A Full Guide To Type 3B Hair: Tips + Product Recs
Any dermatologist will tell you to shop for skin care for your unique skin type. See, those with hypersensitive dry skin will have a completely different lineup than those who are oily and acne-prone. This same nuanced approach should be taken with your hair care.
The first step: Find out your hair type (a quick quiz here if needed). After that, you'll want to read up on your hair type care tips—for the 3b folks, we've got you covered below. Time to enter the world of curls.
Type 3b hair.
Type 2 constitutes wavy hair, while type 3 is strictly curls. The main defining feature between types 2 and 3 is the "S" shape—if you have occasional waves but never quite form a ringlet, then you're probably type 2.
However, type 3 curls have a wide range as well. Anyone with 3a curls will have wider ringlets, while those with 3b curls have a bit tighter form. Type 3c is the tightest form of curls before entering type 4, which is coils.
Want to dive deeper? For more information, check out our guides to type 2, type 3, and type 4.
What it looks like.
Now that you know where type 3b fits, let's dive into what it looks like. "3b hair is all about the curl—people with type 3b hair tend to have tight, springy curls with a lot of volume," stylist Cassandra Olivia tells mbg.
"Each curl is usually no bigger than a highlighter or a marker, even across different hair textures," she adds. If your curls are larger than a marker, then you probably fall into the 3a category instead.
Think of 3b strands like a loose corkscrew with a bit of texture, frizz, and tons of volume. Of course, like any hair type, you can have a few 2c waves or 3c curls thrown in the mix, so judge your hair based on the most predominant curl shape.
Hair care tips.
If you've gotten this far, it probably means you're a 3b hair type, so let's get into the best care tips from the pros so you can tend to your curls with intention:
Don't overwash your curls.
"Wash one to two times per week, or honestly as needed," Olivia says. "If you wash 3b hair too much, you're stripping hair of its much-needed natural moisture," she says. When the hair is stripped of moisture, your curls will have trouble holding shape.
"It's harder for natural oils to travel down 3b hair compared to straight hair, so you want to make sure you keep those oils in your hair as much as possible. When you do wash, choose a shampoo and conditioner made specifically for curly hair," she adds.
Use a clean, hydrating wash routine.
"Using a clean shampoo and conditioner system like NTRL by Sabs' LavRiche Collection will ensure you have a clean and healthy scalp while not losing your precious natural oils," celebrity stylist and founder of NTRL by Sabs Sabrina Rowe Holdsworth tells mbg.
The key here is to find a shampoo that gets the job done, without drying out your scalp or strands. Just as with any hair type, be sure to exclusively cleanse the scalp and let the excess product rinse through your strands rather than rubbing shampoo directly on your hair shaft and ends.
Swap your light conditioner for a heavy hitter during dry periods.
As Holdsworth and Olivia note, 3b hair needs tons of moisture. A lightweight conditioner may work for your regular wash routine (and help to mitigate any buildup dragging down your curls), but adding a nourishing hair mask to the mix every other week or so is a good idea.
Or, you can rotate in these rich conditioners when the dry weather hits. Just as you might use a heavier moisturizer during winter, you shouldn't hesitate to address your hair's changing needs.
Call upon rich masks to ease situational dryness as well—be it post-swim, after an intense blowout, while traveling, etc.
Nourishing masks with plant butters, botanical oils, and loads of vitamins will give your hair a reboot if you're experiencing dry, lackluster hair. Add one of these ultra-hydrating masks to your routine every other week—think of it like an IV drip for your strands.
Detangle, but don't destroy.
"I think detangling is necessary for a successful wash day but needs to be a delicate process," Holdsworth explains. "3b curls are very delicate and can be fickle," she adds. Rather than raking a brush through your hair, run a wide-toothed comb through your strands while it's still wet (or even while your conditioner sets in).
"Once you have detangled the hair, I prefer to abandon brushes or combs and use your hands for air drying and styling," she adds. When your hair begins to dry, brushing it may lead to frizz and a broken curl shape, so stick with finger-styling.
Don't forget about your diffuser.
If you don't like waiting for your hair to dry, then call upon your trusty diffuser. These tools work like magic to dry the strands, reduce frizz, and enhance curl shape simultaneously—but always apply a heat protectant before going in with your dryer.
Or, if you're dealing with loads of heat damage, opt for something like the Zuvi Halo Hair Dryer—a tool that uses light to dry the hair rather than heat. The dryer comes with a diffuser attachment, so keep that on hand.
Not sure how to use one? Here's a step-by-step guide to get you started.
Plop your hair.
Olivia's tip: Get your strands relatively dry either from the air or a diffuser, and then plop your hair using an old T-shirt. or buy an inexpensive one just for plopping. Here's how she recommends wrapping up your strands:
- Apply your curl-defining cream and then tilt your hair upside down.
- Grab the T-shirt and pull it over the top of your hair on your forehead.
- Take the sleeves and wrap them around your head.
- Tuck your hair into the pillow you've created and then tie the sleeves of the T-shirt around your head to tighten.
"Plopping will help keep curls together and compacted so you get less frizz and a more defined curl," she explains. Plus, this wrap will protect your hair from potential friction on your pillow that could create some unwanted frizz and odd-shaped curls.
Keep your creams light.
"I love products, but this hair type can also be fine, in which case less product is more," Holdsworth notes. "You want soft weight to combat some frizz but not take away volume," she says—aka, opt for lightweight formulas.
"Think airy mousse and light creams over heavy gels," she says. When it comes to leave-in conditioners, pick something deeply nourishing but still light to the touch, like the Pattern Leave-In Conditioner.
Embrace your curls.
"Hair should be fun, even if it requires some work, and I believe curls are the MOST fun pattern you can have," Holdsworth says. One key to loving your curls: Give yourself enough time to style them however you like, rather than rush to the finish line.
If you have adequate time available, you can treat the process of washing and styling as a ritual rather than a chore. It may sound dramatic, but if you put on your favorite music, wear your favorite comfy pajama set, and light a candle, your hair care routine may turn out to be something you look forward to.
"Experiment with different methods of washing, styling, and drying so you can really learn to appreciate your fabulous hair," she adds. Don't be afraid to ask around and see what your curly friends and family love—some of the best products and practices are passed via word-of-mouth.
NTRL By Sabs
Best curl cream
Leaf + Flower
CBD Instant Curl Defining Cream
Shaz + Kiks
Scalp + Hair Prewash For Curly Hair
Type 3b hair consists of tight, bouncy "S"-shaped curls. This hair type calls for less frequent washing than straight and wavy hair types and may require a bit more time for styling. You can opt for the diffuser method for a manual dry, let your curls air-dry, or plop your strands. No matter what you choose, remember to embrace your fun texture and experiment with products and techniques until you find something you truly love. Want more curly hair tips? Here are a few more to consider.
Hannah Frye is the Assistant Beauty Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.S. in journalism and a minor in women’s, gender, and queer studies from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Hannah has written across lifestyle sections including health, wellness, sustainability, personal development, and more. She previously interned for Almost 30, a top-rated health and wellness podcast. In her current role, Hannah reports on the latest beauty trends, holistic skincare approaches, must-have makeup products, and inclusivity in the beauty industry. She currently lives in New York City.