Hair is an important part of our appearance — it reflects who we are. But while there are many different types of hair, each one comes with its own set of characteristics. There are even four basic categories in general (and they’re all named after letters): A, B, C, and D.
The first letter represents how thick your hair gets at the crown, from thin to thick. The second letter indicates whether your strands grow straight up out of the scalp or if they curl downwards. And finally, the last letter tells you whether your hair tends to lay flat against your head (like A) or stand upright on top of it (like B).
These letters represent only the most common types of hair. While there are other variations between types, such as 3a vs. 3b, these differences aren’t nearly as significant. That said, knowing what hair type you have will help you better understand your unique physical features and characteristics.
If you’ve never heard of this classification system before, don’t fret! You can easily find out what hair type you have by visiting a website called My Hair Type. All you need to do is enter your measurements for length, width, and thickness, and the site will tell you what category you fall into. If you’re curious about specific hair types, check out our guide here.
But if you want to brush up on your knowledge before reading further, let’s talk about a common hair misconception. Here are three myths about 4C hair that you may have been told:
1. This hair has a bad reputation
“I think the word ‘unruly’ is used too often when referring to 4C hair,” says hairstylist Nesreen Akhtar. “It is definitely a thicker, coarser, curlier version of 4A.” In fact, the name itself is derived from the Latin word “curlis” meaning curl.
As far as stereotypes go, this one is pretty accurate. People who have 4C hair tend to have long locks that look untamable. They also tend to wear their hair down because it looks messy and unkempt. Because of these negative connotations associated with 4C hair, women with this type of hair often feel self-conscious about wearing their natural tresses.
But the truth is, this hair isn’t inherently bad. Just as every person’s skin is different, so is every individual’s hair. What makes one woman’s hair appear unhealthy could actually be considered healthy by another person. Also, while it might seem like everyone with 4C hair should wear braids, this isn’t necessarily true either.
“You should absolutely embrace your 4C hair!” says Akhtar. “There is no reason why anyone should feel ashamed of having this hair type. I would encourage clients to try experimenting with new textures and styles.”
2. Hair can be dyed and processed just like any other color
This myth stems from the idea that 4C hair is naturally unmanageable, making it difficult to style. However, as mentioned earlier, this hair does take time to comb through and dry. So if you decide to use a blowout machine, curling iron, or straightening iron, don’t worry! As long as you maintain proper hygiene, you shouldn’t experience hair damage or breakage.
In addition, unlike some other hair types, 4C hair doesn’t require much maintenance. Since it’s naturally strong, you won’t need to shampoo it as frequently as someone with 3A hair.
“For those with 4C hair, styling products that contain silicone or wax can cause buildup and irritation,” says stylist Ashlyn Kooken. “Products that are oil based work best for them since they absorb product better.” Keep things simple with regular trims and wash-ins.
3. 4C hair is often curly or wavy
Although it may seem like 4C hair is prone to getting frizzy and tangled, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. In fact, this hair type actually requires less care and attention than others.
“Since 4C hair is naturally stronger, it is able to withstand heat better than other hair types,” says Kooken. “Heat protectants should always be applied [to this hair type].”
Additionally, because of the way 4C hair grows, it requires less moisture than other hair types. It contains more cuticle cells per strand, which means the outer layer of the strand is harder than the inner layers. When water evaporates from the outside of the hair shaft, it leaves behind dead cells on the inside, causing frizziness and tangles.
4. It’s hereditary
One thing that sets 4C apart from other hair types is that it’s typically passed down genetically. While some hair types can result from genetics alone, the vast majority cannot. For example, although your mom’s hair may have looked similar to yours, she probably got her hair from her parents. On the other hand, say you had dark brown hair until age 15, then grew your hair blonde. Your hair would still technically belong to the brown category.
However, 4C hair is known for being inherited more closely than other types. Some studies suggest that as much as 50 percent of the population carries the gene responsible for producing 4C hair. Of course, scientists have yet to pinpoint exactly what causes this particular hair pattern. Regardless, you’ll likely inherit it from your mother’s side of the family.