The Ultimate Guide to Caring for 4C Coils

We who have 4C hair are familiar with its care and maintenance. This is the tightest type of curls, and it’s often considered the hardest to maintain. When you have the right products and knowledge, it’s not difficult to care for our 4C hair.

The complexity and fluidity 4C curls have are unique, says Robin Groover. Chief hair officer of beauty tech company Myavana.”Caring 4C hair means paying attention to the unique characteristics of this hair and maintaining moisture to promote overall hair health.”

We’ve asked Groover, and other experts in textured hair for their product and tip recommendations to help you optimize your 4C hair care routine.

What is 4C Hair?

Groover says that “4C curly hair refers to a particular curl pattern within the natural hair texture. This is particularly relevant in the context developed by Andre Walker’s hair typing system.” This system classifies hair into different types according to curl pattern and texture. The 4C category is defined by curly hair that is tightly coiled.

This hair type is characterized by a Z-shaped curl instead of the C shape of most other types. Groover says that 4C hair is most common in Africans, especially those who have ancestry from sub Saharan Africa. Myavana’s research, which analyzes hair samples sent by consumers to determine hair type and provide care advice, shows that many people who self-diagnosed their hair as being 4C actually don’t have 4C hair. Todd Edwards, a hairstylist, echoes the sentiment. Edwards, a Mizani artist, says that clients tend to believe that hair with a lot shrinkage is 4C.

4C Hair Characteristics

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Tight Collis

Groover says that 4C hair is made up of small, tight coils that range in size from pencil to much smaller. The curls can be zigzagged or spiraled. Dehydrated, different types of curls can mimic the 4C curl. Groover says that the needs of dehydrated tight spirals and authentic tight coils are completely different.

Natural Volume

It’s my favorite thing about having 4C hair. Groover says that 4C hair has a lot of volume. This can be an attractive feature for people who like voluminous styles.


When you curl your hair super tight, it will appear shorter than what they are. Celebrity hairstylist Ursula Stephen says that shrinkage is a sign healthy hair. It’s a good sign that your hair is still elastic. When it is not damaged by heat, 4C hair should behave exactly as this.


“Despite common misconceptions, 4C hair is quite versatile,” says Groover. Stephen, who is a Carol’s daughter stylist, says: “This hair will allow you to create any curl pattern or shape that you want.” Heat-styled with caution, this hair will hold its straight look while adding volume.

Prone to Dryness & Parched

Edwards says that because 4C hair grows vertically, sebum produced by the glands is not able travel down the strands to lubricate them, causing the hair to feel dry. Groover says that “adequate hydration and moisturizing are essential for maintaining healthy hair 4C.”

Style Longevity

This hair type is usually dryer and coarser, so you won’t need to worry about the scalp oils ruining your style. You can extend a twist-out or silk press over a full week with the right care. Stephen says that this hair is able to hold hairstyles over a period of time.

How To Care For 4C Hair

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Distribute natural oils manually

Groover says that the tight coil pattern in 4C hair makes the natural oils produced by your scalp more difficult to penetrate the hair shaft. The hair becomes less lubricated and dries out. It is important that individuals with 4C-hair manually distribute oils by using techniques like finger detangling and a wide tooth comb.


It’s not uncommon to use super-thick products on 4C hair because it is so dry. These products have too high a molecular mass to penetrate the hair shaft and can build up. The buildup of nutrients, moisturizers and hydrators can make your hair care routine redundant, since they will sit on the top of your hair, instead of working within.

Grooer says that when you cleanse your hair from product buildup you will notice a significant change in the appearance, moisture retention and manageability. It’s important to use a cleanser that will remove buildup without stripping the hair of moisture. She recommends Bumble and Bumble Sunday Shampoo. Briogeo Scalp Revival Charcoal and Coconut Oil Micro-Exfoliating shampoo or Color Wow Color Security are also great options.

Intentional Conditioning

Groover says that 4C hair can have a high porosity. This means that the cuticles of the hair have gaps or openings that allow moisture to escape. This can lead to a lack of moisture and dryness. “Deep conditioning treatments and leave in conditioners can improve moisture retention.”

Stephen’s favorite leave-in conditioner is Carol’s Daughter Black Vanilla Hydrogenating Leave-In Condition. She says that it helps moisturize dry, brittle hair and makes it more manageable. Edwards recommends Mizani Miracle Milk Cream (26 dollars). He calls it “an amazing leave-in conditioning, heat protector, and detangler – my must-have.” Robin recommends Maui Moisture Heal & hydrate + Shea Butter Hair Mask for deep conditioning. Pureology’s Hydrate Nourishing Superfoods Hair Mask, which is also a great product, works well.

Regular Trims

Groover says that regular trimming helps prevent split ends and hair breakage. It’s vital to maintain healthy ends to promote overall hair growth.

Prioritize Strengthening Products

Groover says that “our research shows that a combination of strengthening and moisturizing treatments provides balance for retention.” Incorporating bond-builders, and products that are protein-rich (like those containing rice water), is important. When I don’t want to spend time doing a protein and moisture mask, I use the Olaplex No.3 Duo. No. No. 3, a pre-shampoo moisture treatment. Briogeo’s Rice Protein + Algae-Rich Rice Water Shampoo Concentrate (42 dollars) and Carol’s Daughter Goddess Strength shampoo are both great cleansing products. Cecred’s Fermented Rose and Rice Protein Ritual is a great intensive treatment. This product is so potent that it shouldn’t be used more than three times a year.

Practice Nighttime Security

Groover recommends using a silk or satin scarf, bonnet or pillowcase while sleeping to reduce friction.

Steam Treatment for Hair

Groover says that because the cuticle (the outermost layer of hair) is compact, it’s “more difficult to penetrate the shaft and contribute to dryness.” Steam therapy helps to hydrate the body from within, with both short-term and long-term effects.

You can either go to the salon and get a professional steaming treatment, or you can do it at home. You can either buy a hair-steamer hood to get the full effect or you can fake it with a reusable conditioner cap (6 dollars). Take a hot shower or a sweaty workout, and then put on the cap.

Seal out moisture

Groover says that after applying a moisturizer or conditioner, you can seal in moisture by using natural oils like jojoba oil, coconut oil, or olive oil. This helps lock in moisture and reduce moisture losses. Bread Beauty Supply Everday Gloss, Verb Ghost Lightweight Hair Oil and Cecred Nourishing Oil are my favorites.

Style with Care

The products you choose to style your hair must make it feel and look good. Edwards recommends Mizani True Textures Oil Gel for wet styling such as twist-outs or wash-and-gos. Groover suggests Design Essentials Almond & Avocado Almond Curl Enhancing mousse. Pattern Heat Protectant is my favorite for heat styling. Edwards says that you should use heat protection because 4C hair is so easily damaged.

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