Who knew?

When it comes to your hair, there are a million and one ways to describe it: Thick, fine, coarse, stick-straight, flat, wiry … you get the picture. For a long time, though, I thought that some of the vocabulary surrounding hair was repetitive. Take fine hair and thin hair, for instance.

As a fine-haired gal myself, I’ve often used the words “thin” and “fine” interchangeably whenever I was discussing my hair woes with my mama or friends. I learned recently, though, that there is a major difference between fine hair and thin hair, thanks to a conversation with a local stylist earlier this month: Consider it further confirmation that choosing your words carefully is always important.

In short, when it comes to your strands, the difference between fine hair and thin hair all boils down to width versus density.

“’Fine hair’ just means that the strand of hair itself is tiny,” says Eric Goss, master stylist and owner of Hairfolk Salon in Birmingham, Alabama. “You can have a lot of fine hair. But if you have ‘thin hair,’ that refers to the amount of hair you have.”

Let’s break it down further.

When determining the width of your hair, a strand of thread is a good comparison. If your individual strands have smaller widths than the thread, your hair is likely fine, rather than medium or coarse. The way your hair feels, too, is helpful in figuring out whether or not your hair is fine. Fine hair typically feels silkier, and from my personal experience, it slips out of hair ties like that’s its job. It also holds onto moisture better than medium or coarse hair, though it is weaker than its more substantial counterparts.

Unlike “fine hair,” “thin hair” refers to the density of your strands per square inch of your scalp, or in other words, how much hair you have on your head. It’s possible, then, that you could have fine, thick hair. No matter what hair type you are, though, make sure you’re armed with the right vocabulary to talk about it with your stylist. He or she will be able to guide you in choosing the correct products to strengthen your fine hair and give your thin hair some serious volume.

No matter what type of hair you have, we’re all about these killer short cuts this year.