dense hair versus thick hair
Naptural85 (left”> and Chime Edwards (right”>

The most common mistake people make when describing and caring for their “thick” hair, is that their hair is not really thick. It’s dense. Your hair’s density is determined by the amount of strands on your scalp. Thick or coarse hair refers to having strands of a broader diameter in comparison to fine strands. Oftentimes people use the term thick or coarse to describe their hair as kinky, coily and unmanageable without considering the durability of their strands and how it can help when selecting products. You may be thinking they’re just words, what affect does word choice have on our hair?

Read more: Your Hair is Fine, Not “Thin”

Why does it matter?

If you are confusing coarse or thick strands with having dense hair, you could be setting yourself up for failures and setbacks along your hair care journey.


When under the impression that your hair is thick, you are more likely to over manipulate your hair. You twist, blow, braid, straighten, and comb your strands every day due to the misconception that your hair is stronger than it really is. Any curl pattern can be fine, normal, or coarse, and Type 4 hair specifically tends to be fine. When it comes to the nature of Type 4 hair, it is more likely to experience breakage when it is fine and kinky, which will be discussed later.

Dryness from Product Buildup

Over manipulation tends to be accompanied with excessive product application. My rule of thumb is if product is dripping on the floor, visible in your hair, and all over your hands, then you have used more than enough. The reason you suffer from dryness is because you are finishing 8 oz bottles of moisturizers and butters in two weeks. You have too much of a good thing. Your hair is oversaturated with products, and probably the wrong products at that. This excessive application of product is suffocating the hair, thus causing dryness, which could also lead to breakage.

Using the Wrong Products

There is a balance to understanding porosity and width. People with coarse strands tend to use heavier products, much like those with high porosity hair. When using products that are too light, you might not be able to retain moisture for an extended period of time. If you are applying moisturizer every day, then you may want to consider using thicker products that you will have to apply less frequently.

“My hair’s thick, kinky and unmanageable”

In the beauty realm, thick and coarse are synonymous. Full and dense are interchangeable. These are accurate uses of the terms.

But when it comes to calling hair thick, kinky, and unmanageable, these are not one in the same. As noted previously, thick and coarse refer to having individual strands that are wider in diameter in comparison to fine strands. According to The Natural Haven, kinky refers to “torsion twist (which can be felt as a permanent crimp”> where the hair strand turns around itself.” Kinky hair is more prone to break in comparison to strands that do not have torsions, because each point of twisting is fragile. Manageability is completely relative to the individual and is not and should not be used to categorize a specific curl pattern. Everyone with coarse, dense, kinky, 4c hair does not consider their hair unmanageable or a “struggle” just like everyone with fine, low density, 3b hair does not consider their hair manageable. It is all a matter of perception.

Need a visual? The photo above includes Naptural85 who has highly dense hair with thick/coarse strands and Chime Edwards who has highly dense hair with fine strands. To the eye they both appear to have thick/coarse strands but Chime identifies her strands as fine. These two women have found regimens to “manage” (though we really prefer the term “care for””> their unique hair types. 

Do you misuse dense and thick? Have you noticed other people in the community make this mistake?

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