How 3a Curls Change With Length

I have been growing my curls for approximately the last one and a half years with my curls now reaching te bra line on my back. Interestingly my curls, which I classify as 3a, have changed quite a lot when compared to what my curls looked like when they were shoulder length.

Are longer 3a curls really curlier and frizzer?

Yes and No! I remember reading somewhere that 3a curls usually become curlier the longer they get. I can say that this is absolutely true for me (especially the few curls that frame my face got a lot curlier). Other than that I have noticed that my curls are less voluminous when they are long and interestingly that they also form smaller clumps. However they are not frizzier than shorter curls. But keep in mind that properly taking care of long curly hair means making sure that the ends are always well moisturized.

All of the above mentioned changes are visible in the following two pictures (please ignore the grown out cut in the second picture – I will see my hairdresser next week!):

How 3a Curls Change With Length

My curls when they were shoulder length

You can really see how different my curls look when they are longer:

How 3a Curls Change With Length

My long curly hair

How do you like my curls better?

Although I really like my longer curls to create hairstyles, I am not sure if I actually like my curls when they are that long. Looking at the above pictures got me thinking if I should only cut my ends or maybe go back to shoulder length. I could really use your help deciding whether or not I should cut them shoulder length or not! This is my list of pros and cons of long curly hair so far:

Pros of long curly hair:

  • you can create the most beautiful hairstyles
  • easy second days (I think half-updos look better with longer hair)

Cons of long curly hair:

  • less volume
  • it takes forever (literally) to wash and dry them
  • my hair is heavy (I can really feel that when I’m pulling them back)

Do you have any other pros and cons? Is there anything else I should consider?

  • Tara
    June 14, 2016

    I’m struggling with this too. I hate how long my hair takes to dry, with leads to frizz. And how heavy it is when I pull it back. I think I’m going to go back to short. I think you should too!!

    • Nicole
      June 14, 2017

      I know that I’m a year late in responding, but I’ve got the perfect advice for you! Firstly, my hair is exactly like yours…, and this is all you need to do: Do you see how the back length of your hair tapers down to a “U” shape? (It’s not pointy enough to be called a “V” shape). Well, to make it look soft, luxurious, and sexy you only need to do these two things:

      (1) Go to a salon (do NOT attempt to do this yourself at home), and have your stylist only trim off the bottom-most part of the “U”. You want your hair to be cut ultra straight across.

      (2) Grow it out…., grow it all the way out. I’m talking down to your tailbone length. Trust me: Sexy, touchable, desirous.

      That’s how my hair is. Enjoy my dear.

  • Elisabeth Meili-Tramontana
    June 14, 2016

    I prefer long and curly, looks really great, love it!

    • W
      October 4, 2016

      What can I do to make my curls grow faster? It’s at shoulder length. When it’s straight it is passed my bra line. Also, what products can I use to make them weigh down? I’m currently using a dime size of my shea butter conditioner as a leave in. My curls look great , but real short. I don’t like passing the flat iron (on low ) to elongate them. What are my alternatives?

      • Kelsey
        March 29, 2017

        My hair melted off of my head about 4 years ago (due to a stylist that I will never be back to) and is now at bra strap length. The first two years after that I took better care of it but still dyed it and straightened it regularly. When I finally started taking care of my hair (really taking care of it) only then did the growth begin to happen. Hair masks both store bought and diy, hair skin & nail vitamins, good products that don’t have sulfates & other baf stuff. Etc. The best advice I can give to grow long hair is to treat it like it’s priceless. Get rid of split ends regularly. Keep your ends moisturized! Dont brush your hair, just detangle it gently.

  • Sophie
    June 14, 2016

    I think you should try it- short hairstyles are great for summer! Plus, it will always grow back. 🙂 I also don’t like how difficult it can be to do hairstyles on short hair, but I’m thinking of cutting mine soon.

  • sarah
    June 14, 2016

    your hair is beautiful, I really love your long curls. I can see what you mean about the curl patten on the longer hair, they seem thinner your shorter curls seem thinker and slightly more defined but your length is just amazing.
    I think you have a hard choice ahead but I would keep your long curls but have a small trim.
    good luck with making the right decision 🙂

  • Kara
    June 14, 2016

    I just recently went through this exact dilemma! I eventually came to the conclusion that I was sick of it taking so long to wash & dry my hair (especially since I let mine air dry!) and to me it just wasn’t worth it to fight with my hair all the time to MAYBE get a good hair day once or twice a week. Also like yours, I struggled to get the volume I wanted. Honestly, taking mine back to shoulder length was a great move for myself.

  • Jennifer F.
    June 15, 2016

    Your post is quite timely…I’ve been growing out my hair and have also noticed changes of curlier hair and much less volume overall. It took me some time to realize that it was just the length of my hair and nothing to do with the products I was using. I switched around some of my products with little success in creating volume and slightly less curl.

    Your hair is beautiful either way but I am thinking of going back to shoulder length. My curls simply behave better at that length and I wonder if yours might too. I look forward to seeing what you decide!!

  • Bella Disuja
    June 18, 2016

    You are using the best oil for your hair then your hair is very looking natural.

    deep curly hair weave

  • Nina
    June 20, 2016

    I love the clumps and definition in the shorter hair! But maybe a trim and shape can get you the best of both 😉. I just had a trim and shape and both my clumps and definition improved. But my hair is about shoulder length . I definitely want to see a pic of what you decided 😃

  • Erika
    June 20, 2016

    Hi There!
    Been reading your blog for a while and you have great advice!
    I have the exact same hair as you…it’s curly 3a and I have to work it 😉

    Here’s my two cents:
    I had the same problem a few months ago. Decided to cut it back to just above my shoulders. Let me just say this– Big Mistake–

    I love my hair long, it just behaves better and I can do much more with it, But, I was going through the same problem as you are right now. Wanted my volume back.

    But when I had it cut, my hairdresser cut the front layer to just above my shoulders and the rest below the shoulders, It looked like two different hairstyles and I hated it. Had to wear it up until it grew back.

    I’ve just figured out how to solve the “I want my hair long, but still want volume” problem.

    Make sure the front layer goes below the collar bone, and the rest rounded into the back. So it goes into a nice rounded, blended shape.

    I think you would benefit from a shape up, and trim off the triangle shape on the back of your hair, make it more round and blended with the rest of your hair.

    And make sure to add lots of product, especially mousse and gel.
    I do the opposite of many curly girls, put my hair in a tee shirt after my shower, then let it dry a bit, then add my product. It just seems to work better for me, rather than add product right after the shower.

    Blow dry with a diffuser upside down until 90% dry. Scoop the curls in clumps right to your head and keep them there as the curls dry; then flip hair up and dry side to side until it’s 100% dry. Take the pointy end of a rat tail comb and lift, separate the curls where you want them. Scrunch and go.

    Well, that was a long two cents 😉 But, maybe it’ll help someone out there with crazy hair like mine.

    Best to you whatever you decide to do! I’m sure you’ll look great.

  • Janey
    June 20, 2016

    I’m another curly in the same position! Maybe we should start a support group 😉

    My hair is also around bra strap length, having spent almost five years growing it out from a jaw length graduated bob which was shaved at the nape of my neck(!). I had an excellent cut at Matthew James at Easter which gave my hair back a lot of shape and improved my volume a lot, but it’s already looking flat at the roots and I’m considering a shorter cut.

    I love the length and the ability to whack it up into a messy bun for work (I have a very physical job) but I have lost a lot of curl definition with the added length and the upkeep? Sheesh! I found myself looking back at my curls when they were 8 inches shorter and longing for the ease of washing/styling and the bounce, but then I remember I’m rubbish at styling my hair so if it’s short it looks the same every single day…

    Gah! Decisions, decisions 🙂 Whichever choice you make your hair is beautiful. Looking forward to seeing what you decide upon xx

  • Ty
    June 22, 2016

    Hi Sandra!
    Obviously you have amazing hair so your curls look great either way but I think the shoulder length version suits you better. It looks more like an actual hairstyle and the volume is incomparable. I think when curly hair gets too long it looks less sophisticated. just my 2 cents!

    I also wanted to suggested a product to you that I don’t think I’ve seen on your blog: Curly Hair Solutions Curl Keeper. It is a game changer! Lightly coats the hair and forms amazing clumps! Highly recommend!


  • Heidi
    July 5, 2016

    Do you have an email address that people like me can ask direct questions and comments to? I am a curly girl too – and have struggles with it. Would love to hear your advise (from a curly girl to another).

    • Sandra
      July 6, 2016

      Hi Heidi, please feel free to use the contact form all the way on the bottom (just click on contact) and I’ll get back to you!

  • Angela
    July 16, 2016

    I love your hair!!! However, do like the length better if is was just past your shoulders. That way you can still do your beautiful braids and updos and still have the thicker ringlets. Hope this helps.

  • Abby
    August 5, 2016

    Seems like you’re in the awkward stage of the growing process. I would let it grow a bit longer and then have someone give you layers. You can always get your hair cut but it takes forever to grow it out. Take advantage of it and try to work with it more. Also it looks like your hair is highlighted differently in the first picture, so it’s not exactly a fair comparison. Your curls do look wonderful short. Either way you won’t be messing up 🙂

  • Joy-Mari
    December 24, 2016

    This is strange. My hair is not heavy and it dries quickly. I always thought my hair’s 3b but my hair actually looks a bit like yours in the picture. I, too, have long curly hair.

  • valerie
    April 4, 2017

    have you tried looking at 2c boards? your hair may do better with that. 3a curls tend to form actual ringlets, especially as hair grows past shoulder length. Although your hair has an S pattern, it stays that way from root to tip without becoming curls, which suggests it is more 2c.

    • valerie
      April 4, 2017

      also, i believe actual 3a curls DO tend to get frizzier as they grow. by definition, 3a curls get curlier and more defined with length. and the tighter the curl, the frizzier it tends to be.

  • Katie
    February 19, 2018

    In your later pictures you seem to have kept the lovely long length but also regained the gorgeous curl formation you had in your shoulder length picture. How did you do that? Was it a different cut or product?

    My hair currently looks a bit like your longer hair picture above, I also have 2c/3a curls and would love for them to be curlier and more defined. I’m going to a hairdresser for a consultation soon and am going to get some more layers cut in higher up but if you can recommend a good curl enhancer it would help.

  • Curly weave hairstyles
    March 19, 2018

    You look stunning! Very natural looking! I have curly and bushy hair and not looking very good. I am worried about my hair can u suggest different hair styles?
    Curly weave hairstyles

  • Chloe
    September 15, 2018

    I know I’m a bit late here but I’ve got 3a curls too and was hoping for advice. I have long hair, almost to the bra strap when curly. I’ve always had long hair as far as I can remember, the shortest being shoulder length (ages ago). So I’ve been thinking about cutting it very short (bob) or kinda short (lob). So I’m turning to this curly community for advice. What do you think? Would you say bobs are more work than lobs or vice versa? Is short hair less maintenance than long hair or more? Basically any tips, experiences, advice! Thank you!

  • Ronja
    May 2, 2020

    Right on Valerie, I was thinking the same. 2c are S shaped – like Sandra’s hair in both photos – while 3a are large ringlets.
    Check Kelly Shahbazian’s ‘Joy Before Her’ youtube channel for an awesome example of 3a hair. This video describes the different curl types: “Find Your Curl Type! | All Hair Types w/ Pictures”

    And Sandra, your hair is beautiful! Just to avoid confusion, would be great if you could update the article with 2c instead of 3a.

    Keep it flowing… 🙂

  • Angel
    November 9, 2021

    I have 2c/3a curly hair and it is hard to control. I am thinking of getting a shoulder cut but I am not sure. I use Cantu curl products which work okay, but my hair frizzes really easily. I was wondering if anybody had any tips. I have hated my hair for a while but if I could control the frizz I would be great. Also, you have beautiful hair. I wish mine behaved like that. 😇

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