Yes, your hair is probably thinner now than it was a decade ago, but you don’t have to live with limp locks. Here, the dos and don’ts for cutting, coloring and styling your way to a fuller head of hair.
Do keep the length of your hair at or above your shoulders. Any longer and your locks can get weighed down, making them look less voluminous. “The best cut to make hair appear thicker and to camouflage thinning areas is one with layers that is medium-short in length,” says Barbara Abbasi, owner of the American Beauty Hair Salon in Santa Monica, CA.
Do try a pixie cut with longer layers on top. A cut like this will require some maintenance, but will be worth the effort if it gives the illusion of fuller hair.
Don’t color your hair a shade that’s too dark or too light. Both will create too much contrast between your (partially bare) scalp and your strands.
Do consider highlights. “Highlights give the illusion of thickness by creating visual texture in the hair,” according to Vince Smith, owner of the Vince Smith Hair Experience in New York City. The increased contrast in hair color gives the appearance of volume.
Do color carefully. “Bleach, ammonia and peroxide actually swell the hair shaft, opening the cuticle to allow the dye to enter the cortex,” says Abbasi, who adds that this process literally thickens each strand of hair. That said, thin hair absorbs color more quickly, so your stylist should exercise caution when coloring in the salon—and you do the same with at-home, DIY dyes: Try leaving them in for less time than recommended.
Don’t perm your hair, especially if it’s already dry or damaged. Perms cause some mild hair loss—not so good for strands that are already beginning to fall out. If you’ve never colored your hair, though, loose, infrequent perms can add some body to thin hair.
Do use a gentle hand when styling thinning hair. Pulling and yanking strands into place can damage or pull them out.
Don’t blow dry hair on high. Use the medium or low heat and power settings to avoid frying damaged locks. Straightening and curling irons can also dehydrate hair. Instead, use Velcro rollers to add lift and curl: Set nearly dry hair onto rollers then spritz with a flexible hold hair spray. Once hair is dry, remove rollers and finger comb into place.
Don’t be afraid of extensions and hairpieces. “So many advancements have been made that make them look natural and undetectable,” according to Smith. Abbasi recommends clip in extensions instead of those that are glued, threaded or braided in, as they cause the least amount of damage. Even if you only wear fake hair for special occasions, when perhaps a lot of pictures will be taken, they can give you the confidence you need without anyone needing to know.
Do invest in effective styling products. Gel is too heavy and sticky and can cause hair to separate and clump together, so steer clear. Instead, try a mousse or pomade that will boost volume and help give it hold. Abbasi recommends Matrix Biolage Volumizing Whipped Mousse ($15, www.matrix.com).
Do use a volumizing shampoo. “Avoid shampoos made for oily hair as they will excessively dry out your hair,” says Abbasi. Look for rinses that contain wheat or rice proteins, like Peter Lamas Rice Protein Volumizing Shampoo ($18, www.peterlamas.com). And skip the conditioner, as it will only flatten your hair. Reach for a detangler if necessary or apply conditioner only at the tips of your hair if you feel you need to.