How to Deal With Unruly Coarse Hair

Any guy with coarse hair, thick hair, or curly hair knows the frustration of trying to figure out how to make anything more than a buzz or crew cut look good. And when you have one of these hair types, it can certainly seem like keeping your hair short is your only option. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Having coarse and thick hair isn’t all bad. Having these types of hair means you likely won’t be dealing with hair loss or hair that looks thin and lifeless. And if you learn to properly care for it, you might just learn to love your wild mane.

But before we get into how to best deal with your unruly hair, let’s break down the three components that make your hair behave the way it does in the first place.

Hair density
Your hair density has to do with the number of hair follicles you have on your scalp per square inch. Your hair density can be thin, average, or thick. If you have a “thick head of hair,” you have a higher number of follicles than someone with thin hair.

Everyone’s hair density changes as they age—some more than others. When someone says their “hair is thinning,” it means their hair is becoming less dense. Most men will experience thinning to some extent in their lifetime.

Hair texture
Hair texture refers to the actual circumference of each hair strand. Every hair strand has three layers—the medulla, cortex, and cuticle.

  • The medulla is the innermost layer of the hair strand. It’s made up of a soft, oily substance.
  • The cortex is the middle layer, which contains hundreds of keratin microfibrils. The cortex is the thickest part of the hair strand and makes up 80% of the mass.
  • The cuticle is the outer layer of the hair strand. It protects the hair and contains the nutrients that help it grow. Each hair shaft has 6 to 10 layers of cuticles.

Your hair texture is determined by how many layers of cuticle are on the hair shaft.

Hair that is fine has the fewest cuticle layers, and coarse hair has the most cuticle layers. Everything in between is considered medium hair. Because coarse hair contains more cuticle layers, it is wider in diameter than hair that is fine.

Like hair density, your hair texture can also change as you age. As you mature, your hair may go from being coarse to being medium or fine.

So, which hair texture do you have? You can usually tell if you have coarse hair by feeling it. Roll a single strand of hair between your thumb and index finger. If you can’t feel the hair strand (or can barely feel it) between your fingers, you have fine hair. If the hair strand feels thicker than a piece of sewing thread, you have coarse hair. Everything in between is considered to be medium hair texture.

If you still aren’t sure about your hair texture after feeling it, your barber or stylist should be able to tell you.

Hair type
Your hair type refers to how your hair strands behave. Your hair type can be straight, wavy, curly, or coily. Typically, your hair type settles in around adolescence and doesn’t change too much as you age.

Putting it all together

Your hair can be any combination of density, texture, and type. You can have thin hair that is fine and wavy, average hair that is coarse and straight, thick hair that is fine and curly, etc.

Hair Density Hair Texture Hair Type
Thin Fine Straight
Average Medium Wavy
Thick Coarse Curly
Coily

For this blog, we’re going to be focussing on how to best care for coarse hair, thick hair, and curly hair since these tips can be applied to all three types of hair.

HOW TO CARE FOR COARSE HAIR

The benefit of having coarse hair is that your hair always looks thick and full, even if you have a thin head of hair. The trade-off is that coarse hair requires a good deal of maintenance to make it manageable—particularly as it gets longer.

The biggest challenges related to coarse hair and curly hair are dryness and frizz. Your scalp produces oil that works its way up each hair shaft, coating the hair and keeping it hydrated. With coarse hair and curly hair, that oil has to work extra hard to make it to the tips. This causes the ends to be literally left out to dry, making already coarse hair feel and look wiry.

Keeping both coarse and curly hair hydrated and conditioned is essential to improving its overall appearance and feel.

Let’s break down how to properly care for your unruly hair so you can get the most out of it.

Shampoo less often
Even the gentlest of Shampoos remove oil from the scalp. Shampooing too frequently strips away too much of the essential oil that your hair needs. Remember, coarse hair and curly hair already have a more difficult time soaking up that existing oil.

You really don’t need to wash with Shampoo more than twice a week. This will allow the oil on your scalp time to work its way through and nourish your hair between washes.

Co-wash it
Co-washing is short for Conditioner washing, which basically means you’re just going to use Conditioner to wash your hair. With coarse hair, you’re going to want to be using a Conditioner every day to help provide additional nutrients and hydration to the hair. Conditioners contain surfactants (gentle cleansers) that can handle the day-to-day dirt accumulation in your hair between Shampoo washes.

Apply your Conditioner to just the hair tips and hair shafts and don’t work into the scalp like you would with Shampoo. By design, a good Conditioner won’t strip too much oil from the scalp, but keeping the focus on the hair helps prevent any incidental oil loss.

Add a leave-in conditioner
Even when cared for properly, coarse hair and curly hair can still become dry by the end of the day. Using a leave-in conditioner is an excellent way to keep hair hydrated longer.

We may be biased, but we like using Beardbrand Utility Balm in this way. The natural ingredients in Beardbrand Utility Balm, including shea butter, mango butter, and jojoba oil, are excellent for smoothing coarse hair and reducing frizz. After showering, comb a dime-sized amount through damp hair.

Avoid certain alcohol-based products
Just like a heavy night of drinking leaves you dehydrated the next morning, alcohol-based products can leave your hair feeling extra rough. However, not all alcohol-based ingredients are bad.

Short-chain alcohols are the ones that will really leave your hair looking and feeling hungover. You’ll typically find these short-chain alcohols in hair-sprays and gels and well, you’re not still using hair spray and gel—right?

Right?

Anyway, check the labels on all your hair products and avoid any of the following short-chain alcohol ingredients:

  • Ethanol
  • SD Alcohol
  • SD Alcohol 40
  • Alcohol denatured
  • Propanol
  • Propyl alcohol
  • Isopropyl alcohol

Conversely, when used in moderation, fatty alcohols can help make coarse hair and curly hair feel smooth and reduce frizz.

These fatty alcohols are okay, just don’t binge on them:

  • Lauryl alcohol
  • Cetyl alcohol
  • Myristyl alcohol
  • Stearyl alcohol
  • Cetearyl alcohol
  • Behenyl alcohol

Avoid silicones
Tons of hair products contain silicones because they coat the hair shaft and make hair feel smooth. This might sound like exactly what you want for coarse hair, but there’s a downside to silicone. Silicones attract dirt and debris, which leaves you feeling the need to wash it more frequently. As mentioned above, washing more often is what you don’t want to do when your hair is coarse or curly.

Additionally, many silicones used in hair products resist water. This makes it difficult to wash out, which also leads you to wash more frequently. It’s a dangerous cycle to get into.

SHOP SILICONE-FREE HAIR PRODUCTS

Limit heat exposure
Take it easy with the blow dryer. Excessive exposure to heat can leave you feeling like you have a tumbleweed on your head.

If you’re going to blow dry, adding a heat protectant to your hair before-hand is crucial. Additionally, keep the blow dryer at least six inches from the hair. This reduces the risk of heat damage and reduces any unwanted volume—and if you’ve got a head full of curls, more volume is rarely a thing you want.

Alternatively, you can let your hair air dry until it’s 50-75% dry, then hit it with the blow dryer, reducing the overall time your hair is exposed to heat.

Get regular trims
Because coarse hair and curly hair have a tendency to dry out, they are more prone to split ends. Once you have split ends, there’s no way to repair them other than to cut them off, so the best way to prevent them is to stop them before they start.

Getting regular trims keeps your hair looking and feeling it’s best. This is especially true if you are growing your hair out. See your barber or stylist every eight to ten weeks and have them do some maintenance on your ends without taking off any excess length. It will slow down the hair growth process, but it’s worth it in the long run.

Go easy on the styling products
Because of its texture, coarse hair tends to hold a style really well and doesn’t need to be loaded with high-hold products. If your coarse hair is on the shorter side, a dime-sized amount of Styling Balm is likely all you need. If you do use styling products, avoid ones with silicones (see above).

For curly hair, you may want to forgo the styling products all-together. Curls look best when they’re loose and free to do their thing. Adding a high-hold product like pomade to longer curly hair typically results in hair that looks like it’s being forced to try and be something it’s not. Embrace the curls and let them hang loose with a low-hold product like Sea Salt Spray.

Give it time
Building a grooming routine that works for your hair takes time. Identifying the right techniques and products for your hair is the first step, but you may not see immediate results. Stick with the techniques mentioned above, and after a few weeks, you should notice softer, healthier, and better-looking hair.

Keep on Growing.

Have questions about your hair? Shoot us a message at [email protected], or Text "STYLE" to 512-879-3297 for a free personalized consultation. We’ll be happy to help you out.

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TL;DR

Having coarse hair can be extremely frustrating to manage. Coarse hair is thicker than fine and medium hair, and it has a tendency to dry out faster than medium and fine hair.

Getting the most out of your coarse hair boils down to knowing how to care for it and keep it hydrated. These tips will help tame your unruly coarse hair, and who knows, you may even learn to love it.

  1. Shampoo less often - Shampoo strips oil from your scalp, leaving coarse and curly hair even drier. Shampooing twice a week is plenty.
  2. Co-wash it - Use a Conditioner daily to keep your hair hydrated.
  3. Add a leave-in Conditioner - even when cared for properly, coarse hair and curly hair can still become dry by the end of the day. Using a leave-in conditioner is an excellent way to keep hair hydrated longer.
  4. Avoid products with short-chain alcohols - avoid any product with ethanol, SD alcohol, SD alcohol 40, alcohol denatured, propanol, propyl alcohol, and isopropyl alcohol.
  5. Avoid silicones - Silicones attract dirt and debris, which leaves you feeling the need to wash it more frequently.
  6. Limit heat exposure - Take it easy with the blow dryer. Excessive exposure to heat can leave you feeling like you have a tumbleweed on your head.
  7. Get regular trims - Because coarse hair and curly hair tend to be dry, they are more prone to split ends. There’s no way to repair split ends other than to cut them off, so the best way to prevent them is to stop them before they start.
  8. Go easy on the styling products - Because of its texture, coarse hair tends to hold a style really well and doesn’t need to be loaded with high-hold products.
  9. Give it time - your hair needs time to adjust to any routine. Stick with these tips for a solid three to four weeks, and you should have softer, healthier, and better-looking hair.

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