The Tea On How To Take Care of 4b Natural Hair

Aug 1, 2020

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4b natural hair suffers from “forgotten middle child” syndrome. It’s distinctly different from its 4a and 4c counterparts yet is quite often looked over.

To be clear, 4b hair is distinctly different from 4a and 4c hair. In fact, it’s unique Z-shaped curl pattern makes it quite distinguishable from its Type 4 counterparts, and requires specific techniques to moisturize, maintain and grow (if that’s your end goal).

Ready to get into the lowdown on 4b natural hair and how to maintain it? Let’s go!

an image of a 4b hair black woman taking a selfie

What is 4b Natural Hair?

Before getting into the specifics of how to take care of 4b hair, we need to first define what the 4b natural hair type is, and how it differs from 4a and 4c natural hair.

4b Natural Hair Type

Here are the general characteristics of this curl type:

♥ 4b hair has a Z-shaped pattern rather than an S-shaped curl pattern that other curl patterns;

♥ The curls contain sharp, angled bends rather than ringlets;

♥ The curls are about as wide as a ballpoint pen

If you’re looking for some 4b natural hair inspo, Willow Smith is a great example. Her beautiful coils are angular rather than rounded.

an image of willow smith showing her 4b natural hair

4b Natural Hair Texture

There are two known hair textures for the 4b hair type (i.e. the way it feels).

Generally speaking, it can be fine, wiry textured hair or it can feel more coarse.

If you have 4b strands, you most likely experience shrinkage, meaning your curls shrink up tightly once dried.

This can make your hair look much shorter than it is, which can be annoying for many naturals who want to show off their length.

FYI – shrinkage is a sign of a healthy moisture-protein balance, but you may want to stretch your hair out every so often. We’ll talk more about how to combat this shortly!

Now let’s get into the specifics of taking care of 4b hair.

How To Take Care of 4b Hair

4b Wash Day Routine

All great natural hair routines, especially for 4b strands, starts with wash day.

Your wash day routine is instrumental for hydrated, juicy coils. Moisture starts with wash day, and the angular coils of this curl type requires deep hydration to reduce the chance of breakage.

In general, your 4b wash day routine should look something like this:

  • A pre-poo
  • Shampoo (cleansing conditioner one week, shampoo the next week)
  • Conditioner (and use this time to detangle), rinse out with cold water
  • Deep condition/protein treatment
  • Style using a hydrating leave-in conditioner, a cream and an oil/gel

Shampoo

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

However, for Type 4b naturals, shampooing weekly may be too drying and can cause unnecessary breakage.

To mitigate this, shampoo your 4b coils every 2 weeks, with a cleansing conditioner on alternate weeks. This will help your hair retain as much moisture as possible, while the surfactants (detergents in the shampoo) will still ensure your hair is nice and clean.

shampoo for low porosity hair routine_TGIN moisture rich shampoo

TGIN Moisture Rich Sulfate-Free Shampoo

Best for TYPE 4

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 as I am coconut cowash

As I Am Coconut Cowash

Best for TYPE 4

This conditioning creme is formulated with fortifying and strengthening ingredients such as coconut oil, saw palmetto and castor oil. The rich creamy formula will also reduce friction between your strands, making detangling a breeze. A great co-washing option for 4b coils in between shampoo days. A must try!  

Conditioner

Conditioners are not essential in a natural hair routine (some naturals prefer to deep condition immediately after shampooing).

But for 4b coils, the emollients from the conditioner will soften the hair and help with reducing friction between the strands. Its recommended to always condition your hair immediately after shampooing and prior to deep conditioning.

Deep Condition

Deep conditioning this hair type is a non-negotiable. You should always deep condition after you’ve washed your hair, especially if you’ve used a shampoo.

The best deep conditioners for 4b strands are those with moisturizing and friction-reducing ingredients. Look for deep conditioners with ingredients such as honey, aloe vera, butters, and fatty alcohols.

an image of best products for fine type 4 natural hair_tgin honey miracle hair mask

TGIN Honey Miracle Hair Mask

Best for TYPE 4

One of the most superior ingredient list of any deep conditioner on the market. Honey is the SECOND ingredient, meaning that you’ll truly feel the softening effects from the honey after rinsing. Jojoba oil and aloe vera, the third and fourth ingredients respectively, are incredibly beneficial for moisturizing natural hair. A must have for coilier textures!

an image of camille rose algae renew deep conditioner

Camille Rose Naturals Algae Renew Deep Conditioner

Best for TYPE 4

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

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 fine hair strands and/or high porosity hair nice and strong.

If you have low porosity 4b coils, its imperative you use heat when deep conditioning. Low porosity strands are tightly shut and thus products tend to sit atop the hair, rendering them useless.

Heat helps lift the cuticles and create space for product absorption. The best form of heat for this hair type is steam, which is vaporized water particles that will moisturize your coils along with the deep conditioner.

Even high porosity 4b naturals can benefit from using heat. Studies have shown that, regardless of porosity type, using heat on natural hair can increase product adsorption (which means “to stick”).

However, many of us do not own steamers as they can be expensive and bulky. An alternative for steamers is hot head thermal caps, which harness the heat capacity of flaxseeds to bring heat to your hair.

They are a fraction of the price of steamers and allow you to be mobile while you deep condition (instead of sitting under a steamer).

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 natural hair, especially for low porosity naturals. Deep conditioning as a low porosity natural is fruitless if you’re not lifting your cuticles to let the product in. And the heat from this product will do just that! A much more effective deep conditioning strategy than the baggy method, and best of all: it’s much more affordable than a steamer. 

Moisturize and Seal

The last step in your 4b wash day routine is to moisturize your hair and lock it in until next wash day (ideally).

To effectively moisturize 4b strands use a water-based leave-in conditioner that focuses on hydration and is formulated with moisture in mind. Look for a leave-in that has water as the first ingredient, followed up with ingredients such as aloe vera, honey, panthenol and ceteryl alcohol.

Use an oil-based product that create a barrier to protect the leave-in from evaporating. These products are usually buttery in texture, like a cream, and will also keep your angular 4b strands from tangling on each other.

You don’t need to seal with an oil since the cream is oil-based, but you may want to use a gel as the last step to define your coils. Gels are great for wash and go’s and can also lock in a style like a twist-out or braid-out. Use gels that include plant-based ingredients such as flaxseeds, ginger, aloe vera and okra.

Mielle Moisturizing Avocado Hair Milk

Best for TYPE 4, high porosity

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, low porosity

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.

an image of tgin daily moisturizer

TGIN Butter Cream Daily Moisturizer

Best for TYPE 4, all porosities

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.

Camille Rose Aloe Whipped Butter Gel

Best for TYPE 4, all porosities

The most superior ingredient list of any gel on the market. Virtually all-natural, this gel will hydrate the heck out of your curls and works swimmingly for Type 4 naturals, especially for twistouts and braidouts. A definite must-try!

Earthtones Naturals Curl Enhancing Jelly

Best for TYPE 4, all porosities

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!

Other tips for maintaining 4b natural hair include:

  • Wash in sections – the smaller the sections, the less breakage and shedding.
  • Never detangle on dry hair. Only detangle when your hair is damp and with product.
  • Finger detangle – your fingers are more geFntle on your hair than a comb. Get the larger tangles out of your hair first, then use your wide-tooth comb.
  • Protective style often, making sure to take down the style every 6-8 weeks to shampoo and re-moisturize. 
  • Opt for low maintenance styles when leaving your hair down such as twist outs, bantu knots and braid outs.
  • If doing a wash and go, make sure to band your hair nightly to stretch the hair, avoiding deep tangles and single-strand knots. 
  • Avoid hair serums and glosses (which contain silicones and mineral oil) and stick with plant-based oils.

Final Thoughts on 4b Natural Hair Care

4b coils is NOT the same as 4a or 4c natural hair, and it’s important to understand this fact. 

The zigzag pattern of this hair type makes it susceptible to tangles, breakage and single-strand knots, so be sure to follow the above 4b coils care routine to make sure it stays healthy.

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.

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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.

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What's Your Curl Type?

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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 ♥

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