Skip to Content

The 3A Hair Type | Quick Reference Guide & Care Tips

Fine to medium in texture with loose, wine cork-sized curls, the 3A hair type is known for its loosely curly and voluminous texture.

Taking care of 3A curls means providing the right amount of moisture, supporting and defining curls with the proper products, and managing frizz and tangles. Learn everything you need to know about the 3A hair type in our quick reference guide!


What Is the 3A Hair Type?

Redhead girl with the 3a hair type

Cookie Studio/Shutterstock

The 3A hair type is known for its loosely spiral curls that are about the circumference of a wine cork. The 3A hair texture can be fine (thinner than a thread) or medium (about the same thickness as a thread). As one of the type 3 curly hair types, 3A features prominent S-shaped curls throughout. 

Type 3A hair is known for the following characteristics: 

  • Loose, “loopy” S-shaped curls
  • Curls are bouncy, defined, and full of body
  • Some struggles with frizz and tangles
  • Dryness and dullness can be an issue
  • May need products to hold and support curls

Not sure if you’re actually dealing with 3A hair? Compare some of the most similar hair types to see which is the best fit for your mane. 

  • Type 2C: Medium-coarse strands with tight waves that resemble curls prone to frizz
  • Type 3A: Loose, defined curls about the circumference of a wine cork
  • Type 3B: Medium-sized curls about the circumference of a permanent marker

Now that you’re familiar with type 3A hair and its characteristics, keep reading to learn about the best and worst features of this hair type. Then, we’ll cover maintenance and daily care tips to help you bring your 3A curls to life!

Read Next: Not Sure About Your Curls? Take Our Hair Type Quiz!

Best Features of 3A Hair

Woman with the 3A hair type in a studio

Valua Vitaly/Shutterstock

There’s so much to love about the loosely curly 3A hair type! These are some of the best features of this hair type and maybe some of your favorite things about rocking natural 3A curls. 

Loose, Manageable Curl Shape

While other curl types (3B and 3C) have a more rigid, tight curl shape, 3A curls are loose and loopy, not tightly wound. This makes your curls more manageable and better suited for wash and go styles.

The fine to medium strand texture also makes it easier to manipulate and shape your curls. Your hair type is characterized by the loosely spiral shape of your curl pattern.

In fact, it’s so loose that sometimes women with 3A curls mistype themselves as a wavy 2B or 2C. But the defined spiral shape, however loose, characterizes hair in the 3A type. 

Minimal Products Needed

When you have 3A curls, you don’t need many products or a ton of product layering to make the most of your ringlets. In fact, using too much of any product will likely result in weighed-down curls that flatten out throughout the day.

If your strands are properly moisturized, you might find that you don’t need any products to enjoy shiny, shapely curls with body and bounce! But since 3A hair’s moisture needs are pretty significant, it’s wise to have a few curl-enhancing products on hand.

Your hair type will always respond well to a little help from products to improve curl definition and provide some scaffolding and support for your loose curl pattern. 

Has Wavy and Curly Features

Type 3A hair is the least curly of all three curly types (3A, 3B, and 3C). It’s very similar to wavy hair because the curls are so loose. You truly get the best of both worlds with 3A hair the easy care and maintenance of waves with the lasting prominence and volume of curls. 

Your 3A hair may look more wavy than curly when it’s wet. And since your curls are about the circumference of a wine cork or piece of sidewalk chalk, you deal with less frizz and “fluffiness” or unwanted volume than other curly or kinky hair types. 

Worst Features of 3A Hair

While there are a lot of positive things about 3A hair, this loosely curly hair type has its fair share of disadvantages, too. Being familiar with the challenges of 3A hair will help you create the best hair care plan for your curls. 

Dryness Is a Constant Battle

All curly hair types struggle with dryness to different degrees. With your loosely curly 3A shape, you won’t deal with as much dryness as type 3B or 3C but there’s still a moisture deficit with your hair type due to the shape of your strands. 

Curly strands twist and wind away from the scalp, making it tough for your natural scalp oil (sebum) to travel down strands to deliver adequate moisture.

This means you likely need outside sources of moisture in the form of weekly hair masks, conditioning treatments, and leave-in moisturizing products to keep your strands from drying out too much. 

Curls Easily Go Flat

Your 3A strands may be baby-fine or medium in texture, but never coarse. Combine your fine-ish hair texture with your loose curl pattern, and it’s easy to see why 3A curls are so prone to flattening out or going limp throughout the course of the day. 

In fact, you might’ve noticed that some types of products formulated for curly hair are just too heavy on your hair and flatten, not enhance, your loose curls. 

You can rectify the problem with curl products that support and “hold up” your curls for a longer period of time. It’s also a good idea to make sure you’re getting enough moisture without overdoing it and weighing your curls down.  

Easily Affected by the Elements

You have the loosest curls of all three curly types, but they still respond to outside elements the same way that tighter curly types do. Humidity in the air can lead to frizz and fluffy curls, just like in other curly hair types. 

If you’ve straightened or styled your hair in waves, you may find that it’s more prone to frizzing up and puffing out when exposed to the slightest amount of humidity or moisture in the air. It’s good to know that the more hydrated and healthy your 3A strands are, the more humidity-resistant they’ll be. 

Maintenance and Care Tips for 3A Hair

Caring for type 3A hair is easy when you have the right routine and methods laid out. We’ll show you how to get the best results with your hair type by following the right washing, drying, and styling routines. 

Washing 3A Hair

You don’t want to wash 3A hair too often your hair needs as much natural moisture as it can get to fully curl and get that soft, shiny look. You should wash 3A curls every 2-3 days for the best results. The finer your hair is, the more often you’ll need to wash to remove excess oil. 

Keys to keep in mind for your 3A wash routine:

  • Use a sulfate-free shampoo to leave a small amount of moisturizing scalp oils intact. If your hair is very fine and sulfate-free options aren’t leaving it clean enough, opt for one of our top recommended shampoos for oily hair
  • Comb your hair thoroughly before you wash to remove any tangles and wash gently, avoiding harsh scrubbing. Do not brush or comb it after washing to keep frizz and fluffiness at bay.
  • Protect your ends with a little conditioner before you shampoo. This will keep the most damaged part of your hair enveloped in moisture, which helps keep your curl pattern intact. 
  • Leave your conditioner on for at least 3 minutes, or use a leave-in conditioner for added hydration. Experiment to find which option works best for your hair. Fine hair tends to respond to leave-ins better. 

Drying 3A Hair 

Drying 3A hair presents you with two basic options: Air dry (the healthiest, least-damaging option) or blow dry (harsher on hair and can lead to heat damage).

We recommend air drying your curls whenever possible to keep your hair healthy and make heat damage less likely. But it’s perfectly fine to blow dry with a diffuser when you’re short on time or want a perfectly-styled look.

Whether you plan to air dry or blow dry your 3A curls, it’s a good idea to apply any products you’ll be using while your hair is still soaking wet. This will help enhance your natural curl pattern (which may look like waves when it’s wet).

Keep your hands out of your hair as it dries to avoid unwanted frizz. When you want to blow dry your 3A hair, you’ll either use a diffuser attachment with your hair dryer (if you’re styling it curly) or use a hair brush as you dry (for a straight blowout).

However you choose to dry, you’ll want to use a quality heat protectant spray and the lowest heat setting to protect your fine-to-medium strands from heat damage. 

Styling 3A Hair

Woman styling her 3a curly hair

Cerrotalavan/Shutterstock

Type 3A hair is finer than other curly types so lightweight products are key. Although your hair is curly, it’s not as coarse as 3B or 3C hair types.

You still need curl definition and moisture from products, but you’ll want to be choosy about what you put on your fine strands to avoid weighing them down. Mousse and anti-frizz serum are the products best-suited for 3A hair.

Mousse is essential for 3A hair because it provides lightweight, airy structure and definition to your curls. You’ll get the benefits of extra curl definition and enhanced curl pattern without the heaviness or crunchiness of a gel. 

Anti-frizz serum prevents frizz and flyaways from separating from your curl groups.

You’ll get a smoother, shinier texture when you use a small amount of anti-frizz serum when you style your curls. All you’ll need is a dab with your fine texture, too much oily serum will make your hair look greasy. 

Achieve Perfect Definition With Finger Coils

3a curly hair styling tip titled Achieve Perfect Definition With Finger Coils

Sofia Zhuravetc/Shutterstock

Apply your favorite mousse and anti-frizz serum to your wet hair, then take individual curl groups and coil them around your fingers to define and set the curl.

This is time-consuming, but when you want perfect definition with maximum shine and curl support, this hands-on method is the best. Save time by finger coiling before diffusing your hair dry. You may need to add extra anti-frizz serum after styling. 

Get Bangs for Extra Volume

Lady with 3a hair type showing us how to Get Bangs for Extra Volume

Dmitry Bakulov/Shutterstock

The 3A hair type tends to be a little flat without the help of volumizing products, but using too much product on a daily basis will result in a lot of buildup.

Inject instant volume in the front by getting bangs! Bangs will curl up beautifully across your forehead, creating the illusion of more height on top and extra volume. 

Try a Chic Low Pony

Try a Chic Low Pony to style 3a hair

Oleg Gekman/Shutterstock

In between wash days or when you’re not up for lengthy styling, try a chic low ponytail with an added twist. Create a topsy tail by gathering your hair into a low ponytail first.

Create an opening in the hair just above the elastic and tuck the entire ponytail through the opening. Touch up your curls with a spritz of curl-enhancing spray or plain water and leave-in conditioner. Pull down some face-framing pieces and you’ve got a quick, glam look! 

Things to Consider

You’re up to speed on all the 3A hair type basics the best and worst features, the right shampoo schedule, drying methods, and easy styles that show off your loosely curly texture.

Nestled right in the sweet spot between intensely wavy and spiral curls, many consider your curly hair type to be one of the most versatile and easy to care for. But there are a few more special considerations to keep in mind if you want the best results from your 3A hair. 

These include:

  • Stay away from creams, gels, and oils. Most products targeted toward curly hair are too heavy for you. These products are heavier in weight than mousse, serums, and leave-in products. It can be too much on your fine to medium hair texture. Experiment to see how much product you can get away with using you may only need a dime-sized amount of medium-weight products like serums and leave-ins. 
  • Sleep with a satin or silk pillowcase. Curls frizz up and lose definition when there’s a lot of frizz in the mix. Cotton pillowcases create frizz and can actually damage your strands by lifting the cuticle layer while you sleep. Using a silk or satin pillowcase (or bonnet) will eliminate the problem and help your curls keep their shape overnight. 
  • Embrace your curl shape. If you’re trying to create tighter curls with products, you’ll only end up weighing your loose curls down. Embrace your loose spirals and don’t fall into the trap of heat-styling daily to create the “perfect” curls with a curling iron. With a little mousse and anti-frizz serum, you’ll have gorgeous and workable texture without heat styling. 
  • Air dry whenever possible. Your finer hair texture makes your strands more susceptible to all types of damage, including heat damage. Even with heat protectant spray and hot tools on the lowest heat setting, it’s still easy to damage fine hair. Opt to air dry instead as often as possible to preserve your hair’s strength and integrity. 

The 3A Hair Type: Final Thoughts

Managing your 3A hair type is pretty straightforward now that you know the basics. If you’re putting a product in your hair, it needs to be lightweight and airy. You’ll know if a product is too heavy for your hair when it appears greasy faster than usual or lies flatter than usual. 

Minimizing damage from heat and chemicals will help you keep your 3A curls in the healthiest condition. Keeping your hair moisturized with lightweight conditioner and leave-in products will enhance your curl pattern without flattening your loose curls. 

Want to learn even more about caring for your specific hair type? You can narrow things down by finding out what your hair porosity (absorbency) level is with our quick quiz next. Hair Porosity Quiz | 5 Questions Is All It Takes!