3A Hair Guide: How To Care for and Style This Hair Type 

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Having bouncy and gorgeous curls is a dream most girls have.

After all, curls just look so effortlessly chic and stylish, especially when they’re hanging all loose and pretty! 

Forget about twisting your hair into fancy chignons and braids.

Natural-looking curls are still a great go-to hairstyle for most individuals, even celebrities often use it on the red carpet.

a young woman with bouncy and gorgeous curls looking fab at the camera with the bright orange background

But did you know that not all curls are created equal?

Like other hair types, curly hair has different subcategories, and one of them is type 3a hair.

In this article, we’ll be taking a closer look at the 3a curly hair type. 

We’ll also be answering some of the most frequent questions about curly 3a hair, particularly about what it is, how styling 3a curly hair is done, and most importantly, how to keep your curls looking their best!

What Does 3A Hair Mean?

curl pattern chart infographic

Before looking into the 3a hair type, you might be wondering why hair types are characterized by both a number and a letter in the first place. 

Let us enlighten you!

The practice of differentiating between hair types was popularized in the ’90s by Andre Walker, who was Oprah’s hairstylist back then. 

According to the Andre Walker Hair Typing System, the four basic hair types are as follows:    

Type 1Straight
Type 2Wavy
Type 3Curly
Type 4Coily

The above table shows that type 3 hair type refers to curly hair. 

Eventually, these four hair types were further subcategorized into three classes: 3a, 3b, and 3c. 

The letters refer to the width of curls, with 3a having the widest diameter and 3c having the narrowest. 3b’s diameter is somewhere in the middle of the two. 

That means the 3a curly hair type is characterized by wide and loose curls. 

It is often referred to as “combination hair” since it may start wavy at the roots (which is more typical of type 2 hair) before turning into spiral curls (for which type 3 hair is known). 

What Makes 3A Hair Different?

So what sets type 3a hair apart from both type 3b and type 3c hair?

Tight, stiff curls characterize 3c hair. The diameter of these curls, being the narrowest of all the subtypes of type 3 hair, is no wider than a pencil.  

3b hair has corkscrew curls, each with a diameter as big as a marker. 

Compared to both 3b and 3c, 3a hair looks more like stretched spiral curls.

It is also made up of distinct and well-defined strands with an S-shaped curl pattern

Typically, the texture of type 3a hair is fine to medium as well, while both type 3b and 3c are more medium to coarse. 

Lastly, when wet, 3a hair may look like it has waves. 3b and 3c, meanwhile, may still retain their tight ringlets. 

Unsure whether or not your curls fall into the 3a category? Check your hair strands! 

If your hair appears a bit wavy at the roots but looks curly mid-shaft and toward the ends, chances are you might have 3a hair.

What Are Some Common Hair Issues Encountered by the 3A Hair Type?

Type 3a hair can look amazing on anyone, especially when they are maintained well. 

They can look shiny and well-defined at their best, giving you a chic and stylish look anywhere you go! 

Unfortunately, people with 3a hair are not exempt from experiencing challenges with their tresses. 

Like everyone else, they may still encounter some hair issues from time to time.

The most common problems associated with type 3a hair are flatness, frizziness, and dryness, which we’ll look more into below.  

Type 3A Hair May Become Flat

Since type 3a hair has either a fine or medium texture, it tends to be less voluminous than its 3b and 3c siblings. 

The result? Your curls may not appear as full as those of 3b or 3c hair. 

Worse, your 3a hair may even sport an unflatteringly flat, even lifeless appearance, especially as the day drags on!

This problem is especially evident when you tend to use a lot of heavy hair products like mousses or creams. 

They tend to add weight to your hair and push it downward, giving it a flat look instead of making it appear fluffy or full.

Type 3A Hair May Become Dry

Like most curly hair types, 3a hair is prone to dryness. 

Why? This is because type 3a hair typically has high porosity. This means it can absorb moisture quickly and lose it just as fast. 

Aside from its high porosity, the natural oils from the scalp have difficulty going down each strand due to the structure of the curls, which means the oils can’t coat each strand of 3a curly hair fully.

The result? You might notice that your scalp and hair roots feel greasy while the rest of your hair feels dry. 

Type 3A Hair Gets Frizzy

Because of the above characteristics, frizziness may be a common problem associated with this hair type as dryness and frizziness go hand in hand. 

Aside from dry hair, frizz can also be caused by several other factors, such as exposure to environmental elements like high humidity, which can make your hair cuticles swell instead of staying flat and smooth.

Damaged, dry, and broken hair cuticles can likewise lead to frizz and give your hair an unnatural lift as a result.

Now the problem is frizziness makes curly hair look messy and untamed because it has individual hair strands stand or curl independently from each other. 

Controlling your hair’s frizziness may be an issue, especially if the cause is out of your direct control.

Given this, you may need to use certain 3a curly hair products to help manage your hair’s frizz.   

a woman with 3a hair about to apply hair products

Tips for How To Take Care of 3A Hair at Home

Despite these common issues, having type 3a hair is not all doom and gloom! 

Actually, if you adopt a great 3a hair care routine, you’ll be able to give your hair the attention and care it deserves — enough to make it look its best every day!

So if you’re wondering how best to manage your curly hair, we have some helpful suggestions:

1. Use Products for the 3A Hair Type 

Just as not all hair types are created equal, some hair products work best on the hair they’re designed for! 

As such, looking for the best products for 3a hair to use is always a good idea.

  • Shampoos for 3a hair: Since dryness is already a common issue for curly hair, it’s a good idea to avoid ingredients that can strip your hair of its precious moisture. 

    When buying shampoo for 3a hair, it’s best to steer clear of shampoos with sulfates, which cleanse the hair effectively but also dry it out. 

    So the best shampoos for 3a hair are sulfate-free shampoos! You can use them once a week to give your hair a nice cleanse. 

    Additionally, clarifying shampoos are also good to use on your hair to get rid of excess grease and buildup. Just don’t use them too often, as they might contribute to your hair’s dryness. Using them once a month is enough.
  • Styling products for 3a hair: Fond of using creams or gels on your curls to add more definition or tame your frizz?

    It’s a good idea to look for non-sticky, non-greasy formulas, especially if you want to avoid getting flat hair later in the day.

    When it comes to curly hair, lightweight products are always best to keep it full and voluminous throughout the day.

2. Use Conditioner On Your 3A Hair  

Keeping your hair well-hydrated is extremely vital to combat frizz and dryness, and that’s where conditioners come in. 

You can use different conditioners to make sure your 3a hair is properly moisturized:

  • Regular conditioner — You can use this on a daily basis to add hydration to your hair. 

    One of our favorite conditioners is the SheaMoisture Curl and Shine Conditioner, which is designed to smooth out your hair and make it more manageable. 

    You can also get it in a set with the SheaMoisture Curl and Shine Shampoo to get the best shampoo and conditioner for 3a hair! 

    The products in this set are designed to deeply cleanse your hair while smoothing it out and making it more manageable. 
  • Leave-in conditioner — As the name suggests, you don’t wash leave-in conditioner out of your hair after applying it. Instead, you let it sit in your hair to allow it to tame any frizziness and lock in moisture into your curls.
  • Deep conditioner — Depending on how much dryness and frizziness you encounter, you may need to do this once or twice a week. 

    Also, it’s always best to look for those geared toward fine or medium hair. 

    Using conditioners meant for coarser strands may leave your 3a hair feeling greasy instead of moisturized — and we don’t want that!

3. Limit Washing Your Hair

If you think shampooing your hair daily is the best way to keep it healthy, you better think again.

Shampooing your hair frequently may worsen your hair’s dryness, as washing can strip away moisture from your hair. 

Thus, it’s best to limit washing your hair to once a week.

However, to prevent your hair from becoming too greasy, then co-washing is useful!

Co-washing is when you use conditioner instead of shampoo to wash your hair.

Doing this allows you to keep your hair clean while enjoying the added benefit of allowing the conditioner to hydrate your hair simultaneously.   

4. Love Your 3A Hair

Aside from the major suggestions above, you may also consider the following tips:

  • Use a detangling brush to work through knotted hair. Always be gentle when doing so! 
  • Try to avoid applying heat to your hair, as this can damage it. If it can’t be avoided, apply a heat protectant to your locks beforehand and use a lower heat setting.

    This will help shield your hair against heat damage when you use your styling tools.
  • Avoid sun exposure as much as possible to keep your hair from becoming weak and brittle due to UV damage.
  • Use silk or satin pillowcases when you sleep to minimize the friction between your pillowcase and your hair, which can cause frizz and hair breakage.  

What Are Examples of Gorgeous 3A Hairstyles?

Type 3a hair is the most versatile of curly hair types because you can do a lot with it! 

With its wide and loose curls, you can easily style your 3a hair however you want. 

You can straighten it occasionally with a flat iron for a sleek, shiny look or use foam hair rollers to achieve smaller, tighter ringlets. 

Or just let your natural hair hang loose and carefree, making styling your hair take way less of your time!      

Of course, using various hair accessories like hair clips can make your curly hair look even more gorgeous. 

But if you’re still not sure how to style your 3a hair, we have some ideas below!

Long Hairstyles

  • Buns and ponytails — Tie your hair into a high bun with your curls piled on top of your head, or do a low, curly ponytail for a low-maintenance yet chic look. 
  • Loose braids — You can also do a loose braid with bold-colored pins and clips to hold your hair in place. 
  • Updo with a claw clip — Pressed for time but still want to make your curls look fashionably messy? Use a claw clip to gather your curls into a quick updo!    

Short Haircuts

Thinking of cutting your 3a curly hair short? Fortunately, you can still pull off a lot of great looks while getting a curly haircut for type 3a hair! 

  • High top — Try the high top, which gives your hair a naturally edgy look with its faded sides while allowing your curls to hang loosely up top. 
  • Short bob — A short bob will also look great on 3a curls, giving them height and body. 
  • Asymmetrical short haircuts — For a fun look, you can experiment with an asymmetrical bob or asymmetrical pixie cut, with one side of the hair cut shorter than the other. 

In short? The possibilities for styling your 3a curly hair to look fabulous are almost endless!

a young hispanic woman with 3a hair wearing casual orange longsleeve shirt

Frequently Asked Questions

How Rare Is 3A Curly Hair?

Type 3a is actually a fairly common curl type. Type 3c hair is considered rarer than 3a hair. 

How Do You Sleep With Type 3A Hair?

Protecting your curly hair at night is important, especially if you don’t want them to look flat and lifeless in the morning! 

One method you can try is putting half your hair up on top of your head using a satin scrunchie and then using a satin bonnet to cover all your hair before you go to sleep. 

This technique will ensure that you won’t flatten your curls overnight while also giving you the necessary fullness and volume the next day!

Gorgeous 3A Hair for a Gorgeous You

Showing off your cute curly locks is easy, especially if you always keep your 3a hair healthy and hydrated!

The most crucial steps involve knowing if you have 3a hair and being aware of the common issues associated with this hair type. 

Afterward, you can work on creating a specific 3a hair routine that addresses flatness, frizziness, and dryness to ensure that your curls are well taken care of!

Plus, trying awesome hairstyles that show off your perfect 3a curls will allow you to strut confidently!

As they say, if you’ve got it, flaunt it, so feel free to do the same with your 3a hair!

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Authors

  • Ashley Pena

    Ashley Pena brings over 13 years of seasoned writing and editing expertise, fortified by her Bachelor of Science in Management. Esteemed in the beauty domain, her content captivates readers with its depth and authenticity. While she navigates a broad spectrum of beauty trends, Ashley shines particularly as our resident K-beauty guru. Her articles are a harmonious blend of passion and profound knowledge, inspiring readers on their unique beauty journeys.

  • Jessica Hoelscher

    With thirteen years in cosmetology, Jessica Hoelscher is a seasoned stylist recognized for her modern techniques. A graduate of Paul Mitchell the School in St. Louis, her expertise has been showcased on Fox Two News and in People Magazine. Self-employed at Salon Lofts, her work has graced TV screens, styling for renowned events and Ole Miss cheerleaders.

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