How to Thicken Hair: A Beginner’s Guide

editor@purewow.com (PureWow)

For all of our fine-haired friends out there who are looking for some easy ways to make your strands look and feel a bit thicker, we’re here to help.

We enlisted Kristin Ess (the magician behind Lauren Conrad and Lucy Hale’s locks and creator of her eponymous haircare line, Kristin Ess Hair) and Bryce Scarlett, a celebrity hairstylist for Moroccanoil and the mane man for Margot Robbie and Brie Larson, for their top tips. 

1. Start with the right shampoo and conditioner.

Opt for formulas that say “thickening” or “volumizing” on the ingredient panel. Typically, these types of shampoos contain ingredients like wheat or plant proteins, biotin, or amino acids to temporarily plump each strand of hair to make them appear fuller, as well as help strengthen them so they’re less likely to break. As for conditioners, you want one that’s lightweight (look for a silicone-free formula that won’t weigh down your hair) and you should apply it sparingly to mid-lengths and ends only.

Shop some of our favorites: Pantene Nutrient Blends Volume With Bamboo Shampoo ($7); Aveda Pure Abundance Volumizing Shampoo ($24); Kérastase Densifique Bain Densité Shampoo ($35) and Fondant Densité Conditioner ($40)

2. Double-cleanse your hair.

Think about how your stylist washes your hair at the salon. They lather up twice (before that heavenly scalp massage). As Helen Reavey, another celebrity hairstylist we love, explained to us earlier this year: “We double cleanse our skin, and we should always double cleanse our [hair], because the first wash takes care of any oil, pollution and product remnants, while the second go-around actually cleans our scalp.” Therein lies the secret behind why your blowout lasts longer after a trip to the salon.

3. Use a volumizing product right out the shower.

As Ess explains: “I am a big believer in getting volume from the start. What I mean by that is, you need to lay down a base of a thickening spray or mousse before you style your hair to get that extra height up top,” explains Ess. “Whichever one you use, be careful not to overdo it. Too much product can weigh down your hair, so if it’s a spray, start with a few light spritzes, and if it’s a mousse, work a small, palm-sized dollop of [it] through your roots to ends.” 

Shop some of our favorites: Kristin Ess Instant Lift Thickening Spray ($14) and Instant Lift Volumizing Mousse ($14) Oribe Maximista Thickening Spray ($39); Leonor Greyl Mousse Au Lotus Volumatrice Volumizing Styling Mousse ($46)

4. Blow-dry your hair upside down.

“Flip your head over and start rough-drying (editor note: using just your hands) to get your hair going in direction of way you want it. Stop when it’s about 70 percent of the way dry and finish drying with a brush, being careful not to pull too hard, which can flatten things,” says Ess.

5. Add a texturizing spray after blow drying.

“Post-blowout, I apply a root-boosting spray at the base of the hair to build volume from the top and spray a dry texturizing spray through the mid-lengths and ends, making sure to gently massage it in afterward. This combo will give your hair a nice gritty and full texture,” says Scarlett.

Shop some of our favorites: Moroccanoil Root Boost ($28) and Dry Texture Spray ($28); Virtue Texturizing Spray ($36); Hair by Sam McKnight Easy Up-Do Texture Spray ($36)

6. Let your hair set.

While your hair is still warm from the blow dryer, pull it into a loose bun on top of your head using a soft scrunchie to secure it. Leave it up there for 15 to 20 minutes while you finish getting ready to let it cool. According to Ess, this is an absolute game changer for adding volume. Take it down before you head out the door and enjoy that extra bounce.

Shop it: Slip Small Slipsilk Scrunchies ($39)

7. Add dimension at the roots.

“I love to sprinkle a root powder on my client’s roots [in a shade darker than the rest of their hair]. This creates dimension, which gives an appearance of density at the base,” explains Scarlett. Bonus: “It can also be very flattering to the face when done softly, as it frames your features.” Not to mention, it’s a fast way to camouflage overgrown roots.

Some of our favorites: L’Oréal Root Cover Up ($11); Toppik Colored Hair Thickener ($20); Color Wow Root Cover Up ($35)

8. Sprinkle in some hair fibers.

If you’re looking for a way to quickly (and temporarily) fill in sparse spots, try a hair fiber powder. These electro-statically charged fibers bind to your natural hair and instantly conceal any thinning areas (like a widening part or around the temples) until your next shampoo. Just shake them over any areas that need some coverage and pat in to blend.

Shop it: Cover Your Gray Fill-In Fiber ($10); Toppik Hair Building Fibers ($25)

9. Perk up a limp ponytail.

“You can do this in three ways. To get more volume without using any heat, I like to do something called a fun bun, which is similar to a chignon that sits on top of your head. Keep the bun in for a couple hours to add subtle waves to your ponytail. You can also take a 1-inch or 1 1/4-inch curling iron and wrap a few pieces of your ponytail around it to give it a bit of bend. And last but not least, if you’re looking for the fastest solution, I recommend a few, quick spritzes of texturizing powder throughout the tail,” advises Ess.

Shop it: Bio Ionic Long Barrel Styler Pro Curling Iron 1” ($140); Moroccanoil Everlasting Curl Titanium Curling Iron ($150); T3 SinglePass Curl 1” Professional Curling Iron ($160)

10. Try tape-in extensions.

And if all else fails, a surefire way to add instant fullness to your hair is to literally add more hair via some well-placed extensions. “To create a very subtle extra layer of hair, I like to use a few temporary tape-in hair extensions,” says Scarlett. [Ed note: Tape-in extensions are a great option for fine-haired folks because they’re easier to apply and remove than bonded or sewn in extensions. They also look more natural because they lie flush against the head.]

Shop it: The Hair Shop Smart Tabs ($29); AmazingBeauty Tape In Hair Extensions ($41); Hair Glam Seamless Remy Tape In ($130)

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