Hair Texture 101
Texture is often a way to characterize how something feels, which is also the case when it comes to hair texture. Hair texture can be defined as the individual hair fibers' diameter, width, or thickness. Some also refer to this characteristic as fiber “thickness,” however we will be referring to this as “texture” in order to not confuse it with density.
The width or diameter of fibers is measured in microns:
- Fine: Less than 50 microns
- Medium: 60-80 microns
- Thick/Coarse: Greater than 80 microns
Causes of different textures
There are several factors that contribute to our hair’s texture. Curly hair is so unique from person to person, whether you are wavy, curly, or coily every strand can have a different thickness. Hormones, aging, certain medications, and chemicals can also have an impact on the hair diameter.
Studies show that different genes determine hair texture based on ethnic backgrounds. All human hair fibers have the same basic structure, however, the thickness of the hair fibers and the shape is what can vary considerably depending on ethnicity and gender.
- African curly hair can have the smallest fiber diameter, averaging 55 microns, but have the greatest variability in the diameter of a single strand. The shape of the hair is unique because it is ellipsoid/flattened. There can also be areas of the hair strand where it changes direction or shape, and will often feel like a small bend or bump as you glide your fingers down a strand.
- Caucasian hair fibers can average 65 microns, with the shape being more cylindrical.
- Hispanic/latino hair fibers range from 65-80 microns, and can have a cylindrical/circular shape.
- Asian hair fibers have the widest diameter at 80-120 microns and have a circular shape, indicating the straightest hair pattern.
These measurements of texture are simply averages shown in scientific studies, however, it’s important to consider the nuances that can occur from person to person, especially considering our complex mix of ethnicities and descent. There can be cases where a person has a wavy hair pattern, but a coarse texture. Contrary, there could be someone with very tight coils, but a fine hair texture. A person can also have multiple textures on one head.
Aging and hormone changes can also have an impact on our hair’s texture. Hair graying is often but not always associated with aging, and gray hair tends to feel more coarse. Many women may experience a change in hair texture or even curl pattern with major hormone changes such as pregnancy and medications such as birth control.
The different types of hair texture
There are many variations of hair texture, but the most common types are fine, medium, and coarse. It’s common to have multiple types of textures within your hair.
Fine-textured hair is very thin in diameter, often appears “whispy” and can be tough to see and feel a single strand of hair.
Medium-textured hair falls in between fine and coarse in terms of the thickness of the individual strands and often feels smooth.
Coarse-textured hair is thick in diameter and a single strand can definitely be felt and is visible. Many describe coarse hair stands as feeling wiry or brittle.
How to determine your hair’s texture
While accurately measuring hair width is only possible in a scientific setting, we must rely on observing our hair at home to determine our hair texture.
Gather a few of your clean, dry, shed hairs and closely examine them on a white or light-colored surface.
- Fine hair strands can be hard to see, especially if you have light hair color.
- Coarse hairs are more apparent and can look darker.
Run your fingers down the strands to feel the texture. Hold a single strand between two fingers.
- If you cannot feel the strand, it’s likely fine.
- If you can definitely feel the strand, it’s coarse.
- Medium hair textures fall in between this feeling and are very common.
Because you can have a mixture of textures on your head, it may be more effective to feel various hair strands in different sections of your head. Oftentimes coarse hairs are found around the crown, top section, or hairline. It’s best to observe your hair when it’s clean and product-free because products alter the feeling of our hair.
How does hair texture affect your hair routine?
Hair texture is one of the most important characteristics when it comes to developing your curly hair routine and selecting products. Depending on your texture, you may find that heavier-weight products or lightweight products work best with your hair. Protein use also should be adjusted based on your hair’s texture. In addition, curly hair products often affect the feeling of our hair, so selecting certain formulations of products should be based on texture.
How to select products based on texture
The weight of products, formulation, and protein content are important to consider based on your hair’s texture.
Selecting Products for Fine Hair
For fine-textured hair, lightweight products are ideal because they won’t weigh down the hair causing flat roots or limp curls. Fine hair also tends to be weaker and more prone to breakage because of its thin structure so it’s good to incorporate strengthening products in your routine. Strengthening ingredients include proteins and amino acids, for example. These can help fine hair maintain its curl pattern and hold its structure throughout the week. Formations such as lightweight leave-ins such as sprays, styling creams, water-based gels, and foams are great for maintaining fullness and volume. In the Curlsmith lines, you can look at the Weightless Air Dry Cream and Hydro Style Flexi Jelly, or even the Bouncy Strength Volume Foam for a protein boost. Avoid products that have thick formulas, and contain heavy ingredients such as coconut oil or shea butter.
Selecting Products for Coarse Hair
Coarse-textured hair has a brittle feeling, so creating softness and manageability is key. Look for products that have a lot of slip to avoid tangles and snags. Oils and butters can help lubricate the hair and provide softness and moisture. Because coarse hair is already strong and has a substantial structure, protein ingredients are not needed as often and can just make coarse hair feel even more brittle. Various formulations can be used for coarse hair, but oil-based products will be especially beneficial. In the Curlsmith lines, some of the best products for coarse hair are the Oil-in-Cream and the In-Shower Style Fixer.
Selecting Products for Medium Textured
Medium-textured hair can tolerate a range of product formulations. If the goal is to maintain or promote volume in your hair, opt for more lightweight products and avoid heavy oils and butters. Protein can be incorporated in one or two products within your routine, or alternate routines with and without protein each wash day to maintain protein and moisture balance. You could use Curlsmith products like the Feather-light Protein Cream or the Curl Defining Styling Soufflé.
Can you have different textures at the same time?
Overall, texture varies widely depending on our genetics. Many people have multiple textures on their heads, which can make it tough to determine what your hair needs. Going with the most prevalent texture on your hair and treating its needs is the best route. You can also adjust the amount of product you apply, such as applying more cream to coarse areas and going more light-handed on medium-textured areas. You can also add water to dilute your products on more fine areas so they don’t get weighed down, or just opt for lightweight products which can work on any hair texture.
So what matters most, hair texture or density? Both are important but texture wins when it comes to determining the best products for your hair. When it comes to styling techniques, amount of product used, and desired look, hair density plays the biggest factor. There is nothing “wrong” with any of these hair types and they don’t indicate that something needs to be fixed, with the exception of sudden hair loss due to internal factors. There is nothing we can do to alter our hair’s texture as that is determined by genetics. Density is also natural to your specific genetics, however, if you feel as though your natural density is in fact much higher than it currently is, you can improve it with proper nutrition and possibly even hair growth treatments, supplements, and serums that encourage growth such as the Curlsmith Full Lengths Density Elixir and Scalp Stimulating Booster.