Thin Hair vs. Fine Hair: What’s the Difference?

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Thin Hair vs. Fine Hair: What’s the Difference? featured image
Getty Image / Alexandr Dubynin

If you’re shocked to learn that fine hair and thin hair are not the same thing, that’s okay—you’re not alone. “It’s very common to refer to hair using fine and thin interchangeably, but technically, they are very different,” says founder of Josh Rosebrook Skin and Hair Care Josh Rosebrook. “What makes it confusing is that many professionals will not make the distinction and will perpetuate this misunderstanding.”

New York trichologist and founder of haircare retail platform Leona.co Shab Caspara explains that, “hair can be defined by the total number of hairs known as density (thin, medium, thick) or the thickness of each strand known as texture (fine, medium, coarse).” Basically, “fine hair refers to the diameter of each individual strand, while thin hair relates to the overall density of hair follicles on the scalp,” explains celebrity hairstylist MJ Snyder. Why does this matter? Caspara says it’s important to understand your hair density and texture to help determine the products, practices and even color that’s most suitable for you.

Fine hair

Rosebrook says hair texture is often incorrectly used to describe how straight or curly hair is. However, that would actually be referred to as hair type. He explains that hair texture is concerned with fine to coarse hair. “Fine hair is in reference to the actual circumference of the hair shaft. It’s measured from fine to coarse,” says Rosebrook. “Fine hair often does not contain a medulla, the inner core of the hair which gives it strength and elasticity, which medium to coarse hair textures always have,” he adds. Caspara explains that fine hair is “typically barely felt when running your thumb and index finger through a single strand.”

Thin hair

Thin is technically describing the hair’s density—how much actual hair is on the head, says Rosebrook. “Hair density is measured and technically referenced as low to medium to high density,” he adds. With thin hair you can generally “easily notice one’s scalp through the hair near the hair parting line,” says Caspara.

Can hair be both fine and thin?

Hair can, in fact, be both fine and thin. “This means the individual strands are small in diameter, and there might be fewer follicles overall,” explains Snyder. Caspara says this is one of the most common combinations amongst shoppers on her website, which matches women to hair-growth solutions. “It’s becoming increasingly common due to many factors affecting both hair growth and the quality of hair,” she says.

This combination of low density and fine texture can be challenging as there are many limitations with styles, says Rosebrook. He adds that it can even present challenges with hair coloring. “With very little, fine hair, colorists must use extreme caution not to damage what hair is present,” he explains.

How to enhance fine hair

Fine hair can benefit from applying volume-enhancing products before styling and blow drying, says Rosebrok. He suggests using products that enhance the diameter of the hair shaft if you have fine texture and low to medium density. Snyder recommends UNITE BOOSTA Volumizing Spray ($33) to add volume and create a fuller appearance. “It’s designed to add lift and fullness to fine hair strands,” she explains. Caspara says fine hair can also “benefit from hair supplements that can potentially enhance the structure of hair and boost the quality and thickness of the hair growth.”

How to enhance thin hair

Thickening products are key when it comes to thin hair. Caspara recommends “thickening or volumizing styling products and shampoos and conditioners that are formulated to either wrap around each strand or penetrate and thicken from the inside out.” Rosebrook says salt sprays and other styling products “that bulk up the hair shaft help create the illusion of thicker hair and increased density.” Snyder recommends UNITE TEXTURIZA Spray ($40) for thin hair because it “can help by adding texture, making the hair appear thicker and more voluminous.” For those with thin hair, Caspara suggests “shorter blunt cuts that aren’t layered so you can keep as much weight in the hair as possible and create a thicker look.”

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