As someone with very naturally flat and fine hair, I’ve tried literally everything over the years to get some volume in hair. In fact – I can honestly say this article has been at least 10 years in the making, so I’m really glad to be able to share this with you!
But first, before going on, you gotta check out if “volume” really suits your face shape first. I know – what?! Doesn’t everyone look good with volume? Funnily enough, no.
Anyway, here are my tried-and-tested, blood, sweat and tears tricks to getting thick, full volume in hair.
1. Ditch the layers.
Oh, layers. The big haircut lie. The first thing everyone tells you to get more volume in hair is “get layers cut.” Don’t believe them! I used to get them done at the salon, and they’d “layer” my hair out so much, my hair looked even more thin. Instead keep the ends of your cut very blunt and ask your hairdresser to cut straight across, which will give the illusion of thicker hair – this has made the biggest difference in my hair in terms of how much thicker it looks now.
Oh, and another thing – if you tend to have very thin, flat hair, avoid super long, straight haircuts. Keep the length around your collarbone or slightly longer. The weight of the long hair can pull your hair down, making your crown area look even more flat.
2. Get the right hair products.
The products you use in the shower is also incredibly important, because shampoos and conditioners (especially conditioners) can weigh your hair down and make it look even more flat and limpy.
I’ve found that volumizing shampoos do work, but they are bit tricky.
For one, if you have colored your hair, beware – some formulas can strip or fade the color. Also, because volumizing shampoos give volume and are formulated not to weigh hair down, it does not contain so many conditioning agents; so it can dry out your hair a lot.
Either way, it’s worth a try, and if you do want to try this method out, though, here are my recommended products I used with some success:
- L’Oreal Expert Volume Expand Volumizing Shampoo For Fine Hair. Buy it on Folica.com (US) or internationally at Amazon.com.
- Redken Bodyfull Shampoo. Buy it at Walgreens (US) or internationally at Amazon.com, Look Fantastic and Feel Unique.
- John Freida Luxurious Volume Shampoo and Conditioner. I don’t usually like conditioner but this one was really good). Buy it Walmart (US), Drugstore.com (US), Boots (UK) internationally at Amazon.com and Feel Unique.
Another quick tip for those with thin hair that is also really flat: condition your hair first, then shampoo it. Conditioner tends to weigh down your hair, so reversing the steps will combat that.
3. Try volumizing styling products.
Hair products that I feel really make a difference for me are styling products. A volumizing mousse, in my opinion, works just as well as volumizing shampoo without drying out your hair. (If you are using volumizing shampoos and conditioners though, you can still use these products).
All you need to do is squeeze out a dollop of mousse and comb it through your hair, roots to tips. Or, if you’d rather a spray, try a texturizing lotion, sea salt spray, etc. There are many in the market, but the texturizer I talk about in this post is the best I’ve tried.
4. Blow it up.
A tip all the pros use is to blow dry your hair upside down – flip your head and blast the hot air from the nape of your neck to the crown, working backwards. Also, focus on blowing your roots. After blowdrying, avoid heavy leave-in conditioners, shine serums and styling products that will just weigh your hair down after all your hard work. A simple thickening hairspray will do.
5. Teasing & backcombing.
Backcombing (or sometimes called “teasing”) your hair at the crown and smoothing some hair over it will lift hair and not make it so flat. The photo on the right shows how to do it – basically, get a thin comb, lift your hair and comb it backwards into your roots. This will create what looks like a messy hairball, but then release the hair you are holding up and brush it on top of the hairball and smooth it out. The hairball should be hidden underneath the hair.
Beware though -backcombing is very damaging, but if you want some extra height at your roots, this works very well. You should definitely check out How to… Backcomb Hair Without Damaging It for help.
6. Heat it up.
Hair curlers and thongs will also give hair much needed volume, which is also a huge part of how I get volume in my hair.
I’m using Tourmaline by Amika, an amazing hair curler, which you can buy at Sephora (US) or Amazon.com, Folica.com and Beauty.com (international). Others that are industry standard and are excellent is T3 curlers, which you can find on Sephora (US) and Amazon.com and Nordstrom (international); and lastly GHD, which you can buy on Sephora (US) or John Lewis (international).
7. Stock up on dry shampoo.
Here’s a general hair tip: Don’t wash it everyday! Use dry shampoos for the days you don’t wash your hair – it revives greasy hair and gives slight volume.
My best friend swears by dry shampoo, and many others – it is especially good for volume at the crown area. It does work very well, and I really like the ones by Batiste. You can buy them internationally at Amazon.com. I tried those first and they worked so well, I never tried another dry shampoo after that. They are super cheap, too.
8. Consider hair dye.
Another option for thicker hair is to dye it. Coloring your hair instantly makes hair look thicker – particularly darker colors – and well placed high-lights and low-lights can give the illusion of dimension.
9. Experiment with extensions and wigs.
While I experimented with hair extensions – the glue kind, the clip in kind – and they do work very well, personally I felt it was a little too high maintenance for my liking, and I was always a little paranoid that it might rip off! A friend of mine experiments with extensions and another one wears wigs and it works perfectly for them, but they do say it’s a lot of work and upkeep. It’s all about personal preference of how much you’d like to spend on your hair, but this for sure will work.
10. And the last resort: perms.
A pretty drastic way to get volume in your hair is opting for a perm. One thing’s for sure, you will save a lot on blow drying and products. A root perm will give lift to flat hair, a body perm will give you all around waves; your hair will instantly have more body and volume.
Unfortunately, perms are very damaging to your hair – it is best that you haven’t had any prior chemical treatments (as in you don’t dye it, you don’t use heat tools on it, etc), and that your hair is very healthy.
I’ve seen both extremes of perms – I’ve had great ones done and really bad ones done; both full body perms, root perms, and digital perms (you MUST read my Digital Perm Review & Tips before taking the plunge). So if you’re thinking of a perm, do a lot of research on a proper salon and really think about it carefully, because it cannot be “undone.”
What I Do…
So I featured some of the ways to get volume in your hair… but you might be interested in what I do to my hair. Like I said, I’ve tried just about everything and while my hair will always be a bit on the thin side, you can’t really tell from all my hair tricks! Here’s exactly what I do and what I use that I would recommend trying:
- My haircut. I do not allow layers in my hair, except two small ones near my chin, which I think can actually just be called a long side swept bang. Why is this? Check out the tips under “Long Face Shape” in What Hairstyle Suits Me? to see what I do for my hair – all my volume tips are talked in full there.
- My shampoo and conditioner are fairly low maintenance. I use a shampoo from The Body Shop, which is not meant for volume, but for some reason, whenever I use this, my hair looks really full and fluffy, so I love that! You can buy it on The Body Shop (US), The Body Shop (UK) or internationally at Amazon.com. I actually don’t use conditioner in the shower, not because of anything other than I really dislike washing my hair and conditioning is extra work! But I do use coconut oil which is amazing. I use Dabur Vatika Enriched Coconut Hair Oil and Cashmere Falls Argan Oil (both ship international) which are seriously the best hair products ever made.
- I use a styling product called Sea Salt Spray. I’m sure you’ve heard of it. I’ve used the cult classic Bumble & Bumble Sea Salt Spray, and while it was good, I felt that the Toni&Guy Casual Sea Salt Texurizing Spray was much better for me. After shampooing, I let my hair air dry and once it’s try, I flip my hair over and spray sea salt spray back to front (neck to top of my head), and then I use my fingers to rub the product into my roots.
- I’ve also just invested in a proper curling iron. After many years of thinking about it, I finally did it. I’m using Tourmaline by Amika, and it is awesome. You can buy at Sephora (US) or Amazon.com, Folica.com and Beauty.com (international).
And that’s really it. But honestly, I’d say the big difference for me is the haircut – and a good sea salt spray. If I have a “special occasion” where I want to do my hair, I might backcomb the roots for some extra lift, and I just bought my first curling thong which I am excited to try since I love the look of wavy hair (my hair is naturally straight).
Do you know someone who is struggling with getting volume in their hair? Please share this post to them and help them out, and if you have any questions or comments, let me know.