3c Hair: What Is It? How To Take Care Of It? How To Style It?

Written by Arshiya Syeda

Growing up with curly hair is annoying at best and an absolute nightmare at worst, depending on how curly your hair actually is. As a curly haired person myself, I know the struggle all too well and have dedicated my life to finding the best way to style and care for it (as opposed to dedicating my life to something that actually matters, like educating underprivileged kids or saving the bees. But eh, we’re all raging our private wars.). And the first thing that I have come to realize is that it is imperative that you find out what curl type you are. But, before we jump the gun, let’s look at how many hair types there actually are, as devised by celebrity stylist Andre Walker:

Type 1– Straight hair

Type 2– Wavy hair

Type 3– Curly hair

Type 4– Coily hair

Now, each hair type is further classified into subcategories. For purposes of this article, we’re just going to focus on subtypes of type 3 curly hair as divided by NaturallyCurly.com. Type 3 curls are divided into subtypes A, B, and C, based on the size and pattern of the curls.

3a Curls: Type 3a curls are loose curls that follow an S-shaped pattern. These curls are usually well-defined and are as wide as a thick piece of sidewalk chalk. The one problem that people with 3a curls usually face is that it frizzes up and loses definition quite easily. Actress Annalynne McCord is the best example of this type of curls.


3b Curls: 3b curls are more tightly wound than 3a curls, and are about as wide as a marker. Though they are more voluminous, they lack shine and are much coarser and denser than the previous curl type.


3c Curls: The tightest of type 3 curls, 3c curls can wrap snugly around a pencil and are densely packed together on your head, which gives them more volume. What sets these curls apart is that they are fine textured. This was the reason why the 3c curl category was defined much later when fine textured tight curls couldn’t be put in 3b or 4A categories.


How To Find Out What Type Of Curls You Have

The best way that you can find out what type of curls you have is by letting them air dry without putting products in it. So, once you step out of your shower after washing and conditioning it, resist the temptation to apply any gel, mousse, curl defining cream, roller, perm rods or whatever your post-shower hair routine involves. Just let it air-dry completely. You can them wrap one of your curls around a sidewalk chalk (3a), marker (3b), and pencil (3c) individually. Whichever item your curl fits the most snugly around is your curl type. The most important thing to keep in mind here is that your hair could also be a combination of these types and not fall into one category perfectly.

3c is that magical type of curl that stays intact and defined even 4 days after washing. However, it is also more prone to dryness than 3a and 3b curls as the sebum from the scalp doesn’t get to travel down to the very ends due to the obstruction caused by the ringlets. This is why you need to dole out your TLC (Tender Loving Care) in high amounts when taking care of it. Just keep reading to find out how…

How To Take Care Of Your 3c Hair?

Your primary focus when taking care of your 3c curls and chalking out a hair care regime is to moisturize it to the core. Once you have that down pat, your curls will fall into place perfectly, quite literally! So, here are a few essential things you need to keep in mind:

  • Moisturize: We’ve already established that 3c curls have a tendency to dry out and look parched if not taken care of well. So, shampoos and conditioners designed specifically to hydrate and moisturize need to be a part of your haircare arsenal. You could also go in for a deep conditioning treatment once a week to add that extra boost of hydration.
  • Step Away From That Straightening Iron: Here’s the thing, babygirl. You have gorgeous curls that make you stand out. So, reach for your straightening iron only once in every few months so as to not damage the health or the curl pattern of your 3c hair. And prep your hair with a heat protectant serum or spray when you do decide to use a straightening iron or a curling wand on it.
  • Stretch It Out!: It can be frustrating to try growing out your hair and not seeing any difference in length even after months. That doesn’t mean that your hair is not growing! It’s just that your hair keeps curling up as it grows, thus not adding to its length. To stretch out your hair, you could put them up in perming rods overnight. This way you can avoid using any heat on it and still end up with longer and more defined curls.
  • Silk Pillowcases FTW: Cotton may be a great material to wear on your body, but it wreaks havoc on your skin and hair due to the friction caused by it. Not only will it cause your hair to dry out, but it will also make it break more readily. So, invest in a soft silk pillowcase that will be gentle on your skin and your 3c curls.
  • Pineappling: When you have 3c curls (or any type of curls, really), it can be difficult to maintain definition in your curls beyond a couple of days after showering. To maintain your style for 3-4 days, you could try out the pineappling method. Just bend your head forward and tie your hair into a ponytail/ loop bun right at the top of your head. Then, tie a satin scarf or bonnet around it before going to sleep. In the morning, just let your hair down and fluff it up with a little bit of oil to infuse new life into your curls. (You can check out this video tutorial to master the art of The Pineapple.)
  • Lock Down On The LOC Method: LOC stands for the Liquid-Oil-Cream method that is aimed at providing maximum moisturization to your hair. These three elixirs work together brilliantly to add moisture, bounce, definition and shine to your 3c curls. The liquid refers to water that you wash your hair with (obvi-duh). But, you can also use water to moisturize your curls by spritzing it on your hair on the days that you don’t wash it. As for the oil component of this method, you can choose from a wide variety of natural oils like jojoba, almond, argan, coconut, olive, etc. You will have to engage in a bit of trial-and-error here to figure out which oil adds the most nutrients and shine to your curls. Lastly, find and invest in a good curl defining cream that makes your 3c curls look and bounce like a million bucks without weighing them down too much.
  • Embrace Natural Shampoos: Try to avoid going for shampoos that have sulfate in it as it dries out your hair like no tomorrow. Go for natural shampoos as much as possible.

Though all of these are some essential tips for taking care of your 3c hair, you will still need to mess around with your products and haircare regime to lock in on what works best for you. Once you do that, you can experiment with your hairstyles a bit more and really embrace your curls! Here are a few of my favorite hairstyles for 3c curls…

[ Read: 14 Basic Curly Hair Care Tips ]

5 Stunning Hairstyles For 3c Curly Hair

1. Wash And Go

The best thing about 3c curls is that once you’ve successfully locked down on a hair care regime, you can simply wash your hair, let it dry, and be good to go! But to show them off in all their glory, you could go in with a dollop of curl defining cream and fluff out your curls with a hair pick to give them some more gorgeous definition.

2. Colorful Headband

To add a pop of fun color to your 3c hair, you can sleek it back with a cute colorful headband that goes with your outfit. You can sleek back the front section of your hair with some gel and a fine toothed comb before putting your headband on to go for a cleaner hair look.

3. Braided Top Knot

If you’ve been in love with ballerina top knots since childhood and thought you couldn’t sport one because you have curly hair, here is a hairstyle that you will fall in love with. Part your hair down the middle and tie two parallel French braids at the top of your head. Then, slick back the rest of your hair with some gel and tie your curls up in a super high top knot to complete this look.

4. Kitty Ear Buns

When it comes to 3c hair, this hairstyle is as trendy and chic as it gets. Tie up half your hair into 2 buns on either side of your head and accessorize them with gold accent beads to create this uber stylish hair look. Sport this style on a night out clubbing and no one will be able to keep their eyes off you.

[ Read: 25 Best Products For Curly Haired Women ]

5. Headbanded Bun

Be it a casual day out or a chill day staying in, here’s a hairstyle that is perfect for all your moods. Tie your hair curls up in a messy bun right on top of your head and style it with a bright cloth headband to add some oomph to the look.

Finding out your curl type and designing the perfect haircare routine for it may seem like a long process. But, once you have it down pat, a world of styling opportunities open up for you. I hope I’ve managed to clear up at least some of your questions about 3c curls. If you have any more doubts or tips on what worked for your 3c curls, make sure you comment below!

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Arshiya Syeda is an editor and certified counselor. Ever the lover of the written word, she served on the editorial boards of her school and college newsletters. Writing articles on hairstyles, hair care, and nutrition helped her combine her love for reading, writing, and research. As an editor, she helps her team members deliver polished and meticulously researched content. Arshiya is fluent in English, Urdu, and Hindi and aims to become a multilinguist by learning German and teaching herself American Sign Language (ASL).