3C Hair Guide: All the Essential Facts + Hair Care and Styling Tips

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Did you know that there are different types of curls out there? 

When you say “curls,” they don’t just refer to the very tight ringlets that we can see on dolls in stores or even on actresses on television. 

It may actually refer to the loose, big curls that some people wear or the tight coils that others rock gorgeously — even on the red carpet!

a woman with 3c hair wearing green top

In this article, however, we’ll be taking a closer look at a particular type of curly hair called 3c hair. 

We will be looking at what exactly 3c curly hair is, sharing some tips for caring for 3c hair, and giving you some suggestions for hairstyles for type 3 hair, among other useful information. 

Not all curls are created equal.

So if you’ve got 3c hair with beautiful curls, then we’ll help you get the best out of this curly hair type!  

What Is the Hair Typing System?

Before delving deeper into 3c hair, let’s first look at why both a number and a letter are used to refer to hair types. You might even wonder why it is referred to as 3c in the first place!

Well, simply put, all types of hair have different curl patterns.

And in the ’90s, Andre Walker, Oprah Winfrey’s former hairstylist, came up with a system called the Andre Walker Typing System that differentiates between these hair types.

This system identifies four basic hair types, which are as follows:

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

So, from the table above, we see that type 3 hair refers to curly hair.

Eventually, this system further evolved into the hair types having three subtypes each: A, B, and C. 

These letters refer to the width of curls, with A having the widest diameter, C with the narrowest, and B’s diameter somewhere between the two subclasses.    

curl pattern chart infographic

What Is 3C Hair? 

Natural 3c hair refers to curly tresses with the narrowest diameter of curls. 

This hair type is densely packed with tight, stiff, corkscrew ringlets. Each curl has a definite curl pattern that holds an S shape even if it’s stretched out!

Picture the curls worn by actress Nathalie Emmanuel in “Game of Thrones,” and you’ve got the right idea! 

Additionally, a head full of 3c hair also looks thick with a ton of body and volume because the curls tend to grow upward and outward instead of downward. 

So even if your individual hair strands are on the thin side, you’ll find that your hair still looks naturally full and bold overall. 

What Makes 3C Hair Different From Other Subtypes of Type 3 Hair?

So what makes type 3c hair different from type 3a and type 3b?

3A hair looks more like stretched spiral curls with defined, distinct strands with an S-shaped pattern. Its diameter is comparable to that of sidewalk chalk.

As the middle type, 3b hair may look like corkscrew curls, but its diameter is as big as a marker’s. Its ringlets are also springy and well-defined but looser compared to 3c.

When it comes to the curly hair type, however, 3c hair easily takes the crown for being the curliest of them all. It still has S-shaped curls, but these are much tighter with a corkscrew pattern. 

The curls of 3c hair also have a diameter comparable to a pen’s. 

Unsure of where you fall among these hair types? You can do a simple exercise. Grab a marker, sidewalk chalk, and a pen. 

Taking one of your curls, try to wrap it loosely around each object. Whichever item fits your curl best identifies which curl type you have!

What Are Common Issues Those With 3C Hair May Experience?

Those with long natural 3c hair may consider themselves lucky, as this hair type looks effortlessly glorious, bold, and full, especially if they are maintained well. 

Given their natural volume and stiff ringlet structure, you may never encounter any issues with flatness or even curl definition!

However, just like other hair types, those with either short 3c hair or long 3c hair are not exempt from experiencing other challenges from time to time.

The most common problems associated with this hair type are dryness, frizziness, and breakage, which we will tackle in detail below. 

Type 3C Hair May Become Dry 

The most common problem with curly hair is dryness — and 3c hair is no exception. 

That’s because the natural oils coming from the scalp cannot pass down the strands easily, given the curly shape of the hair, which leads to the oils not getting distributed evenly throughout the hair shaft. 

This problem usually results in having dry 3c hair while the scalp feels very greasy, which can be an annoying problem to deal with! 

Type 3C Hair May Become Frizzy

Unfortunately, frizziness is not far behind when there’s dryness, as every girl with a curly mane knows very well. 

That’s mainly due to the fact that frizz in your hair is an indication that it doesn’t have a lot of moisture.

When your strands are dehydrated, they will lift to seek out moisture from the surrounding environment, creating a frizzy look. 

This results in your appearance taking a hit, as instead of looking bold and glamorous, you just look messy! 

Of course, dry hair isn’t just the only negative factor impacting your tresses. 

Sometimes, even your environment affects just how frizzy your hair becomes. For instance, humidity can make your hair absorb a lot of moisture from the air and swell as a result. 

So if you’re in a place with high humidity, you can expect a frizz fest regularly unless you use the best products for 3c hair out there to combat this specific issue.

Type 3C Hair May Be Prone to Breakage

Another factor we must look at is the issue of porosity or the amount of moisture your hair is capable of absorbing. 

Among the three subtypes of type 3 hair, 3c hair has the lowest porosity, meaning it won’t absorb moisture all that well. 

Without a proper 3c natural hair regimen to solve this issue, you may end up not just with dry curls but brittle ones too! 

This is because dryness weakens the hair. 

And if your hair is too brittle, chances are it’s also prone to breakage.

This happens when your hair strands snap in the middle or toward the end, sometimes giving it tree-like split ends. 

Broken, damaged hair also looks lifeless and feels rough when touched; it can get caught in your comb after you’ve brushed or detangled your hair.

What Are Some Useful Tips for Maintaining 3C Hair?

With all these problems, you may be wondering about the optimal way to ensure you’ll enjoy healthy 3c hair growth. 

After all, you’ll want to enjoy rocking your gorgeous tresses instead of stressing out!

a beautiful young woman's portrait wearing elegant clothing with her 3c hair

Below are some 3c hair tips that may help you take better care of your curls: 

1. Hydrate Your Hair Properly

Straight off the bat, the common factor tying dryness, frizziness, and breakage together is hydration. 

After all, if there’s too little moisture in your hair, then there’s a high chance that you’re dealing with one of these problems — or even all of them if you’re unlucky!

As such, if you’re looking for ways to do 3c natural hair care, you may want to focus on keeping your curls well-moisturized as much as possible. 

Here are a few ways to do this:

  • Use sulfate-free shampoo.

    Preventing dryness involves choosing hair products, especially shampoos, that are sulfate-free.

    Sulfate-free shampoos won’t strip your hair of natural oils that hydrate it even as it cleans your scalp of dirt, grease, and buildup, which is great as you want to keep moisture in your hair shaft as much as possible! 

    A good sulfate-free shampoo you can try is the Maui Moisture Nourish & Moisture Coconut Milk Shampoo, which deeply but gently cleanses your curls and hydrates them without leaving buildup
  • Avoid overwashing.

    And on the subject of shampoos, a good rule of thumb for type 3c hair is not to overwash it. 

    This means limiting shampooing your hair to just once a week (in fact, you can go even longer than that).

    This way, you can keep the natural oils in your hair strands instead of washing them down the drain, which may happen if you use shampoo too often.  
  • Condition your hair.

    Aside from using sulfate-free shampoos, you may also want to condition your curls every day and deep-condition them once a week. 

    This is a surefire way you’ll get to add moisture to your hair strands and give the hydration levels in your tresses a much-needed boost.  

    You may also want to use a leave-in conditioner (a curl refresher) to keep your curls moisturized all day. 

    A fantastic choice for this is the KeraCare CurlEssence Moisturizing Leave-In Conditioner, which is one of the best moisturizers for 3c hair.

2. Use Lightweight Products

Additionally, those with 3c hair must deal with their hair’s low porosity. 

This means using heavy styling products may only lead to them just sitting on your hair and weighing it down instead of getting absorbed by the strands properly. 

Given this, it’s better to look for those that are more lightweight but still capable of hydrating and styling your hair well.

Want to maintain your curls’ shape and bounce?

You might also look into using styling creams, such as the Cake Beauty Curl Friend Defining Curl Cream, that can define and moisturize your hair.  

3. Be Gentle With Your Hair

Of course, even using the best hair products for the 3c hair type may not work if you’re being too harsh on your curls!

Here are a few ways to be gentle with your hair:

  • Detangle it carefully. Given that 3c hair is more sensitive and prone to breakage than the other curly hair types, it’s best to handle it with a lot of care and attention, especially when it comes to detangling! 

    As much as possible, try to detangle when your hair is wet, and use a wide-toothed comb when doing so. This practice may help guard your curls against breakage. 
  • Cut out stubborn knots. If you’ve developed a knot in your hair wherein the curls are wrapped around each other, you may choose to cut it out instead of picking at it, as doing the latter may further damage your hair.
  • Use gentle techniques and cotton cloths to dry your hair. To reduce the chances of developing frizz, use a shirt, a cotton cloth, or a microfiber towel instead of a regular towel to dry your hair after a bath or a shower.

    Also, gently squeeze the water from your hair instead of rubbing it vigorously against the cloth.
  • Use satin or silk materials. Nighttime routines are also important! To help further minimize frizz and prevent breakage, use satin or silk pillowcases on your bed. 

    These prevent excess friction that can cause frizz. They also don’t absorb natural oils from your hair, unlike cotton pillowcases. 

    You can also use satin or silk scrunchies when you tie your hair. Every bit of effort helps!

How Do You Style 3C Hair?

Now that we’ve covered what the 3c hair type is and how to care for it, we’ll look at the fun part: styling 3c hair. Here are some suggestions for rocking this awesome curly hair type!

1. Pineapple Bun

This hairstyle isn’t just for sleeping in.

On 3c hair, the pineapple bun looks like a sophisticated hairdo. And it’s pretty simple to do!

You just need to pull your curls up, pile them on top of your head, secure them with a scarf or bandana, then let the edges fall to frame your face — and that’s it! 

2. Hair Claw

For a quick, effortless style, you can just twist your curls at the back of your head into a loose knot, which you can then secure with your favorite hair claw. 

You can also loosen up a few curls to frame your forehead and cheeks for a softer look!

3. Pigtails

How about wearing your curls in pigtails for a fun and quirky look?

Just part your hair in the middle to divide it into two sections, then tie each section into pigtails with a scrunchie. 

This hairstyle will look amazing if you have long, curly hair that you can just show off this way! 

4. Mini Buns

Do you have short 3c hair that you want to wear pulled away from your face?

Then try tying smaller sections of them into mini buns that sit on top of your head. 

5. Short Bob

Who says curly hair has to be worn long?

For a more dramatic change, your hair will also look great if you cut it into a cute short bob that’s as effortless as it is chic!

6. Hair Clips

Take out your hair clips and use them on your 3c hair!

Not only will it keep hair away from your face, but it will also allow the rest of your hair to hang loose and carefree.

7. Headbands

Another effortless hairstyle, all you need to do is to wear a headband and let your curls take the spotlight!

8. Au Naturale 

Need to be in the mood to use accessories? No problem!

Just wear your natural curls as is and show the world how to rock healthy 3c curls easily! 

a woman wearing stripes with 3c hair is smiling at the camera outside of a store

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do You Manage 3c Hair?

Keeping your hair hydrated and moisturized is the key to managing 3c hair through sulfate-free shampoo, conditioners, and other products made specifically for 3c hair. 

Using moisturizers for 3c hair will also help keep your tresses looking fuller and healthier. 

When Should I Cut My 3C Hair?

How do you know if it’s time for a trim? Lookout for telltale signs such as split ends or if your curls are getting knotted at the ends. 

Instead of cutting each knot individually, you may consider shortening your hair length to deal with the problem. 

How Often Should I Detangle 3C Hair?

You may need to detangle when you clean or condition your hair.

But as this process may take time, you may also aim to detangle the knots at least once a week.

3C Hair: Celebrate the Beauty of Your Curly Hair 

Not all curly hair is the same! They’re classified from A to C depending on the diameter of your curls, and if you’ve got the smallest diameter, then you’ve got 3c hair.

Knowing the type of curly hair you have will enable you to learn exactly how to take proper care of your hair and find hairstyles you can rock to show off your gorgeous curls. 

So if you’ve got 3c hair, don’t be afraid to flaunt it! 

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  • 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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