Embracing Your 3C Hair: Tips, Products and Styling Techniques

Embracing Your 3C Hair: Tips, Products and Styling Techniques featured image
Arnold Jerocki / Getty Images

In the past, you may have overlooked the complexity of 3C curls and curly hair in general, assuming that all curls were alike. If your attempts to enhance your curls have been met with less-than-satisfactory results, fear not—we’re here to guide you. Recognizing the individuality of your curl type is the pathway to unlocking better hair days. It’s a journey of discovery and adaptation, where catering to the specific needs of your curls reveals the secret to optimal hair health and styling success. Below, we’ve consulted with experts to bring you their best advice for caring for 3C hair.

  • Robin Groover is a MYAVANA chief hair officer
  • Tatiana Dudley is a Moroccanoil hair stylist ambassador
  • Kim Lewis is the founder and CEO of CurlMix

What are some common characteristics of 3C hair texture?

3C hair texture is characterized by tight curls that are similar in size to a pencil or straw. They often have a defined S-shape pattern and can range from being densely packed to more loosely arranged. “These curls are the tightest of the type 3 curls as the rounding of each curl is shorter in distance, resembling corkscrews,” says Moroccanoil hair stylist ambassador Tatiana Dudley. “3C curls tend to have a lot of natural volume and bounce.”

How does 3C hair differ from other curl patterns, such as 3A or 3B?

The inside of a curl is considered the funnel—a 3C funnel is the smallest of type 3 curls, making it sometimes difficult to distinguish between a curl and a coil. “As the funnel of a curl gets bigger, you move down in number on the curl type categories, and as it gets smaller, you move up in number,” explains Dudley. “3C curls need more moisture but have good curl memory because of the strength of the curl, and as a result, you’ll find that styles last longer. Due to the staying power, there is less need for constant manipulation,” says MYAVANA chief hair officer Robin Groover.

What are the best styling techniques for enhancing the natural beauty of 3C hair?

3C curls respond well to wet styling using curl-defining products. According to our experts, the best techniques for 3C hair involve minimal heat, minimal manipulation and minimal tension to preserve the integrity of the hair strands. Unlike type 4 textures, 3C curls are looser and prone to damage from excessive manipulation.

Lightweight stylers such as defining mousses or gels are recommended for adding volume and bounce to 3C curls. Detangling with a paddle brush is advisable for a defined look. “My motto is, ‘if it’s wet, it must be set’ which means to actively dry the hair and not air dry,” says Dudley.

What are the main challenges people with 3C hair face in maintaining healthy hair?

The biggest challenge for 3C hair is dryness and breakage. This hair type often requires significant moisture and hydration to maintain its elasticity and prevent frizz. Moisture is key! One way to retain moisture within your curls is to sleep with a silk or satin pillowcase and bonnet, says Groover. She adds that using fibers like cotton while sleeping can dry out the hair.

Regularly detangling 3C hair is essential to prevent matting and tangling. According to Kim Lewis, the founder and CEO of CurlMix, for every week you neglect detangling, you may need to spend additional time untangling your hair later on. While 3C hair can be forgiving, neglecting detangling can lead to complications over time.

How can individuals with 3C hair prevent frizz and maintain moisture levels effectively? 

According to Lewis, using a bonnet and pinning your hair up at night can help preserve the curls and tame frizz. In addition to this, Groover recommends pineappling the hair—this involves gathering all of the hair at the top of your head and loosely securing it with a scrunchie. “This will protect your curls and allow you to just shake them out in the morning,” she explains. “You can also use a hair sleeve to keep the hair from moving around inside the bonnet while you sleep.”

For the optimal hair-care routine, our experts recommend starting with a leave-in conditioner to combat frizz, followed by a serum to tame static and shield against humidity. Dudley emphasizes the importance of leave-in conditioners like Moroccanoil’s All-In-One Leave-In Conditioner ($30), which balances porosity to facilitate easier detangling and minimize frizz.

“Since 3C curls are prone to dryness, hydrating shampoos and conditioners are essential to maintain moisture levels. Cream-based styling products such as Moroccanoil Hydrating Styling Cream ($36) or their Curl Defining Cream ($36) are ideal for retaining moisture and defining curls with a gentle hold,” she explains. Complete your routine by drying your hair with a diffuser to evenly distribute airflow, reduce frizz and preserve the natural curl pattern—resulting in bouncier, more defined curls.

How often should individuals with 3C hair deep condition their hair and what techniques work best?

“All type 3 curls can deep treat their strands as frequently as once a week or once a month. It really depends on how you style your hair, your lifestyle and your activity level,” says Dudley. “For instance, I have a lot of clients who swim weekly and some who swim daily. I recommend that they do a deep treatment weekly due to the harsh effects the chemicals in the water can have on their hair. The same is true for color-treated curls—both have a highly drying effect on the hair. My holy grail deep treatment is Moroccanoil Intense Hydrating Mask ($42)—it deep conditions the hair in as little as five to seven minutes. When deep conditioning the hair, remember to apply the product on the hair strands and not the scalp. Saturate the strands so there is no hair left behind. To take your treatment to the next level, add steam hydration.”

Products and tools for 3C hair

1 / 5

Mielle Moisture RX Hawaiian Ginger Overnight Conditioner ($10)

This luxurious treatment is designed to deeply nourish and moisturize hair while you sleep, leaving it soft and revitalized.

BUY NOW – $10

Mielle conditioner
2 / 5

Moroccanoil Intense Smoothing Serum ($30)

This silky serum is designed to tame unruly hair and combat frizz, leaving strands sleek and manageable.

BUY NOW – $30

Moroccanoil Smoothing Serum
3 / 5

Curlmix Wash and Go System with Light Hold for Curly Hair ($89)

This four-step wash-and-go system locks in moisture for maximum hair growth and offers a hassle-free solution for achieving defined curls without weighing them down.

BUY NOW – $89

4 / 5

MYAVANA Hair Analysis Kit ($99)

This kit is a comprehensive solution designed to assess the unique needs of your hair. Using advanced technology, it provides personalized insights and recommendations to help you achieve healthier and more vibrant hair.

BUY NOW – $99

Myavana Hair Analysis Kit
5 / 5

The Richualist The Mint ($450)

Feel the difference with quicker detangling and styling while boosting product absorption using this brush that gently warms your favorite curl creams or gels.

BUY NOW – $450

The Richualist The Mint

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