The Mestiza Muse

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3C Hair Comprehensive Care Guide

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Photo of what 3c hair looks like

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3c hair is my personal hair type, and when I started my hair transition (moving away from straighteners, relaxers, etc.), I noticed that my hair was severely damaged and even looked more like 3 b curls. Over time, I’ve found a great hair care routine that transformed my hair back to health. 

3c hair is the curliest of type 3 with ringlet-shaped, voluminous curls. It can be dry, frizzy, and damaged and require a lot of hydration. 3c hair also needs quality, lightweight, nourishing products and appropriate accessories and tools that won’t cause friction and breakage. 

In this comprehensive hair care guide, we discuss the characteristics of 3c hair and helpful routines and products to give you the best natural results. Whether you’re just starting your haircare journey or want to improve your current practice, read on for helpful advice and information. 

What is 3C Hair Type?

Curly hair chart showing curl patterns from 2a, 2b, 2c, 3a, 3b, 3c, 41, 4b, 4c

3c hair is a subtype for the hair type chart created by Andre Walker. The subtype comes from type 3 hair, classified under curly patterns. From subtypes a, b, and c, 3c is the curliest type 3 hair. The curls are tight corkscrews with a diameter of a pencil. 

This curly hair type is dense, voluminous, and has substantial shrinkage. Once dried, 3c hair is almost half in length. These curls are prone to breakage and frizz. The hair texture is typically coarse and dry because the sebum struggles to pass down as it does with less curly hair types.

Identifying 3C Hair 

Here is how to determine whether you have 3c hair. 

  • Wash your hair gently but thoroughly with a clarifying shampoo and leave it to air dry. During the period after washing and allowing it to dry, take note of how your hair behaves and naturally sits. 
  • Your curls are tight and look coily with your strands packed together, creating a lot of texture. 
  • Your hair is super springy and holds the s-shaped pattern even after pulling it down. 
  • The texture is delicate, frizzy, and coarse and can be dry. 

Do I Have Hair 3C or 4A?

Image of woman with 3c hair type.
Photo credit: Leal

Many people confuse 3c hair with 4a because they are closely similar. Type 4 hair falls under the coily / kinky category, and 3c often looks significantly coily with its dense, tight curls. So, how do you determine the difference? 

  • 3 c curls can sometimes be loose, or some loops in the hair will be softer than others. The curl shape can be compared to a corkscrew with the circumference of a straw. 
  • 4c hair looks like tight corkscrew curls with a circumference of a crochet needle and the entire head of hair will look that way. It may even look wiry. 
  • 3c, although the course is softer in texture, whereas 4c hair feels drier and requires much more treatment to keep it moisturized. 
  • 4c hair experiences shrinkage, but not as much as other types, whereas 3c hair shrinks to almost 50%. 
Image of Woman with type 3c hair.
Photo credit: Pinterest

How to Care for 3C Curls

Image of Pinterest Pin titled "Ultimate Care Guide for 3C Hair."

The reality with all hair types is that hair chemistry, porosity, and texture vary between people, even those with the same subtypes. Each hair type requires special care, including 3c curls. 

There is no one-size-fits-all when following a hair care routine. Different products and styles work better for some than others. You can always find what works for you by experimenting and keeping what suits your hair while letting go of what doesn’t.  

Below are some tips to help you care for your 3 c hair type: 

Moisture Is Essential 

The best way to nurture your curly hair is through conditioner, but water is also essential. It helps keep your hair hydrated and makes styling easier. Promotes healthy hair growth and reduces bad hair days. Proper hair moisturization helps to keep your curls looking their best.  

Focus on products that help to boost extra moisture, such as humectants. These ingredients draw moisture to the hair and help it stay hydrated for longer. 

Learn Your Hair’s Porosity

There are three primary porosity levels: low, normal (medium), and high. Understanding your hair’s porosity will help you choose the best products. Hair porosity determines how easily your hair can retain moisture.  

High porosity hair has many raised or lifted cuticles, quickly absorbing water and losing moisture just as rapidly. Low porosity hair is challenging to moisturize and style. The tightly packed cuticles do not allow moisture to penetrate your strands easily. 

Medium porosity typically means your hair cuticles are aligned, resulting in less of an issue with moisture retention. Additionally, don’t assume that your hair’s porosity is the same as someone else’s just because you have a similar curl pattern. 

Scalp Care 

A healthy scalp equals healthy hair. Although it may not seem apparent, the scalp is skin comprised of five layers. It differs from other body areas due to many lipid and sweat glands. It is also home to around 100,000 hair follicles

Did you know that our scalps are dirtier and sweatier than other parts of our bodies? It’s true! The combination of lipids, sweat glands, and hair strands means dirt and sweat can quickly build up on our scalps. The key to beautiful, healthy hair is simply keeping your scalp clean! 

Trim Your Ends 

Don’t overlook trims. Split ends are inevitable, no matter your hair type. The ends are the most fragile and oldest part as your hair grows. Regular trims are essential for maintaining your curls. This practice is particularly beneficial for those with loose curls that may have lost their natural spring, as it aids in length retention.

Be Gentle And Patient 

Be gentle with your hair. Curly hair is always more fragile than wavy and straight hair, so yanking through your strands because you’re in a hurry is not a good idea. I have found it best to ensure that my hair is completely soaked with a conditioner or detangler with lots of “slip” before detangling it.

Another great way to detangle your hair is a pre-poo oil treatment. Not only do pre-poo treatments make hair easier to detangle by using oils, but they also help hair retain moisture and reduce breakage during the process. You can say goodbye to frizzy hair, too! 

There are a few tools that make 3c hair easier to detangle. My personal favorites are wide tooth combs and a couple of detangling brushes below. 

Sleep Time Care 

Curly hair is very delicate and needs to be handled with care. The type of material you lay your head on at night matters. The right pillowcase can help maintain your curls, while the wrong one might be a recipe for tangles, breakage, and frizzy hair in the morning. This practice is particularly crucial when embracing protective styles to ensure the longevity and health of your beautiful curls.

Invest in these sleep accessories: 

Curly Hair Care Essential Practices 

  • Whenever possible, avoid using heat-styling tools. If you must use heat, always apply a heat protectant
  • Opt for a lightweight sulfate-free shampoo that won’t remove your hair’s natural oils. 
  • If you are sensitive to sulfates, parabens, silicones, and colorants, it is best to steer clear of products that contain them.
  • Incorporate deep conditioning treatments
  • Use leave-in conditioners and masks. They add silkiness and softness to your natural hair type. Not only that, but they help protect against dryness and tangles while delivering moisture. 
  • Make sure your wash day routine includes a clarifying shampoo to remove product buildup and oils once a month. 
  • Apply oil to safeguard the hair cuticle and prevent split ends and breakage.
  • Ensure you eat a healthy diet to maintain glossy and voluminous 3c hair. Foods high in protein, iron, folic acid, b vitamins, dark leafy greens, and antioxidants all work together to improve the condition of your locks from the inside out.

The Don’ts Of Type 3C Hair Care

  • To prevent hair loss and traction alopecia (which happened to me), abstain from hairstyles that pull at your hair. This can lead to balding or thinning and, over time, slowing hair growth. When traction alopecia advances to this stage, your hair cannot grow back. 
  • Avoid overworking them or using excessive force to maintain healthy and hydrated curls. Being gentle with your 3c curls is key. Squishing, crunching, twisting, braiding, etc., can be done without roughing your roots and strands. 
  • Don’t copy your favorite curly-haired guru’s hair routine blindly. Your hair is unique and requires a customized care regimen that works for your curls and texture. Listen to your curls and trust your instinct when finding the right products and routine to suit you! 

3C Curly Hairstyle Ideas

There are several fun hairstyles for 3c hair. Some of them include: 

  • Pineapple Hair 
  • High Bun 
  • Half-Up Top Knot 
  • Natural 
  • Hair Claw 

Below are a couple of helpful YouTube tutorials to get you started. You can use these hairstyles on type 3 and 4 hair: 

YouTube video
Video credit: Milky Candles LLC
YouTube video
Video credit: Symphony Taylor

Product Suggestions for Type 3C Hair

Many 3c hair products today will help you achieve those healthy and hydrated curls. The following product suggestions are not comprehensive, but they are a great starting point if you don’t know where to begin. All of the products below work well with color-treated hair as well.

When experimenting with new products, conduct a patch test on a small section of your hair first for the best results. This precautionary step allows you to assess how the product interacts with your hair before applying it more broadly and helps you determine if it suits your 3c hair type.

Here are some of my 3c curly hair favorites: 

Final Thoughts 

3c hair is beautiful and looks stylish without much effort. If you care for your 3c hair correctly, it will look even better and bouncier, and your luscious locks will be perfectly defined. Don’t forget to experiment with products and routines that suit your hair needs and enjoy your curls!


I’m just a girl who transformed her severely damaged hair into healthy hair. I adore the simplicity of a simple hair care routine, the richness of diverse textures, and the joy of sharing my journey from the comfort of my space.

My mission? To empower others with the tools to restore, and maintain healthy hair, and celebrate the hair they were born with!

My Favourite Things

Great hair goes beyond using shampoos, conditioners, and styling products. Shop my favorite must-haves.

After years of requests, I’m finally sharing my go-to skincare products.

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Prepare yourself for an unforgettable adventure and make sure to pack these essential items to take with you on your journey.

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