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Hair Types: What Stylists Need To Know About Working With Different Hair Types

different hair textures and types
One of the most important steps that any stylist can take before they begin working with a new client is to conduct a hair consultation. That’s because a consultation gives you the opportunity to not only understand the client’s hair goals, but also because it allows you to get some important information about the hair. This information can and should often inform how you work with the hair. 

Case in point: Hair type. Your client’s hair type can impact everything from the type and consistency of the product you use in a lightening or coloring service, to the type of comb you use, to how you cut the hair, and more.

But when we talk about the different types of hair, what we’re really talking about is three different things: Hair thickness, hair density, and hair texture. Below is a look at these important characteristics, as well as some tips you can use to be more effective working with hair of different thicknesses and textures.

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Hair Thickness vs. Hair Density vs. Hair Texture

What is hair thickness?

Hair thickness is a term used to describe how wide a single strand of hair is. The thinnest of all hair is what we call fine, and the thickest is what we call coarse (or thick). In between those two extremes is medium.

What is hair density?

Hair density, on the other hand, refers to how densely the hair is packed on the scalp. Someone with low density will have fewer strands of hair per inch of scalp than someone with medium density, who will in turn have fewer strands than someone who has high density.

What is hair texture?

Finally, hair texture refers to the actual structure of the hair. It is typically the most immediately obvious of the three. The main textures you’ll encounter are straight hair, wavy hair, curly hair, and kinky hair, though it’s important to note that hair exists along a spectrum.

Why You Need a Hair Consultation

A hair consultation is so important for two main reasons.

First, clients often don’t know the difference between these three terms. They might say “I have thick hair” when what they really mean is that they have “high density,” for example. Or they might say “fine” when they mean “straight.” The only way to know for sure is to get in there and look for yourself.

And second, there are countless combinations! As just one example, you could have one client with fine, straight, high-density hair and another with thick, straight, high-density hair, and they could require completely different treatments.

How to Style Different Hair Thicknesses

Working With Fine Hair

It is best to be less aggressive with fine hair. Using a lot of texturizing techniques or extreme coloring can thin the hair out even more or take away bulk that’s needed for length or shape. One wrong move and fine hair will absolutely show every mistake.

Most people with finer texture fear big changes because of previous experiences. Doing small changes often is a much better way to help someone change their look up.


Fine hair will lighten quickly and bleeding will be more obvious when technique and lightener consistency is not executed properly. Less is always more when working with fine hair. Leaving enough depth or lowlight is super important. Lightener should always be on the thicker side to avoid splochiness.

Working With Medium Hair

Medium is the most common in theory, but texture plays into this as well. It’s important to be aware of how hair responds when naturally dry. Too often we go based on how we’ve blown someone’s hair dry. We generally cut when it's styled or dry, but how will they be styling their hair? What will look best in that case?

Lightener consistency should be slightly thinner than when working with fine hair. Aiming for somewhere between a frosting and toothpaste consistency when using clay lightener is a great place to start. Foiling lightener should be glidable, but not runny.

Keeping density is still important, but creating shape and dimension is a must with medium structures. This type of hair does well with bangs and more structured shapes.

Working With Coarse (or Thick) Hair

Balancing placement is going to be your friend in this situation. Over coloring or cutting is going to cause a lot of awkwardness with both color and shape. It’s easy to get lost in what you're doing, so take smaller sections and don’t forget to look at the entire picture. It’s easy to keep focusing on one section, but this type of structure needs to be more like a sculpture.

Working with coarse hair type

Lightener needs to be slightly thinner than your normal mixture. However, be careful not to thin this out too much as your lift will be compromised.

Sometimes when working on coarse hair, larger sections of balayage or foiling are going to be in your favor. If these pieces are too small, they will get lost in your final result. The last thing you want is all your work to be erased because you did too many small pieces instead of impactful brightness.

How to Style Different Hair Textures

The most important thing is to communicate with the client about how they normally wear their hair. Observe their natural texture and create something based on their normal styling techniques.

Working With Straight Hair

Straight hair is the least forgiving when it comes to lines and blending. Make sure your technique is strong and you cover your bases with this one. If someone never uses a waving tool, it may be a good option to smudge or melt to create a more gradient blend. Straight hair also needs a more protein balanced shampoo and conditioner. This will help to create more bounce in the hair.

Working With Wavy Hair

Wavy hair is the most forgiving and generally can be easiest to style. But it is also the texture most clients don’t know how to style or what products to use. They feel left between a “curly look” and “straight.” Giving them advice on what to use will help them understand their hair better and be happier with their color results as well.


Hair is a different kind of art, as there is only one time it looks as the stylist wants it to—the day it's done. Advising your client will help both them and others to appreciate your work more.

Working With Curly Hair

Curly hair is really a specialty! It is not a one size fits all type of thing. Each situation is very different and needs to be treated as such. Curl patterns are important to be aware of, as well as using highly moisturizing products. Curly hair absolutely needs moisture to form and shape well.


The less lightening done to curly hair, the better. Although lighter pieces help to create more dimension, it can really dry the hair out. Lightening bigger sections, while leaving out more hair is a great way to keep depth in order to not lose your highlight or balayage when it's dry.

Working With Kinky or Coily Hair

Tight kinky texture or a more coil pattern requires a whole different approach.

Sometimes relaxers or hair straightening products are necessary to calm things down. But the trends now are less straightening and more for the person who loves rocking their natural texture. Lots of moisture is needed as well as only washing every 1-2 weeks. Products with less synthetic ingredients are extremely helpful.

Build up is way too common when working with this texture and using cleaner products is a must. These also help to keep natural oils in the hair even after washing. It is best not to lift this type of hair with anything over 20 volume. Lowering the developer will help keep the hair intact and also provide the most amount of lift.

Practice Makes Perfect

All of this information can be overwhelming, especially for newer stylists who are just getting into the swing of things. But as you begin working with more and more clients and encounter more and more hair types (and combinations!) it will eventually become like a second nature. The most important thing you can do is practice and continue advancing your abilities!

Want more great color theory tips? Download our free Balayage Root Color Tips PDF for tips you can use to immediately perform a better service for your clients!

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