Despite the fact that I'm a makeup artist, I struggle with hair. Friends, family, and clients assume that both skills come as a package deal. But, unfortunately for me, that's not true. I'm simply hair challenged. After 26 years of struggling with my thin mop, I’ve learned how to blow dry my fine hair with volume and my life will never be the same. If you too battle with super fine hair, yet have always longed for the big and voluminous blowouts you see on Instagram, then heed my hard-won advice to up your hair game. These tips have helped me so much, hopefully they'll help you too.
Having fine hair isn’t a hair-volume death sentence, and getting a big blow out is not as hard as you may think. According to Amy Abramtie, the creative director and stylist at Maxine Salon, fine hair just means “the width of the individual strands have a smaller diameter, making them slender in comparison to coarse texture, which has wider stands.” While that unfortunately means it can make your hair appear thin or flat, there are some secrets to amp up your look.
As a kid, I had pretty thick hair, but when I was in college, a series of unfortunate hair events happened. I went to a fancy New York salon to bleach my hair platinum. Not knowing any better, I was unaware a process that intense should be gradual, not immediate, but the stylist bleached my dyed-black hair all in one sitting. My formerly thick hair was no longer thick. I ended up with painful scabs all over my scalp that lasted for months. Half of my hair fell out, and it hasn't grown the same since. Then, I went vegan without eating a balanced diet. A few months later, my hair was falling out in clumps and there were small bald patches around my scalp. A doctor determined I was (and had always been) anemic, but the sudden decrease in iron intake caused my hair to fall out (which was the result of not doing my own research before transitioning my diet).
For the past few years, I’ve worn extensions everyday just to feign volume and sprayed Bumble and bumble dark hair powder into my scalp to cover up the semi-bald patches. My self-confidence started to suffer. I remember watching a video of myself in a play, crying over the sparse patches all over the back of my scalp as I twirled and danced.
My hair has recovered slightly in the past year or so, but my part is still more sparse and my hair is just thinner than most. As thinning hair runs on my dad's side of the family, I've accepted that things will not be getting much better with time. Most likely, it will get worse.
Luckily, I recently had the opportunity to learn some tips and tricks from several celebrity hair stylists that completely changed the way I do my hair. I've been able to retire my extensions (which hurt like hell over time) and put my Bumble and bumble hair powder to rest, all thanks to my new volumizing techniques. If you too struggle with thin hair, then listen up. This advice will give you renewed confidence and fierceness (just like it did for me).
Blow Drying Fine Hair: Start With The Right Products
When I was a kid, my mom told me that all shampoos and conditioners were the same, no matter what the brand claimed on the bottle. Now that I'm an ingredient-obsessed beauty lover, I know that's not true. Sorry, Mom. The right shampoo and conditioner can hydrate your hair to tame frizz and damage without weighing it down (which easily happens with thin hair).
I used to be the kind of girl that didn't use any hair products, which is partly why my hair was so angry with me. However, I've used skin care products that are proven to be effective over the years (and seen, firsthand, the results), so I'm now convinced the same is true with hair care.
“Big volume hair begins in the cleansing process,” Abramite says. “Choose a volume-inducing shampoo and conditioner targeting fine thin hair that removes build-up, strengthens internal structure, and increases density. Shampoo the hair, focusing on cleansing the scalp to remove impurities.” Then, you’ll want to go in with a conditioner from just your hair’s mid-length and to the ends. Lately, I've been loving the SheaMoisture Manuka Honey & Yogurt Hydrate + Repair Shampoo ($12, Ulta Beauty) and Conditioner ($12, Ulta Beauty).
After showering, while my hair is still wet, I prepare my hair for styling. Lately, I've also been using the Alterna Caviar Anti-Aging Miracle Multiplying Volume Mist ($30, Sephora) on the recommendation of my friend, and my life has been changed. When I use it, I see a visible difference in the thickness of my hair, particularly around my part. Plus, it just gives the most wild volume when activated with heat. I spray the volume mist directly into the root of my hair and massage it in with my fingertips.
Blow Drying Fine Hair: Dry Directly Into The Root
This next technique I learned from celebrity hairstylist Neeko Abriol, who has done hair for Laverne Cox, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, and Nathalie Emmanuel, and it changed my life. When blow drying your hair, start with the root and blow the air directly toward the scalp. Blow dry the hair against the direction it will lay. This will cause the root to stand up straight rather than fall directly against the scalp, giving the appearance of much more volume. To reach the roots at the nape of my neck, sometimes I'll bend over and blow dry my hair upside down. I continue this root-drying process until all of my root/scalp area is dry.
My blow dryer is a very old, very busted Babyliss that has somehow survived six years and two cross-country moves. If you’re like me and in the market for a new blow dryer, Abramite recommends Trademark Beauty’s Speedy Blo Hair Dryer ($69, Trademark Beauty). “I love how lightweight and powerful this blow dryer is,” she says. “It has three different nozzles offering versatility to concentrate airflow and create volume, and a diffuser attachment for curls.” Not to mention, it’s not overly expensive, will last you forever, and will smooth out your hair as you dry, which means less manual labor.
Blow Drying Fine Hair: Zig-Zag Your Part
Abriol also taught me that on shoots, he'll create a zig-zag in a model's part, rather than a straight line, because it can better disguise sparsity and make the hair look fuller. I use the end of a bobby pin for this (because I'm lazy), but a rat tail comb would probably work much better.
Blow Drying Fine Hair: Work In Sections
To really get the swoopy, big-volume look of your dreams, you’re going to need to section off your hair with clips to really ensure you get those roots dry. “Blow dry sections up and/or away from the scalp using a round brush and wrap the ends around the brush until dry,” Abramite says. But, be careful not to smooth down the root; you'll take away all the volume you've created.
If you don’t want to lose any volume throughout the day, you’ll want to “set” your hair first, which is a way to lock it into place. “Set the hair by releasing the brush and rolling the section onto itself into a loop with fingers or a Velcro roller and secure with a clip at the scalp,” Abramite says. “Once the hair is set, release clips and brush through the hair sections for maximum body and bounce to finish the style.”
For an extra, added touch, when I reach the top most layer on either side of my part, I blow dry against the way my hair is going to lay. This motion provides that Ariel à la The Little Mermaid Disney princess swoop in the front.
Seriously, volume for days.
Blow Drying Fine Hair: Set It To Forget It
Just like I set my makeup with setting spray, I set my hair with products that will maintain the style all day long. I use the tiniest bit of Alterna Haircare Caviar Anti-Aging Omega+ Anti-Frizz Dry Oil Mist ($34, Sephora) to smooth out any remaining frizz from the shaft of my hair down. My hair is super prone to frizz, but this oil is the only thing that successfully fights my frizz throughout the day.
Then, I slick down my little baby hairs near the sides of my face and the root of my hair. The Kristin Ess Depth Defining Soft Matte Pomade ($10, Target) really works wonders for this step. My baby hairs are stupidly stubborn, but this pomade shows them who's boss.
Blow Drying Fine Hair: Perfect The Look
If I still see some frizz after I apply my products, I'll go back in with the round brush and blow dryer to smooth out my ends only where necessary.
Now, is my blow dry absolutely perfect? Of course not. I'm not a hair expert. But does it feel 10 times smoother and thicker? Absolutely. Because everyone's hair is different, not all products work the same for everyone. However, I hope some of these techniques will revolutionize the way you do your hair, just like they did mine.
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