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The Beginner's Guide to 3C Hair: Types, Characteristics, and Care Tips

Taking care of your curly hair isn't an exact science. But understanding your curl type is a good place to start. 3C hair is made up of well-defined corkscrews or coils with densely packed strands, about the circumference of a pencil. 3C curl textures range from fine thin hair to coarse, with lots of volume at the root. It’s the tightest curl pattern of the type 3 curls, but also the most versatile. It can be styled to a looser 3B curl or a tight 4A spiral. But just like type 4 hair, it’s prone to frizz, dryness, tangles and damage. So keeping your 3C curls hydrated and limiting breakage is the goal of your hair care routine. We’re breaking down everything you need to know about 3C hair, including the best curly hair care tips and products to use.

How To Tell If You Have 3C Hair

Wondering how to tell if you have 3C Hair? You can identify your curl type by closely examining it. Keep in mind every head of curly hair usually has a combination of two or more curl patterns in different areas. So if you’re not sure exactly where your pattern fits, don’t worry. 3C curls are:

  • Corkscrew or spiral shape, not coily or tight textured 
  • About the circumference of a pencil or straw
  • S- or Z-shaped, even when stretched
  • Very curly and dense

Another way to tell if you have 3C hair is by testing its porosity. Hair porosity describes how the hair's cuticle absorbs and holds on to moisture in its pores. Type 3C hair is low porosity, leading to a lot of shrinkage and breakage. When too little moisture penetrates your hair, you end up with dry brittle curls. If this is you, you’re likely a 3C. If you’re not sure if your curls are porous, drop a strand of hair into a glass of water and leave it for four minutes. Then, observe the following:

  • If it floats, you have low porosity hair
  • If it sinks a bit, you have normal or medium porosity hair 
  • If it sinks quickly, you have high porosity hair

best products for 3C hair

The Best Products for 3C Hair

The best products for 3C hair include deep conditioning treatments like hair masks and hair oils to seal in moisture and nourish. Leave-in conditioner and curl defining gel to make 3C hair more manageable. Heat protectant products to reduce heat damage from heat styled hair looks, and a curl spray and dry shampoo for second and third day hairstyles. These are our favorite products for 3C hair.

  • LOVE Smoothing Instant MaskWith an immediate anti frizz action, this hair mask helps to smooth strands in just 30 seconds processing time.
  • OI OilThis multi-function hair oil detangles and fights frizz while adding shine and protection, without weighing curls down.
  • OI All In One MilkA lightweight multi-function leave-in conditioner that softens, detangles, controls frizz and protects curls from heat. 
  • This is a Curl Gel OilWith a gel-to-oil texture, this formula hydrates and defines curls providing definition for naturally soft and shiny ringlets.
  • LOVE Smoothing PerfectorThis anti frizz serum protects curls from heat and makes styling them easier without leaving any residue. 
  • This is an Invisible Dry ShampooA waterless style extender that absorbs oil and impurities leaving behind a soft, natural volume.

Styling Tips for 3C Hair: Defining Curls and Reducing Frizz

These styling tips will help you define curls and reduce frizz on your 3C curly hair.

Add moisture

Your hair care routine should focus on adding moisture back into your curls. Curly hair is prone to getting dry and frizzy, so it needs all the extra hydration it can get. This means using moisturizing products to keep your curls soft and hydrated.


Anyone with a 3C curl type or curlier should make co-washing a regular part of their hair care routine to moisturize curls, boost hydration and reduce frizz. You should shampoo once a week at most. Co-wash in-between and your ringlets will thank you.

Wash and care for 3C hair

Avoid sulfates

Curly hair is naturally a lot drier than other hair types so It’s crucial to use a sulfate-free shampoo in between your co-wash days. Sulfates can strip your 3C curls of their natural oils, increasing frizz. Avoid sulfates in your shampoos and other products at all costs.

Style when wet

Apply styling products to sopping wet hair to help distribute it evenly and smooth frizz. 

Use the LOC method

Start with L – Apply a leave-in conditioner for hydration. Follow with O – Use a hair oil to smooth and seal in moisture. Finish with C – Add a curl cream or mousse through curls for styling.

Work with your natural curl pattern

Increase curl definition by running a curl gel through your 3C curls and air-drying your strands.

Avoid tangles

Using wide-toothed combs, satin scarves and protective hairstyles like braids can help you avoid your natural hair getting tangled or kinked. 

Protect your curls from heat

Heat can leave your 3C hair brittle, so on days when you must blow dry, remember these tips:

  1. Never use a blow dryer without a diffuser
  2. Keep the heat setting on low
  3. Use your diffuser gently, so curl clumps aren’t blasted with hot air
  4. Stop when your hair is only 80% dry

Dealing with Dryness and Breakage: Caring for 3C Hair

The curlier the hair shaft, the less sebum can travel the twists and turns all the way to the ends. The result is drier strands that are vulnerable to damage. Since 3C curls are the curliest of the type 3 curly hair family and closest to type 4 curls, they’re prone to getting frizzy, tangled and damaged. The more raised the cuticle, like with C3 hair strands, the faster moisture is lost due to its porous nature.The more porous and brittle the hair becomes, the more damage is possible. To combat breakage on your 3C curly hair, use moisturizing products, trim your ends regularly, avoid heat styling and use a wide-tooth comb.

This is a Curl Gel Oil

Frequently Asked Questions about 3C Hair

How do I style 3C hair?

Styling your 3C curls requires a little bit of effort but when done correctly, there’s nothing quite like beautiful bouncy spirals and corkscrews.It all comes down to the products you use. Applying leave-in conditioner, oils, and creams to your curls will keep them hydrated. Use lightweight styling products to keep your curl shape and frizz-free. Avoid heat, but If you must use a blow-dryer, prep your strands with heat protection and use the lowest heat setting. And don’t overlook protecting your curls before bedtime with satin scarves and protective hairstyles.

How do I keep my 3C hair moisturized?

All curly hair needs moisture, and 3C curly hair types are no different. From shampooing and conditioning to styling, choose moisture-rich products and formulas for curly hair. Use a sulfate-free shampoo once a week and co-wash in between. Deep condition by using a hydrating hair mask twice a week. Eat a balanced diet full of protein, healthy fats and leafy green. Last but not least, drink lots of water daily.

How do I prevent breakage in 3C hair?

To promote healthy hair growth and prevent breakage in 3C hair you should:

  • Get frequent trimsFor loose curls, visit your stylist every 6-8 weeks. For tighter curls, make an appointment at least every three months.
  • Avoid excessive heat and harsh chemicalsBut if you absolutely must heat-style, we recommend that you always prep your hair with a protectant spray.
  • Add moistureBreakage can occur on dehydrated hair so incorporate a nourishing hair mask into your hair routine to add moisture to your curls. 
  • Protect your curls add bedtimeCover your hair with a satin scarf before bed or sleep on a satin pillowcase to reduce friction and keep curls tangle-free
  • Keep your hairstyles looseTight hairstyles can cause damage and manually straighten your curls out over time. Keep protective styles like braids, twists, locs loose and comfortable to avoid pulling and breaking your strands.

Final Thoughts on 3C Hair

3C curls aren’t as tight as type-4 coils, but it’s still prone to frizz, dryness, tangles and damage. If you’re not using the right products and styling the right way, you’re not making the most of your 3C curly hair. Remember to use only high-quality hair moisturizing products to maintain your curls — and share your other curl-care tips with the Davines community in the comments below.

by Jaclyn LaBadia, featured contributor

Leave-in serum for creating defined, bouncy curls.

Elasticizing and controlling conditioner for wavy or curly hair.

Transformative gel-to-oil for hydrated, well-defined curls.

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