You’ve prob­a­bly heard your own or anoth­er person’s nat­ur­al hair referred to as “coarse”.

Girl my hair is so coarse I can’t comb through it!

Hon­ey, her hair is so coarse and knot­ted it looks crazy.

Because I have coarse hair, it takes so long to style.

These state­ments all have dif­fer­ent impli­ca­tions about coarse hair. The first use of coarse makes it seem like a tex­ture that is dif­fi­cult to comb, the sec­ond use implies coarse hair is unbe­com­ing, and the third con­veys that coarse hair is thick and dense, cre­at­ing longer styling times. So does the term coarse, when used to refer to nat­ur­al hair, mean one’s hair is thick, dense, kinky, dry, or some­thing else?

What coarse DOES NOT mean

Coarse doesn’t mean your hair is dense. You can have a whole lot of hair, or not that much hair, and still have coarse hair.

Coarse doesn’t mean your hair is thick. You can have thin hair strands that are coarse, as well as thick hair strands that are coarse.

Coarse doesn’t mean your hair is kinky. You can have curly coarse hair, coily coarse hair, and kinky coarse hair.

Coarse doesn’t mean your hair is dry. You can have ade­quate­ly mois­tur­ized hair that is still coarse.

What exact­ly does ‘coarse hair’ mean?

Let’s start with some fun­da­men­tal back­ground info: Green Beauty’s Com­plete Hair Typ­ing Sys­tem

For any­one who isn’t famil­iar with this hair typ­ing sys­tem, Green Beau­ty takes into con­sid­er­a­tion curl pat­tern, tex­ture, hair den­si­ty, thick­ness, and poros­i­ty.

Curl pat­tern refers to the shape of your curl.
Tex­ture refers to the loose­ness or tight­ness of the curl.
Den­si­ty is the vol­ume (high or low) of hair strands you have.
Thick­ness is the size of the hair strand.
And poros­i­ty is how well your strands hold onto water. 

In Green Beauty’s sys­tem, coarse­ness is hair that feels dry and rough when you run your fin­ger down the shaft. It is the oppo­site of strands that are smooth and soft. It should go with­out say­ing that tight­ly tex­tured strands can feel smooth and soft and is not coarse by default.

Nat­u­ral­ly coarse or just dry?
If you think your hair is nat­u­ral­ly coarse, first make sure that it is actu­al­ly not dry, and has a prop­er pro­tein-mois­ture bal­ance. Once that’s set­tled, rec­og­nize that there is noth­ing wrong with your coarse hair! Just make sure you keep a healthy scalp to allow an envi­ron­ment where your nat­ur­al sebum can trav­el down your hair strands to pro­vide nat­ur­al mois­ture.

What do you define as coarse hair? Is your hair nat­u­ral­ly coarse?

Klassy Kinks founder and edi­tor, Ijeo­ma Eboh, is on a mis­sion to change per­cep­tions of kinky tex­tured hair around the world. You can find her on social media @klassykinks.

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9 Comments on "The Natural Hair Community Is Confused About What ‘Coarse Hair’ Actually Is"

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If the nat­ur­al hair com­mu­ni­ty is con­fused about the term, they only have the rest of the hair com­mu­ni­ty to thank for their con­fu­sion. Can’t tell you how many “beau­ty experts” and prod­ucts out there think coarse is syn­ony­mous with coily/curly hair. It’s all over prod­ucts, and incor­rect­ly ref­er­enced on sites by Elle, InStyle and oth­er places that rec­om­mend them. As usu­al, WE have to edu­cate “the experts” on our hair. It’s no won­der many of us oper­ate at a dis­ad­van­tage find­ing the right prod­ucts. How could you when your healthy nat­u­ral­ly dry hair is equat­ed to dam­aged hair that… Read more »

Yep…it wasn’t until I went nat­ur­al that I final­ly under­stood why my hair behaved the way it did when it was relaxed. My hair may be tight­ly coiled/kinked, but the strands them­selves are very fine…and relax­ers only made them fin­er, weak­er, and very prone to break­age. Yet styl­ists only saw nap­py hair, so they treat­ed it like it was rough and tough…no won­der I hard­ly saw any length.

Hair Anomaly

The con­tin­u­um between coarse and fine has to do with the diam­e­ter of the hair strand. Peo­ple always seem to equate the com­bo of kinky and dense with coarse. 

The coars­est hair I’ve ever seen belongs to a Kore­an friend of mine who has a head full of straight strands that feel like straw from a broom­stick. On the oth­er hand, I have 4-some­thing hair that is annoy­ing­ly fine.


my pet peeve is a blog­ger or vlog­ger who doesn’t know what coarse means. It has absolute­ly noth­ing to do with how kinky your hair is although you can have kinky and coarse hair. you can also have kinky and fine. Any­one of any hair type can have coarse hair but Coarse hair is most com­mon in Asians yet many peo­ple want to say it’s most com­mon in blacks. Some peo­ple need to do some research before try­ing to “edu­cate” oth­er peo­ple.


I am some­what famil­iar w/the Green Beau­ty sys­tem, but in hair ter­mi­nol­o­gy ‘coarse’ DOES denote the thickness/diameter of a hair strand. Strand thick­ness is cat­e­go­rized as fine, medi­um & coarse. Peo­ple of Asi­at­ic and Lati­na eth­nic­i­ties gen­er­al­ly have large diam­e­ter (coarse) hair strands. Black peo­ple gen­er­al­ly have medi­um strand thick­ness; but with age, the strands’ curl pat­tern often loosens and elon­gates and the thick­ness oft­times changes and becomes ‘fine’ –for both Black women and men (changes in hor­mones, blood flow, stress of liv­ing in USA, etc.) …and why lit­tle girls love to play in their grandma’s ‘soft fine’ hair ;)


I’ve always had coarse hair. I still don’t get why peo­ple con­fuse it with thick­ness or curl tight­ness. My curls aren’t tight but they are extreme­ly coarse. When com­pared to oth­er hair strands from my fam­i­ly, my strand is always bold­er and “fat­ter”.


I’ve always heard “coarse” as a ref­er­ence to hair strand thick­ness rather than tex­ture, which makes sense; fine refers to strand thick­ness, and is the oppo­site of coarse. I’ve nev­er heard it used to refer to tex­ture.

I think I’ll stick with my def­i­n­i­tion.


When I say coarse hair I mean thick strands with a rough strand tex­ture.

If some­one just said to me I have rough strands, I’d just think that their hair was dam­aged, not coarse.


I did that test. I’m course. I’ve been course since I was lit­tle. Lol, no con­fu­sion with me.