3C Hair Type: Complete Guide to Growth, Styling and Care
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Curly hair looks great but, if you’ve been blessed with it, you’ll know it can be a real nightmare to manage! Your tightly coiled, 3C locks can be unruly, dry and frizzy but with some simple, inexpensive changes to your hair care routine, there is no reason why it can’t look and feel great; you just need to work out what it is your hair needs!
To perfect your curl-care, you are going to want to learn how to correctly wash your tresses, the products you’ll need, the importance of a good cut as well as how to inject and maintain moisture.
If you’re reading this, feeling completely lost when it comes to caring for your 3C curls, then we are on hand to help; keep reading for our comprehensive curly-haired guide!
What is a 3C Hair Type?
Before anything else, you’ll want to be sure that your locks come under the 3C type as curls can be categorised under two different hair types – either 3 or 4.
All type 3 hair will have an S-shaped wave but 3C is the tightest curl within the type 3 category. 3C curls are corkscrew-shaped and about the diameter of a pen. Strands of 3C hair are tightly packed meaning these curls create an impactful, voluminous look with a shed load of thickness and texture. This also means, however, that it tends to frizz.
Is 3C Hair Fine?
3C hair isn’t generally fine as there’s a density to the strands which creates the fullness of this hair type. Still unsure if 3C fits your hair description? Wrap a pencil inside one of your curls; if it’s a nice snug fit, then you’re a type 3C for sure!
Other Hair Types
It’s worth noting that it’s entirely possible to have more than one hair type. So, if your curl pattern varies from the front, sides and back, then you may have a combination. If you’re wondering whether you have 3C or 4A hair, or what a 4D hair type is then check out the below to confirm:
3A: large, loose S-shaped curls with a natural shine.
3B: a springy, voluminous curl that can lie anywhere between ringlet and corkscrew. They tend to have the diameter of a permanent marker.
4A: fine and wiry coils with the diameter of a knitting needle. They have an S-shaped pattern whilst being dense and springy.
4B: This hair tends to be a more Z-shaped curl that’s tight but with less definition. The hair strands can completely vary from fine and thin to wiry and coarse.
4C: Dense, tightly packed hair like that of 4B but less defined. With tight coils, it ranges from super fine to coarse but is very delicate.
4D: What is 4D hair type? With a seriously tight curl pattern, this z shaped coil tends to be very dry and coarse with a cotton like texture.
3C hair tends to lie somewhere in the middle of 3B and 4A hair types and it is common for them to get confused, but it is important to correctly identify your hair type as each has their own concerns that you will want to treat correctly for optimum hair health and appearance.
Type 3C hair has a wider diameter and more volume compared to 3C hair but isn’t as tightly curled and experiences less shrinkage than 4A’s coils.
How Do I Take Care of My 3C Curly Hair?
Now you’ve determined that you have 3C hair, you’ll want to know the best way to take care of it. Consistency and patience are essential in seeing improvement in the shape of your curls as well as the condition of your hair.
Find out what works for you and allow some time to see results. Follow these steps on how to care for your 3C hair:
1. Add Moisture
Moisture is an essential part of all hair routines, regardless of type, but curls love nothing more than an injection of hydration so those with 3C hair should always be focused on this. Admittedly, it isn’t without its challenges as moisture struggles to travel down the natural helix shape of 3C hair strands but maintaining hydration levels for your locks will result in happier, healthier hair.
The porosity of your hair will further impact moisture levels, but the main goal for 3C hair is to keep it super hydrated without the use of heavy products that can weigh curls down. Many of those with curly hair are advocates of a water spritz with aloe vera and coconut oil mixed in that allows them to top up moisture throughout the day. Other oils that would be best for 3C hair include, marula, black seed oil and jojoba.
2. Wash Hair Properly
You don’t want to be using a multitude of products on your hair every time you wash it; this can lead to your curls being needlessly weighed down, but it is important to wash your hair regularly.
How often you wash your 3C hair will be dependent on how much product you use when styling as well as the time you have. Stick to a naturally derived cleanser that won’t dry out your curls and aim for 2-3 times a week.
Follow this simple step-by-step hair wash routine for the perfect way to take care of your 3C hair:
1. Wash and Condition
Stick to naturally-derived, moisturising formulas to cleanse without stripping hair. Consider co-washing if you wash your hair more than once a week.
2. Deep Conditioner or Mask
We know 3C hair is thirsty so rehydrate dry locks with a deep conditioner or hair mask. Powered-up moisturising formulas, such as those found in the Babassu Deep Treatment Masque, will restore hydration whilst repairing damage without weighing hair down. Support your hair hydration journey by using a deep conditioner or mask once a week.
3. Curl Definition
Apply a curl styling cream to maintain bouncy, voluminous locks with strongly shaped curls. It would also be worth considering applying a hair serum for an injection of moisture. A serum such as the Black Seed Hair Oil Elixir helps to strengthen, nourish and encourage growth as well as supporting the scalp.
4. Curl Refresher
Finally, to ensure that your curls stay in place on non-wash days, you’ll want to consider applying a leave-in conditioner or curl refresher as this will help to keep your locks well hydrated and maintain shape.
Top tip: if you’re looking to make your 3C hair thicker then perform a gentle scalp massage whilst applying your hair cleanser. This will stimulate blood flow in the scalp and encourage growth.
3. Conditioner Only
If you have curly hair, then you may be familiar with the term “co-washing”. A technique where you wash your locks using only conditioner. Also referred to as a no-poo wash (as in no shampoo), it’s highly beneficial to those with coiled, curly, or dry hair as it eliminates the use of shampoo which can be drying. Conditioner has mild cleansing qualities and is sufficient to wash hair but also helps to nourish and strengthen tresses.
It’s a common misconception that conditioner can be overapplied with many thinking it weighs hair down and can make it greasier quicker. The good news is, however, that that’s not completely true and co-washing is a great solution for those with 3C hair who want to wash their locks regularly without the negative implications.
The dry and breakage-prone nature of 3C hair means you should try to stick to shampooing only once a week but if you feel that your hair needs a wash more frequently then this, then try co-washing with a hydrating conditioner that will add moisture back into your curls whilst still feeling cleansed.
4. Avoid Chemicals
With the moisture struggles your hair type is faced with, the last thing your locks need is sulphate-based shampoo stripping the hair of its natural oils and hydration. Using sulphate-based products will leave your hair looking and feeling parched as well as being more prone to breakage.
Using a moisturising shampoo and conditioner formulation will remove dirt and excess oil just like a sulphate-based one but will also retain the hair’s natural oils leaving it soft and healthy.
5. Post-Wash Styling Products
We’ll cover products in more depth further down but hair care products for 3C hair don’t just stop at shampoo and conditioner. A hair mask, deep conditioner, leave-in conditioner and oil are all items you may need to maintain your curly hair and the moisture it needs.
Spritzing hair daily with water or applying a moisturising cream to the ends will help inject further hydration as well as provide protection from breakage.
6. Brushing Techniques
As tempting as it may be, you’ll want to avoid running your fingers through your locks when dry as this can create further frizz. Similarly, frizz can come from using a hairbrush on dry 3C hair so it detangles when wet. A good quality, wide bristle brush can help to give more defined corkscrew curls.
Using a nylon bristle brush with soft tips will further protect hair from breakages. Consider looking for a detangling specific brush to keep your 3C hair intact.
Knowing the porosity of your hair is important (no matter the type) as it allows you to know how easily your hair will hold on to moisture. Hair with a wave or curl tends to struggle to keep hold of moisture and porosity can further impact that.
High-porosity hair will struggle to retain moisture as it slips out of the hair shaft through the open hair cuticle. High-porosity hair absorbs moisture with ease but let’s go of it just as easily. Using rich, thicker consistency products will benefit this hair type.
Those with low-porosity hair have a tight cuticle structure which means strands don’t let moisture in or out with ease. This type of hair would prefer a lightweight, nourishing formula.
Once you’ve identified the porosity of your hair, it will give you an idea of how best to treat it and what products will be most effective combined with your 3C locks!
8. Minimise Heat Exposure
We all know by now that excessive heat exposure can be damaging to hair and if you are wondering why your 3C hair is dry, heat styling could well be the reason. Heat damage in curly locks can result in permanent change to curl patterns so it is important to minimise your use of these tools where possible.
Instead of reaching for a hairdryer, try blotting excess water out of your hair with a microfibre towel, apply a leave-in conditioner and simply allow it to air dry.If you do want to dry hair with heat, consider using a diffuser on a cooler setting. This will minimise frizz and keep your hair better protected.
9. Night-Time Protection
Sleeping with curly hair is another minefield but to keep 3C curls overnight there are a few things you can do to protect them. Just how do you sleep with 3C hair?
Firstly, try “pineappling” your hair. This is a technique that involves piling your curls on top of your head in a shape that resembles a pineapple and tie, loosely, with either a silk wrap or scrunchie.
Silk – or the more affordable satin – will be a best friend to your curls at night. It’s a less absorbent material which means moisture levels are preserved resulting in less frizz and tangles as well as more manageable curls in the morning. So, if you’ve been wondering how to sleep with 3C hair, try a silk wrap or pillowcase to see the benefits for your curls.
Growing 3C Hair
Curly hair requires a different level of care to straight and wavy locks. Its susceptibility to breakages and its tendency to dry out can make it more challenging to grow to longer lengths. Longer hair is not impossible for those with curly or coily tresses, though, and with a simple hair care routine in place, you can see growth in a matter of weeks.
Whilst it may seem counterproductive, one of the most important things you can do to encourage hair growth is to pop to the salon for a trim. Many people with curly hair avoid cutting it as they’re keen to retain length and don’t want to chop off valuable growth; however, this really is self-sabotage and cutting hair is an important part of how to grow 3C hair.
A trim every 6 weeks will rid your locks of split ends that lead to breakages and, therefore, slows growth. Choose a salon that has a curly cut specialist who will be able to advise on the best course of action for your 3C hair.
Some other tips for growing 3C hair include:
• Using low manipulation hair styles such as twists or braids
These styles will help to maintain length as well as encourage growth. Styles like this won’t require everyday styling which means less heat being applied but they also discourage you from putting your hands through your hair all the time.
Don’t leave twists or braids in for more than two weeks, though, as any longer than this can lead to breakages and split ends!
• Moisturise hair often
Moisturising hair is a whole process and shouldn’t just be kept to hair wash day! Not only can you regularly spritz hair with water, but you could also consider introducing the LOC method. This is a moisture layering technique that involves applying liquid to hydrate hair, oil to lock in the moisture and then cream to prevent moisture loss.
What oil is best for 3C hair, we hear you ask? Black seed hair oil is certainly up there with amongst the best.
How Do I Stop My 3C Hair From Shrinking
Another factor worth considering when it comes to growing 3C hair is shrinkage. A common experience with 3C hair is that when it dries out, it contracts which means the curls lose length as they become less stretched out and form a tight, more compacted coil.
The easiest way to stop 3C hair from shrinking is, unsurprisingly, keeping it moisturised. Anyone with natural curly hair will experience some shrinkage though, so don’t let that dishearten you during the growing process!
Styling 3C Hair
There is no doubt that styling 3C, curly hair is time consuming, but the result will leave you with ringlets of dreams that are the envy of everyone.
You’ll want to ensure the products you use are lightweight formulations as heavier textures will weigh down your curls, but 3C hair will need styling products to maintain curl shape and keep frizz at bay. Applying a leave-in conditioner will help to maintain hair hydration.
Ideally, you would avoid heat styling and allow your hair to dry naturally but if you need to use a hair dryer or other heat tools, then keep them on a low heat and always apply plenty of heat protectant beforehand.
You may also want to consider placing your hair into a protective style every now and then. Type 3 hair can get styles such as braids that will keep it protected but also looks stylish. Of course, with a fabulous head of curls, you’ll want to show them off, but a protective style can help to retain curl definition between washes and give your hair a break.
Make sure any style you place your hair into isn’t too tight as this can cause damage to the hairline and cuticle, causing breakages and slowing growth.
Top Hairstyles for 3C Hair
• Wash and Go
Probably the easiest of hair styles for 3C hair is the wash and go option. Allow your curls to air dry for an impactful but easy to achieve approach. Simply pop in some products to maintain moisture and that’s it, you’re good to go!
Once your hair has dried, in the days between your next wash, you could style hair into the on-trend, wet look. To get the wet look with 3C hair, simply slick hair back with a wet look specific gel or mousse and then dry into place for that wet and wavy look.
• Twist Out
A great protective style that improves curl definition, the twist out isn’t too tight which means it won’t pull and damage your cuticles or edges.
• High Bun
Like pineappling but with a bit more finesse, a high or top bun can actually help with curl definition as well as stopping you from running your hands through your locks (as this can cause frizz).
Best Products for 3C Hair
Look for sulphate-free, moisturising formulations that will strengthen and nourish your hair whilst leaving it squeaky clean at the same time. We love this Baobab Hair Detangler & Cleanser, enriched with aloe vera and almond oil, which works to support scalp and hair health without stripping it of essential hydration.
Best Leave-In Conditioner
Lock in moisture with a leave-in conditioner whilst also tackling tangles and frizz. This Marula Oil Leave In Conditioner blends some of the most thirst quenching ingredients for hair including marula, argan and jojoba oils which work together to support healthy and hydrated locks and help to grow your 3C hair faster.
This product has a 3-in-1 functionality as it is: a leave-in conditioner that works as an oil, as well as being a cream formula which means you can cut the time-consuming LOC method when you switch to this!
Best Curl Define Cream
Support the work of your leave-in conditioner with a curl defining cream, that offers intense hydration as well as supporting the shape and definition of your curls. We like this L’Oreal Professional Curl Expression Moisturiser as it also doubles up as a heat protectant on those days when you need to use a heat tool.
Best All-in-One Kit
Save yourself some money and invest in a hair care kit that will work for every stage of your 3C hair routine as well as provide some serious length to your locks. This Afro Hair Care Growth Set has a hair mask, leave-in conditioner and hair serum that all work together to provide the ultimate in moisture and hydration to your hair as well as supporting your growth journey.
Invest in a brush with nylon bristles to ensure that hair is well protected from breakages. We love this Denman Hair Brush for Curly Hair that helps to detangle, define curls and smooth locks all at the same time.
3C hair is the curliest of all the type 3s but to get its beautiful corkscrew shape and a defined curl pattern, a focus on moisture and nourishment is key. Invest in a strong, naturally-derived hair care routine that will inject your locks with the hydration needed to promote strong, healthy hair.