Looking after coarse and unruly hair can be a conundrum. Not to be mistaken for dry or dehydrated hair, coarse hair is thick in texture, has the widest diameter of hair textures and often feels hard and wiry to the touch. It can come in many forms; curly, kinky, straight, wavy and crimped.
Coarse Hair is not a problem – it’s a hair type! Coarse hair is formed with a cuticle layer, an inner cortex and a medulla which is often missing in fine hair.
For the purpose of clarity, in this story, I’m talking about the kind of coarse hair where wayward strands have a mind of their own, protruding annoyingly every which way, where it can seem an impossible task to bend your hair to your will and its unruly nature consistently ruins any attempt at a put together look.
Coarse hair is a gift. With a little tender loving care and some know-how, it can be luxurious, strong, healthy, and glossy.
A gentle wash routine works a treat for coarse hair. Choose a gentle moisturising shampoo and go easy on the rubbing to avoid roughing up the cuticle. Co-washing is a great option to keep coarse, unruly hair calm and hydrated as Co-washes are conditioning cleanses that draw unwanted oils and debris away from your scalp with minimal disruption to the natural oil balance of the scalp.
Remember that shampoo is for cleansing your scalp and maintaining hair root health, there’s no need to slather the mid-lengths and ends of your hair in a foamy shampoo. Avoid sulphated shampoos as these can contain harsh surfactants that are just too drying on coarse hair.
Deep conditioning treatments are your new BFF. Because coarse hair is constructed of all 3 physical components – Cuticle,Medulla and Cortex - this hair texture gets maximum benefits from regular weekly treatments. Deep conditioning treatments are generally made up of highly penetrative ingredients that are at their best and most effective in the ample cortex of the coarse hair type.
Using light oils on the reg helps to reduce frizz and increase shine without leaving a heavy oily look to your hair. Light oils also have a cool capability to spread along a hair-shaft easily and quickly for better manageability. Plus adding a light oil to your hair before combing or brushing is absolutely going to help reduce split ends.
Thicker oils are more effective at retaining moisture and resisting humidity which makes them a better option for coarse hair that is also dry.
Tangled hair is a danger zone! Serious damage can be done when we comb or brush our hair causing breaks and cracks and split ends. If this is happening, there’s a chance that your hair appears to be all different lengths which can cause it to be even more frizzy and unruly.
To minimise any damage, comb, or brush coily/curly hair when it is wet and straight/wavy hair when it is dry. Be gentle and use a hairbrush with firm widely spread nylon bristles.
HOT OR COLD?
Too much heat styling and not enough heat protection is a bad scene for any hair type. Actually, coarse hair responds really well to heat, holding a style for days, bouncing and shining its way through the world. Just keep it to a minimum once a week type thing and always, always use a heat protector. If you see even a hint of damage, put the hot tools down.
Additionally, air drying can be problematic for coarse frizzy hair types due to that erratic kinky texture. Use a leave in moisturiser to combat frizz or get into protective hairstyles like braids and ballet knots to give your hair a break from heat.
Maintain a close relationship with your hairstylist. Sometimes if you have coarse hair the idea of getting a bit of weight cut off can be scary. Too much chopped and your hair expands into a puffball on your head. Get a little cut off regularly to keep the ends in good shape or go for broke with a short sharp pixie cut. Choppy layers and a bit of a bang work super well with this hair type too.
Sleeping on silk is super chic and it’s also great for your hair. The sensuous slip of silk reduces friction on your hair – no more snarls and dreads in the morning. Silk also absorbs less moisture than say cotton or linen which means your hair can retain its natural oils and stay hydrated overnight.
INGREDIENTS TO LOVE
Nut Oils – Coconut oil has a high affinity for hair with deep penetrative qualities, Brazil Nut oil prevents split ends and Sunflower Seed oil offers all over lubrication and protection.
Fatty Alcohols – (cetyl alcohol, stearyl alcohol, cetostearyl alcohol) All alcohols are not created equal. Fatty Alcohols are great for coarse hair as they mimic the body’s natural lipids leaving the hairshaft feeling soft and supple and helping the cuticle to close flat.
INGREDIENTS TO AVOID
Glycerin – A natural humectant that will draws moisture from the air and into hair to retain hydration. Sounds great right? But for coarse hair in humid climates, Glycerin can draw too much moisture into the hair shaft causing it to bloat and swell, and in dry arid climates glycerin will draw moisture FROM your hair.
Butters – They feel so amazing and quenching on your dry skin yet butters don’t spread very easily in coarse hair and tend towards looking heavy and lank, stick to oils.
Gavazzoni Dias MF. Hair cosmetics: an overview. Int J Trichology. 2015;7(1):2-15. doi:10.4103/0974-7753.153450
Glycerin for Hair: Benefits, Precautions, and Ways to Use It. Akanksha Shah Sanghvi, MD, Clinical Dermatology