If your curly hair is dry, frizzy, or prone to breakage, the root of the problem may be your haircare routine.
With 3A hair, it’s important you understand your curly hair type and how to care for its natural state.
This guide will tell you everything you need to know about 3A hair. You’ll learn how to identify, care for, and style your 3A curls like a pro with these tips and curly hair products.
What is Type 3A Hair?
Curls are classified by the size of the spirals. The “3s” describe the different types of curls (while the 2s refer to wavy hair, 4s have a tighter coil curl pattern, and 1s are in the category for straight hair).
3A hair is the loosest type of curly hair with a diameter equal to a piece of chalk. You can hold a piece of chalk up to your curls for a quick size comparison.
What Does 3A Hair Look Like?
Of the different curly hair types, 3A is the loosest. With proper care, your 3A curls will still stand out as distinctly curly. You can identify 3A curly hair by several characteristics, including:
- Fine to medium hair texture
- Well-defined, distinct loose spiral curls
- Full body and plenty of movement
Another way to identify 3A curls is to get your hair wet. When your hair is wet, the curls won’t be as defined. Instead, they’ll appear wavy. Then, as your hair dries, it will take on the loose corkscrew curl shape you know and love.
Do I Have 2C or 3A Hair?
If you’re looking in a mirror and wondering if you have 2C or 3A hair, take a closer look at the difference between the two:
- 3A hair – Those 3a curls start at the scalp and continue their spirals to the ends of your hair. These spirals give your hair major volume. Some 3A hair tends to be a little frizzy when not properly moisturized.
- 2C hair – 2c hair is the waviest level of type 2 hair. Instead of the corkscrew curls of 3A curly type, 2c hair has looser waves. These waves get tighter closer to the end of the hair. The hair nearest your scalp isn’t tightly waved. 2c hair might be any texture between fine and coarse.
If your hair has defined, corkscrew curls, then it’s 3A type. If your hair has looser waves, then it’s type 2.
Common Hair Concerns for 3A Hair
3A curls are beautiful but can be the bounciest and healthiest when hydrated and nourished. However, even the most pampered hair can face a lack of moisture. Some people with 3A curls may find that their hair is prone to the following:
- Dryness – Dry hair can be a problem for many curly hair types. The structure of the strands prevents natural oils from traveling from your scalp to your hair’s ends. You need to be extra vigilant about conditioning and moisturizing curly hair to prevent dry, brittle ends.
- Frizziness – Frizzy hair is a common concern with curls. Humidity, hair damage, heat styling, and even towel drying can leave you with unwanted frizz. For curly-haired individuals, these issues are exacerbated by the lack of nourishing scalp oils.
- Tangles – Those lovely spirals can easily get tangled around each other, leading to tangled hair. When left unmanaged, tangles can become knots that are next to impossible to get out.
So how do you care for your hair and avoid these pesky problems? Putting in a little extra time, you can have stunning, smooth curls. We recommend:
- Detangling in the shower with a wide-tooth comb
- Using curly hair products specially formulated for your specific hair type
- Avoiding over-cleansing, which can strip natural moisture from your hair
- Sticking to a natural, heat-free style when you can to prevent excessive damage
- Switching to microfiber towels for hair-drying
- Protecting your hair from harsh chemicals and products
It might seem like there are far more don’ts than dos when it comes to caring for 3A curls. However, we promise there are things you should do to help get the beautiful, bouncy curls you crave.
3A Curly Hair Routine
The optimal care routine for your 3a curls requires four steps:
Step 1: Wash Carefully
The first step to caring for your curls is knowing how to wash curly hair properly. You should choose shampoo formulated for curly hair. Look for shampoos that:
- Are mild
- Don’t contain sulfates or other harsh cleansing agents
- Rely on oils and other moisturizing ingredients
Once you’ve found a shampoo you love, don’t lather up under hot water. Cool or cold water will help prevent the moisture loss caused by hot water.
How Often Should You Wash 3A Curls?
You should try to avoid washing your 3a curls every day if possible. Washing too often strips away some of your hair’s natural moisture, leading to dull, dry strands. It might take a little trial and error to figure out the right frequency of washing for your hair, because there is no baseline frequency for all hair.
Step 2: Add Moisture
Wondering how to moisturize curls? Conditioner is a must for 3A curls. Use a conditioner specifically made for curly hair. On the days you don’t shampoo your hair, it’s okay to use a little conditioner in the shower to help prevent the dreaded frizzies from creeping in. Look for conditioners that contain moisturizing ingredients.
For extra hydration, consider adding a weekly hair mask into your routine.
Step 3: Style Gently
Heat tools can make it hard to maintain healthy hair if you aren’t properly protecting it. Without the use of heat protectant, you may end up with damaged curly hair over consistent use of heat tools. If you have curly hair and want to keep your beautiful pattern intact, make sure to style it with care. Although you might be tempted to use heat to change your texture, it’s best to minimize your use when possible.
When you can’t resist the temptation to dry and straighten your hair, there are a few things you should do, including:
- Use a protecting product
- Keep the blow dryer on a lower heat setting when you diffuse your curls
- Apply a moisturizing mask or deep conditioner after your straight style day
In general, the less heat you apply to your hair, the healthier it will be.
Step 4: Leave it Alone
Once you have your 3A hair styled the way you like it, the best thing you can do is leave it alone. That’s right—hands-off. The more you touch your hair throughout the day, the more likely it is that your hair will become frizzy instead of a mane of styled curls. This means you should avoid:
It might be difficult at first, but you’ll love the way your style lasts all day without frizz when you simply leave your hair be.
Best Products for 3A Hair Type
It’s important to always choose hair styling products made for your hair type. Fortunately, there are plenty of hair products online for 3a hair. People with 3A curls should seek out the following:
- Conditioner – Conditioner designed specifically for curly hair is a must. These formulas should contain more moisturizers to help keep your hair silky and smooth. For fully hydrated tresses, look for products free from sulfates and harsh ingredients. Our Curl Conditioner has a Healthy Curl Complex, a unique blend of ingredients provides flexible definition and strength for healthier curls.
- Curl definer – After you condition your hair, you want to sustain curl definition all day long. Enter curl definer. This amazing product will provide you with bouncy, shiny, frizz-free curls.
- Shine enhancer – Some days, your hair needs a shine boost. Adding a touch of shine oil to your curls can support healthier, shinier curls. It can also give you a little additional frizz protection on those humid, sticky days.
- Wide-tooth comb – Your top styling tool for 3A hair type is a wide-tooth comb. You can pull it gently through your hair when you’re in the shower while the conditioner is still on your tresses. This will help even the distribution of the product before you rinse. After you get out of the shower, a wide-tooth comb will help eliminate any additional tangles without breaking or damaging your hair.
Fine-toothed combs and heavy brushes aren’t good choices for 3A curls.
Nourish Your Natural Curls with Living Proof®
Curly hair requires proper knowledge and care—too much handling or heat can make your type 3A curls dry and frizzy. But that doesn’t mean it has to be high-maintenance. The right haircare products set you up for a straightforward routine with stunning results.
At Living Proof®, we know curly hair. Our formulas are designed for strong, healthy curls. And, unlike many other haircare companies, we don’t make you go through the hassle of trying countless products to see what works. Take our haircare quiz today to learn more and find the right products for your unique look.
PubMed. The What, Why, and How of Curly Hair: A Review. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6894537
PubMed. Hair Cosmetics: An Overview. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4387693/