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January 26, 2011

So FINE- Natural Hair


SO FINE: Not Every Natural is Coarse, Of Course
by Cassidy of Natural Selection

For the longest time, I thought that if you had thick hair, your hair was coarse and if you had thin hair then your hair was fine. Until about a year ago, I lived my entire life under the assumption that because my hair was extremely thick that it was coarse. However, after going natural I discovered that beneath my straightened hair, there were follicles waiting to release zillions of little slinkies from my scalp. One day my friend was inspecting my teeny weeny coils when she said “your coils are so dense, but your hairs themselves are so so fine.”

“Fine hair?? On this head?? Not a chance”, I said laughing it off.

“No really,” she insisted. And with that, she plucked a hair from her scalp held it up to one of my own.

To my surprise her hair was double the thickness mine! After a few more comparisons with other heads, I discovered that without a doubt, I fall into category of having fine hair.

I shared with you my discovery of fine hair because many of us assume that because we have kinky coils or a thick head of hair that our hair is COARSE, when in reality you could be like me and have a thick head of fine hair.

Let’s break it down to see where you fall.

First, there are really two spectrums of hair that we’re talking about here:

  • the thickness of a strand of hair (fine-medium-coarse)
  • the density of follicles on the head (thin-medium-thick)

If you’re like me, you could go around plucking hairs from other people’s heads and comparing them to your own, but there actually is an, erm, place below the waist where everyone grows coarse hair. That’s right- pubic hair is coarse hair! (You knew getting to know your hair was intimate, but betcha didn’t know HOW intimate). If your hair is as thick as this hair from your nether regions, it’s coarse and if its thinner, but only slightly so, it’s medium, and if its noticeably more faint, then you have fine hair.

Fine hair can be placed into two camps. First, there are those (like me) who have lots fine hair whose follicles are placed very close together (thick) and those whose fine hair follicles are placed further apart and the hair is thin.

Showing my densely packed fine strands


Here are a few pictures I took comparing my fine hair and a friend’s coarser hair (thanks La Shon!)

FINE LEFT---> COARSE RIGHT

A fine strand. A coarse strand. And a piece of black thread.

As you can see, fine hair is much thinner than coarse hair and as a result is much more fragile and special attention must be given to make sure you’re giving your fine strands the TLC it needs to thrive. This series, SO FINE, will discuss, explore, and explain all things that every fine natural must know to be at her FINEst.

82 Chime in!:

Anonymous said...

I also noticed that coarse hair has nothing to do with the curl pattern either, you can have straight hair and it be coarse. I have noticed that a lot of european women have course straight hair.

star02171976 said...

I agree with anonymous. A lot of Asian and Native women have coarse hair as well. I love the article though. I actually have medium to coarse strands and thick hair (double whammy!). But I've also seen some women with "coarse" strands and their hair wasn't coarse, if that makes any sense. I think people equate coarse with rough.

Chae Eun said...

Oh..So i was always wondering abt this. So I took a pubic hair and laid it on my laptop. then i took out 5 hairs, or watever ones wanted to come out, and each time it was different then the last one. i had 2 fine, 2 medium, and one medium but with some coarse at the bottom. the latter must have came straight out the folicle...lol...but my hair is thick. Its only 4 inches now, but I believe that when it grows out it will lay down, maybe 6 inches?..hahah

Anonymous said...

ah #sideeye at Chae Eun.

DM said...

Love the article! I have fine hair (I.e. Small strands) and although ppl talk a lot about hair typing, you don't really hear too many people talk about the difference that strand size makes in maintaining healthy hair...I actually attribute the size of my individual strands to the fact that my hair is so easy to straighten and suffer from heat damage....

Just my thoughts/experience!

Anonymous said...

I have a mixture of all three kinds and really thick hair. Nice article tho.

@ Chae Eun: I like that name, I would think its "Seun" spelt "Chae Eun" for easy pronunciation!

Anonymous said...

Laughing at Anon 9:07am!!!
My hair is fine and my crown is the thickest section of my hair but the back and around my ears are ultra fine and I'm always carful handling that area. However; my crown gets special attention too, like more conditioner, more oil and plenty of moisture to keep it soft like the rest of my hair.

Zo~

shamigreen said...

Very informative.

CURLYNIKKI said...

I'm certified FINE! Fine, and thin...

putyohandsonme said...

Lol I have thick hair but it is very fine and has very springy tight coils.

Anonymous said...

Oh-Kay!

Anywhoo - thanks Cassidy for this informative and well written article! I suspected I had fine 4b-c coils (from comparing them to other's shed hairs), but I believed it was "cortex damage" from years of relaxing.

So not fair my kinky coils are also fine! }:-(

Anonymous said...

I'm so interested in this topic. I have the double whammy. I'm fine AND thin, too.

DreamchaZer said...

I'm just now discovering I have fine hair. I assumed (never do that, lol) that because my hair was thick, that my hair was coarse...so NOT the case. The dry twist outs look so much better, due appearing fuller. I'm still learning...

Anonymous said...

Looking forward to this series!

Anonymous said...

Great article Cassiday and Nikki. I too am SO FINE and I can't wait to read your tips for better care.

Ambitious_Tiff said...

My hair is fine and thick. Until I found some other ladies in the forums with the same thing, I was concerned! I can't wait to see some info on taking better care of fine hair myself. Styling too. Am I the only one that think my twist out are better when started wet? If I do them dry my hair looks extra scalpy... Maybe I am twisting too tight? Just kinda floundering though at this point, lol. Thanx Cassie and Nikki!

TiAnna Mae said...

Curly Nikki, your hair is thin???!??!! How so?? Do tell. Very well written article. I believe my hair is coarse and thick, but I will examine my vajayjay when I get home for the final verdict. I agree with DM. Thickness and strand size needs to be taken into account when hair typing and product recommendations.

Novemberlady13 said...

I've always known I've had thick hair, but I was under the impression that my strands were thick too. I only noticed they weren't because I got my hair straightened and one of my guy friend kept on commenting on how he thought it was going to be thicker. But my hair was very sleek and straight. Even then I was thinking it was the way the girl flat ironed my hair, but now I think I might have fine hair. I would have never gave it too thoughts if my hair was currently straight. Great article.

Latoya said...

Thanks Nikki for the follow up on porosity and density explanation.

I've always described my hair as thick/course. I've been using the terminology and didn't even realize I was referring to porosity and density.

After pulling a pub (yes, I actually did it)and comparing. I think my strands are actually medium.

Anonymous said...

EXCELLENT, EXCELLENT, EXCELLENT Article! I am so excited about the new series! My hair looks thick because it's densely packed, but my strands are definitely fine!

Sweetdrk1 said...

Great article!! I too have fine densly packed hair

Alexis said...

Excellent article and I'm glad to finally see some discussion about fine and thin natural tresses. For the longest I have been insecure about my thin hair and I find it extremely difficult to keep it healthy!! Hopefully the series discussing fine and thin hair will give me a greater understanding of how to properly maintain my hair!

Candace said...

wow! thank you so much! I never realized that I have fine hair or what that even really meant. I look forward to your series.

Yam84 said...

LOL @ everyone examining their vajayjays!

Anonymous said...

I am glad to know I am not alone!! Now what do I do with it?

ginabina

Lexi said...

I'm so glad this was posted!!! I have fine hair with densely packed hair follicles! I remember taking a picture of some lost strands and some strands were almost half the thickness of the fine strands! I've always had a lot of hair, but never realized that it was fine until i went natural.

CURLYNIKKI said...

LOL @ Yam84! TMI, but I always thought, why can't the hair on the top of my head be this shiny and healthy looking?! lol. Strange, I know.

And my hair is thin and fine. That's why I don't straighten. Look at the 'about me' page and scroll down to my cap and gown pic. You can see through my hair when it is straightened. One of the reasons I started wearing it curly was because it helped my hair appear thicker. Also, I started henna'ing to thicken up my hair. Gia's strands are so fine they're fly away. My hair is the same way, but years of henna have thickened them up some. Henna gives me baby doll hair (or vjayjay hair, if you will)- shiny and coarser.

CURLYNIKKI said...

oh, and I have strands that when I rub them between my thumb and forefinger, you can't even tell that they're there. FINE!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this.

I had to go natural and see my fine-but-dense strands myself to understand why using regular-strength relaxers was going way overboard for me. I'm convinced that's a big reason why I had SO much breakage and, consequently, less length retention as a relaxed person: because most stylists and most people period automatically equal "nappy" (kinky, 4b, take your pick) with "coarse."

Another shocking surprise: My nappy-kinky-mostly-4b hair heat-straightens REALLY easily with heat. It also reverts really easily, lol...

patience said...

I am also certified fine and thick and for a while I wasn't aware of this which led to a lot of damage to my hair. But now I know better. Now I am super excited about the series.

Joy R3FitShow said...

I LOVE that 1st pic. Her hair looks sooooo lush & fabulous!

AishaSaidIt said...

Oh wow I thought I was alone. I have fine, thin hair especially in the front and sides. The back is my friend and always does what I tell it. The front and sides...oh well. But thanks to CurlyNikki the Henna has helped tremendously and I am going to start a full Ayurvedic regimen this weekend! I can't wait for the how to's on this. Thank you so much.

Courtney said...

I have learned so much about hair since being natural and also having a daughter. Her hair is SO FINE and very tightly coiled. Her hair is like super fine super dense cotton candy. It looks like almost a TWA dry but it gets like 3-4 times longer looking wet. It is a challenge because what works for me doesn't always work for her, and detangling is a process because you have to be so gentle.

BreukelensFinest said...

great post! i totally was taught a lesson about that too. My strands are thick and i love to pull at each one because there is so much elasticity and i have to put in work to actually break it. but my hair is not thick at all! oh well, gotta love the strands God gave me :)

missdeeplyrooted.blogspot.com

Lea said...

Hi All,

I ordered a hair analysis from Live Curly Live Free: http://www.livecurlylivefree.com/

I received a 6 page PDF document of my hair. I just mailed in 20 plucked hairs and received an email of the results. The document explains hair texture, porosity,elasticity & ingredients to stay away from.

It was inexpensive and the results were emailed to me pretty quickly...like one week. I believe it's $12.95 or so.

For most of us, we may already know a lot of what the document tells you, but I did learn a lot about my hair that I didn't know.

DvaAuNaturel said...

Lea, I'm glad you mentioned Live Curly Live Free. That is the site I was referred to in order to gain information on hair porosity, density, and thickness of my strands - never knew they did analsis though. That's great. Thanks for sharing.

Great article.

Shaune said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shaune said...

Great Article! Up until I read this, I thought fine-thick hair was an oxymoron and a descriptive used by people who were in denial about having thin hair! lol ..Now I get it ..So instead of being coarse-thick I think I'm medium-thick after doing a down there comparison:-) (women really will talk about everything, won't we?:-) Thanks Lea for that info. I'll mail those folks some hair when I clean out my Denman..

Reign said...

OMG you are my hair twin... I just put up a post about my fine hair texture. My hair looks so large and plush in an afro.. i have fine,thick hair... but so thin in twists in braids...

Thanks I am not alone lol.

Anonymous said...

lol... nice article. i never understood the porosity and density thing. just did the "check" and like i always suspected, i have thick and coarse hair.... is it bad that i want thin and fine hair? my sister has it and all her styles come out better than mine.

Anonymous said...

Fine hair checking in!

KHurly Girl said...

This is a great article! I realized years ago that I had fine hair, which made it very difficult to color my hair without breakage. It is also one of the reasons that I decided to go natural.

*********************
Let's Parlez: Love, Life, and the Pursuit of Healthy Hair
http://lets-parlez.blogspot.com/

cassadie said...

I am SO JAZZED that there are so many of vajayjay peekers!! I'm looking forward to writing the series too! We'll be taking a more in-depth look at all the factors surrouding fine hair: porosity/products/styling/maintenance and all that good stuff.

Cass said...

Great post! I am also fine/thick. Even now when I tell people that my hair is fine they're like, huh? My hair is quite voluminous, but my strands are baby fine. Also, because my hair is a S pattern as oppose to an O pattern, my hair easily lays on top of itself (super dense). Keeping my hair stretched and detangled is key, otherwise it would be FORT KNOTS. Looking forward to the tips!

Kristen said...

I have fine, medium hair I believe. It's definitely fine lol. I thought that by growing out a relaxer it would could better, but it's just the way my hair is.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for this article! I was always wondering if my hair was coarse or dense, etc...I was just guessing :-) But after "closer examination" (LOL) I know my strands are meadium to coarse. Which is interesting because my hair actually looks a bit like the author's...

Leo the Yardie Chick said...

My strands are a mix of fine and coarse, but they come together to make a THICK head of hair. XD

Anonymous said...

Giggles and grabs a pair of tweezers.

Hennaro22 said...

I hope women read this article and figure out that most black women do not have coarse hair. Coarse does not mean rough or hard to manage hair! Sadly I'm fine with a touch of medium....womp womp lol. Henna, other ayurvedc herbs and protein treatments have helped.

Anonymous said...

Can't wait for this series along with everyone else! My hair is def thick with "Fine" hairs!

caracara said...

I have this combo: fine strands, thin density, low porosity. My hair in the front (bang area) seems like it belongs on another head altogether. It is superfine and kinda limp. I thought it was heat damage and cut it off 3 times. Each time it grew back the same way.

LadyV69 said...

I have fine and thin hair. I couldn't tolerate those regular strength relaxers as I'd burn within 3 minutes. Most people assume all kinky and nappy is the same, meaning coarse. My hair straightens VERY easily and like Nikki's, it's practically see through. I had to use mild or kiddie relaxers-not that they were that great either. They just took more time to burn (15 minutes as opposed to 3). My hair looks limp compared to other people. Interesting article.

Anonymous said...

My hair is fine to medium and THIN! It looks thick, but once heat hits it, you can see through it (I SO feel you on this, Nikki). I started wearing braid outs as a permy so I could have thicker hair.

I look forward to the upcoming series. BTW, Cassadie...love your blog & your hair! ;-)

TheRYL1

Koily K said...

And I though my husband was being rude when he said my post big chop TWA looked like my pubes! Now it makes perfect sense.
I think I have a mixture medium-fine strands and medium density. Very interesting article.

toyosi said...

lol @ Koily K

I finally learned through trial and error that my strands are fine with medium density. As a result, it is very important for me to keep my hair stretched at all times! Late last year, i decided to start henna treatment to strengthen and elongate my curls; i am extremely please with the the difference frequent henna'ing(?) has made.

I'm willing to bet that gaining knowledge on this would play a more vital role in hair care maintenace than hair typing.

Anonymous said...

I'm fine with a bit of medium thrown in. Henna has also helped me tremendously, but it does loosen me from 3b-c to a 3a-b. It doesnt matter to me either way , because I love both textures and the fact that it is reversible. If I straighten it, it looks thin (or flat, if you will), but healthy. So, I, like Nikki, dont prefer to wear it heat straightened. I can achieve a thincker, somewhat straight(er) look, by stretching in a pony for a few days and then 2 braids at night.

Breanna said...

Wow now this is to funny concerning this subject. I have checked on my kittykat and my hair has always been nice and straight with the ends slightly curled, 3c to 4a down on the kittykat. But the hair on my actual head, is really thick and coarse its 4b with some 4c. The of the head and back textures are a tad looser, and I even have 2 pieces of strands in the back where one is naturally a golden blonde strand and the other is 3c and so long and curly go figure. lol....

I actually thought the golden blonde hair was from an causican person from me being at work or the library and the person hair floated my way in passing. However, after going to pluck the hair out, I found that it was attached to my scalp and I was like different hairs is growing all up in this head of mine.

Elexis said...

I always thought I had fine hair I just didn't know what to call it. People always called it "thick" because I had a ton of hair (and still do lol). They'd say "ooo u have a lot of hair" which was true but my buns and ponytails (straight or curly) were always small, like smaller than a tennis ball. I have since realized I have thin but dense hair. There's a lot of it but it's not necessarily "thick"

Anonymous said...

Love this article! I'm a fine hair too!

lrainey114 said...

Great article! Who knew that hair is truly an art and science to get to know!

@ Elexis...I feel ya on the ponytails (hair in natural state)...just look so pitiful and my twists compared to others look so much smaller. It's very dense but fine.

Jeannette said...

This article was so helpful. It explained so much that I didn't understand before...Thank You!!!

Ruby Danielle said...

Very informative...THANKS!!!!!

Ruby Danielle said...

Oh and very nice analogy...:)

J said...

Awesome awesome awesome!!! I have a head packed full of very fine strands of hair, and I struggle with how to keep it strong and healthy, because it truly is a challenge. I SO look forward to this series!!!

Anonymous said...

I have fine and thin hair. The longer my hair gets the better my twists look.
I cannot wait to hear more on how to handle single strand knots when you are trying to grow your hair long with less trims.

Unique4me

Anonymous said...

I'm fine, too. But my hair is coarse. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Great article and topic! After going natural I was told by a Natural hair stylist that my hair was fine! I asked multiple questions because I had no clue what that really meant. After seeing the comparison pictures, I have a much better understanding. Curly Nikki I love your site and I check it out daily it has truly helped me!

Thanks so much! Peace and Blessing :)

Anonymous said...

Is it possible to have more than one kind of hair on one head? Most of my strands look coarse, with a few fine strands sprinkled in there. What do you all think?

Carmella_G said...

Thank you Thank you Thank you! :)
I need to learn how to care for my fine strands!
I think I may be using oils that are too heavy for sealing.
Is EVOO and/or shea butter the wrong sealant for fine hair?

dorabora said...

awesome article!! i never realized how much it mattered whether or not your hair was fine, medium or coarse until my hair grew past twa and I started having trouble using butters/oils on wet hair or doing twist outs on wet hair. My fine hair looked sad and skinny but would fluff out as soon as i retwisted them dry smh. Like Courtney, my hair can shrink up to twa size, but i actually have shoulder length hair. Im lazy about stretching so I pay the price when its time to wash my hair. It tangles galore =/ I also love da vajayjay comparisons. Hehe curlynikki's response is actually what i think sometimes about my hair lmao! i look forward to seeing more FINE articles =]

Jenna the Dream Catcher said...

Looking forward to the series. My fine strands are screaming at me for using oils, Henna, Amla, and butters that are to heavy for it. I just came to the realization that I'll have to style on dry hair for body as well. Keep the great articles coming!

Anonymous said...

Great and informative read. I'll examine my hair in a couple places (ahem) to determine thickness. Thanks Cassidy and CurlyNikki. Happy plucking all!

Anonymous said...

Wow-Cassidy's friend's hair is even thicker than my vajajay hair-now I am really envious.

Thanks so much for this article. I have struggled with dandelion thin hair all my life. I'm learning i have to modify styles. Forget a chunky twist out--after i seperate the twists for fullness it's more of a soft, fluffy fro with curly ends. A co-worker told me it looks like doll hair and i got mad-lol. And the less product for thin hair theory does not work for me-I need a TON of moisturizer and holding agent for loose hair.

skyscloset said...

Very interesting discussion going on here...We women are so observant haha...Natural hair comes in so many freaking variations its amazing...my sister has such thick and course hair that it can never stay straight for long, it gets puffy,bushy and frizzy(her description) Gel cant even hold all of her hair down. Also, she has absolutely no curl pattern and it looks like a very course type of 3b/c hair without curls or waves. A better description is that it looks like how blown out hair looks and soft.

Lori said...

Interesting!

zephyr said...

Can't wait for this series. I have thin hair and too much breakage. I would like to see how I need to treat it differently.

Anonymous said...

Yes I'm glad someone decided to make a series on this! I have fine hair, and I'd love to see more on how to take care of my hair! =]

Johnna said...

My hair is also fine! I'm glad I'm not alone! I'd like to try henna to beef it up a bit, but am not interested in the color change. :/

Cygnet said...

Someone made the statement in a post dated several days earlier that the hair typing system doesn't account for strand diameter. Actually that's only partially correct.

The LOIS system, as I remember it, does not. The Walker system, however, does, until you get past 3b. The number is for the curl pattern: The higher the number, the more patterned the hair is. 1=straight, 2=wavy, 3=curly, 4=coily/kinky. The letters are about strand diameter. A=fine, b=medium, c=coarse. He didn't account for density or porosity.

The system Walker devised works well to tell you about pattern and strand diameter until you get past 3b. For some reason only he knows, Walker put all curls in the same category and only assigned a and b to describe strand diameter. Some curlies were unhappy about this, so NaturallyCurly.com attempted to fix this by adding the 3c category, and right there is where the problem begins. Whereas the c in the other pattern categories describes strand diameter, the c in the curly pattern category describes curl size. So when you get to the 4 (coily/kinky) pattern category, strand diameter isn't even in it anymore. Between Walker's somewhat prejudicial oversight (I'd like to give him the benefit of the doubt and hope he honestly didn't mean to do that) and NC's obviously well-intentioned "fix", the number-letter hair typing system past 2c is a categorical, epic fail, as far as I'm concerned, so I don't use it.

If I were to ever use it, I'd revise it as follows: In the 3 pattern category, I'd impose the same strand diameter descriptors that exist for the 1's and 2's, so 3c would refer to a loose curly with coarse strands. Since 3c as it currently exists is understood to be tighter than the current 3a/b's but looser than the 4's, they would just be tight 3's, and the strand density descriptors would apply to them just as they do to the 1's and 2's, and should have done to the looser 3's. The 4's then would also, FINALLY, get the badly needed strand diameter descriptors they obviously should never have had to do without, and instead of referring to curl size/pattern the way they do, the letters in the 4 pattern category would refer to strand diameter just as with the other pattern categories. As for the "c-napps", since, if I'm not mistaken, they refer to a zig-zag rather than a coily pattern, I'd categorize them as Zeta or just Z, again with the a/b/c strand diameter descriptors.

It would look like this:
Pattern: 1 (straight), 2 (wavy/s-shape), 3 (curly, whether loose or tighter), 4 (coily, coily/kinky), Zeta or Z (zig-zag or random, inconsistent pattern on the strand)
Strand diameter: a (fine), b (medium), c (coarse)
Density: thin, medium/moderate, thick
Porosity: Low=Retains moisture well, can go for awhile without remoisturization), High=Hair is "thirsty", loses moisture easily and needs frequent replenishment), and if you want M=Medium, I'll let you have it :-).

My hair is variably patterned from strand to strand depending on where it grows on my head, the strands are fine and silky, they are of moderately thick density, and they are highly porous. According to the Cygnet system then—please don't call it this :-)—my hair is 2/3/4a, moderate, highly porous.

Jo Somebody said...

I believe I have medium/thin strands of high density and low porosity. I used to have to let my scalp burn in order for my hair to 'take' to a relaxer. And of course it used to break like mad!
However, I am cautious about comparing head hair to my pubes as they are ridiculously thick and I don't think any head can possibly have strands that thick!

On the Cygnet system (which makes most sense to me) I think I am 4b or Zb (will know better when I'm fully natural), thick density and low porosity.

DaINKtellectual said...

I have a mixture of fine and coarse strands. Mostly fine though, with some strands falling into the medium category. My hair is also very thick.

Tashima LaTania Beach said...

My goodness.. I knew my hair strands where fine but not to the point that its invisible! I've been a natural for 5 yrs now and have been at the same length for 2yrs. My problem is breakage, not matter if I was relaxed head or natural, there is always hair all over the floor and sink no matter what. And low porosity doesn't help either. Well, time to change it up now I'm packed with new knowledge. Thank you!!!

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