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Flat Hair Fixes

How to Give Your Fine Hair More Body


It dries one's hair for the woman
Michael H/Digital Vision/Getty Images
Flat Hair Fixes

Ireland Baldwin shows off her blunt bangs

Ireland Baldwin // Instagram
Flat Hair Fixes
Digital Vision, Getty Images

I have a head full of fine hair. This means the diameter of my hair strands is smaller than average. This also means that my hair, though thick with body, can fall flat and lifeless with the wrong haircut or product (hello, conditioner on the roots!).

In honor of my hair and yours -- assuming you are here because you also have fine, flat and perhaps lifeless hair -- I've written up every single flat hair fix I know about. From the right haircuts to the best products, to styling tips (oh, how I love ye, oh rounded brush) and much more, you'll never be more informed about flat hair. Trust me.

Here's to bouncier days ahead.

Why Layers Aren't Always Better

I've had my share of bad haircuts. My biggest pet peeve is when a stylist thins out my thick, fine hair with overzealous razoring, leaving me with loads of layers and wispy, anemic hair. I believe they believe they are giving my hair "movement" and "body," but what happens is my hair falls limp and lifeless and I leave the salon looking like someone placed a helmet of hair upon my head.

Now when I get a haircut, I ask my stylist to keep as much of the thickness as possible. I explain that people pay money to have a thick head of hair like mine, so please do not thin mine out. Turns out my instincts were right.

"A one-length cut makes hair look its thickest," says NYC hairstylist Garren in InStyle magazine. "Too many layers can look stringy."

And then there's this from celebrity stylist Ted Gibson. "Keep your hair at a one-length shape. It will add strength and volume to your hair," says Gibson on the Stylelist Website. "If you put in a lot of layers, what ends up happening is that it has no shape."

Oh, the Benefits of a Good Haircut

The longer thin, fine hair gets, the flatter it lays. It's just a sad fact of physics. Want the most body for your fine hair? Keep your hair's length above the collarbone. The shorter the hair, the more body it will have.

Personally, I love a swingy, shoulder-length cut with the back just a bit shorter than the front, (think "long bob"), but bobs and pixies also work well with fine hair.

Photo galleries of great options for fine hair:

How to Go Long Without Your Hair Going Flat

If you absolutely, definitely want to keep your hair longer than your collarbone, then consider these tips:
  1. Layers. If you have fine hair, but loads of it, a few layers will add body and movement. But if you have fine hair and not so much of it, the fewer layers the better (see the above section). Ask your stylist to angle a few pieces around your face.
  2. Bangs. Bangs give the allusion of fullness and can add body to your hair. Consider cutting in sideswept bangs, fringe or blunt bangs.
  3. Consider extensions. Extensions aren't just for celebrities anymore. More and more women are opting for permanent extensions and clip-ons to add fullness and body to otherwise limp hair. Just make sure to find a reputable stylist who's experienced with extensions. Do keep in mind that extensions can damage your own hair, but women who try them say it's worth it.

The Importance of a Good Shampoo

Fine hair can get weighed down by creamy shampoos. Gentle shampoos marked for volume and daily or frequent washing are your best bets. The product should be clear, not thick and creamy. To combat build-up, wash once a week with a clarifying shampoo or rinse hair with a mixture of 1/3 apple cider vinegar and 2/3rds water.

See a list of the Best Shampoos, Conditioners for Fine Hair.

How to Shampoo Every Day Without Harming Your Hair

I have a lot of hair, but it's fine. The roots get oily, but the ends don't need shampooing, just conditioning, so what to do, especially when my hair stylist begs me not to wash my hair every day and to condition more often?

Here's a trick I learned and love: wet hair and apply shampoo only to scalp and roots. Massage the shampoo into scalp, cleansing it thoroughly and not working it down to the ends. Apply conditioner on the bottom two-thirds of hair, staying away from the scalp. Rinse hair of the shampoo and conditioner. The shampoo will work it's way down the hair, rinsing out the conditioner.

Using this trick, you can shampoo daily without worrying about drying out your ends. It's important to thoroughly rinse hair of product. Too many women don't and it will weigh hair down.

Yes, You Can Use Conditioner. Just Do It Correctly

Since fine hair can be susceptible to knots and tangles, you should use a light (emphasis on "light") conditioner in the shower. I recommend you condition before you shampoo, however, because sometimes conditioners can leave a residue on hair and the shampoo will take care of that.

Apply conditioner only on the bottom 3/4ths of hair. If you condition the scalp, you will weigh down flat hair even more. Been there, done that.

I include conditioners in this list of the Best Shampoos, Conditioners for Fine Hair.

Make Sure Your Cabinet is Stocked With the Right Products

The right volumizing products can add body to flat hair. Look for products labeled "volumizing" or "adds body." For best results, New York hairstylist Garren recommends massaging volumizing spray or lotion into the roots of partially dry hair. You can also spray your crown and then comb the product through with a wide-tooth comb. Just be careful not to overuse product, because too much can actually weigh hair down, rather than lift it.

Use creamy pomades and shine serums sparingly and never near the scalp or roots. If you need to use a pomade or serum to tame frizz, use the "palm method": put a pea- or dime-sized amount in the palm of your hand, rub palms together and then "palm" the product only on the areas that need it most.

See my list of the Top Volumizing Products for Fine Hair.

Why Dry Shampoo Can Change Your Life

Dry shampoo has been a staple in my beauty closet for years. Whenever I have oily hair days I spritz or sprinkle dry shampoo along my hairline, let it dry, then brush it out. Not only does it buy me a day or two between washings, but it soaks up oils and adds tons of body.

If you don't have dry shampoo, baby powder or corn starch works in a pinch. Sprinkle on your brush and brush it into my roots and along the crown. Just make sure to brush the powder in so there's no white residue.

If you have darker hair or hate the smell of baby powder, there are a million great dry shampoos on the market.

Hair Color Actually Boosts Volume

I find my hair is at it's thickest in the couple weeks after I get it colored. My colorist at Eva Scrivo Salon says it's because the dyes mess with the cuticle, plumping it up. (Or something like that). Anyway, it works, trust me.

A Good Blowdry Can Last a Long Time

If you've ever had a great blowdry at the salon you know a good one can last a 2-3 days, even on oily hair. You can actually give yourself a salon-quality blowdry as long as you have the right products and tools.

Here are my blow-dry tips:

  • When it comes to fine hair, a "rough dry" is key. Remove the nozzle attachment to your dryer (it concentrates heat and can flatten hair) and blast the air all over the hair while roughening up the roots with your fingers. Turn upside down for a few seconds to give hair extra body.
  • Once hair is dry, blast your entire head with cool air. "This creates fullness and loosens up the blow-dry," according to hairstylist Nathaniel Hawkins in Allure magazine.

For detailed instruction, see The Perfect Blowout -- How to Blow Dry Your Hair.

Yes, Your Hairbrush Matters

I like a metal vented round brush for my blow dries. The metal conducts heat, while the vents circulate it. Hairstylist Ted Gibson recommends round brushes with a mix of boar and nylon bristles. "The combination of the two smoothes and detangles, and creates volume," Gibson says in InStyle magazine.

When drying hair with a brush, pull hair up with the brush and blast heat underneath to add body. Finish the ends off by rounding under. You can also blow dry with a paddle brush and then end with the rounded brush.

See my list of The Best Hairbrushes.

Air Drying Can Add Volume

Fine hair can be brittle hair, so the less amount of time spent with the blowdryer the better. This means letting hair air dry as much as possible. Blot hair dry with a towel after a shower and comb in a root booster or volumizing spray at the crown, then let hair air dry. You can roughen up hair at the crown or scrunch hair in the palm of your hands to give hair a natural beachy wave effect.

Once hair dries, you may find it falls flat within a few hours. Instead of applying more product, simply wet your fingers with water and massage your scalp and along the crown to reactivate the product you put in after you washed your hair.

You can also wash your hair at night and wake up with hair full of body, ala Heidi Klum: "Sometimes when I wake up in the morning, I don't even brush my hair," Klum says on the Website StyleList. "My trick is to wash my hair at night and fall asleep with my hair wet. Then I roll around in the pillow and I wake up and my hair looks perfectly messy."

How to Properly Tease Hair

Nothing quite builds body in fine hair like a proper teasing job. When it comes to teasing, "be sure to fully remove the teeth of the rattail comb from your hair after each precise, downward stroke," says Dove hairstylist Mark Townsend in Allure magazine. "That way, you're actually building up the mass of hair, not just pushing it around."

For more details, see How to Tease Hair.

How to Make Curls Last

Fine hair and curls. Oh my. While nothing gives hair body like a perfect curl it's true that curls seem to wilt like flowers on the vine if you don't prep them beforehand with a styling spray and then set them after with hairspray.

I give you all the curling tips you need for sexy curls in How to Curl Hair: The Secret to Sexy, "Beachy" Waves.

Invest in a Few Fat Rollers

Huge, fat rollers are a stylist's best friend.

"Many hairstylists set their clients' hair in curlers no matter what style they're going for, from updos to long waves," says Garren in InStyle magazine. "They give the hair a lush fullness you can't get otherwise."

To use rollers, Garren recommends first rough-drying hair, then rolling 2-inch sections of hair from the ends all the way to the roots. Hair should be fully dry before you remove the rollers. Loosen the curl with your fingers.

I like Conair's Self-Grip Hair Rollers.

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