Hair Health

4A Curly Hair Routine

In this Article

Is there anything more eye-catching than a full head of tight small ringlets framing your face? If you’ve been blessed with 4A curly hair, then you know how striking this springy, tightly-coiled hair type can be. 

However, it’s important to know how to handle and style your curl pattern as well. With so many steps in haircare, it can be difficult to know where to start. How do you care for those stunning 4A curls so they’re bouncy instead of tangled, defined instead of frizzy?

Read on to learn our haircare routine for the 4A hair type. We’ll walk you through care instructions, styling ideas, and the essential curly hair products to keep your curls looking their best. 

What is 4A Hair?

Creating a trusted routine for 4A hair begins with understanding the unique characteristics of this curl type. Diving into the nature of the curl is the foundation for finding the right haircare practices and products. 

When it comes to those lovely 4A curls, you’ll find the following distinct features: 

  • Tight coils – One of the most recognizable features of type 4A hair is the compactness of the curls. Multiple fine strands stick together densely to create tight coils the width of a crochet needle or pencil. Because your natural hair curls so tightly, it may appear shorter than its actual length (this is called shrinkage). 
  • S-shaped curls – The shape of the curl itself also sets 4A hair apart from other hair types. 4A curls form true ringlets that take on an S-shape when stretched out. 
  • Varying hair textures – While 4A hair types all feature a similar curl shape and tightness, each person’s hair is also unique. This means that your 4A curls could be thin or thick, wiry or coarse. 

Is My Hair 3C, 4A, or 4B?

You may notice that certain curl types seem very similar. Of course, your bouncy 4A curls are very different from a loose 2A wave, but what about those other hair types at the curlier end of the spectrum? 

If you’re looking in the mirror and can’t decide whether your hair is type 3C, type 4A, or type 4B, consider the following differences: 

  • 3C hair is looser – While 3C hair can have a similar shape to 4A, the former features looser, more relaxed curls. 4A curls are the most compact, resembling 3C hair when stretched out. Because of the tight coils, 4A hair may appear shorter than its 3C counterpart. 
  • 4B curls are Z-shaped – Unlike 4A curls which overlap to form ringlets, type 4B hair features a zig-zag pattern, showing a distinct Z-shape when stretched out. 4B curls are more angular whereas 4A curls tend to have rounded edges.

How to Care for 4A Hair

When it comes to a haircare routine for 4A curls, being gentle is key. This is because 4A hair is on the finer side. Even dense 4A curls consist of fragile strands that can break easily. In fact, hair breakage, when the strand snaps or splits, can be a common issue among those with a tighter curl type.

But hair strength is not only influenced by naturally occurring factors. According to a 2015 study, basic hair type and individual grooming practices both contribute to the health of your hair. Consider the following for a dependable haircare routine that can make the difference: 

  • Wash seldomly – Curly hair types tend to have drier hair than their straight-haired counterparts, producing lower amounts of natural oil. When it comes to 4A curls, consider washing your hair less frequently to prevent dry hair. Opt for a gentle shampoo like Living Proof’s sulfate-free Curl Shampoo, made without SLS and SLES compounds. 
  • Condition, condition – To prevent frizz, dry scalp, and damaged curly hair, remember to condition after each wash. Start with the scalp and move down through the whole of the curl. For an extra moisturizing boost, opt for a leave-in conditioner, such as the Repair Restore Leave-In. 
  • Avoid heat – The intricate angles in 4A hair give your curls their natural beauty, but they can also result in more frequent breakage, particularly when combined with heat-based styling tools. Protect your coils by using heat seldomly, and always apply a heat protectant spray if you do pull out the straightener or blow dryer. 

How to Style 4A Curls

Styling those bouncy curls is the next step in a haircare routine—and a great opportunity to show off your personality. While it can be tempting to try out hairstyles without considering the effect on your hair health, consider these styling tips for diverse hairdos that won’t strain your strands: 

  • Easy wash-and-go – For quick styling when you’re on the go, opt for a simple wash and conditioning session to give off a fresh, natural look. Too much volume? Apply a leave-in conditioner for smoothing and anti-frizz effects. Beyond just the convenience, this hairstyle will help your scalp stay relieved and your strands stay strong. 
  • Versatile bandanas – A bandana is a perfect way to gather together those coils and keep them out of your face. Tie a silk or cotton cloth like a headband or wear it as a headscarf. Not only is this accessory practical and easy on the roots, but it also is a great opportunity to show some extra flair with a bold color or memorable pattern. 
  • Various updos – An updo is ideal for special events. From chic space buns to a sleek pulled-back ponytail, these hairstyles perfectly balance volume and control for a refined look. To protect your hair, make sure not to pull the updo too tightly and take out the hairstyle before you sleep, giving your natural hair room to breathe. 

Best Products for 4A Hair Type

If you’re following instructions down to the smallest details but you’re still experiencing hair breakage and other troubles, don’t despair. You’re not alone. 

Sometimes, your scalp and strands may still not be receiving the moisture or nutrients they require, even with a nurturing haircare routine. And even if your 4A curls are healthy, adding in additional repair- or styling-focused products can lead to long-term benefits. No matter your hair situation, consider the following products for an extra haircare boost: 

  • Curl Elongator – If you find yourself with significant shrinkage, consider the Curl Elongator, a smoothing solution infused with emollients and shea butter for silkier, stronger strands. The Curl Elongator works to detangle, define, and elongate even the tightest of coils.
  • Moisturizing Shine Oil – Our signature five-oil blend is the key to staying moisturized throughout the day. With quick absorption and added shine, this oil is designed for convenient use on your busy days, providing both smoothness and strength with ease. 
  • Defining Gel – On those days when the weather is just not cooperating with your curls, reach for the Defining Gel, an optimized polymer blend giving your coils maximum hold in high humidity environments. With this solution, you can style your hair naturally, confident that your voluminous look won’t turn into unmanageable frizz. 

Science-Backed Haircare Solutions Tailored to You

Ready to elevate your 4A haircare routine? We’re your one-stop-shop for all products curly hair-related. Whether you have a two-step or ten-step haircare routine, we have all the hair products online that you need.

Not sure where to start? Browse through our collection of curly hair products to find products designed to add that extra smoothness, strength, and definition to your daily life. You can even take our haircare quiz for a curated routine.

No matter your needs, our offerings are backed by science to help you achieve the hair quality you deserve. We’re taking hair health to the next level, and you’re living proof. 

  1. Int’l Conf. IP, Comp. Vision, and Pattern Recognition. Towards Creation of a Curl Pattern Recognition System. 
  2. National Library of Medicine. Hair Cosmetics: An Overview 
  3. Wiley. Understanding breakage in curly hair 

Living Proof logo


Living Proof Review Team

Related Articles

Image without a name
Hair Health Hair Tips

What is clarifying shampoo? [+ how & when to use it]

Read More
Image without a name
Hair Health

How to hide split ends

Read More
Image without a name
Hair Health

6 Ways To Keep Your Scalp Moisturized

Read More