The Natural Hair Community Is Confused About What ‘Coarse Hair’ Actually Is

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

Klassy Kinks

KlassyKinks.com 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.

9 thoughts on “The Natural Hair Community Is Confused About What ‘Coarse Hair’ Actually Is

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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”.

  4. 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 ;)

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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 needs to be corrected. No, I just need moisture.

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