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The Ultimate 3B Hair Handbook

The Ultimate 3B Hair Handbook

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When you love something, it’s only instinct to obsess & learn everything you can about it. The reverse can be true, too: sometimes, the more you learn about a thing, the deeper in love with it you plunge.

3B hair types, that goes for you, too. If you’ve been looking for an all-in-one guide to caring for your envy-worthy curls, we’ve got the holy grail of handbooks for you.

This guide is chock full of delicious knowledge on the nuances of your texture—and the inside scoop on how to bring out the best in your springy spirals. Our end goal, though? To give you plenty of new reasons to love and love on your locks and build a future of hair care full of joy, bounce, and resiliency.

What is 3B hair?

Today's modern hair typing system came about thanks to celebrity stylist Andre Walker. During an interview with Oprah Winfrey, Walker theorized that hair falls under one of four umbrella categories:1

  • Straight
  • Wavy
  • Curly
  • Coily

Within each category there are multiple other hair tiers. And in many cases, we find that a single head of hair sports multiple textures.

3B falls into the curly category—directly in the middle, to be exact. This curl type is thought of as the epitome of medium-curly. It’s recognizable by:

  • Its bouncy nature
  • Its sharply defined spiral-shaped curls
  • Its body and volume
  • Its movement and verve

Sound like your hair? Congratulations, gorgeous—you likely have type 3B hair.

3B vs Other “3” Hair Types

While you may feel confident that you have 3B curly hair, it’s always helpful to see how your pattern compares with others to better identify its wants and needs. Different curly hair types thrive with different cleaning & styling methods.

As a refresher, here’s where 3B stands in comparison to its cousin curlies

  • 3A – The "waviest" curly hair texture. 3A hair consists of S-shaped, loose curls. While 3A curls can appear quite springy and curly when fresh out of the shower, they quickly lose curl & definition with heat styling or throughout a day of wear.
  • 3B – This curly hair type consists of bouncy, defined ringlets about the size of a pointer finger. Even with heat styling, these curls will often stay intact. Type 3B hair tends to experience quite a bit of dehydration & frizz, particularly if it’s not lovingly moisturized regularly.
  • 3C – The curliest of the curly hair types. 3C hair is characterized by springy, tight curls. They're tighter than 3B hair in both size & concentration on the scalp. 3C ringlets typically measure about the circumference of a pencil. They also usually appear very dense & voluminous. Like a 3B hair type, they can become frizzy when brushed. However, these curls are looser than the 4B hair and 4C hair.

Now, think about your hair at its healthiest, most illustrious hair day. Which of these three 3’s sounds the truest for you?

If you’re still trying to decide which curl type you align closest to, step into PATTERN’s hair care library & take a peek at the coveted Curl Guide. In this curly hair bible, we dive into hair care knowledge like porosity, patterns & transitioning hair.

4 Golden Guidelines for 3B Hair Care

Every hair type and sub-category deserves loving consideration when it comes to curating a hair care & styling routine. There are four main cardinal guidelines when using curly hair products to care for 3B curls and ensure they look their best for their longest:

  1. Avoid excessive heat – 3B hair dries out quickly. When you have this texture, do your best to avoid excessive heat styling unless you’re preparing your hair with moisture and protection.. If you must use the blow dryer, always opt for the cool setting. And whatever you do, always add a protective layer to your hair before heat treatment with a trusty product like PATTERN’s Heat Protectant.
  2. Use lightweight products – You don't want your hair to lose its signature spring, do you? We thought not. Heavy creams tend to weigh 3B curlies down. Your best bet is to look for silicone-free conditioners and leave-in products (psst: may we suggest PATTERN’s Lightweight Conditioner?).
  3. Use a hydrating shampoo – More than anything else, 3B curls want to be drenched in moisture. Making hydration a cornerstone of your curly hair routine keeps your strands strong, springy & shiny.2 PATTERN’s Hydration Shampoo can keep your roots lusciously robust while remaining free of heavy buildup.
  4. Condition often – Give your curls a helpful boost with a conditioner that hydrates & strengthens simultaneously. Try our nourishing Medium Conditioner for gorgeous, defined curls. Or give your hair care some extra oomph with our lightweight Leave-In Conditioner to help you bounce back throughout the week (& ensure you never lose that bounce in the first place).

How Often Should 3B Hair Be Washed?

Since this hair texture tends to lose moisture quickly, wearers should aim to wash their hair once a week. Conditioning, on the other hand, can be done more frequently. Most 3B curl types benefit from a good condition 2 to 3 times per week. You can use your daily conditioner or switch it up with a deep-conditioning mask, such as PATTERN’s Treatment Mask, to indulge your curls in some extra nourishment.

How Often Should I Use Treatment Masks?

Ideally, 3B hair types shouldn’t need to use their treatment mask of choice more than once a week. As for application, remember to apply it to your ends rather than your roots to combat excess buildup.

If you're looking for a lightweight alternative that provides moisture & strengthening power, our lightweight hair milk or a little oil goes a long way. Try adding a few drops of PATTERN’s Jojoba Oil Blend to other curly hair products like conditioner to concoct a hydrating, glossifying cocktail for your curls.

Styling Tips for 3B Hair Textures

Stepping in and out of the shower is just the first step in 3B curl care. To maximize your spirals’ flauntability, one must study the art of styling.

You can go about 3B hairstyles in a few different ways. It's always best to work with your curl pattern rather than against it, and implementing methods that let your curls thrive will ensure your hair looks and feels its best.

To make your curls pop, test out these tried-&-true styling techniques:

  • Plopping – TikTok had this one right. If you are curious about how to plop your hair, take these steps to take this trend for a spin (erm, a spiral):3
  1. Gather your curls & drop them onto a microfiber towel, such as PATTERN’s Microfiber Towel
  2. Next, pick up the towel (with your hair in it)
  3. Twist the towel securely around the nape of your neck
  4. Keep every hair strand covered for at least 20 minutes

When you undo the towel and unveil your ‘do, do a little dance and enjoy your definedcurly cuteness.

  • Comb from the bottom up – After a shower, the last thing you want to do is damage your vulnerable roots. Combat hair breakage (& frizz) by combing your hair from the ends of your hair & working your way up. Make sure to work in small sections.
  • Squish & condish – When 3B hair feels parched, try this styling method to quench its thirst:
  1. Bend over a bowl or sink, & get your conditioner ready
  2. With conditioner in your hands, scrunch your hair upwards & work the product through your ends
  3. Once it's adequately covered, rinse your hands & repeat the step with water
  4. Keep squishing your hair until it's free of product
  • Lock in your curl structure – Invite your kinks to get the party started with our Curl Gel. Apply after your wash for extra bounce, or use on dry hair for some slicking action. PATTERN’s Curl Mousse can also come in handy if you’re after a luscious, lightweight texture.

There are countless approaches to styling type 3 hair (specifically 3B hair) to try, so experiment until you discover your groove. With a little dedicated practice, you'll understand how to style your hair without thinking about it and give your type 3B curls the chance to dance they’re aching for.

Haircuts We Love for 3B Hair Textures

We’re all for doting on hair, but some days you don’t feel like doting—you feel like taking a nap. On those occasions, the perfect haircut is a life-saver for taking care of the styling (while we take a siesta, thank you very much).

Fortunately, 3B patterns have a world of ‘do’s at their disposal. Whether you have a lively personality or sleek sophistication, we adore these hairstyles for those who are sporting this texture:

  • Stacked bob
  • Shoulder cut
  • Curly bangs
  • Asymmetrical bob
  • Pixie cut
  • Afro
  • Layered curls
  • Center-parted curls

Whatever look you go for, be sure to extend your curls’ shape and volume with 3B curly hair products. Consider using a tool like PATTERN’s trusty Hair Pick. For unearthly lift & on-the-go shaping, a dependable kit like our Hair Tools Set can make all the difference when styling.

Find the Answer with Pattern

Getting to know the ins, outs, swerves & swoops of that gorgeous high porosity hair texture that we call 3B hair is a lifelong journey. This 3B handbook is just the first stepping stone—the rest of the discovery process is yours to unravel.

No matter your texture, we want to help you get closer to your unique pattern. At PATTERN, we’re obsessed with the science of natural hair and the art of styling. If you’re just beginning to write your own natural hair story, kick things off with our Curly Starter Bundle. Once you hit upon your crown’s secret power, there’s no stopping the confidence & sunshine you’ll be radiating.


  1. "The Hair Chart." 99% Invisible.  https://99percentinvisible.org/episode/the-hair-chart/
  2. Sinclair, Rodney D. “Healthy hair: what is it?.” The journal of investigative dermatology. Symposium proceedings vol. 12,2 (2007): 2-5. doi:10.1038/sj.jidsymp.5650046
  3. Candelario, Chelsea. "Hi, You Should Try the Plopping Method (Here’s How to Do It)." PureWow. 25 September, 2021. https://www.purewow.com/beauty/plopping-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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