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3A, 3B & 3C Curly Hair Styling Essentials

by Curl Up Team |

If you’re here reading this blog, you could be – a. Someone who knows all about curl types and the Cs and wants to explore ways to style them. b. Someone who has no clue what they mean and was simply intrigued by the title of this blog. c. You simply love Curl Up and want to read up on all the informative blogs we offer. 

Irrespective of whichever options befits you, we’re here for you. We welcome all levels of Curlies, be it pro or amateur, read on to delve deep into the C of curls!

The type of it:

The spectrum of hair types range from 1A to 4C, ranging from super straight to tight kinky curls. Among these typically coily curly hair falls within Type 3 which has three further subdivisions, 3A, 3B and 3C:

Knowing what you’re dealing with offers clarity on what products and styling methods to use, which will help your curl type shine and look its best. Moisture is the BFF of curls and irrespective of the subtype, curls need moisture to keep them quenched, healthy and luscious. 

Curl Care Basics:

Here are a few guidelines on basic curl care before we move to the individual styling essentials. Go for:

  1. Products that are sulphate, paraben, and silicone free.
  2. Products with gentle cleansing ingredients.
  3. Wide toothed combs for detangling wet conditioned hair in the shower or leave-in conditioner applied hair outside the shower.
  4. Microfiber towel while drying.
  5. Cover up with a satin or silk bonnet in bed or switch to a pillowcase of the same material to avoid friction and maintain your curl pattern and keep frizz away. 

You also need to be aware of and avoid these ingredients in your curl care products:

Sulphates: Repeated usage of products with sulphates has been linked to cell damage and excess stripping away of natural oils and hair proteins. This is detrimental to the natural structure of curly hair. E.g., Sodium lauryl sulphate, Ammonium laureth sulphate.

Parabens: Parabens are added to haircare products to promote hair growth but are known to disrupt hormone function, an effect that is linked to increased risk of breast cancer and reproductive toxicity. E.g., Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Butylparaben.

Silicones: This ingredient usually renders temporary smoothness to hair but has a bad reputation for making natural hair dry by blocking moisture. Silicones work by creating a false sense of healthy hair, as they form a shiny waxy layer on the strand. This not only causes build-up but also prevents any moisture from entering the hair thus causing further damage with long term use. They also cause irritation on the scalp. E.g., Dimethicone, Cyclomethicone, Amodimethicone.

Drying alcohols: As the name suggest, these ingredients suck moisture away and causes the hair cuticle to roughen, leaving the hair dry, brittle and frizzy - a huge bane for curly hair. E.g., Cetyl, Stearyl, Cetearyl, Myristyl. 

Waxes and Mineral oils: Certain waxes and mineral oils are also not CG approved as ingredients, as they cause build up, weigh down hair and are difficult to remove and can only be washed out with a sulphate shampoo.  E.g., Petroleum jelly, Beeswax, Carnauba wax, and Xanthan gums. 

Petroleum: Petroleum should be avoided as the chemical structure of this component is large and causes pore clogging on your scalp. E.g., Toluene, Benzene, anything with PEG (polyethylene glycol).

Here are a few ingredients that you can look out for to enhance and benefit your curl type:

  • For 3A Curls, lightweight creams and mousse with ingredients such as shea butter or argan oil add ample moisture and quench curls while ingredients such as aloe and flax seed extract in a gel help form a gentle yet effective cast on 3A curls.
  • 3B curls will greatly benefit from sealants such as jojoba and almond oil to enthuse moisture and keep curls from drying out in humidity and harsh environmental conditions.
  • 3C curls need more moisture and thicker, more emollient rich creams and products packed with shea and mango butter will revive and add life to dry 3C curls. You can even layer moisturizing products with lightweight oils on 3C curls. 

We’ve made you wait, but here’s how to go about styling your individual curl types:

3A Curl Care

3A curls, while looking lovely and luscious when maintained the right way can be, well, a tad dramatic otherwise. This especially holds true in humid weather conditions or when you don’t prep and style them the right way. They appear as mixed patterns over the surface of your hair and can be perfectly S-shaped, looser in certain areas or simply loopy and limp all on the same day. Caring for 3A curls mainly revolves around achieving overall curl definition and a more uniform curl pattern throughout the hair without it being too weighed down. Here’s how:

  • Use minimal styling products that are lightweight. These get the job done without weighing down your curls and making them appear limp.
  • Since 3A curls are more prone to dryness, amp up the moisture with regular deep conditioning treatments, once every week or ten days to enthuse them with sufficient moisture. 
  • A good regime for 3A curls would be to begin with a moisturising curl cream over freshly washed and conditioned hair. Follow up with a moisture packed, yet lightweight mousse or gel to seal in the moisture and add much needed definition. Once dry, scrunch out the curls with a lightweight oil to achieve soft curls that are high on definition too.
  • For added definition to unruly 3A curls, you can finger coil while styling. This also promotes a uniform curl pattern and enhances natural ringlets to let them stay luscious for longer.

3B Curl Care

As curls that are closer to the super curly end of the spectrum, 3B curls are coarser in texture and even appear ‘springier’. While 3B curls retain their curl pattern better, they are more inclined towards dryness and frizz and have a tougher time holding moisture within. But with the right mix of products and styling techniques, perfect 3B curls are just a few steps away. 

  • Moisture is key with 3B curls, so opt for heavier products with moisturizing ingredients every step of the way. You could start with a gentle cleanser to maintain moisture levels and follow up with a thick emollient rich conditioner during your wash.
  • An ideal 3B curl care regime would be a rich leave-in conditioner, followed by mousse, more curl cream, and a defining gel for hold. 
  • Use the praying hands method to spread the products across your curl segments and finger coil or scrunch for more definition. Since moisture needs to penetrate the hair shaft, keep spritzing your curls with water during styling, this increases the efficacy of moisturizing styling products too.
  • A good curl defining gel will lock all the moisture in and form a cast on 3B ringlets, to avoid them from weighing down or losing shape.
  • Post air-drying or diffusing, simply scrunch out the cast with a little lightweight oil containing ingredients such as jojoba or argan oil to add shine and gently break the hard cast. This will reveal bouncy, healthy, and shiny 3B curls. 

3C Curl Care

3C curls are curly indeed! They can be thinner and finer in texture but always look full with a head full of curls much to the envy of many! 3C curls stick to their natural pattern at most times, making this a boon and a bane as you will need more work and products to keep it looking defined and well maintained. 3C curls are usually tightly spread over the scalp and always appearing springy and bouncy but have a tough time retaining moisture among the intricate curl patterns. But nothing is impossible and well-moisturized and healthy 3C are just a few products and techniques away:

  • This is an obvious one – but since 3C curls are typically prone to dryness, frizz, and lack of shine, invest in good quality products and stylers to bring out their natural best.
  • A typical 3C regime, post washing, would be leave-in conditioner, followed by more moisture through a curl cream, mousse and/or styling gel and a lightweight oil to finish.
  • Detangling can be daunting in tight, unyielding 3C curls, so ensure that you detangle in the shower on soaking wet hair with enough moisture rich conditioner to give you good slip. 
  • Layering of moisture is key for 3C curls, so don’t be shy to use more product while styling and spread evenly across sections to achieve a uniform curl pattern and definition.
  • 3C curls might take longer to dry, but resist the urge to touch your precious curls until they are completely dry.

Along with the above, ensure that you protect your styled and set curls with a satin or silk bonnet at bedtime and with a scarf while outdoors, to keep them defined and looking their natural best for longer.

Do check out Curl Up’s range of nourishing curl care products including our newly launched Weightless Mousse and Co-wash for all the curl love your precious curls need! Reach out to us at, +91 9945373597 or @letscurlupdotcom on Instagram to answer your questions or even just be a part of our #letscurlup community!

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