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I have found that the classic 3a to 4b hair typing can be very misleading in regards to choosing routines and products although many naturals do still make such inferences. In my experience there are two properties of hair that are more important. First is an assessment of whether your hair is kinky, curly or both. This will determine the strength of your hair and how best to handle it. The second is an assessment of whether your individual strands are fine or thick. This will determine the type of products that will be better for your hair and will also be a guide on how best to trim and style your hair. Today I will discuss individual strand thickness. This is a general guide based on observation, some people with fine or thick hair may indeed buck the trend. Equally if your hair is somewhere between fine and thick, you may find yourself switching between the two trends.

1. More dusting for fine hair, more trimmed cuts for thick hair
If your natural hair is fine, there is a stronger tendency for the ends to tangle as the individual strands seem to really like meshing. As a result, these ends will experience more wear as they are regularly separated for styling and detangling. Choosing a dusting routine where an eighth of an inch is cut every month or so is a good choice to prevent and get rid of damage. If your strands are thicker, you will probably find that knots are rare although tangles may still occur. Therefore, you may find a set trimming routine of, for example, half an inch every 4-6 months is more appropriate to get rid of damage

2. Lighter conditioners for fine hair, heavier ones for thick hair
The issue of tangling and meshing for fine hair once more lends it to finding lighter conditioners that are packed with slip to be more beneficial especially if choosing to conditioner detangle. Lighter conditioners are more able to coat the strands even when the hair has a tendency to mesh. You may therefore find that regular store bought conditioners such as Herbal Essences, Tresemme, Aussie and VO5 are praised highly by people with fine hair. Meanwhile if you have thick strands, you may find that lighter conditioners simply do not help you as they are unable to weigh your hair down properly for ease of management when detangling. Many naturals with thicker strands may still use lighter store bought conditioners but will tend to add in olive oil or shea butter to help make the product more substantive. Hair masks and thicker products such as Aubrey Organics Honeysuckle Rose, Jessicurl Too Shea may also be equally preferred for thicker strands.

3. Lighter oils for fine hair, butters and thicker oils for thick hair
Many naturals tend to pick oils based on their preference for scent and texture. In general , most oils are perfectly fine to use on any hair strand thickness. However, people with fine hair may find that heavier butters and oil (e.g castor oil, shea butter, coffee butter, cocoa butter) are more difficult to spread and weigh hair down excessively. These oils, however, may be beneficial to fine hair if used on just the last 1-2 inches of hair as a thicker coating for moisture retention and breakage prevention. Over the rest of the strand, lighter oils and butters (e.g coconut, jojoba, avocado butter) may be better for finer strands. People with thicker strands will generally find that pretty much any oil can work for them but a preference for castor oil and shea butter is really prevalent. This is likely to be because thicker hair can easily withstand the thick oil coating.

4. More protein for fine hair, less or none for thick hair
Finer hair tends to be prone to damage compared to thicker strands which may have both more cuticle layers and a thicker cortex. For this reason, protein is almost always a must for fine hair. This does not mean using a specific protein treatment e.g Komaza or Aphogee. This could just mean using a hair conditioner with some protein or amino acids contained within or indeed adding a few drops of the protein treatment to a regular conditioner. People with thicker strands may find that protein treatments do not add to the strength of the hair and may even make hair less flexible. They should therefore be used sparingly.

5. Less heat for fine hair
There are a few rare creatures who will tell you how they can bleach and straighten their hair one day and then dye it all to a different colour a week later without any ill effects. There are some too who will tell you how they experience no damage or breakage even after using a flat iron on high heat with several passes each time. The likely fact is that all these people have thick strands. Fine hair is just not able to do this and even low direct contact heat can easily set off breakage. If you are in this group, restrict yourself to contactless heat (hair dryer held away from hair), reduce the temperature and/or number of times you flat iron or indeed completely avoid heat.

Ladies, is your hair thick or fine? How do you manage it?

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102 Comments on "5 Ways Thick and Fine Natural Hair Should be Treated Differently"

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lisa

i agree with the comments above and i think some things could have been explained better. i have fine strands but thick (more dense) hair. Im learning that my hair is protein sensitive and i NEED super thick and creamy conditioner that gives me a lot of slip. But i guess it just really takes time to learn ur own hair and what it needs.

Jesse

There is a difference between hair density and thickness of individual hair strands. This post doesn’t really make that distinction clear.

The Natural Haven

I could not have been more explicit that I was talking about individual strand thickness. Please read the crucial first sentence referring to thickness.

‘The second is an assessment of whether your individual strands are fine or thick’

Hair density is not hair strand thickness.

sherrybaby

I want get some clarity on the terminology.

I’ve always understood “thickness” and “thinness” to separate issues from “course” and “fine”. My understanding was that “thickness/thinness” had to do with the total amount of actual strands on your head. And “course/fine” had to do with the size or width of the individual strands. Therefore, a person could have thick but fine hair. But I’m not sure we’re all on subscribing to that definition.

Thoughts? Comments?

Mimi

Density= Thick/Thin
Individual Strands= Coarse/Fine

Lisa

Hi, so fine, medium, or course refers to the individual hair strands while thinness or thickness of your hair refers to the overall density of the hair. So you can have fine hair(individual strand is thin) but have thick hair if the number of hair folicules on your scalp is large in number. If you have fine hair but the number of hair folicules on the scalp is smaller in number then the overall appearance of the hair will be thin.

the_lovely_one

@Ugonna Wosu is correct. Thickness refers to the diameter of a single hair strand whereas density refers to the number of hairs growing on the scalp per square inch. One can have low density, medium density, or high density

Ugonna Wosu

density has to do with the number of strands, thick(course) vs fine has to do with the diameter of each strand.

DeeJ

I agree with you, that coarse and fine have to do with the size of the individual strands and thickness has to do with how much hair you have or the density. My sister’s hair is very, very thick and dense, but her strands are very fine

Tracy

Exactly! I have fine hair strands but VERY many strands or I usually say my hair is fine but very dense….

biancarichards
i’m a fine curly 3C-4A, i must say single strand knots have been teasing me lately, i definitly incorporated oil rinsing to reduce breakage, sealing the ends with coconut oil or Oyin handmade burnt sugar. I will try hot oil treatments for more benefits, but using Oyin handmade hair dew has really make my hair incredibly soft and manageable ! A caucasian friend of mine told me that henna was really good to do once in a year for super soft hair organic coconut oil is my favorite oil (also for cooking it’s delicious) for sealing, it works better than… Read more »
JENNID
Great post. Yes fine vs thick is more important than being a 3b or 4c in most instances. To be clear when articles like these are posted people want to call them “rules”. These are merely observations and some tips to some common hair care issues. The only rules to natural hair are the ones you create for yourself. For my fine hair all the observations mentioned in the article are pretty much true for me. The only one I’m indifferent to is the one about light oils vs heavy oils and butter’s. Despite my hair being fine it has… Read more »
TS

I cant tell if the actual strands of my hair are fine or thick

Ayane

take a thread and compare the sizes, if your hair strand is almost the same width as the thread, then its thick, if it’s barely seen when next to the thread, then it’s thin.

D.D
My hair is just a rule breaker I have fine/dense hair but it does not like alot or more then a slight amount of protein especially in conditioner( It hate protein in conditioner period). It hates most conditioners period due to the protein content after only one use. It also hates most products all together. My hair hated shea moisture I even just tried to use the the whole jar it acted like a hard core protein treatment in my hair. It stopped the little breakage I had but make my hair hard and crisp. Aubrey Organics Honeysuckle Rose is… Read more »
Ashley

Sounds like you could also possibly be low-porosity, despite your fine strands. Have you ever tested that?

D.D
Yes,I tested that a few time and I think I am low porosity. My hair also has a high natural sheen without any product which is suppose to be another sign of low porosity. That is when I realized to stop with the protein unless is was a once in awhile strengthening treatment and it has been working for me. My hair still hates being detangle wet or if I start at the ends. I have to start at the root and move the shed hair down and THEN move to the ends and work my way up. The other… Read more »
Leighton

I detangle my hair the same way. I tried wet detangling and i don’t like it. It works for the back of my hair only.

folamix

As most of the products that I use contain protein and my prepoo contains avocado oil which is higher in protein than coconut oil, I seldom, if ever, give myself a “protein treatment”. My hair appears thick but I believe the individual strands are fine to normal. I am in my 60s so I feel that the loss in thickness/density is primarily due to age. I feel that my hair is confused and does not follow these rules so much.

Cardenie
I think out of all of these, #4 is the most important. When you have fine hair, you naturally have less protein in the strands. Making sure you get enough protein is the foundation for keeping your hair moisturized. I’ve had the experience of adding and adding moisturizing products, but because I was neglecting protein, my hair didn’t respond. I don’t do the major treatments; just every product I use has little bits of protein in them: I use Tresemme Split Remedy to detangle (lots of slip, it’s great), Pantene Fine Hair solutions shampoo/conditioner, and SheaMoisture Curl Enhancing Smoothie to… Read more »
An Afrikan Butterfly

my hair is fine, but it’s also low-porosity, so I’ve found that I don’t require a lot of protein treatments.

Norrell

I have been trying to figure out for a while now whether I have fine hair or thick hair. Overall has a massive entity my hair is definitely thick, but how do I know that I don’t just have a hell of alot of fine hairs? My individual strands mesh alll the time, but I also think my hair has a high tolerance for heat. How can I tell what my individual strands are?

Kira
I fall right in between with medium coarse strands (I also have some fine and coarse strands as well). I find myself falling directly in-between when it comes to products usage. I like my rinse out conditioners lighter but I love shea butter and JBCO. My hair loves protein (especially when it needs it) but hates it if it too concentrated (i.e.: Curl Junkie Curl Rehab). Keeping protein and moisture balance is so hard for me! I think my poor hair is just confused! LOL maybe someone should do an article for the medium coarse women out there with low… Read more »
SJ
Good advice. I agree with most guidelines except the trimming. Regardless of hair type, don’t trim unless you are experiencing breakage, excessive split ends/ knotting, etc. I have fine hair and I was dusting on a timeline similar to the one listed in the article to “prevent damage”…….I ended up slowly dusting away perfect healthy hair. Now I just do regular protein/ henna treatments and have mastered the art of preserving my ends/preventing knotting to begin with; only after these things are done will I ask whether a trim/ dust is necessary. Entering a too-often dusting/trimming schedule sometimes does more… Read more »
Leighton

How do you preserve your ends and prevent knots?

happythoughts
wow! this was a great read! i absolutely agree 100% with this, i have very fine hair and until my hhj i had no idea about protein or moieture, i was always told about how my hair was tough, and hairdressers and my mother would grease it up for moisture, smh…lol we didnt know better. my hair neeeeds protein regularly, and light oils definately are easier to use than butters for me. i use castor oil at the very ends, im currently considering transitioning and this is some great advice on how to care for the natural hair during that… Read more »
Shamelle Belcher

My hair is thick and I have used all the methods you have mentioned. I am glad that you mentioned castor oil-I have wanted to try this. I have a heavy hand so I have to make sure not to use too much. Thank for the tips.
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JustSayin

Heres the thing I don’t understand with these do’s and don’t: Is my hair some special type of natural 4b/c hair? – Because it loves thick butters and creams and conditioners and is extremely protein sensitive. lol

My “light” cream for the summer is Shea Moisture’s Curl Enhancing Smoothie. For the colder months – raw whipped shea butter.

I am still on the search for a good conditioner with slip though, so if there are any recommendations, I am open!

Dotty

Mine too and my strands are not coarse at all, they are fine. My hair likes the opposite of a lot of these recs. it likes castor and dislikes coconut. Also it’s protein sensitive. There is no one size fits all diagnosis.

niksmit

You sound like you have thick (coarse, not fine) strands. Re-read the post and you’ll see everything you just said in there under thick strands. It’s not special. It’s that the number-letter system is essentially meaningless for hair care purposes.

Flynfab
My hair is dense and kinky but I have no idea if I have fine or thick strands – how can you even tell?? Lol, I don’t even think about that when I choose products or style my hair, I honestly don’t think it matters so much to know. Just experiment until you find the right styles and products and go with those. I guess since most of the things that I do fall into your label of thick, maybe that’s what it is. I can say that I do use Aphrogee 2 minute condition on my hair every week… Read more »
Sinovuyo

How does one tell if they have fine or thick hair? As Mojo said above: ‘I have recently discovered that though my hair appears to be thick the strands are fine.’ I’m really looking forward to my BC in a few days, and to work on a regimen suitable for my hair.

sherrybaby

Another option is to compare a single strand of your hair to a piece of thread. If your hair is visibly thinner than the thread, you can pretty safely say you have fine hair.

Also, the article uses the terms “thick” and “fine”, which, for me is a bit confusing. I’ve always understood it to be a comparison of “coarse” vs “fine”. A person can have thick hair, meaning a lot of individual strands of hair, but fine hair-meaning the actual strands are thin. Hope that was helpful.

niksmit

http://www.iamnaturallycurious.com/2012/06/texture-talk-my-mostly-fine-strands.html

There was a very old post by the creator of the Curl Junkie line on her blog that’s more illustrative, but I don’t have time to dig that up right now if it’s still available online.

Mojo

I have recently discovered that though my hair appears to be thick the strands are fine. I am currently on a goal for myself to do more protective styling. I currently have mini twist and plan on having them in for a month (fingers crossed) I don’t plan on washing my hair but I will incorporate my ACV rinses (to avoid product buildup) and to still moisturize my hair prior to sleeping. I think low manipulation works wonders on fine strands since it is prone to breakage, less is more!

Cami
My hair is fine and I’m very much of a minimalist when it comes to daily hair care — mostly because my hair is very long (stretched mid-back) and at times I’m just downright lazy. I co-wash twice a month, clarify with ACV when needed, finger-comb with my stash of goodies, and then it’s back in twists during the week (for a full twist-out on the weekends). Since I also have major shrinkage, I rock a big curly fro (think Yaya) for 3-day hair. Other than that, I dust for knots, avoid any heat, and stick with Shea Moisture, Naturally… Read more »
Crist
I’m closing in on 3 years natural and I am now starting to adopt the minimalist way of hair care…and its been going so well! I’m already lazy with my hair plus busy with work and school and grad apps and my boyfriend likes it when I wear my hair up 😉 so I do bunned twists pretty much constantly *with no twistout at the end of the week* at this point (its been about 2 weeks). I do a mid-week wash in my medium twists, oil it then bun it. Tonight I’ll be finger detangling each twist, moisturizing then… Read more »
Kita
My hair is extremely thick. Low heat is a no no for me. Even for flat ironing (twice a year) I have to use 475 degrees because the recommended 400 does nothing for my strands. Also, heavier oils and conditioners are spot on in the write up. My hair has been the same my whole life so I pretty much learned what my hair can take from my mom and stepmom. When I took over I stopped using hair grease, gel, and hard bristle brushes for these reasons: (1) hair grease on my scalp causes build up for me so… Read more »
Cece Danielle

Wow my strands are kinky and thick and I’ve never gone past 350 degrees for my flat iron. I’ve only flat ironed once in two years and there was a lot of humidity, which is probably why it wasn’t that straight. I’ll try to heat it a little higher now. Thanks.

la*belle
Great article. My strands are fine. Heat pretty much destroys my hair, so I stay far away from it. I get single strand knots with minimal effort on my part. I counteract this with hot oil treatments and oil rinsing. I have also started spraying my hair with a very diluted acv and water spritz, after which I apply my leave in. Greek yoghurt treatments are an absolute must on my strands. I wear my hair in a wash n go twa, bc’d to no hair in january this year. Please, ladies, if any of you have additional tips, do… Read more »
DeeDee
Re: 5 Ways… For the last 6 years I have been wearing wigs as a protective style but now I want to wear my own natural hair long (use to wear very short fros and braids. So I need to learn how to handle it again. It’s 5 to 11 inches in length and fineeee and very poreous. I mean I got a perm 6 years ago and kissed most of my hair goodbye like the days later. So I’m freeing myself from my beloved safety blanket (wigs) and want to achieve my hair goals sans the wigs. So back… Read more »
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