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The 3B Hair Type | Quick Reference & Care Guide

Known for its medium texture and bouncy, spiral curls, the 3B hair type requires special care and maintenance to come into its full curly glory.

Learn everything you need to know about caring for your 3B curls in our quick reference guide, complete with your hair type description, how to wash, dry, and style for best results, and more!

What Is the 3B Hair Type?

Woman with the 3B hair type with curls covering her eyes

Roman Samborskyi/Shutterstock

Type 3B hair is thoroughly curly with medium-tight, S-shaped curls that are about the circumference of a permanent marker. The 3B hair type typically features a medium hair texture (not fine or coarse) where each strand is about as thick as a thread.  

Type 3B hair usually has these characteristics: 

  • Medium-tight, spiral S-shaped curls
  • Curls about the circumference of a permanent marker
  • Struggles with dryness due to strand shape
  • Prone to frizz, tangles, and “fluffiness” 
  • May need products to define and control curls

Not quite sure if you have type 3B hair? You might fall under one of the other curly type 3 hair types. Compare the most similar hair types below to find out if you’re truly 3B. 

  • Type 3A: Fine to medium textured, loopy spiral curls about the size of a wine cork
  • Type 3B: Medium-textured, somewhat tight curls about the size of a permanent marker
  • Type 3C: Very tight, corkscrew spiral curls with the circumference of a pencil

Keep reading to learn about the best and worst features of 3B curls, along with all the maintenance and care tips you need to moisturize, add shine, and make 3B curls more manageable. 

Best Features of 3B Hair

The 3B hair type is one of the most-loved curl types because the spiral curls are so prominent and defined. Your strong curl pattern doesn’t flatten out throughout the day and with your medium strand texture, you don’t have to be as selective about your curl products. Here are the best features of 3B hair. 

Strong, Defined Curl Pattern

Your 3B curls have great definition and volume thanks to their marker-sized circumference. This type is in between loose and tight curls, so you’re getting a prominent curl shape without the intensive care needs of super-tight corkscrew curls. 

Your strong curl definition stays put all day and won’t flatten out unless you’re using products that are too heavy for your medium strand texture. 

Manageable Medium Strand Texture

The medium texture of your strands makes your curl type pretty easy to manage. You can use some of the heavier products that would weigh down finer 3A curls. 

There are still some heavy oils and creams that may prove too heavy for your medium strands, but you’ll find that most products for curly hair are a perfect fit for your strand texture and curl pattern. Lucky you!  

Perfectly Suited for the Curly Girl Method

While finer 3A curls can be easily overwhelmed with the products and ingredient restrictions of the Curly Girl Method, your type 3B curls are very receptive to the CGM.

That’s because your strong curl pattern and definition are always thirsty for moisture (which the CGM provides lots of!) and are able to form without the help of silicones, alcohols, or sulfates that are found in most curl-enhancing products.

If you’re looking for a way to improve the manageability of your 3B curls, you should at least consider following the principles of the Curly Girl Method. There are a lot of product restrictions and care methods involved, but many women who use the method say their 3B curls have never looked better! 

Worst Features of 3B Hair

Let’s get real about 3B curls they can be difficult to wrangle and tend to have a mind of their own. Being familiar with the challenges that come with the 3B hair type territory is key to take better care of your mane. 

Intensive Moisture Needs

Type 3B curls have enhanced moisture needs compared to the straight, wavy, and less curly (3A) hair types. Your 3B strands need extra moisture to be healthy.

That’s because the curly, twisting shape of your strands actually prevents natural scalp oils from making their way down your strands to deliver moisture. 

Intensive moisture needs means you’re responsible for adding in extra hydration with masks, treatments, and leave-in products to keep strands from drying out. And you know what happens when your 3B curls get too dry lots of frizz, puffiness, dullness, and tangles. 

Requires Product Layering for Best Results

The 3B hair type isn’t considered low maintenance. To get the best results and most defined curl pattern, you’ll have to layer on different curl and moisture products.

Layering on 3 or more different products can be a lot of work on wash day, which leads many women with 3B curls to skip this care step altogether or use the minimal products to get by. But the only way to ensure a smooth, shiny texture with the most curl definition and bounce, you’ll have to put in the work.

Layering the right products in the proper order is key to better managing 3B curls. We’ll talk more about this in the Maintenance and Care Tips section. 

Prone to Frizz, Tangles, and Fluffiness

Medium-tight 3B spiral curls are prone to frizziness and tangles caused by chronic dryness. You may also struggle with “fluffiness” where your curls tease apart and spread out instead of clumping together with definition. 

Thankfully, these common issues are easily resolved by coating your hair in a light layer of moisture as often as possible to correct the underlying dryness problem.

With plenty of moisture inside and outside your strands, you’ll notice less frizz, fewer tangles, and a more defined curl pattern that doesn’t look fluffy. 

Maintenance and Care Tips for 3B Hair

Keeping your 3B curls perfectly defined, not frizzy, and full of body and bounce is the goal. If your current routine and methods aren’t cutting it, switching things up to better suit your hair type will get you on the right track.

Here’s what you need to know about washing, drying, and styling your 3B hair for the best results. 

Washing 3B Hair

You should wash 3B hair every 2-4 days, depending on your hair’s oiliness. If you tend to get oily fast, aim to wash your mane every 2 days. If oiliness isn’t an issue, try to wash no more than once every 4 days. This will prevent you from stripping all your scalp’s natural moisture away. 

Keys to washing 3B hair:

  • Use sulfate-free shampoo to avoid stripping natural oils and preserve your scalp and strand moisture. This can help cut down on dryness and leave your curls more hydrated with this simple change. 
  • Clarify your hair weekly to remove product buildup. Washing with a special clarifying shampoo once a week (or using a natural apple cider vinegar rinse) will strip off dulling product buildup and keep your curls bouncy and full of movement. Follow every clarifying session with a deep conditioning treatment. 
  • Co-wash with hydrating conditioner in between wash days for extra moisture. Just because you’re not shampooing daily or every other day doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be using conditioner. Your dryness will improve when you “wash” your hair with conditioner in between shampoo days. 

Drying 3B Hair

Drying 3B hair without frizz or fluffiness does require you to use some products. For the fastest results, blow drying with a diffuser after applying your products will give you a soft, shiny, and bouncy curl

Since your hair has a medium texture, blow drying on the lowest heat setting with a heat protectant spray shouldn’t lead to heat damage. You can even air dry 3B hair to a polished, shiny finish as long as you’re layering the right types of products in the correct order.

The general order to follow for 3B hair, whether you’re air drying or blow drying with a diffuser, is:

  1. Apply leave-in conditioner after washing with shampoo and conditioner
  2. Apply a lightweight mousse for curl definition
  3. Apply a curl cream for curl support, control, and extra definition
  4. Apply styling gel (if needed) and heat protectant (if blow drying)

These products need to be applied to soaking wet hair for the best results. If your hair is on the coarser side, you may need to follow your styling gel with a little sealing oil like coconut or argan oil. If your hair is the typical medium 3B texture, you can likely skip the oil step.  

Styling 3B Hair

Once you’ve added your layered products in the right order, the world of styling possibilities for 3B hair really opens up! You’ll have an easier time managing your styles when you rock your hair down and loose for the first 2 days after washing, then resort to half-up and updo styles for days 3 and 4. 

Down and Loose

The 3B hair type styled Down and Loose

Opolja/Shutterstock

Let your semi-tight curls do their thing by wearing them down and loose in their full, curly beauty. Hydrated and soft with your suite of products supporting and defining your curl pattern, down and loose styles are perfect for wash day and the day after. 

Second Day Refresh

Second Day Refresh in 3B Curly Hair

Progressman/Shutterstock

After sleeping on your ringlets, you’ll probably find that they’ve gone a bit flat and lost some of their definition. If you’re sleeping on a cotton pillowcase, you might wake up to a lot of frizz and tangles, too.

A great go-to second day style is key! Touch up day-old 3B curls with a little leave-in conditioner or curl refresh spray for added volume and definition. 

Curly Coiled Bun

Curly Coiled Bun made from 3B Hair

Cookie Studio/Shutterstock

Channel your inner ballerina with a curly coiled bun placed at the crown when you’re close to needing a wash (or when you wake up and your curls won’t cooperate).

This tightly-bound style looks great on 3B hair because your texture still comes through, creating a messy-on-purpose look in the bun. This look can be as casual or chic as you want, depending on your outfit and makeup selection!  

Things to Consider

You’ve learned all the basics about caring for your 3B hair type. But we still have a few more helpful tips to share about this hair type, so keep reading to get all the details on keeping your curls soft, moisturized, and frizz-free! 

  • Experiment with heavier products. If you’ve been relying on a lightweight mousse only and you’re still dealing with a lot of frizz, you may need to make the switch to some heavier curl products. While heavier creams, oils, and gels may prove to be too much for oil-prone hair, these weighty products may be necessary to fully cut out the frizz. 
  • Look into the Curly Girl Method. Following the CGM takes discipline and means throwing out most (if not all) of your current hair products, but if you’re up for the challenge, this method could be key to getting perfectly hydrated, healthier curls.
  • Keep your hands out of it while drying. Touching 3B curls while they dry leads to frizz and disrupts the curl pattern, so take a hands-off approach to caring for your mane. After washing and conditioning, you can touch your hair to apply your products but that’s it! 
  • Sleep on satin or silk to minimize frizz. You can use a silk or satin bonnet or pillowcase, but you need something soft with plenty of slip to sleep on. Cotton pillowcases snag and rough up your strands while you sleep, leading to frizz, tangles, and breakage. Avoid it by using a silk or satin pillowcase or bonnet each night!

The 3B Hair Type: Final Thoughts

Many consider 3B curls to be the ideal curl type. They’re hardy and somewhat damage-resistant because of the medium (not fine or coarse) texture. The curl size is semi-tight with a little spiral looseness for the perfect balance between volume and definition. What’s not to love about this versatile curl type?

Keep these tips and care methods top of mind if you want to achieve frizz-free, soft, and manageable curls. By focusing on providing plenty of moisture, layering the right products in the proper order, and taking advantage of easy styles in between wash days, you’ll make the most of your unique texture and fall in love with your ringlets all over again. 

Still not quite sure 3B is your accurate hair type? Take our quiz now to find out what your hair type actually is and get extra tips to manage your hair type. Take Our Hair Type Quiz | It’s Only 3 Short Questions!