Help for Fine, Limp Hair

Super Size Your Strands

When it comes to hair, the last thing you want is to be too skinny. Just about every woman wants thicker hair. For anyone who’s battled to fatten up fine, flat strands, you are about to win the war. “Even fine and limp hair can have a lot of volume; it’s all in the products you use and the way it’s styled,” says Nick Arrojo, owner of Arrojo Studio in New York City. Ready to unleash your inner Diana Ross? Test out these big hair tips and pump up the volume on your tresses.

Wash Away the Weight

You need to shampoo the right way. The key is to clean away any styling build-up without depositing any other residue. “If your hair lacks body, you should really take the less-is-more approach when selecting a shampoo,” says Ni’Kita Wilson, cosmetics chemist and vice president of Cosmetech Laboratories in Fairfield, NJ. She advises avoiding oils, silicones, and petrolatum.

Volumizing formulas are usually a good option. Wilson explains that they work by coating individual strands with film formers or protein to add thickness. But when in doubt, lather with a basic shampoo containing anything with “quaternium” in the ingredients, Wilson says. “These ingredients stick to the hair after rinsing and will make hair appear fuller.” Try Amplify by Matrix Essentials Color XL Shampoo ($17.69) for the perfect combination of gentle cleaning and volumizing.

Condition with Care

“The first three inches of your hair is only six months old — it’s very healthy,” Arrojo says. Since your scalp produces sebum, a natural conditioner, you don’t need to add additional conditioners near the root. Focus your efforts on the on the lower half of your hair — the older sections, which tend to be drier and more damaged.

Make sure to read the conditioner label before you buy, says Perry Romanowski, an independent cosmetic chemist who blogs for Avoid dimethicone, a heavy silicone that gives hair shine but can weigh it down and kill volume, and look for cyclomethicone instead. Other volume killers include lanolin and petrolatum, which is a good conditioner but weighs down hair and attracts dirt. Shea butter is a better alternative, Romanowski says. Try Suave Professionals Moisturizing Conditioner Almond and Shea Butter ($1.84) to moisturize hair without leaving build-up.

Whip Up Your Style

The wrong products can sabotage your best efforts. Use light styling products if the goal is to create volume. The last thing you want to do is overdo it and weigh the hair down, says Marissa Doehla, owner of K.E. Haas Salon in New York City. Toss out anything with a waxy or sticky consistency, such as pomade, because they’re often the main culprit of deflated hair.

Doehla is a fan of volumizing mousse. “People think of mousse as a thing of the past, but Davines Universal Mattering Mousse is one of my favorites for creating volume without weighing the hair down.” Mousse can also act as a heat barrier from styling tools like blow-dryers, hot rollers, and hot irons — essential for protecting fragile, fine strands. Aveeno Active Naturals Nourish + Style Volumizing Foam ($6.99) helps build fullness while fortifying hair from damage.

Hit the Roots

No matter what you use to style, make sure you target the roots, where you’ll get the most lift. If mousse won’t work for you, try a volumizing spray, which is easier to apply to the roots. Also, these spray formulas tend to be lighter than cream products and are less likely to weigh down strands. A beauty editor and stylist favorite: The non-sticky, mega body building Phyto Phytovolume Aftif Volumizer Spray ($28).

Dry to Create Height

To get the right style, you’ve got to know what to do with your blow-dryer. “The final 20 percent of blow-drying is what counts,” Arrojo says. “The other 80 percent is just getting the moisture out.”

Once your hair is mostly dry, pull your hair up and away from your scalp at a 90-degree angle. For fine hair, use a ceramic vented brush so that the air will pass through the barrel and give maximum lift. This will also minimize the amount of time that the hair is subject to heat. Try the Goody Ouchless Ceramic Round Brush ($9.99) with specially designed bristles to avoid snarls. If you have coarse hair, use a round boar-bristle brush that will get the hot air to the root.

Make Sure to Cool Off

Don’t blow-dry for too long. Once it’s dry, you’re done! “Many people have a tendency to keep blow-drying after the hair is already dry,” Arrojo says. “You’ll stretch your strands and lose any volume in the style.”

Cooling off is just as important as the heat styling. Heat shapes the hair into the form you are trying to create, but you need to cool down to set it, Arrojo explains. For maximum lift, set your style with Velcro rollers. “Leave them in for 10 minutes while you’re doing your makeup,” Arrojo says. “You’ll get more lift than you could even imagine.”

Ask for Layers

“Any hair can have issues with creating volume if the cut is not right,” Doehla says. Layers can create the illusion of more hair for thin-haired people and take a little weight out of thick hair so it’s not too heavy to “poof.” At the same time, don’t go too big. This isn’t the ’80s, cautions Arrojo. “You want volume with movement, not volume with stiffness. When it doesn’t look soft, it doesn’t look correct.”

Originally published on


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