How to Care for Thin, Curly Hair: My Products and Rituals

hallie gould

HALLIE GOULD / Design by Zackary Angeline

Figuring out a hair routine that works for me has been a long and winding road. Doing so is sort of complicated, but not entirely so (there are worse things in the world), and yet my hair still takes a bit of love to coax it into looking its best. My natural hair texture is really fine, but also quite curly. So you can see how that may lend to a hair product conundrum. Do I use formulas that nourish and hydrate the curls (but leave it greasy and limp) or those that volumize and lift (but don't address its susceptibility to dryness and breakage)? I have curly hair, but it's not coarse or thick, and it's certainly not strong. For a long time, I only used hydrating and nourishing products and hated the results, and then years later only volumizing, and my hair broke off. It wasn't until fairly recently that I figured it all out, found a routine that works for me, and invested in products that target my specific concerns.

Here, I'll go through each one from start to finish. The shampoo, conditioner, and masks (which are most important for the health of my hair), as well as the styling products to give everything a little boost—lift at the root, fluffy '70s texture, et al. Of course, this routine is not one size fits all. Similar to skincare, haircare never is. But, if you find your hair, at one point or another, to be thin, dry, processed, curly, or breakage-prone, you'll be able to pull out some helpful recs. This is all the information I've amassed on how best to work with (not against) my hair. 

How To Style Thin, Curly Hair

Hallie Gould / Design by Camden Dechert

01 of 07

Start with Shampoo

Masking with Olaplex became a lifestyle for me, courtesy of my often-bleached dry, easily-damaged hair (and sound advice from my hair angel, Matt Rez, a colorist at Mèche Salon in Beverly Hills and Redken's newest brand ambassador). I apply it once a week, like clockwork, to reverse the damage and nourish my breakable strands. More on that below. Then—as if to answer my prayers—the brand launched a shampoo. It repairs the damage, softens, adds shine, and all that other good stuff (while protecting my color) daily instead of just once every seven days. The most magical component, though, is the fact that it's sulfate-free and still foams up in the most satisfying of ways. I don't know how it's possible, but Olaplex has done it. It's a formula that won't weigh down my hair, protects my dry ends, softens and nourishes my curls, and keeps my color intact to boot.

02 of 07

Heal Your Strands

As Martine Robertson, director of education at Olaplex puts it, "Olaplex is for everyone, literally. All hair goes through stress that can lead to breakage. Imagine that Olaplex is like a gym routine for your hair—the more you use it the stronger, healthier, and shinier it will be." So here's the run-down: The hero ingredient is Bis-aminopropyl diglycol dimaleate (I know it sounds scary, but it's pretty much magic). See, it's a patented ingredient that actively restores broken bonds in your hair. "Olaplex is repairing each hair strand as a whole (from base to ends)," Robertson explains. "It's finding bonds that have been broken down by any means (hair color, chemical straighteners, blow dryers, etc.) and reconnecting them both ionically and covalently. This means that broken or weak bonds, located anywhere on the hair shaft, are targeted."

Maleeka Robb, the director and owner of the Four salon in London, adds an analogy for what the formula actually does. "If your hair is over-processed, particularly for those who are blonde, it becomes like a crumbling brick wall. In order to get the bricks to go back in, you need some cement. This is what Olaplex does—it helps to reinforce your hair strands." I apply the mixture to my hair post-shampoo in the shower and leave it in for as long as possible (the bottle says 20 minutes, I usually make it to 10 or 15). Then, the directions instruct you to wash your hair again and follow up with the conditioner. Since I began this process, my hair has grown exponentially and is visibly healthier than ever before. You can only get it at the salon.

03 of 07

Don't Forget to Condition

Much like the aforementioned shampoo and mask treatment, Olaplex's conditioner is highly moisturizing and reparative. It re-links broken bonds within your hair to strengthen each strand and add shine and softness with each use. Here's the thing: It is thick. So, if you have fine hair like me, make sure to only apply it from your mid-lengths to your ends (without touching your root).

Avoid applying conditioner all over your hair and strictly focus on the ends. Application at the root could potentially weigh hair down if it isn't rinsed out properly.

I like to begin detangling my hair with my fingers as I apply it, massaging it into my hair to let it fully absorb and begin doing its thing. After a few minutes—I usually give it about five—rinse it all out and you'll be shocked at how soft your hair feels.

04 of 07

How to Gently Detangle

I've had issues with tangles and hair fall-out for a while, mostly because of the fragility of my ends. The only thing that's ever truly made a difference is my Tangle Teezer. It's budget-friendly and less romantic-looking than a Mason Pearson, but on wet, curly hair, it's a godsend. So, technically, I've been instructed not to brush hair when it's wet (it's easy to cause breakage that way), but I do it anyway. It's impossible for me to leave it alone post-shower. That being said, this brush makes the whole process so much easier. I use it right out of the shower because it's so gentle and eliminates tangles without ripping any of your hair out.

05 of 07

Add an Oil to Nourish Strands

After getting out of the shower and giving my hair a quick shake-down with an Aquis Lisse Luxe Hair Turban ($30), I use up to three pumps of this oil. It's my absolute favorite and has been for almost a decade. It absorbs rapidly and easily into your hair shaft, rather than sitting on top, to rebalance moisture levels, smoothing, softening, and protecting against dryness and UV damage. It's silky, velvety, and made from camellia oil, which provides deep nutrition to the hair fiber, as well as an enveloping, sensual scent. From there, I let my hair air-dry and do its thing, flipping it from side to side with a quick scrunch all over to add lift (a helpful technique I picked up from celebrity hairstylist Vernon François).

06 of 07

Add Some Volume

Once my hair is fully dry, I do two crucial things to add in a bit more fluff and volume. First, I spritz Moroccanoil Dry Shampoo in Light Tones ($26) to the strands surrounding my face and the crown of my head. This immediately adds more lift at the root and texture around the front of my curls. There are two reasons this dry shampoo (IMHO) is better than all the rest. First, it has options that are specifically formulated for light or dark hair tones. For light tones, the product blends subtle violet pigments—similar to the concept of purple shampoo—which help balance brassiness and bring out the best in light-colored hair. Second, the formula is infused with argan oil to keep hair hydrated and protect from UV rays. So there's the perfect amount of grit and moisture to balance it all out.

Key Ingredients

 Argan oil is a plant oil extracted from the kernels of the fruit pit of the argan tree (aka Argania spinosa) which grows in Morocco. The ingredient is rich in antioxidants and fatty acids. It also provides anti-inflammatory and moisturizing benefits.

07 of 07

Spray in Some Texturizer

The last step is Bumble and bumble Thickening Dryspun Finish Volume Spray ($31), a translucent, dry texturizing spray for added fullness and airy texture. It's a godsend—and perfect for those piece-y ends I consistently covet but can't always pull off due to (cough) split ends. While I apply dry shampoo to my roots, this stuff is for my mid-lengths and ends. The formula includes raw silk powders with light-holding polymers to allow the product to adhere instantly to each strand of hair. The results are weightless, full texture—it won't bog down my hair but allows my curls to stay at the forefront. Once it's all said and done, I fluff up and pull apart various pieces of hair to make my hair look thicker, longer, and give off a more '70s vibe.

  • Are there any products you should avoid if you have finer hair?

    Try avoiding any heavy-duty hair products such as intense oils, as they might weigh down your hair. Instead, aim for products that add texture and volume and specify they are for thin hair. 

  • Is it dangerous to use heat tools on thin, curly hair?

    Thinner hair is more susceptible to damage from heat tools like blow dryers and curling irons, but that doesn't mean you have to avoid them altogether. Always remember to use a heat protectant before applying heat to the hair, and try to use a repairing mask to help with any damage. 

  • How should you style thin, curly hair?

    If you are looking to enhance volume, you should consider asking your hairstylist for blunt ends as they tend to make finer hair look thicker and fuller.

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