Haircare enthusiasts are familiar with the concept that there are different hair types, and each hair type requires its own style of care.
If you’ve been in the beauty or hair space for a while, you know that there are four main types of hair patterns, starting with the straightest hair as type 1 to the curliest hair as type 4.
Many people associate type 4 hair with people of African descent because that group of people tends to have kinky curls more often.
But if you’re here, you probably want to know – can white people have type 4 hair? Yes, it turns out that they can. The type 4 curl pattern is not exclusive to any specific race; people of any race, including Caucasians, can have this type of hair.
So although this curl pattern is most common among black people, white people (and other races) can have it, too. In this post, we will go over what type 4 hair is, what races can be born with it, and how to tell if you have type 4 hair.
Different Hair Types
There are four main hair types with three subtypes under each type, resulting in a total of 12 distinct hair types.
It’s important to note that people of any race can have any of these hair types, although certain hair types are more common among certain phenotypes of people due to genetic influences.
Type 1 hair is straight. There are 3 subtypes in this category:
- 1a – pin straight
- 1b – straight hair with slight bends in certain areas
- 1c – straight hair with more bend and volume
Type 1 hair exists in a wide range of populations, ethnicities, and races. In fact, type 1b hair is the most popular type of hair in the world.
Many people of Asian and European descent often have type 1 hair, but it’s also common among other races, depending on each person’s specific genetics.
Type 2 hair is wavy. There are 3 subtypes in this category:
- 2a – “barely there” waves
- 2b – loose waves
- 2c – thick and well-defined waves
This type of hair is found in all races. There are people of all backgrounds and ethnicities that can be born with wavy hair. It’s especially common among Caucasian and Hispanic people, but it’s certainly not limited to them.
Type 3 hair is curly. Curly hair is usually defined as locks of hair that follow a spiral pattern. There are 3 subtypes in this category:
- 3a – loose curls
- 3b – medium curls
- 3c – tight curls
Type 3 hair is fairly common among different ethnicities, although it is considered more rare than straight or wavy hair.
As you already know, type 4 hair is kinky and coily. It has tight spiral-shaped curls that have a springy quality. There are 3 subtypes in this category:
- 4a – tight springy coils that are full of movement
- 4b – tight coils that take on a z-pattern
- 4c – tightest, kinkiest coils
This type of hair is often associated with people of African descent, however, it is possible for people of other races to have type 4 hair, albeit not as common.
How To Tell If You Have Type 4 Hair
If you’re not sure what type of hair you have, there are a few things you can do to figure it out. Firstly, you can read the descriptions above and probably figure out what general category your hair falls into – whether it’s straight or curly.
Once you figure that out, it’s time to get more specific. Knowing the type of hair that you have can help you take better care of it. It can also help you figure out how you can style it to best highlight its natural beauty.
Look At Your Hair In Its Natural State
To begin figuring out your hair type, it’s best to look at it when it’s in its most natural state, meaning you haven’t done any styling on it.
So find a time when you can wash your hair and allow it to air dry. Don’t put any product in it, don’t brush it, and don’t use any hot tools on it.
If your hair naturally dries to have curls or coils, your hair is likely type 3 or type 4.
Look At The Coil Size
To figure out if your hair is type 3 or 4, we recommend looking at the size and shape of the coils. Sometimes it can be hard to distinguish between type 3c and type 4a, but looking at the coil size can help.
If the circumference of your coils is about the size of a knitting needle or smaller – you likely have type 4 hair. If the shape of your coils is more angular and zig-zag, then you likely have type 4 hair.
Look At The Shape Of Each Strand
If you were to look at the shape of each strand of hair, it could help you further define your hair type.
Straight hair, like type 1, has a round hair shaft. If you were to slice your hair horizontally, it would look like a perfect circle. Wavy hair usually has more of an oval shape. Curly type 3s usually have a thinner, flatter oval shape. Type 4 hair is typically flat.
If you notice that your hair is coily and predominantly flat-shaped, you likely have type 4 hair.
What Causes Type 4 Hair?
Hair texture appears to be predominantly genetic, so you can thank your ancestors for your beautiful curls. There is still a lot of debate on the causes of different hair textures, but the general consensus is that different geographical and environmental adaptations have played a role.
If you’re surprised to have type 4 hair because it’s not common among other people of your race, you should remember that race is a made-up construct. In the past, there have been hundreds of thousands of years of genetic mixing of all different ethnicities and phenotypes.
So even if your skin is white, you can still have the gene for type 4 hair, and vice versa.
In addition to genetics, several factors can affect the thickness and structure of the hair. A person’s hair might change in appearance due to hormones, some drugs, and chemicals like relaxers and perms.
Both temporary and permanent adjustments may be made. Age-related changes in hair thickness and texture are rare, but also possible.
Can Your Hair Type Change?
Your hair type can change throughout your life intentionally and unintentionally. Unintentional hair changes happen without you actively doing anything to change the texture of your hair. These include instances of:
- Thyroid issues
- Certain medications
- Normal hormonal changes like puberty, pregnancy, and menopause
- Insulin resistance
Texture changes caused by medical issues and hormonal changes are usually long-lasting if not permanent. Unfortunately, there is little we can do to control and prevent these changes, other than maintaining good health. Even then, normal hormonal changes will still happen and can change the texture of our hair.
Additionally, if you wanted to change your hair texture on purpose you could do so with the help of:
- Hair perms or relaxers
- Heat styling
- Keratin treatments
Most of the above methods are temporary and your natural texture will return after the effects of the treatments fade away.
With things like heat styling, your texture goes back to normal the next time you wash your hair. With perms or relaxers, you’ll get a change in texture that lasts much longer. Most perms and relaxers can last up to 8 weeks before new growth, with your natural texture, starts to appear.
Keep in mind that perms and hot tools can also be damaging to your hair, so if you want your hair to look its best, it would be a good idea to minimize such treatments.
Caring For Type 4 Hair
Caring for and styling type 4 hair can be tricky, especially if you don’t know what it needs. Type 4 hair tends to be dry. The oils from your scalp have a harder time “sliding down” your hair shaft to moisturize your locks than they would on straight hair.
So, one of the most important things you can do if you have type 4 hair is to moisturize it. Unlike other hair types, you can get away with rich and heavy moisturizers, in fact, it’s encouraged!
Here are some things you can do:
- Don’t wash your hair more than once per week (less if possible)
- Use a buttery conditioner in the shower and run a wide tooth comb through your hair while conditioning to gently detangle
- Use a rich leave-in conditioner after every wash (we love this one from DevaCurl)
- Use oils throughout the week to rehydrate and smooth out your curls
- Deep condition every 1-2 weeks using a product with argan oil or shea butter
- Wrap your hair in a silk wrap while sleeping or sleep on a silk pillowcase
- Keep hot tools to a minimum as they dry out your hair even more