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3A Hair: What Is It, How To Care For It & Avoid Breakage
Dr. Michael May (FRCS)
Medically reviewed by
Dr. Michael May (FRCS)
Updated on May 13, 2024

Your hair type defines how you should care for it. Type 3A hair is one of the trickiest to look after, as you’ll have a mix of waves and loose curls, and might be prone to frizz.

When you know how to care for your 3A hair, you can make every day a great hair day. Here, you’ll discover how to find out whether you have 3A hair, essential care tips for this curly hair type, and how to treat and prevent curly hair loss.

Table of Contents

What is type 3A hair?

Type 3A hair is characterised by defined ringlets, but these are typically loose spirals rather than tight coils. 3A curls tend to be wide and springy, though they can appear more wavy than curly when wet.

Zendaya and Annalynne McCord famously have type 3A hair:

celebrities with 3A curly hair

How do I know if my hair is 2C, 3A, or another hair type

It’s not always easy to differentiate between hair types, especially if you’ve chemically or heat-treated your hair. This can permanently alter the natural curl of your hair until it grows out.

Hair types are split into four categories, with three subcategories in each one. This chart shows the difference between types 1a hair to 4c hair:

different hair types

Types 2C, 3A, and 3B can be hard to distinguish. That’s because many people have a mix of different hair types on their scalp as each follicle produces hair independently of the others.

Those with curl type 2C hair tend to have more waves than curls, while those with 3A hair have more curls. In general, 3A ringlets are at least the width of a permanent marker or highlighter pen. 3B hair is characterised by tighter ringlets with a smaller circumference.

Why is my 3A hair so frizzy?

Like all curly hair types, 3A hair is prone to frizz. There are a few reasons for this:

  • Curly hair is prone to breakage, which can cause hair to snap off and become flyaways.
  • Some shampoos contain ingredients that generate static electricity among your hair strands [1].
  • Brushing and combing curls when dry causes friction and static in your hair.

How to care for 3A hair

While your 3A hair may feel rough and frizzy at times, it can become glossy and full with the right care. Follow this 3A curly hair routine to look after your curls and make them look their best.

1. Deep condition your hair regularly

Conditioning your hair is an essential part of any haircare routine, but it’s especially important for those with curly hair types. Curly hair types struggle with hair breakage more than straight hair types, but conditioning your hair can lower friction and reduce the chance of hair damage [1].

Deep conditioning your hair once or twice a week (depending on your level of hair dryness) will moisturise your hair strands and help you tackle frizzy broken hair on top of your head. Leave-in conditioners can protect your hair while combing wet hair and may help keep your curls intact for longer [1].

2. Avoid chemicals and heat

Chemical treatments like relaxers, rebonding, and perms are designed to permanently change the structure of your hair. While this can make it easier to manage, it’s difficult to restore your natural 3A curl definition following chemical treatments. You’ll need to wait for your hair to grow out to get your natural curls back.

While heat treatments are less permanent, they can still make your hair feel dry and brittle, which can lead to breakage. Heat is linked with hair loss, so it’s also a good idea to avoid using straighteners or curling tongs as much as possible even for temporary restyling.

3. Consider co-washing

Co-washing is an increasingly popular option for people with curly hair types. It involves washing your hair with conditioner only, without the need for shampoo. Some shampoo surfactants like sulphates can lead to frizz, hair strand fragility, and scalp dryness [2].

Co-washing may help avoid excessive frizz and roughness in those with 3A hair, though there’s limited scientific evidence to prove this.

If you do decide to co-wash your hair, avoid products that contain insoluble silicones, as they can cause excessive scalp buildup that’s difficult to remove.

4. Don’t overbrush

Combing or brushing your hair too often or too harshly can lead to hair breakage at the crown and hairline, especially in curly hair [3]. Minimise the time you spend brushing, and use a detangling solution or leave-in conditioner to help smooth your hair and remove knots without tugging or pulling.

Brushing your hair when dry can spoil your curl pattern, so it’s best to brush it when wet.

5. Sleep on a silk pillowcase

Regular cotton pillowcases cause friction between the fabric and your hair, which can damage your hair shafts.

Using a silk pillowcase for your hair (or putting your hair in a silk bonnet) can reduce the amount of friction, protecting your hair while you sleep.

Best products for type 3A hair

Those with 3A hair types should consider using these products to maintain their curls:

  • Sulphate-free shampoo — Sulphates can dry out your hair by stripping away the natural oils, which can cause frizz. Therefore, switching to a shampoo that doesn’t contain sulphates is important.
  • Conditioner — Conditioner is the most important part of your 3A haircare routine, as it keeps your hair soft and glossy, and defines your curls.
  • Deep conditioner — Deep conditioners provide extra protection and nourishment to your hair.
  • Detangling solution — If your hair is prone to knotting and tangling, consider using a detangling solution to make brushing smoother and easier.

Is hair loss common with curly hair?

Hair loss can affect everyone, regardless of their natural hair type. Currently, no studies have established whether hair loss is more or less likely to affect people with curly hair [4].

However curly hair is more prone to breakage due to the twists and angles in the hair shaft [1]. Breakage can lead to hair thinning that looks similar to hair loss.

Those with curly hair types are also more likely to have dry hair fibres, which are liable to snap off [1].

One study measured the average amount of hair loss among women with short, medium, and long curly hair, comparing results in those with healthy hair and those with (FPHL) [5]:

Hair lengthHair shedding in curly-haired women with healthy hairHair shedding in curly-haired women with FPHL

The scores and their equivalent value in terms of number of hairs lost are shown in these photos:

Short Hair Shedding

Hair shedding score and equivalent hair loss in women with short hair.

Hair shedding score and equivalent hair loss in women with short hair.

Medium Hair Shedding

Hair shedding score and equivalent hair loss in women with medium hair.
Hair shedding score and equivalent hair loss in women with medium hair.

Long Hair Shedding

Hair shedding score and equivalent hair loss in women with long hair.
Hair shedding score and equivalent hair loss in women with long hair.

Women with female pattern hair loss are more likely to see substantial hair shedding than those with healthy hair. But it’s normal to experience some curly hair shedding even if you have healthy hair.

Treating type curly 3A hair loss

Diagnosing and treating 3A hair loss is a process that’s unique to every individual:

  1. Diagnosis — The first step is knowing why your curly hair is falling out, whether it’s due to breakage, female pattern hair loss, or another underlying cause.
  2. Treatment — You may need to try different treatments (or even a combination) to find the right solution for your hair loss.

If the cause of your hair loss isn’t obvious, hair loss blood tests may be needed to determine the underlying triggers and find the right hair loss treatment for women.

Treatments for curly hair loss often include:

  • Lifestyle changes — Changing the way you style and care for your hair can help restore your natural curl pattern.
  • Minoxidil — Minoxidil is a well-tolerated hair loss solution that can be applied directly to the scalp to stimulate hair growth.
  • Vitamin therapy — If you suffer from a vitamin deficiency, your trichologist may recommend a course of vitamin supplements or dietary changes. Learn more about vitamins for hair growth.
  • Curly hair transplant — If your hair loss is permanent and/or irreversible, getting a female hair transplant may be the best option for sustained regrowth.

Preventing 3A curly hair loss

Taking care of your 3A hair and living a healthy lifestyle is the best way to prevent hair loss. That includes eating plenty of healthy hair foods, getting regular exercise, and using the haircare tips above.

However, not all hair loss is preventable. If other people in your family have genetic hair loss, you may be more likely to lose hair yourself. Unfortunately, you won’t know if you’re affected until your hair loss starts.

If you’re worried about hair loss, consult with a professional trichologist at the first signs of hair thinning or balding. At the Wimpole Clinic, we’ll examine your hair, scalp, lifestyle, and medical history to determine the cause of your hair loss, and help you stop it progressing further.

Book a consultation for an assessment of your 3A hair online or face-to-face at one of our clinic locations today.

3A Hair: What Is It, How To Care For It & Avoid Breakage, Wimpole Clinic

Dr. Michael May (FRCS)
Medically reviewed by Dr. Michael May (FRCS)Updated on May 13, 2024
The Wimpole Clinic offers FUE Hair, Beard & Eyebrow Transplants & Trichology.
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