The Differences Between 3A, 3B, & 3C Hair

As a curly-haired girl, you’ll agree that it can be quite a struggle to tame and care for your curls, especially when you are clueless about your curl type. You can spend months that would run into years building, demolishing, and rebuilding hair regimens, test running a colossal amount of curl products, and still failing to give your hair the best care it deserves.

Does this sound like you? Not to worry, we’re here to help. The first step to building a working hair regimen, growing long, healthy, enviable locks, and saving money on curl products (you’re welcome) is knowing your curl type.

In this read, we’ll be breaking down the type 3 hair subtypes, complete with pictures and identification exercises to keep you on top of your curl game. And because we want you to become a pro at type 3 curl care and identification, we’ll throw in some expert tips on retaining moisture for each curl subtype!

Let’s get into it, shall we?

3A Vs. 3B Vs. 3C Hair

Here’s a quick summary of the type 3 curl subtypes:


This hair subtype has loose and bouncy S-shaped curls. 


The B in 3B definitely stands for Body. You’ll notice this hair has a lot of volume with tighter, well-defined, and bouncier curls.


The C in 3C stands for Corkscrews. Type 3c ringlets are tight and resemble corkscrews but may not always be well-defined.

Let’s talk curl typing. The tricky thing about type 3 curls is they almost feel and look the same, but we’ve found a way to help you tell them apart.

For this exercise, you’ll need sidewalk chalk, a permanent marker or paper highlighter, and a pencil.

Step 1: Carefully take one of your curls out and loosely wrap it around each object.

Step 2: Take note of the one that best fits your curl.

Step 3: Use the item from Step 2 to identify your curl type.

Your Type 3 Curl ID Guide

You’ve got type 3a curls if your hair is snug around the sidewalk chalk, type 3b curls if the marker or highlighter matches your curl’s circumference, and type 3c curls if the pencil best fits your ringlet or curl of hair.

Now that’s out of the way, here’s all you need to know about 3a, 3b, and 3c hair.


Type 3a

3a hair has spiraled, loosely shaped curls that are effortlessly beautiful. Each hair curl is well-defined and wide enough to go round a piece of wine bottle cork, a carrot, or sidewalk chalk. Running your fingers through this hair type, you’ll notice the texture is either fine (thinner than thread) or medium (about the same thickness as a piece of string or thread) but never coarse.

When damp, 3a hair curls resemble type 2 deep hair waves. So, you could mistype your curls as wavy 2b or 2c curls, but if you have loose, defined, undoubtedly spiral-shaped curls as opposed to waves, it’s a given; you’re a 3a curly-haired girl.

Type 3a Hair Moisturizing Tips

Curly hair needs lots of moisture because it’s more prone to frizz and dryness and 3a hair is no exception. With its loose, wavy curls, 3a hair is very similar to wavy type 2 hair, so it hardly breaks and may appear flat. While it’s the least voluminous and susceptible to breakage of the three Type 3 hair subtypes, external elements such as humidity and ultraviolet rays can STILL spell trouble for your locks. Even worse, the curls form in a way that your natural oils struggle to travel down the length of your hair, leading to dry, brittle hair.

To banish frizz and get your 3a curls popping, go for

  • humectants – aloe vera, rose water, and honey
  • lightweight moisturizers – nourishing hair milk, leave-in sprays, and hydrating butters
  • lightweight sealants – jojoba, argan, grapeseed, and sweet almond oils
3a locks only need a minimal amount of products to look shiny and super bouncy, which saves you money on restocking your favorite curl products.3a hair is prone to dryness. With the way your curls twist and twirl away from your scalp, it’s difficult for your natural oils to nourish and moisturize the length of your hair.SolutionInclude weekly hair masks and deep conditioners in your hair regimen and regularly spritz your curls with leave-in moisturizers.
As it is both curly and wavy, it’s relatively easier to style, detangle, and maintain your curls.You’ll find that your curls easily fall flat or straighten out throughout the day, especially when you use too much product. While you don’t have to work out your arm muscles to detangle your hair, your fine-ish hair texture and loose curls combine forces to flatten out your hair.SolutionInvest in curl products that hold your hair up for longer.
With its loose and easy-to-manage curls, it gives the perfect wash-n-go look.

Type 3b

3b hair subtype has medium-tight, S-shaped spiral curls that resemble ringlets. If you have a feel of the strands, you’ll find that they have a mixture of thin and thicker strands, so 3b hair has fine and medium hair texture.

The loose 3a curls have a larger circumference than the 3b curls, which are not as thick as and have a smaller width than corkscrew 3c locks. You can think of 3b hair as a transitioning stage between 3a and 3c.

The curls are typically the size of a highlighter, permanent marker, or index finger, and unlike 3a, they maintain their curl pattern when wet. This hair type is beautifully defined, voluminous, and playfully bouncy; if your mane fits these descriptions, read on to find out how to retain moisture in your bodacious 3b curls.

Type 3b Hair Moisturizing Tips

We have a bit of bad news: 3b takes the dryness a step higher than 3a. Why? 3b curls are thicker, more tightly wound, and bent around themselves, so it’s even more difficult for natural oils to travel down your hair to provide nutrients and moisture. So what can you do? Up your moisturizing game; here’s how.

  • Use lightweight moisturizers such as leave-in creams and sprays.
  • Always, ALWAYS, seal in your added moisture with lightweight sealants such as jojoba and sweet almond oil. Sealants keep moisture in your strands and prevent environmental factors like humidity and heat from drying out your hair.
  • You want to maintain moisture in your locks, not lose it. So avoid products that contain drying agents, such as sulfates and silicones.
Like 3a curls, 3b curls are easy to manage, and since they have thicker curls and strands, they don’t get flattened out by the heavier products that would weigh down the thinner 3a curls. So you have more products to add to your arsenal.3b curls need even more moisture than 3a curls as they are more prone to dryness and frizz.SolutionYou need to work overtime to hydrate (spritzing with water works well), moisturize, AND seal in the added moisture. Otherwise, your hair would get tangled up, puffy, and dull.
You don’t have to be wary of your hair flattening out. With type 3b hair, you enjoy the best of both worlds! Since the strands are midway loose (3a) and tight (3c) curls, you can expect your curls to stay super defined throughout the day.3b curls are far from effortless; they require a lot of work to stay defined.SolutionTo enjoy the bouncy, puff-free, and well-defined IG hair influencer look, you need to learn the strenuous art of product layering. Layer your products in this order: leave-in conditioner → lightweight mousse → curl cream → styling gel → heat protectant (if you’ll be using heat)
3b curlies enjoy a lot of volume due to the thick and bouncy 3b curls and hang time because it doesn’t have so much natural shrinkage, unlike the coily 4a-c hair types.

Type 3c

Type 3c is the home of tight, perfectly curly, densely-packed curls with thick, coarse-textured or thin, fine-textured strands or a mix of both textures. Its curls are as wide as a pencil or straw and resemble corkscrews.

This hair subtype may not always be well-defined but has a lot of body and volume. If your strands revert to their natural shape no matter how much you stretch, twist, and play with your hair and you find that your curls are thick, corkscrew-shaped, small-sized, and dense, let’s be the first to welcome you to the 3c family.

Type 3c Hair Moisturizing Tips

The corkscrew curls make it even harder for natural nourishment and moisture to travel down your locks, so the battle with dryness continues and is even more fierce. In addition to being dry, your strands lack natural shine and luster, but that’s nothing some moisture can’t fix.

Here are some helpful moisture-retention tips:

  • Spritz your hair with water and start with your fingers to detangle your locks in the shower.
  • Get your favorite curl products and apply in this order leave-in conditioner → mousse → curl cream → styling gel → oil
  • Tuck your strands into a satin bonnet or scarf or sleep on a satin pillowcase to keep your hair from drying out while you sleep.
3c hair is dense and thick such that even if you have thin, fine hair, you’ll find that your hair appears full, bold, and healthy.3c hair may not have a uniform curl pattern and is more prone to puffiness, dryness, and frizz than 3a and b combined.SolutionIf you want to tame, define, and maintain your curls for long periods, use quality curl products that can hold your hair up.
3c curls have such an unyielding curl pattern. So no matter how you manipulate them – unless you apply heat and chemicals – they always return to their natural shape. Once you’ve nailed the right products and procedures that can excellently define and hold your curls, you’ll never stop loving your hair.Dryness + thick, curly hair = a detangling disaster. 3c hair is so curly that if you’re not careful, it can turn into a tangled mess, leading to single-strand knots and breakage.SolutionNever make the mistake of detangling your hair when it’s wet or dry. Use quality moisturizers to ditch dryness and make your hair more manageable.
Rest assured, your hair will never go flat or limp; it has a natural root lift, good scalp coverage, and tight curls that keep it “propped up” and voluminous.

The Takeaway

So there you have it! Now, you can effectively care for and maintain the type 3 hair subtypes, and if you feel your hair is tending towards type 4, here’s an article to help.

To recap, 3a is curly and wavy with minimum dryness, and with only a bit of moisture, it shines! 3b is bold, beautiful, and bouncy, while 3c is corkscrew-shaped and tightly curled. To combat dryness, puffiness, and frizz in subtypes 3b and 3c, you can never go wrong with a lot of moisture and layering your curl products.



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