As someone who has ultra-fine hair, I've dealt with a lifetime of limp waves and lifeless, stick-to-my-forehead bangs. And forget flat-ironing—unless I want to look like the girl who crawls out of the well in The Ring, it's not an option for me. If you've got fine, flat hair, you know that the struggle is real. But believe it or not, it is possible to transform your flat strands into big, bouncy locks with volume that rivals that of Gisele.
To find out how, we grilled Mara Roszak, L'Oréal Paris celebrity hairstylist (and the go-to for stars like Emma Stone), and stylist Alissa Smith from Mèche Salon in Beverly Hills for their very best tips. Keep scrolling to see how to add bombshell volume to your fine hair.
Bad news: You may be unwittingly sabotaging your attempts at volume. "The number one mistake a fine-haired girl can make is not rough-drying her hair before styling," Smith says. Why? "Too much brushwork can actually make the hair appear more limp," she explains. Dry your hair at least 90% with your hands before going at it with your round brush.
If you're dousing your hair in every volumizing product you can get your hands on, chances are this is working against you as well—especially if you're applying it at your roots. Roszak says if you have fine hair, you should never really apply any product to your roots unless it's a root-volume spray. "When you apply product, always remember to start at the ends, as they absorb more," she adds.
The products every fine-haired girl needs in her bag? Roszak says you absolutely must have a lightweight root lift like L'Oréal Paris's Advanced Hairstyle Boost It High Lift Creation Spray ($4), plus a good hair spray. Smith's picks? A dry shampoo (she loves the Pssssst Instant Dry Shampoo, $7); an opaque or matte pomade, like Oribe's Fiber Groom ($34); a sea-salt spray for texture; and a thickening spray like Bumble and Bumble Thickening Hairspray ($29).
"It's best if the hair has long layers to add movement and volume," Roszak says. "Shorter cuts also work great so [hair] isn't weighed down." Smith says that a long pixie cut à la Michelle Williams's can really "amp up fine-haired mamas!" Another good cut? "Blunt collarbone-length cuts with just a few face framing layers," she adds. And don't despair: Fine-haired girls can have bangs too. Smith says all it takes is a little spritz of dry shampoo to keep them from separating and looking too thin and wispy.
Smith cautions you not to overcondition your hair—that can weigh it down. She recommends using a conditioner like Living Proof's Full Conditioner ($25) only on your ends, and only every other time you shampoo.
"Creating waves on fine hair can be tricky," says Smith. "Be sure to dry hair 100% before adding any hot tools. This will add optimum volume and texture to help secure those beachy waves!" She also says that you can mist on a salt spray after waving your hair and curl with an iron for an extra texture boost.
You know those foam rolls your grandma used to wear? Yep, those could be just what you need for a major volume boost. Another plus? They hardly take any time at all. Smith says to put a few on the top of your head while you have your coffee or do your makeup. "Take them out right before you walk out the door, and fluff the roots with your hands!" she advises.
It's a known fact that fine hair can get flat and greasy faster than you can say "dry shampoo." To resuscitate lifeless locks sans showering, Roszak recommends keeping a spray bottle filled with water on hand. When your hair is looking limp, lightly mist it with the water and spray your hair with a root-lift spray. Use your hands to rough-dry your hair until it's mostly dry. "With a round brush, smooth out the pieces around [your] face by blow-drying them forward, along with the top layer of the hair.
Flip [your] head backward, and spray with hair spray all over," she says. Voilà! Easy volume.
Have you tried any of these hair tricks? Click here to see the fine hair cuts that make your strands look lush and full.
This story was originally published on August 1, 2014, and has since been updated.