Updos for Thin Hair? Try These 6 Volume-Enhancing Styles

Thin hair: Some of us were born with it, and some of us are adjusting to its appearance as we age. Whatever the cause of thinning hair, there’s one thing that’s certain: Styling it can be a bit more difficult than styling thick tresses. That doesn’t mean, however, that those with thin hair are out of luck — there are a ton of stylish hairstyles that work with even the most meager strands. (As someone who has spent her entire life looking for updos that work with thin hair, I approve this message.)

If you’re looking for a stylish updo to enhance the volume of your hair, keep reading. Below are six of my favorite stylish updos for thin hair (plus answers to the most common questions about thin hair).

Loose Chignon: A Simple Hairstyle for Thinner Hair

Woman in profile with hair in chignon
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For an elegant look that makes the most of thin or fine hair, take style inspiration from the stars and try a loose chignon. First, pull your hair back into a loose ponytail at the nape of your neck. Then, twist the ponytail into a knot, securing it with bobby pins and a hair tie. It may take some experimenting to get the look right — the chignon can be deceptively tricky. But don’t let that scare you off. This look doesn’t just flatter those with thin locks, it’s also low-maintenance and comfortable to wear. I like to pull a few strands out of the chignon and let them frame my face.

Messy Top Knot Bun: A Cool and Casual Look

Woman with hair in top knot
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One of the best ways to create volume in otherwise thin strands is by styling hair in a “messy” topknot — messy in quotes because it actually looks intentional and pulled together. Start by gently combing through hair with a specialized hair product like texture spray, then use a soft hair tie (scrunchies work well) to secure all hair in a knot atop the head. As with the chignon, pulling a few curly hairs from the knot flatters with  face-framing dimension. Ultimately, how you style this easy look is up to you!

Braided Scarf: An Easy Hairstyle for Any Hair Type

Woman with hair in braided scarf updo
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My favorite way to elevate an otherwise simple hairstyle is by adding a scarf to it. A fun way to do this is to braid the scarf into the hair — it automatically creates volume and elevates the style with very little effort. This is one of the best hairstyles to try with thin hair because the addition of the scarf creates the illusion of thicker hair. To execute, start by pulling your hair into a high ponytail. Comb through the hair, or use a touch of hair gel to smooth stray strands. Once the ponytail is secured with a hair tie, section it into three pieces, adding your scarf or hair ribbon to one of them. Then simply braid it and secure the end with a hair tie. It’s simple — and stunning.

Dress Up Your Updo: A Perfect Wedding Hairstyle

Woman with updo in headband
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One of my favorite hacks for disguising my thin locks is by dressing them up with barrettes and statement headbands. That can mean styling it in a messy bun and clipping in a few barrettes instead of bobby pins, or doing the same with a standard or fishtail braid. Adding an oversized headband has the same effect, and also keeps flyaways in place. Not only do these disguise my thinning tresses, they also infuse your look with a bit of personality.

Braided Updo: A Fancy Style for Everyday

Woman with hair in braided updo
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Similar to a messy bun, one of the best ways to add automatic volume to your hair is by braiding it. Choose your preferred style — whether it’s a low bun, high ponytail, or half-up look — and, before starting, braid a small section (or two) of your hair. Tie it off with a small hair tie, and then proceed with the hairstyle as normal. By incorporating a braid into the hairstyle, you’ll create volume and elevate the overall look.

French Braid: A Medium-Length Thin Hair Look That Works on Everyone

Woman with hair in braid
AJR_photo/Shutterstock

The same reason that a braided updo flatters thin hair also makes a French braid the perfect look for those with thin tresses. To do a French braid, comb all of your hair back so that you no longer have a part. Starting at your hairline, divide tresses into three sections, and alternate pulling the outside pieces into the middle.

(If you’ve never braided before and need a little guidance, try YouTube tutorials — there are a ton of them. Or, you might try this step-by-step guide from Ogle Beauty School.)

What causes thin hair?

Clearly, thin hair doesn’t reduce hairstyling options to zero. But what causes thin hair in the first place? And why do some people have more hair than they know what to do with when others feel like they don’t have enough? Part of it is simple genetics. We’re all born with certain traits, and our hair — whether thick, thin, curly, straight, or something in between — is one of them. Apart from genetics, other factors can play a role in thinning hair:

  • Strong hair treatments, like perms and bleaching. Blow drying or using a curling iron can affect hair texture and thickness as well.

  • Diet deficiencies — missing certain important vitamins and minerals, such as folic acid and iron, can cause hair to thin and fall out more quickly.

  • Chronic stress can impact many different areas of the body, including our hair. Stress triggers an uptick in hormones that may cause hair to fall.

Hair loss and thinning also become more common as we age. I’ve noticed my own hair growth slowing and becoming finer in recent years, and while it can be hard to get used to, I’ve tried to accept it as a normal part of aging — it’s just a sign that we’ve seen a lot of life.

What can I do about my thin hair?

Just because hair growth is thinning out and slowing down doesn’t mean all hope is lost. There are a few tips and tricks for amping up hair volume, even as age and other factors try to reduce it.

Scalp Massage

One of the easiest at-home ways to stimulate hair growth is by massaging the scalp. Simply let your hair down and massage your scalp with your fingers for a few minutes — you can easily do this while sitting in front of the TV, listening to a podcast, or otherwise distracting yourself. Just a few minutes every few days is enough to encourage the blood flow that stimulates hair growth — and it doubles as self-care time!

Essential Oils

Preliminary research suggests that some essential oils, such as lavender, rosemary, and thyme, stimulate hair growth and alleviate symptoms in people suffering from pattern baldness. You can use these as a scalp conditioner and massage your scalp at the same time — simply dot your fingers in your essential oil of choice and massage it throughout your hair. (Experts recommend mixing essential oils with a carrier oil, such as argan oil or coconut oil, as essential oils can be strong and may irritate sensitive skin.)

Daily Vitamins

As mentioned earlier, hair loss can be caused by vitamin deficiencies, such as deficiency in iron or folic acid. One way to address this is by taking supplements or multivitamins. A good women’s multivitamin will cover basic vitamins and minerals, and a folic acid supplement can reduce deficiency in this critical vitamin. Supplements, however, won’t impact hair growth unless you’re deficient in the vitamin you're supplementing. If you’re eating all your fruits and vegetables, those vitamins are just as likely to pass through your body as actually be used.

The Fine Point

Whether you’ve always had it or your hair has been thinning out with age, styling thin hair can be difficult and frustrating. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t any flattering hairstyles for you. An elegant braided updo or messy bun can add volume to thin tresses, and there’s always the short hair route, going for a flirty pixie cut or short side part. Hair accessories like barrettes and headbands can also disguise thin locks and quickly elevate your everyday style. Depending on how you accessorize, you can go from classic to playful in no time.

However you choose to style your hair (or how your hairstylist does it for you), the important thing to remember is that thinning hair is a totally normal (and common) part of aging, and it isn’t anything to be ashamed of or self-conscious about. There are a lot of different ways to style thinning hair and amplify volume — products like mousse and hairspray can really work wonders. You can also choose to embrace your hair exactly the way it is and stick to your current hair care regimen. At the end of the day, the most flattering hairstyle is the one that makes you feel your best.