Coarse hair has strands that are thicker and larger in diameter than other hair types. It can be straight, wavy, curly, or coiled. It may be stronger than other hair types but is less pliable and more prone to dryness and split ends.

Knowing one’s hair type can help a person choose products that best suit the unique needs of their hair. Properly caring for coarse hair can yield thick, voluminous, healthy-looking hair.

This article describes what coarse hair is, and how it differs from thick hair. We then provide 10 tips that can help a person properly care for and manage coarse hair. Finally, we answer some frequently asked questions about this hair type.

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Dermatologists and hairstylists define coarse hair as strands with larger widths or diameters than average. It is generally the strongest, but least pliable hair type.

Like other hair types and textures, having coarse hair links to a person’s genetics. However, a person who does not have naturally coarse hair may develop it due to:

Coarse hair requires more oil than the scalp can produce. The thickness of each strand also means that it takes longer for the oil to absorb into the hair shaft. As a result, coarse hair is more prone to:

  • losing moisture faster
  • feeling slightly rough
  • dry or split ends

Coarse hair requires extra moisture to ensure each individual hair strand gets proper hydration and conditioning.

A simple test a person can perform to know if they have coarse hair is to take a single strand and roll it between their fingers. If the strand feels solid and thick, it is coarse. In contrast, thin hair is difficult to feel.

When describing hair, people often use the terms “coarse” and “thick” interchangeably. However, these terms describe different characteristics of the hair.

Coarse hair describes the thickness of individual hair strands. Thickness refers to the density or the number of hair follicles on the scalp. Having thick hair simply implies that a person has more hair on their head.

Every person has a combination of different hair types and densities. Knowing which combination a person has can help them create an effective hair care regimen.

Below are 10 tips that can help a person properly care for and manage coarse hair.

1. Select shampoo specially formulated for coarse hair

Compared with other hair types, coarse hair is more prone to dryness and developing split ends.

A person may consider using a moisturizing shampoo that does not contain drying ingredients like parabens and sulfates. This can prevent frizz and maintain the integrity of the hair shaft to reduce the risk of breakages.

2. Use conditioning products

People with coarse hair typically benefit from moisturizing products, such as conditioning creams, oils, or serums.

Conditioning products help the outer part of the hair shaft or “cuticle” remain closed to help retain moisture within the hair shaft. Using oils can help seal in moisture and supplement the limited oil supply from the scalp.

Serums and leave-in conditioning creams can also help control frizz and make the hair more manageable.

Read more about home remedies for dry hair here.

3. Try deep conditioning hair masks and hot oil treatments

Unlike regular conditioners, hair masks contain nourishing ingredients in richer concentrations. They penetrate deep inside the hair shaft and leave hair feeling soft and smooth.

Products that contain the following ingredients could be good choices for coarse hair:

Hot oil treatments can also help reduce frizz and dryness. Typically, a person may want to consider using a hair mask or incorporating hot oil treatment once a week. However, a person with hair in need of moisture and repair may use them twice a week.

4. Try co-washing

Co-washing involves washing the hair with a conditioner instead of a shampoo. This helps rinse out dirt while keeping the hair moisturized. It may help improve the texture and softness of coarse hair.

5. Avoid alcohol-based products

Alcohol is an ingredient in most hair care products. While these products can temporarily tame the hair, most dry the hair out.

However, some types of alcohol are safe for the hair. Stearyl alcohol and cetearyl alcohol are fatty alcohols that manufacturers use as emollients. They act like the body’s natural lipids.

6. Eat a nutritious diet

Eating a well-balanced diet rich in vitamins and nutrients can boost hair growth and strengthen hair strands.

A person may add the following foods to their diet to help nourish coarse hair:

Vitamins that are crucial for hair health include:

7. Use a silk pillowcase

The smooth, frictionless texture of silk can help protect hair from further damage and tangles.

Silk pillowcases are also more gentle than cotton and do not absorb moisture, allowing the hair to retain its oil and shine. However, it is important to ensure that the fabric is made of pure silk as opposed to “silk-like” materials.

8. Limit styling

Frequent use of heated styling tools, styling products, and harsh chemicals like dyes and bleaches can strip the hair of its moisture. This can result in the hair becoming dry and brittle.

A 2021 research review found that chemical hair straighteners can cause:

  • damage to hair shafts
  • hair loss
  • alterations in hair color and composition

Hair relaxers are also associated with side effects affecting the scalp, such as:

Moreover, overusing heat styling tools like irons, blowers, and curlers can also remove the hair’s moisture, making it dry, frizzy, and brittle.

If a person cannot avoid using styling tools on their hair, it is important that they limit styling time as much as possible. Other tips include:

  • applying a heat protectant to the hair
  • keeping the dryer at least 6 inches away from the hair
  • preventing the dryer from remaining on the same spot for too long

9. Use the right brush

Some people with coarse hair report that brushing their hair while wet prevents frizziness and tangles once their hair dries. However, a 2017 research review noted that combing damp hair may be more damaging, and suggested that people comb the hair from root to tip when dry.

Combing can help spread the hair’s natural oils to the hair tips, helping to keep it moisturized.

Wide-toothed combs and brushes with rounded tips may help protect the hair while styling, while nylon bristle brushes can help detangle coarse hair. The brush type and size depend on a person’s hair thickness or density.

10. Regularly trim the hair

Coarse hair is prone to breakage and split ends. Trimming the hair every 7–8 weeks can remove damaged hair, making it easier to manage. It may also make the hair appear healthier and shinier.

Below are some of the most common questions and answers about coarse hair:

What is coarse hair a symptom of?

A person may develop coarse hair as a result of the following:

  • repeated exposure to environmental factors, such as ultraviolet rays or humidity
  • hormonal changes due to pregnancy, menopause, or taking oral contraception
  • taking certain medications, such as steroids
  • the natural aging process

How do you treat coarse hair?

The following can help a person properly care for and manage coarse hair:

  • using conditioning and moisturizing products tailored to coarse hair
  • avoiding products and grooming habits that may further dry out the hair
  • eating a nutrient-rich diet

Coarse hair refers to a hair type that is thicker and wider in diameter than average. This hair type occurs in different ethnicities. A person can have coarse hair that is straight, wavy, curly, or coiled.

Coarse hair is prone to dryness, brittleness, and breakage. People with coarse hair can take steps to properly nourish, care for, and manage their hair to maintain its health and appearance. This includes using hair care products tailored to coarse hair, and avoiding styling products or habits that may increase dryness.