Disclaimer: The information provided is not intended as medical advice. For any medical concerns, always contact your doctor.
Coarse hair has many negative connotations — dry, frizzy, rough, unruly, to name a few. It’s also often mistaken for thick hair, which is actually in a league of its own. But instead of bemoaning your thicker-than-average strands, you should be celebrating their perks. After all, your mane likely has the appearance of volume, fullness, and thickness.
In this guide, we discuss what coarse hair is and how it differs from thick hair. We also detail potential causes of coarse hair and common complaints. Last but not least, we give you the lowdown on the ideal care routine for this hair type, styling and lifestyle tips included.
What Is Coarse Hair?
Contrary to popular belief, coarse hair doesn’t necessarily mean thick hair. Coarse hair is thought of in terms of hair thickness, which refers to the diameter of your hair fiber. Compared to fine and medium hair strands, coarse hair fibers have the widest circumference. That’s because, in addition to the cortex and cuticle layers, coarse hair follicles also possess the medulla — the innermost layer that isn’t present in fine and medium hair types.
Meanwhile, thick hair is measured in terms of hair density, aka the number of hair follicles per unit area on your scalp. The more follicles you have, the thicker your locks. In other words, you can have coarse and thin hair (e.g., a slim-looking ponytail) or coarse and thick hair (think a full-looking mane). Similarly, coarse hair fibers can be found across all curl types, from straight and wavy to curly and coily.
How to Tell if You Have Coarse Hair
One simple way to tell if you have coarse hair is to use the thread test. Cut a piece of sewing thread (roughly six inches or so) and lay it on a flat, level surface. Place one of your hair strands next to it. If your hair is thicker than the thread, congrats, you’re in Team Coarse Hair.
Meanwhile, if your hair is thinner than the thread, you likely have fine hair. And if your hair is roughly the same size as the thread, you belong to the medium hair tribe. (FYI, for more scintillating facts, be sure to check out our guide on determining your hair type.)
Why Do I Have Coarse Hair?
Generally, coarse hair is a matter of genes — if Mom and Dad have thick-looking strands, chances are you’re also blessed with them. Also, certain drugs, like the hair growth medication Minoxidil, can enlarge the hair shaft. Similarly, aging, hormonal imbalance, nutrient deficiency, and chronic diseases may make your hair coarser than you’d like.
While substantial strands often bring volume and bounce, we can’t deny that they also have their weak points, such as:
- Breakage (or brittleness)
- Split ends
On top of that, coarse hair doesn’t dry quickly, which means you probably have to extend your post-shower routine when you’re already short on time. So, what’s a girl gotta do? The answers lie in the next few sections (*wink*).
Care Routine for Coarse Hair: Follow These 4 Steps
Repeat after us: Coarse hair is manageable. You don’t have to rant about your ever-present frizz and Brillo pad-textured strands if you have the right products in place. First up, let’s understand what this hair type really needs.
Being thick in width and quick to lose moisture, coarse hair strands require lots of tender loving care, mainly in the form of ample hydration to downplay dryness and split ends. That’s why the best products for coarse hair should focus on removing natural and artificial buildup without drying out your locks. Coarse, curly hair types find it extra challenging for scalp sebum to coat every wave and coil due to a larger surface area.
Unfortunately, mass-market formulations don’t take individual hair needs into account. While an ultra-moisturizing coarse hair shampoo may work for your bestie with dry hair and flakes, it may not work so well for you and your oily scalp.
What’s more, these cookie-cutter products are often jam-packed with harsh chemicals that may irritate your scalp and strands. Case in point: Sulfates. These common haircare ingredients may help your shampoo lather well, but they’re notorious for stripping away your hair’s natural oils.
Fortunately, you don’t have to agonize over which products to get. Function of Beauty offers a fully customizable haircare range that’s concocted from a mix of naturally derived and synthetic ingredients that are also cruelty-free and 100% vegan. Most importantly, we stay away from potentially harmful ingredients like sulfates, parabens, and phthalates. To learn more, hop over to our “no” list of ingredients.
OK, here are four steps you can take to get your coarse hair on the right course.
1. Choose a Nourishing Shampoo and Conditioner
If you’re wondering what’s the best shampoo for coarse hair and all its baggage (read: frizz, parchedness, split ends), as well as a conditioner your weighty strands will love, we’d like to introduce you to Function of Beauty’s custom sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner.
This nourishing duo isn’t like any haircare products you’ve encountered before. That’s because they can be completely customized to your one-of-a-kind hair needs. Simply mix and match the hair goals that resonate most with you when you take our hair quiz.
Here’s a sneak peek of some hair goals you can select for coarse strands:
- Deep condition: Formulated with shea butter and avocado oil to help lock in moisture and promote softness
- Fix split ends: Formulated with black oat seed extract and beetroot extract to improve hair structure and prevent split ends
- Hydrate: Formulated with moisturizing coconut oil and aloe vera to help leave your hair smooth, silky, and shiny
- Anti-frizz: Formulated with tamarind extract and Moroccan argan oil to help smoothen hair texture and combat frizzy hair
- Oil control: Formulated with rosemary leaf extract and vitamin E to enhance scalp and promote hair health
2. Indulge in a Leave-in Conditioner
To further smooth and protect your full-looking strands, coarse hair types can also benefit from a leave-in conditioner. One option to consider is our custom leave-in treatment, an ultra-lightweight conditioning cream to help smooth, hydrate, detangle, and protect your curls.
Featuring avocado oil, argan oil, coffee extract, and a custom blend of naturally derived ingredients according to your hair goals, this leave-in is perfect for all hair types with a variety of needs.
3. Follow Up With a Hair Mask
Sometimes, your hair just needs a boost of nourishment in the form of moisturizing oils and conditioning agents to boost hydration and strengthen your locks. Here are three popular hair-nourishing ingredients to seek out:
- Japanese sake extract: This moisturizing ingredient is full of humectants (water-loving compounds that attract moisture from the surrounding air) to help maintain the hydration levels in your hair
- Argan oil: This hydrating hair oil is rich in fatty acids to help moisturize the hair fiber, reduce split ends, and banish frizz
- Jojoba ester oil: This popular conditioning agent helps protect the hair shaft and enhance its resistance to breakage
It’s worth mentioning that you can find these ingredients in Function of Beauty’s custom hair mask. This intensive deep conditioning treatment can make your coarse hair feel nourished and hydrated.
Pro tip: If you have over-processed, dry, and/or damaged hair, use the hair mask in place of your daily conditioner.
4. Finish With Hair Serum
If frizzy hair and flyaways got you down, our custom hair serum will tame your mane and boost your mood right up. This lightweight, silicone-based styling product is designed to coat the surface of the hair. It’s proven to:
- Reduce frizz by 70%
- Increase shine by 26 times more than untreated hair
- Improve detangling by 75%
- Thermally protect hair from damage up to 400 degrees
Expect enhanced shine, smoothness, hydration, plus humidity and pollution protection, especially when you use the serum with Function of Beauty’s leave-in conditioner.
How to Style Coarse Hair
Rough as it might be, coarse hair is voluminous and can style well. That said, frequently using heat styling tools (like a flat iron to straighten your natural curls every day) can put you on the fast lane to frizzy, damaged hair. Instead, embrace your coarse hair in its natural state, whether it falls straight or defies gravity in tight curls.
If you do want (or need) to play with heat styling tools, keep these guidelines in mind:
- Always use a heat protectant (like our custom hair serum) before exposing your hair to high temperatures
- When blow-drying your hair, keep it at least six inches away from your hair in an ever-moving motion
- Stay away from harsh chemical treatments (like bleaching) if you can, and speak to your hairstylist about natural hair dyes
Make Your Lifestyle Coarse Hair-Friendly
Take the vitality of your coarse hair to the next level by revamping your lifestyle with these easy-to-follow tips:
- Opt for cold or lukewarm water when washing your hair and avoid hard water in the shower, which can lead to dryness, brittleness, and damage. Protect your mane with a showerhead filter and gentle, nourishing hair products.
- Skip the blow dryer as much as possible to give your locks a break and air-dry them instead. Or, you can towel-dry with a microfiber towel (or an old T-shirt) to speed up the drying process. If you have curly hair, try this plopping method.
- Comb your tresses with a round brush or paddle brush made with boar bristles. These hair brushes are meant to accommodate thicker hair fibers without creating more frizz and breakage.
- Switch to pure silk pillowcases as their no-friction surface equals fewer snarls, knots, and tangles. Plus, they won’t absorb the natural oils on your hair shafts.
- Regularly visit your hairstylist to trim away split ends and maintain healthy hair growth.
These simple changes to your regular routine can help make your hair look (and feel) its best.
Show Off Your Coarse Hair in All Its Glory
Building a haircare routine for your hefty strands is more than just hunting down the best conditioner for coarse hair. There are a few other products that make the team. Namely, sulfate-free shampoos, leave-in treatments, nourishing hair masks, and serums.
Aside from putting together your ideal routine, you’ll also want to play it safe when styling your strands. Sure, they may be broader than other hair fibers, but they’re equally vulnerable to heat damage, too.
Last but not least, subtle changes to your lifestyle can optimize your scalp and hair health. Before you know it, your coarse hair can be the way you’ve always dreamed — soft, flowing, and incredibly smooth.