Fine Hair vs. Thin Hair: We Asked the Experts to Explain the Difference

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It’s about time we addressed the big hair debate: fine hair vs. thin hair. Yes folks, these are two different hair types. So how can we really tell them apart? The key differences lie in the thickness and density of your mane, which our panel of experts will explain.

Meet The Experts:

What is fine hair?

Fine hair focuses on the width (or thickness) of an individual strand. For people with fine hair, each strand is small in diameter and retains more moisture, as compared to coarser locks. The texture is often soft and silky, but lacks volume and elasticity. No matter the hair pattern (i.e. straight, wavy, curly and coily), you can have finer strands. 

What is thin hair?

Thin hair refers to the density or the number of strands on your head. That’s why when you’re losing more hair than usual, it’s often referred to as thinning. While all hair types can go through thinning, the cause may vary from person to person. “There are many possible reasons why hair can thin, which can include hormonal changes, stress, illness, vitamins or other nutritional deficiencies, thyroid imbalance, genetics and aging,” says Dr. Marcus.

What’s the difference between fine hair vs. thin hair? 

You can’t explain fine hair vs. thin hair without mentioning texture vs. density. “Fine hair comes down to the thickness of each hair strand, while thin hair is related to the density,” says Dr. Kinler.

Another way to look at it is people with fine hair can go through thinning hair, but not all people with thinning hair have fine hair. “It’s possible to have fine hair at a super high density or have coarse hair that is thinning. Just remember that it’s natural to have any combination of the two,” adds McKernan. 

How do I know if I have fine or thin hair?

It’s time to examine your locks. The first clue to thin hair is a visible scalp. Do you see gaps when combing through your hair or has your part widened? Other signs of thinning hair are color fading, brittle strands and difficulty putting your hair into a ponytail. 

To see if you have fine hair, grab a single strand and run your finger through it. How does it feel? Fine hair tends to be smoother, silkier and smaller than thick hair. Another way to figure out if you have finer locks is by comparing a strand to a piece of thread. If it’s smaller than the thread, chances are you have fine hair. 

How to Style Fine Hair

Now that you know the difference between fine hair vs. thin hair, you can focus on styling and caring for your mane. Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Use a clarifying or a volumizing shampoo. It’s important to cleanse the scalp and prevent build-up on fine hair. The right shampoos can strengthen strands, add moisture, and remove impurities. Dr. Kinler suggests washing fine hair one to two times per week to avoid overwashing and creating too much oil production. 
  • Use lightweight conditioners. According to Dr. Marcus, you should avoid heavy or oily products, so it doesn’t weigh down your strands. Instead, look for moisture and/or protein-based ingredients like hyaluronic acid, biotin and vitamin E to improve hydration, while boosting volume. Dr. Kinler also points out that you only need a nickel-size amount on your mid lengths and ends. 
  • Find volumizing products. Root sprays, mousses and dry shampoos can moisturize strands while making them appear thicker and more voluminous.
  • Consider shorter haircuts. Here’s your sign to make the big chop. While you can rock any look you want, shorter styles provide a fuller look. 

Expert Recommendations: Briogeo Blossom & Bloom Volumizing Conditioner ($28); Olaplex No. 4 Bond Maintenance Shampoo ($30); Living Proof Full Shampoo ($30); Christophe Robin Volume Conditioner ($39); IGK Big Time Volume and Thickening Mousse ($31)

How to Style Thin Hair

  • Consult with a medical professional. If you’re at the beginning stages of hair loss, there may be treatments (i.e, laser therapy, supplements or hair transplants) that can help you. “In order to treat hair loss, the underlying cause needs to be identified first. Your board-certified dermatologist can help you figure out what may be behind your hair loss and perform the appropriate tests as needed for diagnosis,” explains Dr. Marcus. 
  • Buy shampoos for thinning hair. “Hair thickening shampoos coat individual strands of hair and cause them to appear thicker by increasing their diameter,” says Dr. Marcus. When shopping for shampoo, pay close attention to the label and ask yourself: Does it exfoliate the scalp? Promote healthy hair growth? Overall improve strands? 
  • Use volumizing products. There are many products focused on promoting healthy hair growth and repairing strands. Ingredients like keratin, biotin and minoxidil have been proven to improve moisture, combat hair loss and strengthen thin hair over time. 
  • Try out extensions or wigs. OK, you don’t need thin hair to rock these faux pieces, but if you want to add more hair this is a good option. Plus, it’s super fun to try a bold hue for the day and put less strain on your locks then protective styles or tight ‘dos (like ponytails or top knots).
  • Consider shorter haircuts. Like fine hair, going short is a quick way to get fuller-looking locks. 

Expert Recommendations: Nioxin Hair Care Kit System ($30), Bumble and Bumble Thickening Volume Shampoo ($34), Vegamour Gro Serum ($58), Nutrafol Women's Hair Growth Supplement ($88); Follicle Cleanse & Follicle Sustenance ($200)

Bottom Line: You can have both fine and thin hair, but it’s important to distinguish between the two hair types. Fine hair is about texture, while thin hair is about density. Knowing this can help you better care for your locks. Looks like the hair debate is finally solved.

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Associate Editor, Ultimate Fangirl, Aspiring Beauty Guru

Chelsea Candelario is an Associate Editor at PureWow. She has been covering beauty, culture, fashion and entertainment for over a decade. You'll find her searching the internet...