How To Take Care and Maintain 4a Natural Hair

Apr 10, 2021

Heads Up!

This content may contain affiliate links. Buying from these links will give us small compensation which we use to run this website. Buying by clicking on the links helps to support our efforts to provide you with the most accurate information. Please consider shopping our suggestions 🙂

If you have Type 4a natural hair, you already know that it takes more than just a deep conditioner for your coils to stay hydrated.

Type 4 hair in general needs a little more TLC to keep the coils hydrated and happy, and this rings true for 4a hair.

4a natural hair has specific needs that must be met to keep split ends and fairy knots at bay, to reduce the likelihood of breakage and ensure that the coils are in a position to grow sustainability.

Let’s get into how to take care of 4a natural hair.

What Is Type 4a Natural Hair Look Like?

4a hair, within the Type 4 umbrella, is spongy in texture with strands that are tight and S-shaped coils that start from the scalp.

The strands are approximately the size of a crochet needle, making them strongly defined yet incredibly susceptible to shrinkage.

Your curl twin: the natural hair OG, Whitney White!

an gif of Whitney White with 4a hair playing with her curls

4a hair is also very likely to experience tangles if not properly moisturized. The tight coils are susceptible to overlapping over each other, causing fairy knots and single-strand knots that lead to breakage over time.

Now, before we get into specific tips for taking care of 4a hair, there’s another diagnostic trait of your coils that you need to understand:

Natural Hair Porosity

Natural hair porosity is the ability of your hair to absorb water and/products.

Low porosity natural hair has a low absorption rate, because the cuticles are stubbornly closed. It is difficult for this hair porosity to absorb moisture.

High porosity natural hair has a high absorption rate, because the cuticles are always open. It is difficult for this hair porosity to retain moisture.

Porosity is the single most important characteristic you should understand about your 4a hair, because it tells you how your hair interacts with moisture. And moisture is everything to 4a hair.

If you have low porosity hair, the cuticles are flat, tight and contain no gaps/spaces along the surface. This means that products tend to sit atop the hair, creating product buildup.

High porosity hair means that your hair is highly porous – there are gaps and cracks along the cuticle surface that allow for products and moisture to evaporate out of the hair, if not properly sealed.

Each porosity has its benefits and drawbacks, but there are techniques we can employ to make our leverage our porosity.

Rather than focusing our attention solely on our curl type, working with your porosity will ensure your hair is well moisturized, especially your ends.

We’ll discuss how to take care of each porosity type below.

How To Take Care of 4a Natural Hair

Your New 4a Natural Hair Wash Day Routine

Your wash day routine is instrumental for hydrated, juicy coils. Moisture starts with wash day, and the tight 4a hair texture requires deep hydration and limited friction between the strands to reduce breakage.

Shampoo for Type 4a Hair

It’s recommended that all naturals wash their hair with shampoo. Just like other hair types, natural hair builds up dirt and product. Dirty hair needs to be cleansed routinely to ensure a healthy scalp.

a GIF of Archer getting his hair washed

4a hair should shampoo weekly using a sulfate-free, moisturizing shampoo (yes, they exist!) to keep the scalp clean without stripping the hair of its oils. Some naturals also employ a clarifying shampoo (usually with sulfates) once a month to do a deeper cleanse of the hair.

To ensure your hair is not stripped after the shampoo, do a pre-poo treatment before your wash day. This will act as a barrier from the detergent agents in the shampoo.

Coconut oil is a great pre-poo for high porosity hair while olive oil or avocado oil works wonders for low porosity hair.

Follow up the shampoo with a slippery conditioner and gently finger detangle to smooth down the cuticle and prep the hair for your deep conditioner.

shampoo for low porosity hair routine_TGIN moisture rich shampoo

TGIN Moisture Rich Sulfate Free Shampoo

Best for TYPE 4, all porosities

Best suited for coilier textures, this shampoo will ensure no product is left behind. Best of all, most of the hydrating ingredients (such as amla oil extract and sugar cane), are right up front in the ingredient list, meaning your hair won’t feel stripped after using it.

an image of the best products for fine type 4 natural hair_mielle organics pomegranate and honey shampoo

Mielle Pomegranate & Honey Shampoo

Best for TYPE 4, all porosities

This shampoo is one of the most moisturizing shampoos on the market. Key ingredients such as honey and panthenol reduce friction between hair strands, providing additional slip and promoting moisture retention throughout the shampoo process. A must try for Type 4 naturals!

Deep Conditioner

We all know by now that deep conditioning is a ~ non-negotiable~ for natural hair. Deep conditioners are specifically formulated with delivery agents that allow the product to deeply penetrate into the hair strands.

Choose your deep conditioner based on your porosity and hair concerns.

In particular, high porosity naturals should look for treatments that contain proteins, strengthening plant extracts like henna and cassia, and film-forming humectants (think aloe vera) to encourage deeper hydration.

Low porosity naturals should focus more on hydrating deep conditioners that include ingredients such as honey and fatty alcohols. Use heat to lift your hair’s cuticles to let the product truly penetrate and work its magic.

an image of camille rose algae renew deep conditioner

Camille Rose Naturals Algae Renew Deep Conditioner

Best for TYPE 4, all porosities

A cult favourite deep conditioner. This deep conditioner contains essential plant-based oils and butters loved by all naturals: manuka honey, mango butter and aloe vera, and also includes innovative ingredients such as hemp seed oil and blue-green algae. And it smells like mint chocolate chip!

Mielle Rosemary Mint Strengthening Hair Masque

Best for TYPE 4, high porosity

This nutrient-rich formula includes fortifying ingredients such as rosemary, biotin and henna, as well as enriching oils such as babassu, castor and jojoba oil. A great deep conditioner to keep high porosity hair nice and strong.

Mielle Rice Water Clay Masque

Best for TYPE 4

Clay masks are usually quite drying but this masque pairs the clay with moisturizing and friction-reducing ingredients such as aloe leaf juice, shea butter and jojoba oil. Best of all, strengthening plant extracts like henna, rosemary and horsetail grass will fortify your hair and keep split ends at bay. Use this product biweekly on soaking wet hair. Your Type 4 hair will thank you!

an image showing a hot head thermal cap_best products for fine type 4 natural hair

Hot Head Thermal Cap

Best for TYPE 4

This is a must have tool for low porosity naturals. Deep conditioning as a low porosity natural is essentially fruitless if you’re not opening up your cuticles to let the product in. And the heat supplied by this product will do just that! A much more effective deep conditioning strategy than the baggy method, and best of all: it’s more affordable and compact than a steamer.

Moisturize and Seal

Think of leave-in conditioners as the first line of defence against dryness. The best leave-in conditioners for 4a hair are water-based, rich in hydrating ingredients and provide enough slip to reduce friction between your strands, reducing the likelihood of tangles and knotting.

For high porosity hair, look for proteins and film-forming humectants in your leave-ins, which pull moisture in from the air and create a film around the hair to protect it from evaporating. Low porosity hair should use products with minimal proteins.

Mielle Moisturizing Avocado Hair Mask

Best for TYPE 4

A Mielle cult classic, this moisturizing hair milk is formulated with hydrating ingredients such as aloe vera juice, shea butter and avocado oil. It also includes various strengthening ingredients such as rice and wheat protein – perfect for high porosity strands in need of some TLC.

a picture of camille rose curl love moisture milk

Camille Rose Curl Love Moisture Milk

Best for TYPE 4 

This buttery, soft leave-in contains incredibly moisturizing ingredients such as avocado oil, rice oil and aloe vera (aka the moisture G.O.A.T.)! Plays well with creams and gels for defined twist-outs and good for all porosity types, especially low porosity naturals.

To lock in the glorious moisture from the leave-in, use a cream styler or gel to further keep your strands friction-free and define your coils.

Look for cream stylers that are rich in friction-reducing butters and hydrating fatty acids, film-forming humectants and emollients. Opt for gels that include plant-based ingredients such as sea kelp, aloe, nettle and rosemary for added moisture.

Camille Rose Almond Jai Twisting Butter

Best for TYPE 4

This formulation of this butter includes rich and hydrating ingredients like pumpkin seed oil, almond milk/oil and honey. Great for low porosity naturals with its minimal protein formula but will benefit high porosity naturals as well. An amazing butter for twist outs and braid outs!

an image of tgin daily moisturizer

TGIN Butter Cream Daily Moisturizer

Best for TYPE 4

No other moisturizer exists on the market quite like this one – not only does it have amazing slip, but it’s rich formula with shea butter and vitamin E will help flatten your cuticles and promote hydration all week long. Great for high porosity naturals in need of some protein.

Earthtones Naturals Curl Enhancing Jelly

Best for TYPE 4

A Canadian-based brand, Earthtones Naturals focuses on holistic, natural ingredients – and this gel is no exception. Its formulated with some ingredients such as aloe leaf juice, panthenol and sea kelp!

Camille Rose Naturals Aloe Whipped Butter Gel

Best for TYPE 4

A Canadian-based brand, EarthTones Naturals focuses on holistic, natural ingredients – and this gel is no exception. Its formulated with some ingredients such as aloe leaf juice, panthenol and sea kelp!

Should 4a Hair Use Oils?

A common question amongst naturals is the use of oils in your routines. Many naturals report that oils dry out their natural hair and cause accelerated product buildup.

It’s important to understand that, scientifically, oils are not moisturizing. They do not contain moisture and they repel water (unless emollients are added to allow oil and water to mix).

The issue is that oils create an impenetrable barrier around the hair. Unless washed out, this film will remain and any products added on top of the oil will not reach the hair strands.

In other words, oils should only be used as a sealant and should not be directly applied to 4a hair.

If you need to re-moisturize during the week, you should not use oils on your 4a hair. Re-applying products and water during the week will simply sit on top of the oil film, creating the dreaded product buildup.

Cream stylers and gels are effective enough sealant and include butters and oils in the formulas. Play around with using oils in your routines and see what your hair responds best to.

Apply Your Products in Sections

The best way to apply products to 4a hair is to do it in sections.

By working in small sections, you’re ensuring that all of your hair is coated with product. It reduces the likelihood of breakage and shedding, and your style comes out that much better.

Keep Your Scalp Clean

A clean scalp (and clean hair) increases your products’ penetration capability.

As we said earlier: dirty hair is NOT healthy hair.

Some naturals state that co-washing their hair keeps their hair moisturized, but the facts remain that a dirty scalp can lead to chronic scalp conditions such as dermatitis and follicle inflammation.

With time, shedding and hair loss can occur as a result of a perpetually dirty scalp. And unfortunately, the cleansing agents in conditioners are not enough to deeply cleanse our hair.

Ensure you are washing your hair weekly, and if needed, using a co-wash or cleansing conditioner in between.

Stretch Your Hair

One of the biggest issues with Type 4 hair are the tangles and knots.

Because of the inherent texture of this hair type, the coils tend to interlock, creating deep tangles, fairy knots, single-strand knots and split ends.

Using friction-reducing products that contain slip will help with this, but the art of keeping your hair stretched can further reduce the likelihood of tangles and knots.


Low maintenance styles, such as twist outs and braid outs, are excellent examples of ways to stretching the hair.

However, if you prefer wash and go’s (a style that can result in interlocking coils), band your hair at night using satin or silk scrunchies to stretch and elongate your curls. This will keep the hair stretched and curb shrinkage!

Protective Style

Protective styling is a huge win for Type 4 naturals.

Wind, snow and sun all play a role in damaging our hair at a microscopic level. When you put your hair in a protective style, you’re protecting your hair from these harsh elements and keeping the moisture where it belongs: in your hair.

Final Thoughts on 4a Hair

4a hair can be frizz and tangle free with the above tips. Having a solid wash day, leveraging your porosity, protective styling and keeping your hair product buildup-free is the not-so-secret secret for healthy, hydrated and happy 4a hair.

The Curl Market is a natural hair blog catered to helping black naturals grow their curls into a long, luscious manes.

We use the latest evidence-based scientific research to provide you with the top tips on growing your curls, regardless of hair type.

We also provide lifestyle tips, both self care and mental care, to ensure you are optimizing your body’s natural hair growth cycle – because you can’t grow natural hair if you’re stressed out!

Come as you are.

The Latest

Best Deep Conditioners for 4c Natural Hair

Best Deep Conditioners for 4c Natural Hair

Having a deep understanding of the best deep conditioners for 4c hair is imperative to keep dryness and breakage at bay. Why? Because the tight curl pattern of 4c hair makes it incredibly susceptible to damage and breakage. This is especially true for fine-stranded 4c...

How To A Pre Poo Treatment for Natural Hair

How To A Pre Poo Treatment for Natural Hair

It’s a well-known fact that shampooing is a "necessary evil": it keeps our natural hair and scalp clean, allowing for moisture penetration and keeping scalp issues away. But the surfactants and detergents in the formulas can be quite stripping, given natural hair is...

The Best Products for Protein Sensitive Hair

The Best Products for Protein Sensitive Hair

Protein sensitivity is a relatively under-researched topic in the natural hair world. Many naturals often cite adverse effects after using protein treatments and protein-based products, such as brittle, stiff hair. To be clear: this is the opposite of what a protein...

The Ultimate Guide on How To Grow Long Natural Hair (For Real)

The Ultimate Guide on How To Grow Long Natural Hair (For Real)

Learning how to grow natural hair is one of the most commonly posed question in the natural hair community, across the curl type spectrum. Natural hair is 100% valid at any length, but a key sign of healthy natural hair is that it grows. To be clear: all natural hair...

Is Olaplex on Natural Hair Worth The Hype? We Put It To The Test

Is Olaplex on Natural Hair Worth The Hype? We Put It To The Test

Olaplex has been made quite a splash in the natural hair community over the past couple of years. A salon-grade brand, Olaplex’s mandate is to repair, protect and strengthen all hair types for visibly noticeable results. Many naturals wonder, as the brand is not...

The Ultimate Guide To Using Clay Masks for Natural Hair

The Ultimate Guide To Using Clay Masks for Natural Hair

Using clay masks for natural hair, although quite popular in the natural hair community, is a relatively new concept in the modern beauty world. Many naturals swear by clays for detoxifying, detangling and defining their coils, but, just like all things in life, there...

Categories

WRITTEN BY

Ayana Aden

Ayana is The Curl Market’s brand founder. When she’s not deep in natural hair research or creating content, she’s hanging on the couch with her husband and her cat, reading a book or scrolling through TikTok. Follow her on Instagram at @tothecurlmarket.

Is Olaplex on Natural Hair Worth The Hype? We Put It To The Test

Is Olaplex on Natural Hair Worth The Hype? We Put It To The Test

Olaplex has been made quite a splash in the natural hair community over the past couple of years. A salon-grade brand, Olaplex’s mandate is to repair, protect and strengthen all hair types for visibly noticeable results. Many naturals wonder, as the brand is not targeted directly to coily hair, if using Olaplex for curly hair is worth the hype....

read more
The Ultimate Guide To Using Clay Masks for Natural Hair

The Ultimate Guide To Using Clay Masks for Natural Hair

Using clay masks for natural hair, although quite popular in the natural hair community, is a relatively new concept in the modern beauty world. Many naturals swear by clays for detoxifying, detangling and defining their coils, but, just like all things in life, there is a right and wrong way to use clay masks. If you’re not careful, excessive...

read more
The Best Camille Rose Hair Products For Type 4 Naturals

The Best Camille Rose Hair Products For Type 4 Naturals

Camille Rose hair products are well-known and well-loved in the natural hair community. Boasting a “natural is best” approach to their ingredients and product formulation, this brand has become a household staple in almost every natural’s arsenal. However, as natural hair products can be quite expensive, it can be difficult to discern which...

read more

What's Your Curl Type?

Take The Quiz!

Learning your curl type is an important step in learning how to take care of your natural hair. It can help you understand what products will work best for you, how often to shampoo, how to style your natural hair, and other key information.

This quiz will give you the lowdown on exactly what your curl type is, so you'll never have to wonder again ♥

Pin It on Pinterest