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What Is 3b Hair and How Should You Care for It?

BY Felicia Ler

If you have 3b hair, your beauty routine might be plagued by questions like: How do I make the LOC (leave-in, oil, and cream) method work for my curls? And why is everyone talking about the squish to condish technique? Should I give it a try too?

Ahead, we dive deep into the unique features and common challenges of 3b curls. Keep scrolling to find out the hair care tips your mane needs to look its best every single day.

Up Close and Personal With 3b Hair

Within the category of type 3 hair, 3b curls are a collection of bouncy ringlets. The circumference of each swirl is roughly that of a Sharpie marker. Because your curl type straddles the happy medium between 3a and 3c hair, you may also have some loose spirals and springy corkscrews in your locks.

In terms of curl definition, 3b curls are pretty resilient. Whether your hair is sopping wet in the shower or drenched in moisturizing products, it will still retain its spirals. Another good thing about this curly hair type is its ample volume. Flatness typically isn’t a problem — unless you didn’t remove all traces of product buildup after styling your ‘do.

The Snags of 3b Hair

On the flip side of the coin, there are a few challenges that come with type 3b hair:

  • Dryness: One major complaint is that this curl pattern leads to intense dryness. Due to the tight coils in 3b hair, scalp sebum has a difficult time sliding down the length of your hair shafts to moisturize the tips. ‘Tis the reason why your curls frizz so easily and are prone to breakage.
  • Coarseness: Compared to 3a fibers, 3b curls have a coarser hair texture, which also contributes to said frizz. Because rough cuticles aren’t great at reflecting light, 3b hair may appear dull or lackluster.
  • Poofiness: Remember when we said that this natural curl type has lots of volume? Turns out that can be a double-edged sword that leads to unmanageable poofiness.

The good news is, you can overcome all of the above challenges to have a fabulous hair day. All you need to do is find the right products and perfect your hair care technique.

Essential Tips to Care for 3b Hair

In our previous guide on 3a hair, we talked about the Curly Girl Method* (CGM) and why it’s apropos for all curly hair types (3b included). Aside from the usual mantra of less washing and more conditioning, here are a few ground rules for maintaining 3b curls:

  • Play to your hair porosity. If you don’t know what that is, check out our handy guide on the subject. Just remember that low porosity hair loves lightweight humectants (water-loving substances) like glycerin and aloe vera. Meanwhile, high porosity hair does well with rich occlusives like coconut oil as they form a physical barrier on the cuticles to block out moisture loss. Last but not least, emollients such as argan oil and castor oil are moisturizing, softening agents that work great for all levels of porosity.
  • Embrace CG-friendly hair washing methods, like co-washing and low-pooing. They rely on sulfate-free cleansers to avoid drying out your hair.
  • Use leave-on hydrators. For example, leave-in conditioners, serums, and hair mists are crucial in defending your tresses against post-shower frizz and dryness. Choose products with a lightweight texture so you don’t end up losing one of your hair’s best assets — curl definition.
  • Dial down the heat, color, and chemical treatments to minimize hair damage. If you want to blow-dry your hair, use a blow-dryer with a diffuser (don’t forget your heat protectant!).

Of course, these guidelines are just the tip of the iceberg. Here are a few more hair care tips for 3b curls that you’ll want to incorporate into your routine ASAP.

Nourish With a Deep Conditioner

A deep conditioner is one of the best products for tackling the various woes of 3b hairfrizz, dryness, roughness, tangles, and breakage. Think of it as your must-have hair product. Unlike your usual rinse-off conditioner that only softens and smooths the outer cuticle layers, a deep conditioner is formulated with higher levels of conditioning agents to penetrate the hair shafts and heal them from the inside out.

At Function of Beauty, our hair mask takes its deep conditioning up a notch with a fully customizable formula. Here are some of our hair goals you can use to personalize your deep conditioner to suit your unique 3b curls:

  • Low-porosity hair: “soothe scalp” and “volumize”
  • High-porosity hair: “rejuvenate” and “nourish roots”
  • Color-treated or heat-styled hair: “color protection,” “reduce brassiness,” and “thermal protection”

You can check out the full list of all available hair goals to learn more about each.

For seriously distressed strands, we recommend using a deep conditioner in place of your daily conditioner. You can even use it as a form of pre-poo (deep-conditioning before shampooing) to ease the detangling process.

P.S. If you identify as having low porosity hair, here’s one tip to help you get the most hydration out of your hair mask. Once you’ve slathered on the deep conditioner, pile your wet locks into a shower cap and wrap a hot towel around it (or try this microwavable deep conditioning heat cap!). Let the mask sit on your tresses for the recommended amount of time before following up with the rest of your routine.

Use a Leave-In Treatment

Because 3b hair needs more moisture than 3a hair (like, a lot more), we stand by a good leave-in treatment for hydration. To make your natural hair look glossy, soft, and well-moisturized, start with a water-based leave-in conditioner like our custom leave-in that functions as a curl cream to hydrate your curls. Then, seal in the moisture with a rich oil and cream.

One thing to note is that you can absolutely tweak this method to suit your 3b hair. For example, those with low porosity hair and fine strands may find the oil and cream a little too much for their fibers. If that’s the case, use our hydrating custom hair serum in place of both products as it leaves a thin film to keep moisture in.

Try the Squish to Condish Method

Do you ever finger-rake your conditioner through your tresses and hope for the best? Maybe you’ve even emptied out half of the bottle of conditioner only to have your hair frizz and poof right after your shower. But you no longer have to despair with the squish to condish (S2C) method. This curl conditioning technique hydrates and clumps your curls so well that flyaways and limp coils are less likely to be an issue.

Here’s how to squish to condish the right way:

  • Step 1: After shampooing or co-washing, apply liberal amounts of conditioner to your wet hair until it feels as slippery as seaweed. (There’s never been a better time to indulge in your fantasy of being Ariel from The Little Mermaid.)
  • Step 2: Work through any knots and tangles, and add more conditioner as needed. Remember, you want your mane to be fully saturated with the conditioner.
  • Step 3: Flip your head upside down, but keep your hair out of the path of the running showerhead.
  • Step 4: Cup some water in your palms and squish (translation: scrunch) the liquid into your locks, working from the tips to the roots.
  • Step 5: Repeat step 4 until you’ve washed away all of the conditioner.
  • Step 6: Follow up with the rest of your hair care routine.

As you can see, the squishing or scrunching motion in step 4 mechanically pushes the conditioner and water mixture into your hair shafts. This action encourages more clumping, which we all know is the secret to great curl formation. 

Compared to the finger-raking and praying-hands techniques, the S2C method is more effective in helping your curls absorb the conditioner to keep dryness, roughness, and frizz at bay.

Help Your 3b Curls Live Their Best Life

Now that you know what 3b hair is, it’s easy to watch out for the usual struggles that come with it — dryness, coarseness, and poofiness. From there, you can start planning a hair care routine that tackles these challenges.

Of course, having the right products and techniques in place will make instead of break your routine. All you need to do is arm yourself with the above 3b-friendly tips and reshuffle your shower caddy as necessary. Take our hair quiz to find the just-for-you hair products that will help your 3b hair live its best life.

*Disclaimer: Function of Beauty is not associated with Lorraine Massey, the Curly Girl Method (“CGM”), or “Curly Girl: The Handbook.” Reference to the Curly Girl Method is provided for informational purposes only and is accurate to the best of our knowledge, however it is not guaranteed. Product formulas can change at any time.