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The Ultimate 3A Hair Handbook

The Ultimate 3A Hair Handbook

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Springy, flirty, sultry—there’s a bevy of ways to describe 3A hair, but we’re happy to settle with just one: Irresistible. This is the hair people dreamt of obtaining when perms reigned at salons across the world, & today, it continues to be one of the most coveted hair types.

Happen to have 3A curly hair? First, lucky, lucky you. Second, you know that caring for your mane is the key to maximizing the beauty & bounce you were born with.

But what is the best way to take care of your 3A hair type? You’re in exactly the right place. Read on for all you need to know to rock radiant—& healthy—high porosity hair.

What is 3A Hair?

Type 3A hair is one part bombshell, one part romantic goddess & two parts radically unique. Beyonce & Halle Berry are just two perennial stunners who fall into the type 3A curly hair camp.

Celebrities & superlatives aside, type 3A hair is characterized by:1

  • Lightly—as opposed to tightly-coiled—defined ringlets
  • Loose, loopy, wide curls
  • Looking straight when wet but curls up when it dries
  • S-shaped strands (as opposed to corkscrews)
  • Noticeable (& enviable) volume at the roots & medium texture2

You may be thinking, ringlets & loose curls?

Yes, & if this sounds at all familiar, then your hair probably falls into the type 3A curly hair category. Hair experts point out that we have different types of hair follicles throughout our scalp. One follicle might produce a ringlet; another may generate a bigger, looser natural curl—or curls that are about half an inch to an inch thick. Out of all the types of curls in the whole Type 3 crowd, 3A-ers have the largest & most relaxed curl type.

(Suspect your curls are a little tighter or even looser? Explore our guide on 3C hair & and/or our full Curl Guide.)

Why is it so important to make this distinction between hair types? Because comprehending the natural shape of your strands can help you find just the right curly hair styling products, tools & looks to amplify your curls’ natural magnificence.

What Is Type 3A Hair Vulnerable To?

If you’ve determined that your curl pattern is in fact type 3A, then you know firsthand that your hair is prone to a couple of things that can cause exacerbation—namely:

  • Unwanted frizz
  • Dryness
  • Fragility—particularly with type 3A curls that tend towards the tighter side

Fortunately, caring for type 3A curly hair is a cinch with the proper knowledge & resources (literally) in hand.

How To Take Care of 3A Hair

Caring for 3A hair can be distilled into 3 categories:

  1. Moisture retention
  2. Protection from stressors
  3. Caring for hair from the inside out

Let’s look at 8 actionable strategies.

#1 Detangle in Reverse

Pure logistics seem to suggest that we should detangle each hair strand starting at the crown & working our way down to the ends.

With 3A curly hair? Not so much. In fact, it’s recommended that you start at your ends & slowly & carefully make your way up toward your root. Why? Because starting at your roots & heading down the shaft may worsen snags & tangles.

PATTERN’s Wide Tooth Comb is a go-to for 3A curly hair. The teeth on this comb are strong but gentle, allowing for easy separation. To aid with the whole process, reach for PATTERN’s Detangling Nectar, which is jam-packed with nourishing ingredients that may help prevent unwanted frizz & boost your hair’s natural elasticity, including:

Unlike 3B & 3C hair, 3A hair is a bit more forgiving when it comes to dry detangling. Just be sure that you do so only occasionally to help keep your curls nice, defined & shiny.

#2 Time Your Wash Days Smartly

For best results, you may want to wash your hair every three to five days, depending on your lifestyle & the amount of sweat, scalp buildup & dirt that may have naturally accumulated on in your hair.

You essentially have two options on wash day: A full shampoo & conditioning, or what’s called a co-wash—or, washing your hair with conditioner instead of shampoo, which may contain ingredients that will rob your hair of its natural oils (& retaining moisture is one of the golden tickets to lush, lovely strands).3

On your full wash days, opt for a shampoo that’s specifically designed to nurture 3A hair. PATTERN’S Hydration Shampoo’s super-creamy texture adequately cleanses your scalp & curls without stripping your hair of the moisture it needs for its health & integrity. Harsh chemicals, which are found in more shampoos than we can count, have been replaced with ingredients like:

  • Coconut Oil to soothe scalp irritation, prevent natural hair breakage & shield your hair against heat damage4
  • Aloe Vera to organically promote growth & repair any damaged strands5
  • Honey hair products to lock in moisture, fuse your hair with strength-inducing protein & provide your strands with a bunch of vitamins, minerals & amino acids.6

  • #3 Concentrate on Hydration

    Curly hair may be the belle of the ball, but here’s a valuable fact you may not know: The innate shape of curls makes it a little more difficult for your hair to soak up & hold onto moisture. We don’t mean the humectants found in hair oils & conditioners, either. The oils you naturally produce struggle a bit to make it from your scalp to your ends, but there’s no need to fear.

    Luckily, there are a host or products to help you achieve lusciousness:

    • Leave-in conditioner – A leave-in treatment is one of the greatest discoveries of the last century: Like all-day facial moisturizers, they seal in moisture & help your hair stay hydrated no matter what it encounters—sun, smog, a straightening iron, you name it. PATTERN’s Leave-In Conditioner brims with scientifically-backed ingredients like:
    • Biotin7
    • Panthenol8
    • Jojoba Seed Oil9
    • Avocado oil10

    Turn this into a must & you might just find your curls more supple & defined than ever.

  • Moisturizing mists – A curl refresher spray should be a mainstay in your 3A curly hair routine. Similar to leave-in conditioners, they provide lasting moisture to keep dryness & frizziness at bay. PATTERN’s Hydrating Mist is a godsend on non-washing or styling days, as it helps revive curl definition with a boost of love & affection—or, more accurately, Aloe Vera, Coconut Oil & Avocado Oil. Plus, its subtle scents of Rose, Neroli & Patchouli are both enchanting & invigorating.

  • Styling custard – 3A hair texture requires a touch of attention before you style it. PATTERN’S Styling Custard is one of several terrifically effective products. The ease with which you can use this curly hair custard renders it a top choice for days when you’re flying out the door. Ingredients like agave & chamomile ensure that your curls stay plump, shiny & soft throughout the day: Agave is chock-full of antioxidants that help strengthen your hair, while Chamomile enriches silkiness & luminosity.11,12

  • #4 Dodge Products That Contain Silicone

    Silicone is touted for decreasing friction in hair &, as such, is featured in countless products. But just in case you needed another reason to read hair products carefully, here’s another one—silicone can compound any dryness you’re experiencing & also:13

    • Hinder nutrients from reaching deep into your hair where it’s needed most
    • Steal your hair’s shine, resulting in dullness
    • Make it difficult to remove from your hair & contribute to scalp buildup
    • Give your hair a heaviness that feels ick & not luxurious

    If you’re keen on achieving enduring shine, choose PATTERN’S Shine Spray instead. This heavenly formula is very lightweight so that it won’t drag your curls down. It also contains extracts of Plumeria to guarantee you smell wonderful from sunrise to sunset & beyond.

    #5 Call Upon Luxe Treatments

    From environmental stressors to heating tools, protecting your curls to the best of your ability is a must.

    To the rescue: A curly hair mask crafted to rejuvenate your strands. PATTERN’s Treatment Mask is modern in design but taken from the time-worn traditions of generations before us. Ingredients like Rice Water & Moringa Seed Offer tremendous restorative benefits & help bring out the natural definition of your curls.

    #6 Curb Chemical Exposure

    Highlights, harsh chemicals like parabens & phthalates & dyes can all wreak havoc on your lovely 3A hair texture, so much so your envy-inducing ringlets may start to become wavy instead. Maybe this is your goal—& cheers for experimenting & going with the styles you love best—but bear in mind that this could also result in unwanted frizziness. Why? Because chemicals can:

    #7 Style With Savvy

    One of the many beauties of 3A hair is that there are tons of styles you can easily achieve. Here are a few tips:

  • Don’t overlook trims – You might be eager to have super long strands but regular trims can actually foster growth by keeping your mane free of split ends & healthier overall.

  • Go for “round” cuts – If you love sporting a shorter look, ask your stylist for a round-shaped cut with lots of layers. This will perk up your ringlets & keep them from getting weighed down.

  • Dry hair with care – Whether you’re blow drying your natural hair or letting it air dry, use a microfiber towel to sop up any lingering wetness from the shower. This will cut down on friction against your strands & lead to a smoother appearance. & if you are using a blow dryer such as PATTERN’s Blow Dryer, go for a low heat setting to avoid damaging your strands.

  • #8 Elevate Hair Health From Within

    Products & styles can only go so far: genuine hair health starts with how you care for all of you on a daily basis. Ample sleep, excellent hydration, a diet filled with antioxidant-rich fruits & veggies, lots of movement & a low-stress lifestyle are the real & most important ingredients for breathtaking strands.

    Up-Level Your 3A Curly Hair Routine PATTERN

    Type 3A hair turns heads with its cascading, fairy-tale curls. If you’re one of the lucky ones with this natural, awe-provoking texture, you want to use products that were tailored specifically for your S-shaped strands.

    This is where PATTERN’s collection of 3A curly hair products comes in. Our full suite of shampoos, conditioners & curly hair accessories is devoid of ingredients that might strip your hair of the moisture it needs to remain simultaneously soft & strong. Our new collection of heat styling tools were also created with textures like yours at the top of our minds so that you can savor beautiful hair around the clock.

    Reap the benefits of customized natural hair care with PATTERN's curly hair quiz & check out our blog to learn about other natural hair types. We dive into 4C hair, 3B curls, 2C hair, 3C curls & more. Shop our best selling curly hair products today!


    1. Emmanuel, Sophia. "Type 3a hair: what it is and how to care for it." Byrdie. 12 July, 2022. https://www.byrdie.com/type-3a-hair-5271293
    2. Smith-Garcia, Dorian. "Type 3A hair: hair care tips, products & styles." MindBodyGreen. 18 March, 2022. https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/3a-hair
    3. Engler, Alexandra. "Co-washing: what it is + 5 tips to go shampoo-free." MindBodyGreen. 26 June, 2020. https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/our-guide-to-co-washing
    4. Iftikhar, Noreen. "Can coconut oil help with hair growth?" Healthline. 11 December, 2019. https://www.healthline.com/health/beauty-skin-care/coconut-oil-for-hair-growth
    5. Watson, Kathryn. "Aloe vera for your hair: what are the benefits?" Healthline. 15 October, 2020. https://ahoy-stage.healthline.com/health/aloe-vera-for-hair
    6. Lockett, Eleesha. "All about using honey for hair health and 10 ways to try it today." Healthline. 28 May, 2019. https://www.healthline.com/health/honey-for-hair
    7. Catlett, Tess. "Biotin for hair growth: does it work?" Healthline. Updated 15 March, 2023. https://www.healthline.com/health/biotin-hair-growth
    8. Marino, Dylan. "Panthenol for hair: benefits and how to use it." Byrdie. Updated 17 February, 2023. https://www.byrdie.com/panthenol-for-hair-5223787
    9. White, Adrian. "Jojoba oil for hair: how it works." Healthline. Updated 29 September, 2018.  Uhttps://www.healthline.com/health/jojoba-oil-for-hair
    10. Emmanuel, Sophia. "Avocado oil for hair: benefits and how to use it." Byrdie. Updated 23 August, 2022. https://www.byrdie.com/avocado-oil-for-hair-5080064
    11. Murphy-Rose, Blair. "Yucca for hair: benefits and how to use it." Byrdie. Updated 23 August, 2022. Yhttps://www.byrdie.com/yucca-for-hair-5194906
    12. Rugeri, Christine. "The 7 best essential oils for hair." Dr. Axe. 15 February, 2023. https://draxe.com/essential-oils/essential-oils-for-hair/
    13. Sharkey, Lauren. "Is silicone really that bad for your hair?" Healthline. 25 August, 2020. https://www.healthline.com/health/beauty-skin-care/why-is-silicone-bad-for-hair

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    Reviewed by Ashley Ludgood

    With over 12 years of experience in the beauty and fashion industry, Ashley Ludgood brings a wealth of expertise to her current role at PATTERN. Her insights have been featured in reputable publications like American Salon Magazine, American Spa Magazine, and Skin, Inc. Ashley has also shared her knowledge at conferences, including Face & Body, demonstrating her ongoing commitment to contributing to the industry. Having been an integral part of the team at PATTERN for nearly 4 years, Ashley continues to make significant contributions. Holding a degree in Journalism from Northwestern University, she remains passionate about her field. Among her favorite products, Ashley turns to the PATTERN Styling Cream, Moisture Milk, and the Cleansing Shampoo as her go-to essentials.

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