Fine hair vs thin hair: A complete Breakdown

We all have our own, personal hair story – “My hair is thick,” “It’s flat and limp,” “It’s stubborn,” “It’s wavy” – which by the way is mostly a product of our own very subjectively harsh judgment of our hair.

But whatever the real case may be, our hair is essentially characterized by how dense or thick it is and how coarse or fine each hair strand is.

When describing hair, we often confuse hair density with hair texture. It’s like confusing an entire tree with a single leaf. 

And that’s why a lot of women interchangeably use “thin hair” with “fine hair.” But strictly speaking, the words fine and thin (at least in the realm of hair talk) mean two different things. So, is fine hair the same as thin hair? 

Again, technically speaking: No.

What is hair density?

When we talk about hair density, think about how many individual hair strands are growing out of your scalp. We can equate density with the amount of hair growth on your scalp. 

On average, a human head has about 100,000 hair strands. We can say that someone who has thick hair may have 130,000 individual strands growing out of their scalp. And a person who has thin hair probably has 70,000 hair strands. So this is basically how you would know if you have thin hair (or thick hair).

Thus, we can appropriately say, “He’s got a thick head of hair.” or, “He’s got thin hair” when describing a full head of hair.

Note; however that thin hair doesn’t mean the same as thinning hair (as in hair loss).

What is hair texture?

A person styling a woman's hair

When we talk about hair texture, think about your hair’s individual strands. Technically, it refers to the circumference or width of each hair shaft. Its fineness and coarseness are determined by the fibrous keratin protein makeup of your hair. Keratin is the main chemical component of our hair.

One way of checking whether we have coarse hair or fine hair is by running our fingers through our hair. We can feel how coarse or fine it is by doing so. 

To quickly summarize the difference between hair density and hair texture:

  • Hair density refers to the number of individual hair strands (or follicles) growing out of our scalp. We can say it is the visual aspect of hair in its entirety. “Your hair looks fuller and thicker!” “That guy has thin hair.”
  • Hair density means either the thickness (fullness) or thinness of your hair (growth).
  • Hair texture refers to the width or circumference of each hair strand. We can perhaps also say it is the overall “feel” of our hair. 
  • Hair texture means either the coarseness or fineness of your hair (strands).

Now that we are more clear about fine hair vs. thin hair, we can logically say that someone who has fine hair can also have thin hair simultaneously and vice versa. We can also say that someone who has thick hair can have thin hair at the same time. 

But can we say that someone who has thick hair also has coarse hair? Not necessarily. Again, texture and density are two different hair characteristics. 

Why should hair density and texture be considered?

It’s not uncommon for many of us not to think about why our hair’s thickness or thinness matter. 

But when choosing a hair care product or hairstyling, yes, it does matter. 

Knowing whether you have fine or coarse hair or thick or thin hair is important because it helps you find the best shampoo or any other hair product for your hair type.

For instance, fine and thin hair types can benefit from hair-strengthening or volumizing shampoos to make hair stronger and look fuller. They can also avoid products that contain ingredients that aren’t beneficial to their hair type.

High-density or thicker hair types can benefit from products that help tame hair down or make it much more manageable. Thick and coarse hair can get frizzy fast. But with proper hair care and the right type of products, you can manage it. 

Consider your hair density and texture when it comes to heat-styling. Fine hair should avoid using high heat levels. While coarser and thicker hair will need a high heat setting to achieve the desired result.

Can you improve hair density and avoid hair loss?

Yes. With proper hair care and a healthy diet, you can boost hair growth and prevent hair thinning. Genetic factors mostly determine hair density. However, factors like poor nutrition or nutrient deficiency may also play a role in making our hair naturally thick or thin. 

To address this, you only have to eat more food with hair growth-boosting nutrients such as protein or amino acids, biotin, B vitamins, zinc, iron, vitamin A, vitamin C, and Vitamin E.

Another thing to consider is your choice and application of hair products. The use of products with harsh chemicals such as hair dyes and straightening treatments may wreak havoc on your precious hair. It may even lead to hair loss if not handled right.

Caring for Fine Hair

A person doing haircare treatment

Fine hair tends to more delicate because of its smaller shaft. And because of that structure, fine hair requires more TLC than coarse hair. You have to be extra careful when using hair treatments as well as hot tools(if you are looking for a guide on straighteners with fine hair, we have one here.

Typical “fine hair” problems + tricks on how to manage them:

Breaks easily

  • Avoid too much brushing, especially when blow-drying your hair. 
  • If time allows, it’s best to airdry fine hair. Otherwise, always use a hair protective serum before blow-drying.
  • Take it easy on heat-styling. When you do so, make sure to use a low temperature.
  • Use a wide-tooth comb on wet hair to prevent breakage and shedding.
  • Treat yourself to a weekly hair and scalp enriching oil massage.
  • Eat a healthy, protein, and iron-rich diet to improve hair strength and hair texture.

Get greasy pretty quickly.

  • Wash hair daily if possible. Choose your shampoo carefully. Pick products that help eliminate oil, balance pH level, and remove buildup. If possible, buy something that has natural detoxifying ingredients.
  • Avoid excessively touching your hair. It would pass dirt and germs from your hands to your hair and scalp.
  • Do not apply conditioner directly to your scalp. Apply it from the middle to the ends to prevent tangling and frizz.
  • Do not go out with your hair wet. Wet hair is a dirt and pollution magnet.

Looks limp and dull

  • Use dry shampoo during bedtime, not in the morning. You will wake up to a more volumized hair the next day.
  • Don’t overuse hair products. Avoid those that contain oil as they could weigh your hair down.

Caring for Thin Hair

Like fine hair, thin hair also tends to be more delicate and prone to shedding. You may also find it more challenging to style. But with the right hair care regimen, there is no reason not to look great with thin hair!

Typical “thin hair” problems + tricks on how to manage them:

It looks dull and flat.

  • Start in the bathroom – use volumizing shampoo and conditioner. These types of hair products tend to reduce greasiness and therefore boost hair volume.
  • Avoid too much hair brushing – it won’t increase volume. It would even make it look flatter and limp.
  • Try to sleep with a hair bun or top knot. Once undone the next day, your thin hair should appear fuller.

Gets greasy quickly

  • Wash hair daily if possible. Choose your shampoo carefully. Pick products that help eliminate oil, balance pH level, and remove buildup. If possible, buy something that has natural detoxifying ingredients.
  • Avoid excessively touching your hair. It would pass dirt and germs from your hands to your hair and scalp.
  • Do not apply conditioner directly to your scalp. Apply it from the middle to the ends to prevent tangling and frizz.
  • Do not go out with your hair wet. Wet hair is a dirt and pollution magnet.

Sheds a lot

  • Brush or detangle hair before washing to reduce hair loss.
  • To minimize shedding, use a wide-tooth comb on wet hair.
  • Invest in natural or organic, sulfate-free shampoos. Chemicals can weaken hair and therefore trigger hair loss.
  • Take hair-strengthening vitamins. However, eating a proper and healthy diet will give you nutrients that make hair stronger naturally. 

Challenging to style

  • Choose a haircut that helps make hair look fuller. [1]
  • Use a water-based hair volumizer if you want to wear hair down.
  • To hold curls, prep your hair properly before curling. Use lightweight hair products. You should get gorgeous curls using a ceramic or tourmaline curling iron and hold them all day long.

In Summary

Thin, thick, fine, coarse, our hair is a precious part of our body. Period. 

Embrace it as is, and it will not fail you. All you need to do is take care of it, make the most out of your hair type instead of “cursing” it (well, we all are guilty of this at some point!). Bottom line, love your hair, and it will love you back! 🙂

1. https://www.lorealparisusa.com/beauty-magazine/hair-care/thin-hair/haircuts-for-thin-hair.aspx