HOW TO TELL YOUR HAIR TYPE

Can you distinguish hair types 4b and 4c apart? Here’s the new and updated video on how to tell the difference. In the video above, I discuss the different hair types and compare them. In particular, determining the difference between type 4b and 4c hair types. Then I’ll take my research and look at the strands of my own hair to determine my hair type. For the comparison, I’ve used the modified Andre Walker hair typing chart (below). I’ve also included photos of each hair type and video footage of my hair strands against the hair chart. Some of the photos are sourced from Naturally Curly and Kenny Olapade

Side Note:  The LOIS System for strand pattern is ideal, I think. Mainly because it doesn’t talk about diameter at all, just pattern. This allows for more diversity in each category. 

A VISUAL GUIDE THROUGH HAIR TYPES

what's the difference between type 4a 4b and 4c hair?

This is the Andre Walker hair typing system. Who is he and why do we know him? He was Oprah’s hair stylist for years on her show. He won many Emmys for his work and he became well known because of his expertise.  When looking at the chart, you’ll notice 3c or 4c hair types are not represented. The hierarchal structure of the chart and omission of hair types got him a lot of heat. Many people in the natural hair community were upset and felt excluded.

Andre Walker
Andre Walker and Oprah
hair typing system

When was hair type 3c & 4c introduced? It seems that Naturally Curly heard the outcry and created a modified chart that included the missing hair types. Now we have 3c and 4c naturals represented and this is the chart most often used today.

WHAT ARE THE HAIR TYPES?

type 1 straight hair

Hair type 1 is the easiest to spot. It’s bone straight naturally. Below are the remaining hair types.

Type 2 Wavy Hair
Type 3 Curly Hair
type 4 coily hair

The chart for type 4 coily hair above is flawed. All three of these models do appear to have type 4 hair, but they could all have the same strand pattern. Perhaps their hair strands are manipulated – we’ll never know. So I’ve decided to add some other photos below to help better see the distinction.

Michaela Coel 4a hair
4a hair type coils

Type 4a hair appears to have a pattern like this. Large visible springy coils. 

lupita nyongo 4b hair
fluffy 4b hair
wet 4b defined hair

This represents 4B hair. It doesn’t have a curl or a coil, so on the chart many draw a tight zig zagged line and refer to it as “kinky”. The model on the bottom left (@aarianjayy) has 4b zig zag strands with seemingly some 4a S strands, but the hair is loaded with product which can alter the shape of the pattern. The model on the bottom right appears to not have any product in her hair and the strands don’t have any curl or coil.

undefined 4c hair
defined 4c hair

4c strands are very tightly coiled. Like teenie corkscrew curls that are almost difficult to see with the naked eye, unless defined. 

4B VS 4C HAIR TYPES SIDE BY SIDE

4b and 4c hair strand types are probably the most misunderstood and misrepresented hair patterns on the Andre Walker hair typing chart. 

4b vs 4c hair

WHY THE CONFUSION?

Hair Type Chart

As the modified chart stands, when one is looking at the progression of the rest of the chart many assume that 4B must mean there IS a curl that is slightly smaller than 4a, yet larger and more defined than the 4c hair type. 

The chart moves from straight to wavy, curly, coily, kinky – then coily again. Very confusing. In the chart below I’ve swapped places with 4b and 4c so that you could see what the chart might look like had Andre added 4c himself. The coily strands are now together and kinky is on the end.

Hair Type Chart Reimagined
defined 4c hair vs undefined 4c hair picture

The most common mistake is determining strand pattern by texture. For example, 4c hair can be highly defined and rather silky in appearance like this gentleman @leemfrm38 (top left). It can also have a more cottony appearance while wet and dry (top right). 

Factors like environmental humidity, products used, personal health, pattern mix, porosity, density, shine, styling technique, and hair texture can all make the same strand pattern look completely different. I highly recommend you take a look at my video on the LOIS hair typing system to find out more about the variety of hair textures spongy, cottony, silky, thready, and wiry. 

4b hair no coil
4c hair

4b left. 4c right.

afro 4c vs 4b hair

The truth is that as much research as I’ve done, natural hair in its fluffed state can look very different. The photos chosen for 4B could very well be 4C hair fluffed out. I’d have no way of knowing unless I met the people photographed and was able to wet and examine their strands in person. 

natural hair fluffed vs defined
4c coil diameter measure

There also is no official charted diameter for the size of any of these coils to date, but here’s a cool video of someone measuring their own here.  I myself have at least three different coil sizes and identify as having mainly 4c hair. 

There’s probably no way that everyone on earth could fit into these categories as neatly as suggested, but this is a really great general guide to finding others with a similar stand pattern. 

MY HAIR TYPE

Based on my hair being soaking wet and the photos I chose for reference, I’d say my hair is mostly 4c. I have 4a along my hairline above my side burns and the nape of my neck and small traces of 4b throughout. 

I encourage you to watch my video breaking down 4c hair even further below. 

Damp 4c hair
4C hair strands

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If this was helpful for you, share it with your friends. Comment below and tell us, what your hair type is.

Also, check my Youtube natural hairstyles playlist for more tutorials. I’ve also got a youtube tab here on the navigation bar at the top of this page where you can see all of my videos that upload every thursday. Subscribe to my newsletter, so you don’t miss any of my content. See ya in your inbox soon!

Join the discussion 8 Comments

  • Vaneesha says:

    I am extremely disappointed that you’ve stated our hair is a Z shape. I am a qualified hairdresser and I can tell you that this is incorrect. Our hair is curly.
    Please stop using terms given to us by the white man – Coily and Z – is unacceptable. You would never hear them putting their hair down. They always put our hair down.
    I contacted several Hairdressing Teachers and they stated that your information is incorrect.
    This is another example of black people putting ourselves down. Just imagine they went from a, b and c to z. Disgusting!
    Commenting all the way from the UK.

    • LaToya Ebony says:

      The information I provided is based on a chart created by a black man. Coils and Z strands are not negative by any means. To me, this description is neutral and the way it is depicted is in the eyes of the beholder. My mother is a licensed cosmetologist and they never taught this in school. In fact, it wasn’t until recently that curriculums even began spending more than one module on type 4 hair. At the time of writing this I have 78 thousand subscribers and I have asked if any of them have Z shaped strands and a very small handful of them said they actual have this hair type. In fact, my own son has a patch of Z strands as well. Now, I’m only one person and I haven’t seen every head of hair, but I refuse to tell anyone that they are wrong about the hair that sits on their own head. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a person’s hair that self identifies as having coily or Z strands. So, Vaneesha, perhaps it is you that should take a moment to open up and adjust your perspective.
      Regards from the US.

    • I have mostly 4B hair and two areas of 4 C hair on the sides. I can tell you that there is a definite Z pattern in most of my hair and it contrasts very distinctly with my 4C hair. I used to call it whooshy because I could not understand how other natural hair both more and less kinky than mine could have a distinct pattern and mine did not. So happy to be rocking the Zs and there is no negative connotation at all. if you see it then it is your own bias showing. We must embrace all patterns and not negate any because they do not fit into our paradigms.

  • Fariyyah says:

    I’m still a bit confused on whether or not i have 4C hair. I have been thinking that my hair is 4C but now i am led to think otherwise due to lots of research but i am not sure.
    Kind regards from the U.K.

  • Vanessa says:

    I don’t know what to call my hair type the one thing that I know is that my hair do shrink a lot when it’s wet. Recently I lost a lot of my hair after I used a permanent hair dye. And I was so upset from this experience. From what I’m seeing maybe I’m a 4c and b

    • LaToya Ebony says:

      Thank you for chiming in. Most people have a mix of patterns, so I definitely believe you! 🙂

  • Audrey says:

    Just want to say this was such a thoroughly helpful post- thank you so much!
    -Love from nola.

    • LaToya Codner says:

      Audrey, that warms my heart to read your comment. It makes all the research and hard work worth it. Thank you!

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