While we used to describe our hair as either curly or straight, we now know there are many ways to label hair—so which one applies to you?
If you think you have a 4B hair type but aren’t exactly sure, you’ve come to the right place. Whether you have dark brown locks or dirty blonde hair, Mizani educator and stylist Jada Jenkins is breaking down everything you need to know about what 4B hair is and the products you need to care for it. Check out her video below, then keep scrolling for some of her go-to styling tips, along with our favorite hairstyles for 4B hair.
What is a 4B hair type?
The natural hair movement has flooded the beauty industry with new information about textured hair over the last few years, but with new knowledge about coily hair types comes new confusion—especially regarding type 4 hair. Thanks to their density and their springy shape, it can be even harder to distinguish between type 4 hair patterns than other hair subtypes.
The most defining characteristic of 4B hair is its tightly-packed Z-shaped curl pattern. Because the Z pattern creates very sharp angles in the hair, 4B hair can take on a wiry appearance and be prone to breakage. Another telltale sign of 4B hair is how much it shrinks as it dries. According to Jenkins, tightly coiled 4B hair can experience up to 70 percent shrinkage!
How do I know if my hair is 4B or 4c?
Before we delve into 4B vs. 4C hair, it’s worth noting that it is totally possible to see more than one curl pattern throughout one head of hair. To determine the true texture of your hair, examine your strands while they are entirely free of product: just wash and condition your hair, allow it to air dry, then begin to examine the shape of your coils. Check out our handy natural hair types chart if you need a visual reference.
4B hair is very similar to 4A and 4C hair, but there are a few significant differences between the two types. While 4B hair typically means Z-shaped curls, 4C hair will typically have a mix of waves, coils, curls, and zigzags throughout the hair. Both 4B and 4C hair can often take on a frizzy appearance. By contrast, 4A hair has an S-shaped curl pattern that allows for more defined ringlets.
One thing those with 4A, 4B, and 4C hair have in common is dryness. As the curls get tighter, it can become harder for the oils from the scalp to reach the entire mane. To combat this lack of hydration, Jenkins recommends heading to the salon every four weeks for a moisturizing treatment.
Dealing with parched strands is inevitable if you have 4B hair, but there are some stellar advantages to having this particular hair type. For one, natural and protective styles last much longer with 4B hair. When 4B hair is in a protective style, the moisture has a better advantage of locking itself in.
Is 4B hair considered curly?
Type 4B hair is actually classified as coily hair. Coily hair is sometimes considered a subtype of curly hair, but its pattern is tighter and more voluminous than its curly counterparts. Type 4 hair also tends to experience more shrinkage than curls.
What is a healthy hair care routine for 4B hair?
Because 4B hair is among the most fragile hair types, maintaining a healthy hair care routine is of the utmost importance. According to Jenkins, your mane stays moisturized is the cardinal rule of 4B hair. To achieve this goal, you want to ensure all hair products touching your strands will help moisturize your locks.
If you’re unsure where to start, Mizani’s Moisture Fusion Clarifying Shampoo resets hair so you can eliminate product buildup and impurities without your strands feeling overly dried. The shampoo is formulated with charcoal and a coconut-derived clarifier to thoroughly cleanse the hair, leaving it feeling clean, refreshed, and ready for an efficient deep moisturizing treatment. Pro tip: Instead of washing your entire head, section off areas to shampoo individually. Since 4B hair is often denser than other hair types, this helps hair receive a thorough cleansing while minimizing the occurrence of knots and tangles.
Consider using Mizani's True Textures Moroccan Clay Steam Mask when hair needs extra TLC. This intensive treatment deeply conditions and defines texture. Formulated with a blend of natural oils and Moroccan lava clay, the mask leaves hair feeling clean, nourished, and defined. Use it with steam (we love wrapping a warm towel around our heads) to enhance softness, shine, and bounce-back curls, while helping to reduce frizz.
We suggest following those up with Mizani’s 25 Miracle Milk as a leave-in detangler and Mizani’s Curl Defining Pudding for styling. If you’re looking to add more products to your routine, Jenkins says to make sure they’re water-based formulas. Since oil repels water, overusing oil-based products can prevent much-needed hydration from seeping into hair, exacerbating dryness.
Once your hair has been washed, conditioned, styled, and dried, Jenkins advises avoiding combing your strands again until it's time to wash your hair.
“Combing 4B hair while dry can cause excessive breakage and shedding,” she explains. “Once water is applied, the curl will loosen while damp, allowing for the comb the slide through the hair.”
If you’re looking for a little style inspiration, we share several of our go-to styles for 4B hair below.
4B Hairstyle Ideas
Begin by parting your hair, forming enough sections for your desired amount of knots. To make sure your look is as uniform as possible, keep the sections relatively equal in size (but feel free to get creative with how you part your hair).
You can add a cool visual element to your style by parting your hair so that the bases of your knots form geometric shapes. Once your hair has been sectioned off, coil each section around itself until it forms a tight twist. Then, wrap that twist around itself to build a knot shape and secure it with bobby pins or a small elastic.
Apply setting lotion to 1-inch sections of your hair and wrap them around the lacers, repeating until you’ve wrapped your entire head. Allow your hair to dry completely (feel free to use a blow dryer or hooded dryer to speed the process along) before removing the lacers.
At some point, most curlies have attempted to create some version of the “pineapple” (a loosely gathered bun that protects curls) overnight. However, this adorable style isn’t required to stay at home!
To pull off this look, you only need a medium-hold styling pomade, a brush, a hair pick, and an elastic. Using the hair pick, comb your hair at the roots to create volume all over your head.
Once you’ve achieved your desired volume, apply a generous amount of the medium hold styling pomade all over your edges. Don’t forget to apply the pomade to the edges on the back of your head—they will be visible once your hair is up. Gather all of your curls at the top of your head (near your hairline) and secure them with an elastic.
Chances are the wash-and-go is a staple style for you if you’re a naturalista. All you need to do is apply a leave-in conditioner like Mizani’s 25 Miracle Milk and a styling product like Mizani’s True Textures Perfect Coil Oil Gel throughout your strands and scrunch your curls to create definition. Allow your ringlets to air dry or dry your strands with a diffuser, and you’re good to go!
Side Bantu Knots
If you love the look of a shaved side but aren’t interested in actually shaving off your strands, you’ve probably tried braiding just above the temple before. That’s not the only way to achieve the look you’re going after! These side Bantu knots give the side of your head a somewhat smooth appearance while allowing the rest of your hair to flourish.
Just section off three 3-inch sections of hair on the side of your hair and create Bantu knots with each section. Then, fluff the rest of your hair with a hair pick to create stunning visual contrast.
You may not be ready to permanently part with the sides of your hair (or test drive such an alternative hairstyle!), but that doesn't mean you can't totally rock a mohawk. To begin, apply a firm-hold product like Mizani’s Edge Trimming Hair Gel all over your edges. Working with one side at a time, brush your hair up to the center of your head.
Place several bobby pins in your hair to secure the mohawk in place. Repeat the same steps on the opposite side of your head. Once your mohawk is secure, use a hair pick to give your hair significant volume.
Inspired by our favorite sci-fi princess, space buns have transformed from a Halloween costume to one of our go-to casual styles.
You’ll need a brush, a hair pick, a firm hold pomade, and two hair elastics for this look. The key to a flawless poof is to make sure your edges are entirely laid and your poofs are as big as possible.
Begin by using a hair pick to create volume all over your head. Then, create a center part down the middle of your hair and apply the firm hold pomade all over your edges. Brush the pomade through until your hair lays completely flat. Working with one side at a time, gather the section of hair on the top of your head and secure it with a hair elastic. Repeat the same steps on the other part of the hair. Once your poofs are secure, fluff to ensure the style is even on all sides.
If you’d like an upgrade from the simple half-up ponytail, consider swapping out your pony for a bun. Just gather the top half of your hair in a ponytail and fasten it with a hair elastic. Then, wrap your ponytail around itself until you form a bun and secure the style with several bobby pins. For a final touch, use a hair pick to fluff the remaining hair for a voluminous look.
Overwashing your 4B hair type is one of the greatest no-no’s when it comes to keeping your strands hydrated, but that’s where messy buns come in. What other hairdo can take you from the gym to a girl's night out? Wrap a scarf or scrunchie around the base of your high bun to give it chic, purposeful flair if your unwashed hair looks a bit worse for the wear.
For this look, you’ll need a comb, a brush, a hair pick, a spray leave-in conditioner, and a few hair clips. This style works best on day three or four hair when your curls have already become a little frizzy. To prevent tangles, part and clip your hair into a couple of sections and lightly mist them with a spray leave-in conditioner like Mizani’s 25 Miracle Milk to make sure your hair remains moisturized. Then softly begin to brush out your curls until your hair is fluffy and your curl pattern is barely visible. Continue this process section by section until you’ve completed your whole head. For a final touch, use a hair pick to give yourself volume at your roots.
When you think of protective hairstyles, box braids almost always come to mind. They’re great for anyone with a 4B hair type looking for a protective hairstyle to wear for a few weeks at a time.
Cornrows keep hair out of the face while allowing plenty of versatility. They’re neat and stylish and give you back precious time in the morning since you wake up with your hair ready to go.
One caveat to be aware of: wearing one hairstyle for weeks doesn’t mean you can slack off on your hair care routine. Your hair and scalp need just as much attention as they do when your hair isn’t braided. When opting for cornrows, show your scalp some TLC with the Mizani Scalp Care Calming Lotion. This leave-in treatment, made with aloe vera, avocado oil, and eucalyptus, nourishes, cools, and soothes the scalp while getting rid of dandruff and flakes.
Statement Hair Clip
Take your coils from everyday to extraordinary using a hair accessory. If your coils look a bit flat, pair statement hair clips with a deep side part to quickly pump up the volume. You can ensure your clips have staying power by spritzing a bit of dry shampoo onto them before inserting them into the hair.
Fluffy Flexi Rod Curls
Want to enhance your luscious curls with minimal heat damage from a curling iron? Opt for fluffy flexi-rod curls. First, stretch your hair with a blow dryer (use a heat protectant like Mizani Style Shifter Heat Screen Heat Protectant Spray beforehand), then wrap small sections of warm hair around your flexi rods. Once hair completely cools, unravel them and lightly finger comb through curls for seriously bouncy and voluminous waves.
If you have a 4B hair type, you may already know that braids are some of the best protective styles around. We love replicating this crown variation (also called halo braids) to add a touch of regal elegance to your hair. If you want to wear this style all week long, wrap your head with a silk scarf before bedtime.
Find more natural hair care tips, professional products, and expert advice on Hair.com.