How to Add Volume to Fine and Flat Hair
Is your hair flat and lifeless? Do you envy people with bounce and volume? Don't despair, it is possible to put more oomph in your hairstyle!
Tip #1 - Stop Weighing Down Your Hair!
A surprising number of people have good natural volume, but it's flattened by the invisible residue from the very products which are supposed to help!
Many shampoos and conditioners - even so-called "volumizing" products - contain silicone or polymers. They're plastic-like substances that stick to the surface of each strand of hair, to make it fatter. That works on naturally strong, bouncy hair - but on fine hair, the weight of the coating pulls the hair down, counteracting the extra "fatness", so your hair gets even flatter!
So before you can regain your volume, you must get rid of the build-up by using a good clarifying shampoo.
Whichever shampoo you choose, lather twice, rinse well and see if your hair recovers its bounce. Repeat the treatment every now and then, to prevent any future build-up. And don't buy any more plasticized shampoos!
Style and Shine Products
Styling products can weigh your hair down, even more than shampoo or conditioner.
Shine products are notorious for making your hair flat. If you can't live without one, use it sparingly and don't comb it through. A good tip is to spray it on a make-up brush (a big blush brush or powder brush is best), and sweep that lightly over your hair - you'll get the effect without the weight.
I'm not saying you have to live without styling products. The challenge is to find products that don't add weight to the hair, and that don't build up too much residue over time.
I'm still hunting for the perfect product, but I've had a couple of my fine-haired readers contact me to rave about Nak's "Done n Dusted" styling powder. I haven't tried it yet, but I do like their shampoo so I will definitely be giving it a try!
Have you switched to a sulfate-free shampoo in the hope it will help boost your volume? Sorry to disappoint you, but it's quite likely it's making your problem worse!
As I said, product build-up is one of the biggest causes of flat, lifeless hair. Shampoo makers use sulfates because they're very efficient cleansers. Take them out, and you're left with a very mild shampoo that won't remove product build-up. It won't remove excess oils or deposits on the scalp either, so it's not a great choice if you have oily hair or dandruff.
If you've had your hair straightened, you must go sulfate-free. Otherwise, I honestly don't recommend it.
Tip #2 - Sleep On It
Are you using your hairdryer and products correctly? Using too much mousse or gel, and/or bad drying technique can make your hair as flat as a pancake. We'll work on your technique next - but first, try this experiment:
Wash your hair just before you go to bed, towel dry it thoroughly and leave your hair wrapped in a towel while you brush your teeth, then go to bed. Yes, it's OK to sleep with your hair wet, you're not going to catch pneumonia whatever your Mom said!
Next morning, take a look at your hair (it's a good idea to do this on a day when you don't have to rush out the door, just in case...).
Is it is looking fresher and bouncier than usual? If it is, it's time to review your drying method - because it looks like you're blow-drying the volume out rather than in!
I know some working mums who always wash their hair at night and let it dry on the pillow - it's a great timesaver and their hair looks great!
Tip #3 - Use Your Towel
One common blow-drying mistake is that we don't dry our hair for long enough. If you stop blow-drying while there's still moisture in the hair, it will flop - no matter how much volume you've blown into it.
If your arms are getting tired holding the hairdryer, you're more likely to give up too early - so the solution is to remove as much moisture as you can, before you even pick up the dryer.
A microfiber towel will draw a lot more moisture out of your hair than an ordinary cotton one. The trick is to buy a body-sized version, not a so-called "hair towel". Most hair towels are too small to wrap round your head, and you can't towel-dry your hair with a turban! The body towel is made of exactly the same material.
Blow Drying Technique
To get the most from your towel, roughly towel-dry your hair when you step out of the shower, then wrap the towel round your head while you get ready - brushing teeth, applying deodorant etc. By the time you take the towel off, your hair will be ready for the hairdryer.
Use the hairdryer to rough-dry all over your head, using your fingers to shake the moisture off the hair (you can hang your head forward if you like). When you feel it's almost dry, that's the time to add product and start styling.
For a little extra insurance, when you think you've finished styling, give your whole head a quick once-over on the cool setting, then run your fingers through the roots - any lingering moisture will be more obvious once your hair is cool.
The other fact most people don't know is - hot hair won't hold a style. You can blow in all the volume you like, but if you stop without cooling the hair down, it won't last. So before you release each tress, hit the cool-shot button for a few seconds to cool and set it - if you don't have a cool-shot, hold the curl for a moment to let it cool (or get a new hairdryer!). Some hairdressers use two brushes, so they can leave one with the hair curled around it to cool down thoroughly while they move on to the next tress.
Personally, I always seem to be in a rush, so I always play it safe: after blow-drying, I catch my hair up in a clip on top of my head, to keep the roots lifted while I do my make-up. That way, if I haven't dried it properly, it will dry and cool naturally with lift rather than without.
Tip #4 - Rollers
Rollers are a boon if you're lacking in volume, because you won't be tempted to take shortcuts due to tiredness and you won't do your hair any harm by leaving them in place for longer than you think you need. So you can leave them in place till you're absolutely positive you're "cooked", without any concerns.
As with blow-drying, always rough-dry first before using rollers, removing at least 50% of the moisture from your hair.
If you use plain velcro rollers, sweep over them with a hot dryer. If you're using hot rollers, make sure you get them up to temperature before you put them in. In both cases, leave them in until you think your hair is completely cool - then allow another ten or fifteen minutes, just in case!
Some hot rollers take forever to heat up - useless if you want to use them before going to work, or to refresh your hair before a date. This Tigi roller set heats fast, and works well on fine hair.
Tip #5 - Don't Wash Your Volume Down the Drain
Believe it or not, it is possible to wash your hair too much. Over-washing makes it flyaway and floppy (stylists prefer to do up-do's on hair that's been washed the day before, because it's too soft if it's just washed).
If you get a good lather on the first shampoo, don't lather again, whatever the bottle says - unless you are using a clarifying shampoo to clear build-up.
If you're currently washing your hair every day, try to cut back to every second day. On your non-shampoo day, don't just clamp a shower cap on your head in the shower - it'll flatten your hairdo totally! Instead, gather your hair up into a clip, comb or elastic band on top of your head before you shower (now you can put on that shower cap)! Leave the clip/band in place until you're ready to leave the bathroom, or the steam will undo your good work.
When choosing shampoo, be cautious about volumizing products. Volume is really about lift and bounce. If a volumizing product is going to coat your hair to make it thicker, it may also make it heavier, which means it will be harder to lift. If a volumizing shampoo doesn't make a big difference in the first few shampoos - toss it, use a clarifying shampoo to get rid of any residue, and try something else.
Tip # 6 - Colour or Curl
If all these tips fail - or if they don't quite get you there - it's time to wheel out remedies that will need more maintenance - and involve more cost.
Colour is your friend. Colour causes the hairshaft to swell, so you literally end up with thicker hair. Because it penetrates rather than leaving a plastic coating on the surface, colour doesn't cause the same heaviness as volumizing mousses or gels.
It doesn't matter whether you choose a semi, a tone-on-tone or a permanent, home or salon. They'll all work. A good hairdresser can also create the illusion of volume with clever use of highlights and foils. If you don't want to change your colour, simply choose a shade that matches your natural hue.
A perm or body wave will solve all your volume problems forever - or rather, for six to twelve weeks, when you'll need to have it done again! However, if you don't want curls, you'll have to face the laborious task of blow-drying it straight after every wash. Old-fashioned perms can be hard on your hair, too, so do your research before you take the plunge.
Now you'll have no excuse to hide under that headscarf!
All text copyright Marisa Wright. Photos courtesy of the photographers below.
© 2007 Marisa Wright
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