A Quick Rundown of Everything You Need to Know About Your 3C Hair

Written by Ashley Locke

15% off with code: MANESTREAM15

Your curly, 3C hair type deserves extra TLC. But are you caring for your curls as best you should? Are you using the right products, styling them the right way, getting the best cuts for your hair type? If you answered no or aren’t sure, fret not, for we’re here to save the day (and your strands). We put together a thorough guide on everything you could possibly need to know about your 3C ringlets. Scroll below for a complete rundown to ensure you’re treating your hair the way it deserves to be treated!

Girl with 3C hair type wearing a white turtleneck in front a blue background smiling for the camera
(via Getty)

What Is 3C Hair?

Before you dive right in, it’s important to ensure you actually have 3C curls. They could be 3B, 4A, or even a combination of type 3 and 4 hair types. But back to the question you want the answer to, what is 3C hair? As with all of the type 3 curl types, this one has an S wave pattern. It tends to have the tightest curls of the type 3 hair types, with a corkscrew-shaped curl that’s about the diameter of a pencil or straw. The curls are tightly packed together, creating a ton of volume and thickness, though this does make the hair type prone to frizz.

3B vs 3C vs 4A

Because 3C lies in between 3B and 4A hair types, it often gets confused for one or the other. We want to stress that 3C is its own unique hair type with its own concerns, though it shares some struggles with the two other hair types. The difference between 3B and 3C is that 3B is a little bit wider in diameter. Type 3C hair also has more volume than 3B hair.

When it comes to type 3C vs type 4A, 3C curls aren’t as tight as 4A coils. Type 4A hair also tends to experience more shrinkage than type 3C.

Images of three Black women comparing 3B hair type vs 3C hair type vs 4A hair type
(via Getty)

3C Haircare Routine Tips

Now that you’ve definitely determined you have this hair type, let’s get into how to take care of it. We rounded up a few haircare routine tips the experts suggest following for your hair type. It may take some time to see a noticeable improvement in your curls, though stick with it. And don’t be afraid to switch up your routine as needed if something isn’t working.

1. Focus on adding moisture.

First and foremost, your haircare routine should focus on adding moisture back into your curls. They’re often dry and frizzy, so they need all the extra hydration they can get. This means you should be using moisturizing products to keep your curls soft, silky, and moisturized (duh).

2. Try co-washing.

Co-washing means washing your hair with just conditioner. Because your hair tends to be so dry and prone to breakage, you shouldn’t be shampooing all that often. Maybe once a week at most. On weeks when you feel you need to wash your 3C hair more than once, try a co-wash with a moisturizing conditioner. Hydration will be added back into your coils and your ringlets will feel refreshed.

3. Avoid sulfates at all costs.

Just to really hammer this point home, your hair is naturally a lot drier than some other hair types. Using sulfate-laden products will only make the problem worse. They tend to strip the natural oils in your hair, which your strands desperately need. When shopping for shampoo and other hair products, make sure you purchase ones that are labeled as being sulfate-free.

4. Find the right combination of post-shower products.

You should invest in a solid leave-in conditioner, deep conditioner, hair mist, along with oils and creams to keep your 3C curls in tip-top shape. We have a few recommendations below, though we suggest experimenting with a few different products to find the one that works for your unique curls.

5. Don’t run your fingers through your hair.

Unless you’re styling your curls right after a shower, try to avoid getting handsy with your hair. The more you touch it, the frizzier it gets. And you don’t need that.

How to Style The Hair Type

Styling your 3C hair type requires an extra bit of time, energy, and effort, though when done correctly, you’ll have the ringlets you’ve always dreamed of. Again, it all comes down to the products you use. Applying leave-in conditioner, oils, and creams to your ringlets will help them maintain their moisture. You should ensure the products you use are also lightweight. With your hair type, you do need a number of styling products in there to keep your curl shape and banish frizz. If the products you use are heavy, they’ll only weigh down your tresses.

Additionally, you should try staying away from heat at all costs. If you must use heat to dry your hair, apply a heat protectant beforehand and use the lowest heat setting possible. The higher the heat, the more frizz, dryness, and damage.

Don’t overlook putting your hair in protective styles. Yes, show off your curls as often as possible, but give them a break every once and a while. Protective styles are also a great way to help you retain curl definition in between wash days. However, it is important you opt for protective styles that aren’t too tight. These tighter styles can damage your hairline and cuticle, creating more breakage. Stick to buns, twists, and updos.

The Best Hairstyles for 3C Hair

Now that you know how to style your hair, let’s get into some of the best hairstyles for 3C hair. Again, this is not an extensive list so don’t hesitate to try different styles outside of the ones we recommend. In fact, we encourage it.

1. Wash and Go

Wash-and-go styles are always a great option for you, as your curls will dry beautifully. What you really need to focus on are the products you put into your ringlets after you step out of the shower. Those will set you up for a fabulous air-dried hairstyle.

2. Curlhawk

Once your wash-and-go style has run its course, turn it into a fabulous curlhawk. This style can be worn for nights out or to the office, it all depends. Watch the tutorial below to recreate this look yourself.

3. Twist Out

Protective styles bode incredibly well for you when it comes to enhancing your curl definition. The classic twist out is your best option, as it isn’t too tight and won’t pull on your edges. The less damage a protective style causes, the better.

4. Top Bun

On days when you can’t be bothered to do too much to your hair, toss it up in a top bun. When done correctly, this style can also help boost curl definition. Plus, putting it up means you likely won’t be running your fingers through it.

5. Half-Up

If you don’t want to pull back all your gorgeous curls, go with a half-up hairstyle. You have more than enough hair, so it’ll still look thick with half of it pulled up. And, it’s another great style to wear literally everywhere.

The Best 3C Hair Products

Now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for, the best products for 3C hair. We consider these staples everyone with the hair type needs, though these aren’t the only products you can use. There are plenty more out there, including some that may work better for your specific curls.

Formulated specifically for your curl type, this medium conditioner offers hydration, slippage, and curl definition. The nourishing blend of jojoba oil and olive oil packs a powerful punch, though is lightweight enough to not weigh your curls down. And don’t even get us started on how amazing it smells because we could go on and on.

Person holding the Pattern Beauty Medium Conditioner
(via Pattern Beauty)

A detangling leave-in conditioner like this one is the ultimate necessity for your 3C hair. Spritz it on your curls daily to detangle, nourish, and fortify your ringlets. The lightweight formula absorbs quickly and will refresh your 3C hair instantly.

TPH by Taraji Ride or Die detangling leave-in product for 3C hair
(via TPH by Taraji)

When it comes to styling, this is the only product you’ll ever need. Okay, so that may be a bit dramatic, but it’s somewhat true. This hydrating curl cream delivers an intense amount of moisture to your curls while also working to define them. Your ringlets will appear softer, shinier, and healthier after using this curl cream.

Ouidad Curl Quencher® Hydrafusion Intense Curl Cream
(via Ouidad)

When your 3C hair is feeling drier than the Sahara, reach for this healing and hydrating mask from Maui Moisture. Shea butter and aloe vera make for a powerfully moisturizing duo that works to nourish your curls from the inside out.

Maui Moisture Heal & Hydrate + Shea Butter Hair Mask
(via Ulta)

If you aren’t already sleeping on a silk pillowcase, change that immediately. They help protect your curls while you sleep to prevent further damage and breakage. You’ll notice a difference after one slumber on this Slip pillowcase.

Slip Silk Pillowcase for 3C hair
(via Ulta)

There are more products where that came from. Shop THESE best drugstore products for curly hair now!

Hey, mane muse! We wanted to give you a heads up that some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that Mane Addicts will collect a small share of the sale from any purchase you make from the products we recommend.