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Types of Hair Textures: Discover the Differences

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Image of 9 women with different types of hair textures.

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Are you struggling to understand the various types of hair textures and terminologies? Perhaps you’re unsure about the distinction between texture and curl patterns, or the meaning of terms like fine, medium, and coarse hair.

If so, you’re not alone. To help clear up the confusion, we’ve created this informative guide. What’s more, we’ve enlisted the expertise of a seasoned hair scientist, who holds a PhD in Chemistry and specializes in this very topic. With his profound knowledge and insights, this guide utilizes science-based terms to clairy these distinctions, ensuring you have a solid understanding of the unique characteristics of your hair.

Types of Hair Textures: Textures vs Curl Pattern

Hair texture refers to the physical qualities of hair strands, encompassing aspects such as curls, twists, and coils, as well as the hair fiber’s diameter, curvature, and overall curliness. The term “curl pattern,” on the other hand, specifically describes the shape that these curls take.1

“Textured hair” is commonly used to denote hair that exhibits any form of curl, ranging from slight waves to tight coils and kinks. This terminology has gained particular relevance when discussing the hair characteristics of individuals with Hispanic, Latin, and Afro heritage, reflecting a diversity in curl patterns and hair textures.

Understanding hair texture is crucial for both product formulators and consumers, as it influences the choice of hair care products and treatments. Ethnic and genetic differences contribute to variations in hair diameter, moisture levels, and porosity, necessitating tailored approaches to hair care. For instance, Afro-textured hair, which is often dry and fragile, requires products that provide enhanced moisture and conditioning to address its unique challenges in combing and management.

As such, recognizing the specific needs of different hair textures is essential in developing and selecting hair care solutions that effectively cater to the diverse requirements of individuals, highlighting the importance of dedicated product lines for various hair types.2,3

Hair Density

Image showing hair density of thin hair vs thick hair.

Hair density and hair thickness are often confused, but they refer to two completely different aspects of hair.

Hair density is measured by the number of hair fibers found in a specific area of the scalp, indicating how densely packed these hair fibers are. This factor is crucial in assessing overall hair volume and is a key consideration in diagnosing hair loss or baldness.

On the other hand, hair thickness refers to the diameter of individual hair fibers.4 This characteristic determines the hair’s overall strength and texture.

Understanding the distinction between these terms is essential, as they represent different attributes of hair health and appearance. Hair density affects how full your hair looks, while hair thickness influences the hair’s feel and resilience.

Thin vs Thick Hair

The term “Hair Thinning” frequently appears in scientific discussions, referring to a form of hair loss characterized by a reduction in hair density across the scalp. This condition, affecting both men and women, is often quantified by researchers through the measurement of hair density. Such measurements are usually conducted via visual or photographic analysis of specific scalp sections to evaluate the concentration of hair fibers.

For individuals experiencing lower hair density, a range of treatments aimed at combating hair loss is available. These solutions include both herbal remedies and chemical formulations specifically developed to counteract the decline in hair density, offering hope for those looking to improve their hair’s overall appearance.

Meanwhile, hair thickness—or the measure of how thick individual hair fibers are—is assessed by determining the diameter of these fibers. This measurement is typically performed using microscopic analysis, where a fiber’s width is gauged against a graduated scale, or through digital imaging techniques that allow for precise diameter calculations.

Hair types chart set of straight, wavy and curly strands.
Vector illustration: Straight, wavy and curly hair types classification set. Round, oval, elliptical shapes of hair fiber.

Hair fibers are uniquely shaped, possessing a certain degree of ellipticity rather than being perfectly round. This ellipticity is more pronounced in curly hair, making these fibers distinctly different in shape compared to their straight counterparts. Afro-textured hair, in particular, exhibits the highest degree of ellipticity among various hair types, contributing to its unique texture and appearance.

The thickness of hair also changes along its length, typically being fullest at the roots and tapering off to become thinner towards the ends. This tapering effect is most noticeable at the hair tips, which are the thinnest part of the hair shaft. This thinning is attributed to the natural aging process of hair, which involves the loss of the protective upper cuticle layer due to factors like aggressive combing, brushing, and exposure to UV radiation.

Understanding the diameter, or thickness, of hair fibers across different demographics is vital for the development of customized hair care solutions. Hair fibers of varying thicknesses have distinct needs in terms of hydration and conditioning, highlighting the importance of tailored hair care formulations to cater to these specific requirements.

Differences between Fine, Medium, and Coarse Hair

“Fine, medium, and coarse” are terms used to describe three different types of hair fibers.5

The following terms refer to the nature of the fiber, its texture, as well as its diameter:

Fine Hair – has a small diameter and a smooth outermost cuticle surface. It feels soft and smooth to the touch without offering any friction.

Coarse Hair – is the opposite of fine hair. Coarse hair has a thick diameter and a rough surface, which makes it feel rough to the touch and indicates a damaged cuticle surface.

Medium Hair – lies in the middle between fine and coarse hair. It has a medium range of its diameter and has some moderate extent of surface roughness. 

Hair fibers exhibit a variety of characteristics, including differences in diameter, surface properties, moisture content, and susceptibility to cuticle damage. Recognizing the specific type of your hair fiber is a crucial step toward establishing a hair care routine that is uniquely tailored to your hair’s needs.

It’s essential to understand that the degree of curliness and the specific curl patterns are independent attributes. Fine hair can display a range of curl patterns, while coarse hair might be completely straight, as often seen in Caucasian hair types. Similarly, Asian hair, which is typically straight, can also be fine and possess its own distinct texture.

This distinction emphasizes the diversity within hair types and underscores the importance of personalized hair care approaches, taking into account not just the appearance of the hair but also its inherent properties and needs.

Identifying Your Hair Type: DIY Approach

Understanding your hair type is the first step toward a tailored hair care routine. Here’s a simple do-it-yourself method to help you determine your hair’s characteristics:

  1. Collect a Hair Strand: Find a single strand of hair, perhaps one that’s come loose on your comb or brush.
  2. Prepare for Observation: Lay this strand on a plain white piece of paper to make observation easier. Ensure the hair is in its natural state and not stretched out.
  3. Photograph the Strand: Taking a photo can help you see the hair more clearly. Pay attention to the curliness by noting how many bends or curls there are along the length of the fiber. Ask yourself: Is it straight, wavy (with 1-2 curves), or very curly (forming tight coils)? Also, consider whether it appears fine, medium, or coarse in texture.
  4. Feel the Texture: Gently run your fingers along the strand to assess its smoothness and get a sense of its thickness.
  5. Compare with a Control: For a point of comparison, repeat this process with a known fiber, like cotton or wool, to help you better understand the smoothness and diameter of your hair.

With this information, you’re well on your way to identifying your hair type and crafting a hair care routine that addresses your specific needs.

The Importance of Understanding Hair Care Terminology

As the hair care industry continues to expand and innovate, consumers are increasingly seeking products that cater specifically to their unique grooming needs. This shift towards personalization is driven by a growing understanding of hair’s physical and chemical properties, the mechanics behind hair care, and the active ingredients within hair care products.

Grasping the meaning behind terms like fine, medium, and coarse hair is crucial for identifying the appropriate care regimen for each hair texture. This knowledge empowers consumers to choose products that will provide their hair with the necessary hydration and nourishment, ensuring its health and vitality.

The consequences of using unsuitable products can be severe, including dryness, split ends, breakage, and an overall decline in hair health. Therefore, familiarizing oneself with these key terms enables individuals to make well-informed decisions regarding their hair care routines, leading to healthier, more vibrant hair.


  1. Mcmullen, R. L.; Gillece, T.; Schiess, T., Physicochemical Properties of Textured Hair. J. Cosmet. Sci. 2021, 72, 711-731. ↩︎
  2. MAO, I., Caucasian Hair, Negro Hair, and. J. Soc. Cosmetic Chemists 1966, 17, 769-787. ↩︎
  3. Franbourg, A.; Hallegot, P.; Baltenneck, F.; Toutain, C.; Leroy, F., Current research on ethnic hair. J. Am. Acad. Dermatol. 2003, 48 (6), S115-S119. ↩︎
  4. Zavik, C.; Milliquent, J., Hair Structure, Function, and Physicochemical Properties In The Science of Hair Care, 2nd ed.; Bouillon, C.; Wilkison, J., Eds. Taylor & Francis Group, LLC: London, 2005; pp 29-35. ↩︎
  5. Marsh, J. M.; Gray, J.; Tosti, A., Healthy Hair. Springer International Publishing: 2015. ↩︎


I’m just a girl who transformed her severely damaged hair into healthy hair. I adore the simplicity of a simple hair care routine, the richness of diverse textures, and the joy of sharing my journey from the comfort of my space.

My mission? To empower others with the tools to restore, and maintain healthy hair, and celebrate the hair they were born with!

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