As you learn more about natural curls, you may come across a few terms that leave you completely lost. It can be frustrating, but the more you know, the better off you’ll be as you plan your curly hair routine.
If you’ve recently watched a video, read a blog, or otherwise heard of 3A hair and want to know more, we can help.
The term of the day is 3A, and we’re going to dive headfirst into everything you need to know about these defined curls. Let’s get right into it!
Table of Contents
- 1 What Is 3A Hair?
- 2 What Does 3A Hair Look Like?
- 3 What Are the Benefits of Having 3A Hair?
- 4 What Are the Challenges to Having 3A Hair?
- 5 How to Care For 3A Hair
- 6 How to Style 3A Hair
- 7 Dos and Don’ts of Caring for 3A Hair
- 8 Best Products for 3A Hair
What Is 3A Hair?
3A is a classification of hair that stems from the Andre Walker Hair Typing System.
The system consists of a series of numbers and letters used to describe various hair textures. Each category starts with a number, representing the shape of your strands.
Type 1 is straight hair, 2 is wavy, 3 is curly, and type 4 is kinky or coily. The second half of the system is the letter a, b, or c, which represents the width of the curls.
Letter A denotes the widest diameter in a given category, C is the narrowest, and B is somewhere in the middle. In accordance with the Andre Walker guidelines, 3A hair is the first and loosest of the curly hair types.
What Does 3A Hair Look Like?
3A hair has loose, “S-shaped” spiral curls that are around the same width as a piece of sidewalk chalk. Your spirals are usually shiny and well-defined and look similar to waves, especially when your hair is wet.
3A hair has a well-defined curl that is present both at the roots and ends, although the relaxed curl shape means type 3A hair is less voluminous than other, tighter curl patterns. People with 3A hair tend to have fine or medium-textured hair and rarely have coarse strands.
What Are the Benefits of Having 3A Hair?
There are a lot of things to love about type 3A hair, and playing to its strengths will go a long way in keeping you and your curls happy. So here’s a quick rundown of the benefits of having 3A hair.
- Styling your hair takes less time – 3A hair’s loose, loopy curls are much easier to manage than tighter, more densely packed coils. That makes styling and caring for your hair quick and relatively easy.
- You can get away with washing 3A hair less often – Regardless of their curl type, people with curly and coily hair don’t need to wash their hair as often as people with straight and wavy strands. This is because the natural oils produced by your scalp have more difficulty navigating their way down your spiral curls. So instead of having to wash your hair daily or every other day, you can get away with washing your curls just two or three times a week.
- 3A hair is less frizzy – As the first curly hair type, 3A has features of both curly and wavy hair. Its relatively relaxed texture means you won’t have to deal with a lot of the frizziness or fluffiness characteristic of other hair textures.
What Are the Challenges to Having 3A Hair?
Although 3A hair has plenty of strengths, it’s not all smooth sailing. In fact, a few things can make styling and maintaining your curls downright challenging at times. Let’s look at some challenges people with type 3A hair may face.
- Your curls can become flat – 3A hair is usually fine or thin in texture and has a loose curl pattern. Subsequently, you may find that your curls become limp and lifeless as the day wears on. You’ll also struggle with maintaining fullness, as 3A spirals are less voluminous than spring and coil-shaped curls.
- You’ll need to rely on products – Type 3A hair doesn’t have as much body, movement, or fullness as other curly hair types. Instead, it is prone to falling flat. To combat this, you’ll need products that prop your curls up and give them some support.
- 3A hair can be dry – Curly hair is inherently drier than straight or wavy textures. Although 3A curls are loose, their “S” shape prevents your scalp oils from traveling all the way down your strands. As a result, you’ll probably notice that the mid-lengths and ends of your hair are dry, while your scalp and roots tend to be greasy.
How to Care For 3A Hair
As with any hair type, 3A curls need special care and attention. And by catering to its strengths and compensating for its weaknesses, you can help your curls flourish. So below, we’ll give you some tips on how to best care for type 3A hair.
Use Products That Work With Your Hair Type
If you have 3A curls, finding products that cater to your hair type should be your first step. Products geared towards kinkier textures may be too heavy for your strands and are more likely to weigh them down, cause buildup, and lead to moisture overload.
On the other hand, straight and wavy hair products might not give your curls the moisture they need.
Experiment with different products until you find the ones that give your hair the right amount of hydration and weightlessness. We’ll recommend products for 3A hair later on in this article, so keep on reading!
Invest in a Detangling Brush
Although 3A hair has loose curls, your texture means you’ll struggle with frizz and tangles. Instead of tearing through your hair with a regular brush or comb, consider investing in a detangling brush.
Detangling brushes have special, staggered bristles that gently work through knotted hair without breaking it.
In addition to being more gentle, detangling brushes can cut your work in half! They come in a variety of different styles, so try a few to find out which one works best with your curls.
Get Regular Trims
No matter how well you take care of your hair, trims should be a part of regular maintenance. As the oldest part of your hair, your ends are the most prone to drying, splitting, or breaking off.
Trims help get rid of this damage and stop them before they have the opportunity to travel upwards and put the mid-lengths and roots of your hair at risk. Ideally, you should get a trim every 10 to 12 weeks.
Deep Condition Your Hair Regularly
Although 3A hair isn’t as dry as the other curly hair types, it is significantly drier than straight and wavy hair. You’ll have to restore your hair’s moisture with weekly or biweekly hydrating deep conditioning treatments.
Just be careful in deciding which conditioner you use.
Deep conditioners geared toward coarse, type 4 hair may be too hydrating for your fine strands. They may leave them feeling limp and greasy rather than hydrated.
How to Style 3A Hair
Now you understand what 3A hair is and how to take care of it. The next step is learning how to make it look its best! So in this section, we’ll walk you through some different hairstyles that are perfect for 3A locks.
Low puffs are the perfect go-to hairstyle for when you’re running low on time but still want to look presentable. Apply a moisturizing gel to your hair and brush it back with a boar bristle brush.
Secure your ponytail with a hair tie or scrunchy, and use your fingers to fluff up your puff gently. And that’s it!
A low puff is a quick and easy style that you can dress up with some elegant hair accessories, like this hairpin. You can also switch things up and pull your curls into multiple smaller ponytails instead of one large one.
Are you looking for a style that’s equal parts wearable and edgy? A fauxhawk somehow manages to ride that fine line, all while looking undeniably chic.
And the best part? You don’t even have to cut your hair to achieve it!
Simply part your hair into three parallel sections that run from the front of your head to the back. Then, braid, twist, or slick back the sides. Apply a little curl-enhancer to the middle portion, and use your fingers to separate and style your curls.
Undone Updo – Space Bun Edition
An undone updo is a more casual, wearable take on a formal updo. It’s soft and romantic but keeps your strands pulled back, so they don’t get in the way.
Want to know how you can get this gorgeous look?
To start, create a deep center part and gather each half of your hair into a ponytail – you should have 2 ponytails. Twist the length of your hair and secure each ponytail with a small elastic band at the ends.
Wrap the pigtails around each other to form a messy bun. Slide a few bobby pins into the base of each bun to secure your ends, and gently tug on your buns to loosen your curls.
Pulling out a few face-framing tendrils is the key to making this curly updo selfie-ready. That will help soften the look and give it some laidback glamor.
Curls can be unpredictable, so add a little more definition to your hanging tendrils by winding them around a curling iron for a couple of seconds.
Plop Your Curls
Plopping is a curl-enhancing drying technique that is extremely popular among curly-haired girls. Plopping your hair encourages curl definition, cuts down on damage, and can even reduce the amount of time you spend styling and drying your tresses.
Did we mention that it’s also super simple?
To start, wash and condition your hair as you would normally. Then, carefully blot your hair with a T-shirt or microfiber towel, so it’s no longer dripping wet.
Apply your favorite creams, leave-ins, and oils to your strands before gently detangling. Lay your shirt or towel onto a raised flat surface, with the neck hole facing you.
Bend at the waist and flip your curls onto the center of the fabric.
Layer your hair on itself and create the same folds as you would see in an accordion. Make sure you pile your hair on top of itself and keep it compressed as much as possible.
The goal is to fold it, not stretch it out.
Keep folding your hair until you’ve reached your crown, and grab the furthest end of your shirt or towel. Bring it to the nape of your neck, and use the far ends of the fabric to form a bag of sorts.
While your hair is still stacked on top of your head, stand up and wrap or tuck the loose ends of the fabric to secure them.
Be careful not to squish your curls during this step.
After you’ve finished your “plop,” wait for 20 to 45 minutes before removing your shirt or towel. When time is up, you can either wait for it to air dry or speed up the process with a diffuser. Once your hair has completely dried, it’s ready to style or wear as is!
Dos and Don’ts of Caring for 3A Hair
When dealing with 3A hair, there are some things that you need to keep in mind. Doing so will help prevent damage and help keep your curls in tip-top shape.
Here’s what you should and shouldn’t do when caring for your 3A curls.
- Do consider installing a showerhead filter to eliminate hard water buildup.
- Do develop a healthy scalp routine in addition to caring for your hair.
- Do start with your ends when you detangle your hair.
- Do avoid heat-styling your hair as much as possible.
- Do get a diffuser attachment for your blow dryer.
- Do eat a healthy diet, so your curls are nourished from the inside out.
- Do handle your strands gently to avoid breakage and split ends.
- Do dry your hair with a microfiber towel or T-shirt instead of a regular towel.
- Do limit your use of products that contain insoluble silicones.
- Don’t use protein-rich products and treatments too frequently.
- Don’t go to sleep with wet hair if you can avoid it.
- Don’t shampoo your hair more than two or three times a week.
- Don’t overload your curls with product.
- Don’t brush your hair while it’s dry, or you will create frizz.
- Don’t touch your hair after you style it, or you’ll disrupt your curls and create frizz.
- Don’t use fine tooth combs unless your hair has been straightened.
- Don’t apply conditioner to your roots; focus on the mid-lengths and ends instead.
Best Products for 3A Hair
As mentioned earlier, using the right products is key if you want your curls to shine. But with so many different brands and products on the market, how do you sort through them all?
To make things simple, we’ve compiled this list of some of the best products to care for and style your type 3A hair.
Mielle Organics Babassu & Mint Deep Conditioner
If you have 3A hair, regular deep conditioning treatments are a necessity. And that’s where this invigorating hair mask comes in!
Its intensive blend of proteins and amino acids helps rebuild your strands, while fatty acid-rich oils, like Babassu, increase your hair’s elasticity.
With just one deep conditioning treatment a week, you’ll see smoother ends and less breakage, flyaways, and frizz.
Ouidad Botanical Boost Curl Energizing & Refreshing Spray
This weightless curl-defining spray refreshes and perks up listless curls. Its non-sticky formula is powered by nutrient-rich botanical extracts like rose hip, aloe, and Centella.
Simply mist this spray onto your hands and cup it in your palms. Give your hair a few scrunched, and it will be energized, refreshed, and beautifully defined.
Lotta Body Refine Me Curl Defining Mousse
Are you in the market for a non-sticky, non-greasy, flake-free mousse that gives you plenty of crunch-free definition and shine?
Lotta Body’s curl-defining mousse gives you all that and more! This medium-hold texture-enhancing mousse softens and tames your wayward curls, so they feel great and look even better.
Aunt Jackie’s Power Wash Intense Moisture Clarifying Shampoo
Unlike most clarifying shampoos, this shampoo cuts through stubborn products and hard water buildup without drying out your curls.
Its luxurious formula is packed with nourishing ingredients like aloe vera, grapeseed oil, and apple cider vinegar that replenish and deep clean your strands.
AG Hair Moisture Fast Food Leave On Conditioner
A little goes a long way with this highly concentrated leave-in conditioner.
It contains a luscious blend of ingredients, including Abyssinian oil, aloe, and a PABA-free sunscreen that helps protect your strands from damaging UV rays. With regular use, you’ll notice fewer split ends and a natural luster that demands stares.
So there you have it! Learning all the ins and outs of managing your type 3A hair can initially feel overwhelming. But eventually, you’ll get the hang of understanding your hair’s needs, and caring for it will become second nature.
We hope this article has answered your questions and educated you on everything you need to do to help your 3A curls thrive.
Kenneth Byrd holds a BS in Accounting and Management Information Systems and an MBA from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. With over 15 years of experience, Kenneth has been dedicated to hair care since 2008, when he co-founded Curl Centric® and Natural Hair Box alongside his wife. As a team, they promote healthy hair care practices through their comprehensive platform, Curl Centric. Curl Centric is a website operated by a husband and wife team that encourages healthy hair care. At Curl Centric, we aim to help our readers take control of their hair care journey and make good decisions about products, hairstyles, and maintenance techniques. We also have strict editorial integrity; here’s an explanation of our editorial guidelines and how we make money.