On a weekend trip to an upscale hair salon, Carmen was taken aback when the hairstylist remarked about her ‘coarse’ hair. Until then, she presumed only curly, coily and kinky hair types had a coarse texture. She grew up believing she had fine hair because it is naturally straight. The hairstylist explained to Carmen this is a general misconception. As he worked on Carmen’s hair, he shared everything he knew about coarse hair with Carmen who listened intently and asked questions from time to time. Below is an excerpt of their conversation.
Carmen: I always thought since my hair is straight, it has to be fine, it cannot be coarse. I’m surprised to know straight hair can also be coarse!
Hairstylist: Yes. I know, Carmen. All my clients walk into this salon with a misguided notion about their hair type. No reason to worry though. It’s my job to guide you about your hair and how you should style it and care for it.
Carmen: So, could you start by telling me what it means when you say I have coarse hair? What makes coarse hair different from hair that is not coarse?
Hairstylist: Good question, Carmen! There are basically 3 characteristics which help us to distinguish coarse hair from fine hair. Hold your head still and pay attention!
Characteristics of Coarse Hair
We gauge the diameter, density, and elasticity of a strand of hair to determine if it is coarse or not. Coarse hair has a large diameter, high density, and high elasticity. To test your hair for coarseness (or otherwise), simply pluck a strand of your hair and do the following:
- Rub the strand between your thumb and index finger. If you feel some degree of roughness, it is coarse hair because it is very wide.
- Pull the strand at both ends. If it does not break and stretches up to half of its length before returning to its original length, it is coarse hair because it is very elastic.
- Part your hair at any side and check to see if your scalp is visible. If it is not visible, you have coarse hair because it is very dense.
Carmen: So, coarse hair is very wide, very dense, and very elastic. Did I get that right?
Hairstylist: You are a swift learner, Carmen. But, there is more about coarse hair you should know.
Misconceptions About Coarse Hair
The average person believes thick, curly, or kinky hair is necessarily coarse hair. However, this is not true. If you have straight hair and each strand of your hair has a large circumference and a rough texture, it is coarse hair. By the same token, if each of your naturally curly strands has a small circumference and a smooth texture, it is fine hair. Contrary to what is popularly known about kinky hair, it has a fine texture and is the most fragile of all existing hair types.
Carmen: I always thought my best friend, who is African-American, has coarse hair.
Hairstylist: Because she has tight afro curls?
Carmen: Yes. But, it turns out I was wrong to assume that, wasn’t I?
Hairstylist: If it’s any consolation, Carmen, you are not alone. By the way, did you know that some people’s hair can become coarse even if it wasn’t before?
Carmen: Is that possible?
Hairstylist: Absolutely. Let me explain how.
Ways Your Hair Can Become Coarse
When your hair starts to develop a rough texture, it is said to become coarse. How does this happen? Hair becomes coarse due to the following factors:
- Hormonal Imbalance: A medical condition known as hypothyroidism is responsible for hair turning coarse. If the body is not producing sufficient amounts of the thyroid hormone, the health and texture of the hair suffer. For hair to have a smooth texture, it is important to maintain healthy thyroid glands. If you find that your hair feels rough when it did not before, it will help you to undergo a medical exam to rule out any underlying health issues.
- Nutritional Deficiency: Iron, calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B are essential for healthy skin, bones, and hair. When the body does not receive these nutrients adequately, the hair is the first to be affected. It loses its luster and smooth texture and eventually becomes rough to the touch. Making sure to eat a balanced diet and taking supplements when necessary will help to prevent hair from turning coarse.
- Harmful Chemicals: Hair products like cleanser, conditioner, and hairspray contain ingredients like parabens, sulfates, and silicon. These chemicals are harsh on the hair and make them rough and brittle over time. Selecting hair products free from these harmful ingredients will help to keep your hair soft and prevent it from becoming coarse.
- Frequent Heat-styling: Exposing the hair to heat-styling too often inhibits sebum production in the scalp which is responsible for maintaining moisture in the hair. The heat from hairstyling tools dries out the hair, giving it a rough texture. As a result, the hair becomes coarse. Applying a good quality heat protection product and investing in hair tools built with ceramic and ionic technology will help to keep your hair from drying out.
Carmen: As a professional hairstylist, what would you recommend to your clients who have coarse hair?
Hairstylist: I’m glad you asked. My recommendations for coarse hair are pretty simple and straightforward.
Related Guide: Thick or Coarse Hair
Recommendations for Coarse Hair
Whether you are someone with naturally coarse hair or are having to deal with hair that has become coarse, the following recommendations are worth trying.
Use Hot Oil Treatments Once in a While
Coarse hair tends to be dry and frizzy. A scalp massage with warm hair oil will stimulate sebum production which is essential for restoring moisture to the hair. You can warm a dime-sized quantity of argan oil, olive oil, coconut oil, or castor oil and rub it in with your fingertips in slow, circular motions. Focus on the roots and the ends which tend to be the thirstiest parts of coarse hair. Wrap your head in a shower cap and leave it overnight. Wash your hair the next morning with a moisturizing cleanser. Repeat this twice every week.
Trim Your Hair Regularly
Most women think their hair will become too short for beautiful long hairstyles if they trim it regularly. But, they fail to realize that if they go months without a trim, they will develop split ends (a sign of deteriorating hair health). Split ends decelerate hair growth and are the first indication of hair damage. Coarse hair becomes drier, rougher, frizzier, and more brittle. To prevent this, you must trim your hair by half an inch every 6-8 weeks.
Co-wash as Much as Possible
If you can, avoid the shampoo altogether and wash your hair with a cleansing conditioner instead. This will hydrate coarse hair and get rid of the roughness associated with it.
Choose the Right Hair Products
If you have coarse hair and you use hair products that have been formulated for fine hair, your hair texture will become rougher. When you shop for cleanser, conditioner, or hairspray; look for those which contain fatty acids and antioxidants. These ingredients moisturize and nourish coarse hair.
Air-dry Your Hair as Often as Possible
It may be impractical advice for women who are juggling family and career, but this is the best way to prevent further dryness and frizz in coarse hair.
If you must use heat-styling tools, then take precautions to protect your hair against heat damage.
Remember to apply thermal protection serum prior to styling and use the hair tools on the lowest temperature. Make it a point to use a diffuser attachment with your hair dryer and invest in ceramic hairstyling tools with ionic technology. They heat the hair very gently and are perfect for coarse hair.
The hairstylist was right when he told Carmen she was not the only one with misconceptions about coarse hair. Many women do not thoroughly understand the difference between coarse hair and its opposite. They incorrectly assume that all coily and kinky hair is coarse, whereas straight and wavy hair is fine. As the conversation between Carmen and the hairstylist shows, if your hair is very wide, dense, and elastic, then it is coarse hair regardless of your hair type. The hairstylist also shares techniques for determining your hair texture – if it is coarse or not. If you have coarse hair, you should adopt hair care practices appropriate for coarse hair as recommended by the hairstylist.
- Tara Thomas, The Difference Between Coarse & Curly Hair
- Pooja Karkala, All You Need To Know About Coarse Hair, October 5, 2018
- Gené Hunter, What’s The Deal With Coarse Hair?