenish the moisture your 4a hair needs and prevent frizz and damage.

#3 Keep your scalp healthy

Maintaining a healthy scalp is crucial for coily hair. Always use a hydrating, sulfate-free shampoo to wash your hair. In addition, focus on shampooing the hair roots and scalp than the strands. This will help retain moisture and minimize tangling.

Apart from shampooing your hair to remove dirt, stick to a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables. Fish oil and probiotics are also said to be beneficial for scalp health. 

#4 Deep condition regularly

4a hair’s health depends on deep conditioning. Deep conditioners contain agents that deeply penetrate your hair strands to retain moisture, keeping your hair looking healthy.

You should choose a deep conditioner based on your hair porosity and concerns. For instance, if you have high porosity hair, opt for treatments containing proteins, film-forming humectants, and strengthening plant extracts since they facilitate deeper hydration. On the other hand, low porosity hair demands hydrating deep conditioners with ingredients like honey and fatty alcohol.

#5 Opt for air drying

Heat tools like a blow dryer can strip the 4a hair of natural moisture, leading to frizziness and breakage. Hence, it is best to avoid such tools and stick to air drying your hair.

Air drying is a self-explanatory term. You walk out of your shower and wait for your hair to dry on its own. However, this can be a time-consuming process. 

The good news is that you can use a microfiber towel to squeeze out the excess water dripping from your hair to quicken the process. Never use traditional cotton towels, as they can be harsh on your hair and cause friction-related breakage.

#6 Detangle with care

Detangling coily hair can be a tedious task. However, it is also one of the crucial steps to keeping your hair healthy and strong. Always use a wide-tooth comb or just your fingers and curl cream to minimize breakage and damage.

In addition, don’t be too rough while detangling. Pulling and stretching can damage the cuticle (the protective outer layers of your hair) and leave your hair looking frizzy and dull.

#7 Go for gentle hairstyles

While the styling possibilities are endless for 4a hair, it is advised that you stick with styles that are gentle on your hair.

For instance, wearing your hair loose, especially on a wash day, or going for short-term protective styles will help you show off your gorgeous coils while still keeping them manageable.

#8 Protect your curls at night

If you have 4a hair, your primary goal is to keep them hydrated all the time, even when you are sleeping.

Cover your hair with a silk or satin scarf or bonnet while sleeping to prevent your coils from being squished or flattened. Cotton absorbs water from your hair strands, whereas silk and satin lock the moisture in. This prevents sleep-related breakage so you can wake up with bouncier, less frizzy coils.

If you find it challenging to keep a scarf or bonnet on your head overnight, you can invest in a silk or satin pillowcase instead. 

Alternatively, you can also try the pineapple technique. It involves gathering your hair up into a ponytail and then securing a scrunchie over the base. This holds your hair loosely without creating tension and prevents your coils from frizzing or getting tangled. 

What Hairstyles and Cuts Are Perfect for Type 4a Hair?

The right hairstyle or cut for 4a hair is all about embracing the density and being bold. You should opt for styles that showcase your hair’s beautiful angles and natural texture. 

Nevertheless, your hair is also quite fragile. So, you should also ensure that the hairstyle you choose is gentle and not damaging.

In addition, prepping your coils before styling is crucial to achieving perfection and maintaining hair health. This includes using a combination of hydrating and defining products to prevent your hair from drying out, tangling, and shrinking. 

You should also only apply products on wet hair. This is important to achieve super-defined curls.

When it comes to styling, stick to hairstyles and cuts that are gentle on your hair, such as:

  1. Pigtails – What makes pigtails a great choice for coily hair is that they are modern yet gentle. Part your hair down the middle, and tie your hair into loose pigtails a few inches above your ear. This will help create volume while also keeping your hair tamed.
  2. Bantu knots – If you are in the mood to play with your hair, think no more and go for the Bantu knot hairstyle. All you have to do is divide your hair into 3 sections and tie them into half buns or knots, leaving the ends to hang down. Bantu knots are the perfect way to add dimension while keeping it classy.
  3. Layered afro – Layering is a great way to create the illusion of volume and thickness. Go for a shape that frames your face nicely and a cut that will grow with your hair.
  4. Angular bob – This haircut features shorter hair in the back that transitions to a longer length in the front. Angular Bob is an updated version of the classic curly cut, and it is more flattering, edgy, and relatively easy to style.
  5. Middle-parted curls – Who says 4a hair can’t be left open? The classic middle-parted hairstyle is a perfect choice for coiled hair. In fact, this hairstyle goes well with all outfits and occasions. Make sure you apply some curl cream or spritz down your hair, and moisturize with a leave-in conditioner to avoid frizz.

Best Hair Products for the 4a Hair Type

If you want your 4a hair to be gorgeous and healthy, you must invest in products that strengthen them at the roots. The good news is that the market is filled with products from many brands striving to improve the quality of coiled hair.

But this also poses the challenge of identifying products ideal for your hair health. An easy way to get around this issue is by understanding what ingredients suit coils and prioritizing choosing products containing those ingredients.

For instance, shea butter is a great moisturizer and can help combat dryness. Similarly, coconut oil offers intense hydration by penetrating deep into the hair shaft. Jojoba oil is good for moisturizing hair and making it feel soft without weighing it down, while aloe vera is a natural ingredient that can help soothe and nourish 4a hair.

So, whether it is shampoo, conditioner, curl cream, or other styling products, ensure it contains some of these ingredients or other ingredients good for 4a hair. For instance, Moérie Mineral Shampoo is made of ingredients like coconut oil, macadamia seed oil, and biotin that hydrate hair, help tame frizz, and promote hair growth respectively.


How can you grow 4a hair faster and longer?

Hair growth is greatly determined by genetics. However, a few things you can do to promote 4a hair growth include eating a balanced diet rich in vitamins, minerals, and proteins, keeping your scalp clean, regularly moisturizing your hair, and avoiding frequent use of heat tools.

What are the differences between 3c and 4a?

3c and 4a hair is quite similar. However, 3c hair tends to have an S-shaped curl pattern that ends in an O shape, whereas 4a hair has tiger coils that are more defined than 3c hair.

In addition, 4a hair is thicker and coarser in texture than 3c hair and tends to have low porosity than 3c hair. 4a hair is also more prone to shrinkage than 3c hair.

Is 4a hair frizzy?

4a hair is greatly prone to frizziness due to its tight coil pattern that causes strands to rub against each other. Additionally, the sebum from the scalp doesn’t reach all the way to the ends of hair strands, which makes it further susceptible to frizz.

Is 4a hair thin?

The thickness of 4a hair varies from individual to individual. In general, 4a hair is considered medium to thick in texture. Furthermore, though the strands are smaller in diameter than other hair types, their overall density is quite high.

How often should you wash 4a hair?

The frequency at which you should wash your 4a hair depends on your natural hair thickness, individual needs, and lifestyle. Generally, it is advised to wash 4a hair once in 2 days to once every week. You can also apply a dry shampoo to soak up the extra oil in between two washes.

A Word From a Trichologist

4a hair is characterized by tight coils that form an S shape when stretched. While 4a hair retains the most moisture of all hair type 4s, it is still very prone to dryness and frizz. It also shrinks to about 50–60% of its size when wet.

For all these reasons, caring for 4a hair requires extra measures. The rule of thumb is to always keep your hair moisturized using hydrating shampoos, conditioners, and other products. It is vital to seal the moisture to prevent dryness and breakage.

Additional measures include gentle detangling, regular trimming, and limiting the use of heat tools.

In simple words, caring for 4a hair is all about patience and consistency. By following a carefully curated 4a haircare routine, you will be on your way to healthy, beautiful, and defined hair.


4a hair can be beautiful yet challenging to maintain. However, following the care methods and styling tips in this article will take your 4a hair from looking frizzy and lifeless to looking bouncy, shiny, and healthier.

Remember that the easiest way to care for your coils is to always keep them moisturized and stick to protective hairstyles. Be consistent, and you will soon see the results. 

Remember the mantra for 4a hair, “say yes to moisturization, no to heat tools, be gentle with your hair, use protective hairstyles, and get ready to embrace the beauty of your coils.”

Written by Rosmy Barrios, MD
Dr. Rosmy Barrios, MD, is a medical advisor for the Health Reporter, the head of the anti-aging department, and a regenerative medicine specialist in several medical institutions with years of experience in aesthetic medicine and cosmetology.
The article was fact checked by Donika Vata, MD
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Written by Rosmy Barrios, MD
Dr. Donika Vata
Fact checked by Donika Vata, MD
Last update: August 1, 2023
10 min read 821 Views 0 Comments

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