womna with 4c hair

The Ultimate 4A Hair Handbook

Iconically voluminous, springy, & one-of-a-kind—meet type 4A natural hair. This freshman of Type 4 Hairversity is renowned for its versatility & gravity-defying curls & coils.

Whether you’re looking for some new styling tips—or wondering if you even have 4A hair type—this is the article for you.

We’ve composed an all-encompassing guide for all you 4A curlies out there to maximize the potential of your locks. From protection to styling, we’re covering everything there is to know about making your 4A type hair look & feel its best.

The Hair Type Scale

Hair types start at 1 & go up to 4C, with many levels in between. The differences between 1 & 4C hair types are obvious, with 1 being pin-straight hair & 4C sporting tight coils. But comparing closely-related curly hair types such as 3C to 4A curly hair is where you can start to doubt your hair-typing skills.

Consider this your study session.

Hair begins to wave for those with type 2 hair types & may show off some curls:

  • Type 2A hair – Hair gradually begins to bend & wave
  • Type 2B hair – Waves become more prominent & noticeable
  • Type 2C hair – Weight falls to the bottom & individual curls start to form
  • You can recognize any type 3 curl type by their stunning curls at various spacing, from root to tip, with an occasional change in texture:

  • Type 3A hair – Loose, big curls are present but may need some encouragement with curl gels
  • Type 3B hair – Naturally defined, voluminous curls that vary from ringlet to corkscrew
  • Type 3C hair – Super-defined S-shape curls that begin to lift up from the root
  • In type 4 hair the strands grow up & out, coils abound & light is absorbed:

  • Type 4A hair – S or O-shape coils are visible with lots of volume at the roots
  • Type 4B hair – Upon stretching, voluminous & sharp Z-shape coils take shape
  • Type 4C hair – Dense, stretchy coils without a visible coil pattern
  • Do I Have 4A Hair?

    If you’re still uncertain as to whether or not you are rocking 4A hair, don’t fret. Type 4A hair is famous for its stunningly voluminous coils that adore moisture. Check in a mirror to see if the majority of your hair has any of the following characteristics:

    • S or 0-shaped coil pattern (or mixed)
    • Lots of root lift
    • Gravity-defying volume
    • Ability to stretch
    • Out & up growth

    The key difference between 4A & 3C hair is that it shows off more coils than curls, & its S-shape pattern is most visible when pulled.

    Does All 4A Hair Have the Same Porosity & Texture?

    No. Each hair type includes different porosities & textures, which can impact how you should care for & treat your curls.

    What Is Hair Porosity?

    Hair porosity is the level to which your hair is able to absorb & retain added moisture, whether that be a moisturizing hair product or just plain water.1

    To determine if you have low vs high porosity hair, you’ll want to go into full scientist mode: Place a strand in a glass of water & watch it how it moves.

    This is what each result means for your care routine:

  • Sinking strand – High porosity hair sinks quickly because it quickly absorbs curly hair products. But just as quickly as they are absorbed, they’re expelled. If you have sinking strands, avoid hot water, end your showers with a douse of cold water & regularly moisturize with the occasional protein treatment to strengthen your cuticles.
  • Slowly sinking strand – Normal porosity hair will slowly sink because it absorbs & maintains moisture with ease. Maintain this porosity by avoiding heat or harsh hair treatments & using hydrating conditioners like PATTERN’s Medium Conditioner, which is packed with jojoba & olive oil that nourishes your locks.
  • Floating strand – Low porosity hair will stubbornly refuse to sink, meaning your hair needs some encouragement to absorb moisture. Luckily, once absorbed, your locks will hold onto moisture well. Throw on a shower cap with our Intensive Conditioner infused with oils & butters for maximum uptake, & avoid protein treatments.
  • What Is Hair Texture?

    Hair texture refers to the circumference of a single strand of hair & can vary even with a single hair type such as 4A. Your 4A hair texture will determine the ideal amount of days to space out your washes.2

    Let’s explore the three textures:

  • Fine – Most fragile texture, gets oily easily & products weigh it down due to only two hair layers—the cuticle & cortex. Wash find hair every 2 to 4 days to clear out oil as this hair texture is the most likely to experience oil buildup.
  • Medium – Slightly thicker than fine hair, medium textured hair can hold hairstyles for longer due to its two & sometimes three layers. Wash this type of hair every 4 to 5 days to prevent stripping your curls of their natural oil, which may cause dry scalp & hair. Your natural sebum will step in to moisturize between washes.
  • Thick – Thick hair enjoys the hairstyle-holding benefits of three layers—cortex, cuticle & medulla. You can be a bit more generous with heat but your hair will need some extra drying time. Wash your thick hair no more than once a week as this hair texture is a pro at holding onto moisture.
  • 4A Hair Care

    Now that you know your hair type, porosity level & texture, it’s time to dive into all things hair care. As 4A hair can lean towards dryness &, in turn, fragility, you should infuse your hair care routine with plenty of moisture for optimal protection.3

    Follow these four tips to keep your 4a hair moisturized & a stranger to breakage.

    #1 Protect Your Hair While You Sleep

    This isn’t unique to 4A curlies but it’s important all the same. To keep your coils as defined & smooth as possible as you sleep, throw your hair up into a high bun or into a luxurious cap, such as PATTERN’s Satin Cap to keep a barrier between your hair & the pillow.

    #2 Detangle with Care

    Curly hair is a double-edged sword. With voluminous curls come tangles. Fortunately, you don’t have to tear your hair to rid yourself of knots.

    We recommend tackling tangles with detangling products such as PATTERN’s Detangling Nectar, coupled with a gentle brush-wielding hand. Thoroughly brush through your curls in the shower when they’re coated in conditioner to prevent tangles upon drying.

    #3 Maintain a Washing Routine

    Wash day with the right shampoo and conditioner for curly hair is a scalp-refreshing ritual that helps bring all those yummy nutrients back into your curly crown. Next time you jump into the shower, follow these steps to set your 4A hair up for styling success:

    1. Drench, detangle & condition your hair.
    2. Distribute conditioner evenly with our Shower Brush.
    3. Section off & twist your detangled hair to help absorb moisture.
    4. Let your twists sit in the conditioner for as long as you like.
    5. When ready, wash out the conditioner, leaving the twists.
    6. Go in with our Hydration Shampoo formulated with moisturizing ingredients & focus on your roots, passing it a few times down the entire hair shaft.
    7. Thoroughly rinse all the hair product from your hair, take down all the twists & rinse again.

    Pro tip: Don’t forget that you can tweak your wash routine based on your hair’s porosity as well as texture type. It’s possible that conditioning after your shampoo works better for your hair.

    #4 Moisturize Post-Shower

    The key to caring for 4A hair lies in creating a routine that wards off breakage. The zig-zag nature of this hair type makes it difficult for your natural oil to reach the full length of each strand. This means that your hair is less likely to become oily but more prone to dryness.

    The rule of thumb for moisturizing products is to go from lightest to heaviest post-wash & pre-dry. Your product routine could look something like this:

    1. Leave-in conditioner
    2. Mousse
    3. Styling gel or curl cream
    4. Sealing oil

    Once your curls are snacking on pampering products, you have a few options to dry your hair.

    #5 Dry Your Curls Damage-Free

    Okay, so you’ve washed & moisturized your hair with the utmost care, but how can you dry it without causing damage?

    We always recommend air drying as it doesn’t damage your hair. But sometimes you’re pressed for time or simply prefer not going throughout your day with wet hair. In that case, you can diffuse your curls or use a hooded-dryer attachment with PATTERN’s Heat Protectant.

    4A+ Styles

    With the right styling products, the options for styling your voluminous coils are seemingly endless, but we’ve narrowed down three of our flourishing favorites to prevent styling stagnancy.

    #1 Free-Flowing Coils

    Have your coils do what they do best with a let-down style that is sure to not let down.

    This style works best on the first few days of your wash cycle as your curls are full of all that moisture you added in the shower. The further away from wash day, the less definition your curls will have, so take advantage of your just-washed curls when they’re at their most moisturized & powerful.

    #2 Dramatic Updos

    Whether it’s a high pony or bun, type 4A hair seems to be made for dramatic, lifting updos.

    Gather your curls at your crown & twist them into a bun with a hair tie or let them loose with a ponytail. If you want a slicked-back look, use gel & a brush to pull back your hair, showing off your showstopping baby hairs.

    #3 Protective Twists & Braids

    If you’re looking for a style that can stand the test of time, protect your hair & prevent you from having to touch it up too often, opt for easy protective styles like twists or braids.

    Section your hair into as many sections as you like & twist or braid down the entire section, focusing on creating a strong base close to your scalp.

    Care for Your 4A Curls with PATTERN

    Enjoy playing around with what treatments & styles work for your unique crown of curls & coils. Once you’ve nailed down your routine & go-to hairstyles, don’t stop there.

    Amp up your curly hair routine with PATTERN’s science-backed products that transform curlies & coilies into their most gravity-defying selves. We put hair health first by formulating each product with decadent ingredients such as Irish moss, honey & biotin that smooth & strengthen your hair.

    Take the first step towards your curliest, most vibrant hair with PATTERN.


    1. Gavazzoni Dias, Maria Fernanda Reis. “Hair cosmetics: an overview.” International journal of trichology vol. 7,1 (2015): 2-15. doi:10.4103/0974-7753.153450
    2. Carpenter, Debra. "The 4A Hair Type | Quick Reference Guide & Care Tips." You Probably Need a Haircut. 9 December, 2022. https://youprobablyneedahaircut.com/4a-hair/#Maintenance_and_Care_Tips_for_4A_Hair
    3. Quammie, Bee. "A Complete Guide to Discovering Your Natural Hair Type — and How to Take Care of Each Texture." InStyle. Updated on 14 August, 2022.  https://www.instyle.com/hair/natural-hair-types#toc-type-4