4A, 4B & 4C Hair Types – What Does This Mean?
Being able to distinguish your unique hair type is essential to making all your hair care and styling efforts count. But discovering what type your hair falls into may be confusing, since there are multiple hair typing systems in use. What hair typing system is precise enough for you to rely on when determining your unique hair type?
By and large, the hair typing system developed by Andre Walker is perhaps the most widely acknowledged today. With the help of this guide, you will be able to find out what this hair typing system is like. And learn more about the hair types 4A, 4B, and 4C, that Andre Walker’s hair typing system recognizes as distinct.
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The Andre Walker Hair Typing System
A prominent hairstylist from the US, Andre Walker is perhaps best known for his work on The Oprah Winfrey Show. As the show’s long-time hairstylist, he has been a seven-time winner of Daytime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Hairstyling. He has also had Halle Berry, Barbara Bush, and Michelle Obama among his clients, besides being Oprah Winfrey’s personal hairstylist.
In the 1990s, Andre Walker developed his own system for distinguishing between the various most common types of hair texture. Originally, he intended his system for marketing his own line of hair care products, but the system became widely acknowledged. Eventually, Andre Walker laid out his system in his book Andre Talks Hair!, giving advice on hair care and styling.
The Andre Walker hair typing system differentiates between four major types of hair, distinguishing each type based on its texture. It also further differentiates each of the four types into three subtypes – A, B, and C – based on pattern variations. As a result, in a simplified manner, the Andre Walker hair typing system looks like this:
- Type 1 – Straight This type encompasses hair with naturally straight texture, further differentiating into types 1A, 1B, and 1C, depending on their characteristics. Type 1A hair is thin, soft, and oily, which helps it resist much damage but makes maintaining curly shapes problematic. Type 1B hair has more volume and body than type 1A hair and is more rough in its medium texture. Type 1C hair is the hardest type 1 hair to shape into curls due to its straight but coarse texture.
- Type 2 – Wavy Hair that’s wavy and coarse, is neither oily nor dry, falls within type 2, including types 2A, 2B, and 2C. Type 2A hair is thin and fine, has a distinct “S” pattern, and lends itself easy to various hair styles. Type 2B hair is harder to style because its texture makes hair conducive to assume the shape of the head. Type 2C hair has a thicker wavy texture and is also coarse and frizzy, which makes styling it more challenging.
- Type 3 – Curly This hair texture has smooth and pliable curls, that are soft and well-defined, and implies types 3A, 3B, and 3C. Type 3A hair tends to be frizzy, with its texture forming curls that are shiny, big, and loose. Type 3B hair is typically dense and springy, and its curls tend to be tighter and have a fuller look. Type 3C hair has curls that are tight and densely packed, assuming corkscrew-like and coil-like shapes, and having more volume.
- Type 4 – Kinky Dry and fragile hair, that has a tightly-packed curly texture, represents type 4, and includes types 4A, 4B, and 4C. Type 4A hair has a texture with an “S” pattern, and its curls tend to be softer and better defined. Type 4B hair has a “Z” pattern texture, that bends in angles, and its curls are tighter and less defined. Type 4C hair is the most delicate of all, with its curls being much more prone to shrinkage and breakage.
As the Andre Walker hair typing system suggests, type 4 hair has the most intricate texture and requires delicate treatment. What makes this hair type special?
Type 4 Hair: Intricate Texture Requires Intricate Styling
The unique characteristics of hair texture that make type 4 hair special are very common to find in African-American hair. In fact, the term ‘Afro-textured hair’ very often implies exactly the features that Andre Walker categorized as type 4 hair. What made him group all these hair texture features, that are often typical of African-American hair, into a hair type?
As Andre Walker notes himself, kinky hair may have limited styling options, and as such it may need professional relaxing. At the same time, however, he advises to embrace the natural texture of your hair nonetheless, regardless of its type. What does this mean for type 4 hair, once you recognize that its natural hair texture is unlike all others?
In its essence, it boils down to realizing that type 4 hair can be:
- Susceptible to breakage Its densely packed kinky texture puts type 4 hair at a disadvantage when it comes to withstanding damage and heat. Every sight of its hair strands that is kinky serves as a potential source of fragility. As a result, type 4 hair can tolerate much less bending and heat styling than other hair types.
- Prone to dryness Type 4 hair has less natural hair oil than other hair types. It retains less moisture on average as well. Both the natural hair oil production and moisture retention, however, serve as natural protective factors for hair structure. Since type 4 hair lacks in them, it can tolerate less mechanical damage and exposure to heat than other types.
We have now found out more about the features that make type 4 hair unique. But how can we distinguish between the hair types 4A, 4B, and 4C within type 4? Let’s take a closer look at the features of each of these hair types.
Hair Type 4A: Well-Defined Curls with an “S” Pattern
Like all other type 4 hair, type 4A hair is kinky and dry, with its texture packed in tight coils. Unlike the rest of type 4 hair, however, type 4A hair has a curl pattern that is more clearly defined. In particular, it assumes a distinct “S” shape, which means that type 4A hair texture is not too densely packed. As a result, type 4A hair stretches better, leaving more room for styling than the rest of type 4 hair.
Hair Type 4B: Fluffy Curls with a Zig-Zag Pattern
Unlike type 4A hair, type 4B hair has a less clearly defined curl pattern. As such, the curl pattern in type 4B hair consists of sharp angles and assumes more of a “Z” shape. Due to this feature, type 4B hair can range in its texture from fine and wiry to rough and coarse. This feature also makes type 4B hair more susceptible to dryness and causes it to shrink in size.
Hair Type 4C: Tightly Coiled Curls with a Zig-Zag Pattern
In terms of its features, type 4C hair may resemble type 4B hair in a few ways. Its curl pattern has no clear definition either, and it assumes a “Z” shape as well. Like type 4B hair, type 4C hair can vary a lot in its texture too, from softer to harsher ones. What makes type 4C hair stand out, though, is its coils being much more densely packed. This distinct feature of type 4C hair makes it prone to extreme dryness and shrinkage. As a result, type 4C hair is the most fragile of all.