If you're someone who has ultra-fine hair, you've likely dealt with a lifetime of limp waves and stick-to-your-forehead bangs. While you might choose to embrace your texture most of the time (fine hair is great for slicked styles and the wet look, after all), occasionally you might want to switch it up and try a style with a little more volume and texture. Only problem? Achieving (and maintaining) lift at your roots and body throughout can feel impossible on fine hair. But believe it or not, with the right products and techniques, you actually can encourage lift and transform your flat strands into big, bouncy hair.
To find out all the secrets to building volume and texture, we asked Mara Roszak, co-founder of Mare Salon, and Alissa Tietgen 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.
Meet the Expert
Mara Roszak is a Los Angeles-based celebrity hairstylist and co-founder of Mare Salon. Her clients include Emma Stone, Nicole Kidman, and Elle Fanning.
Meet the Expert
Alissa Tietgen Smith is a stylist at Mèche Salon in Beverly Hills, CA.
Bad news: you might be unwittingly sabotaging your attempts at volume while blow-drying your hair. "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 limper," she explains. When blow-drying your hair, dry it at least 90% with your hands before going at it with your round brush. But just because it's called "rough styling" doesn't mean you should be aggressive or careless, which in turn causes breakage. As oxymoronic as it sounds, your rough-dry should be gentle, too. To do so, rake a section of hair with your fingers and lightly tug to raise it at the roots. Rather than focusing the heat of the blow-dryer in one specific spot, angle the nozzle toward your roots but move and shake it to distribute the air all around.
Prepare Your Arsenal
When shopping for products to help create volume in otherwise fine hair, look for anything that will add texture, grit, hold, and thickness. 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 few good styling products. 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 ($30). Of course, you wouldn't need to use all these products at once, but having everything readily available for what your hair might need on any given day for your style of choice is crucial for perfecting your look.
Apply Product Starting at the Ends
Now that you have all the right products for your fine hair needs, the second step is perfecting the art of application. As it turns out, dousing your hair in every volumizing product you can get your hands on could be the reason you're having trouble building volume. Too much of a good thing (in this case, hair products) can work against you as well—especially if you're applying the bulk of the formula at your roots and weighing them down. 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. And always start with a little bit of product and build it up as you need it because once you add too much, there's little you can do to fix it.
Choose the Right Cut
The days of picking your cut based on what is the most "flattering" are over. However you want to cut your hair is your prerogative, and it should be known that anyone can pull off any haircut. Instead, consider the overall look you want when choosing your style. For a cut that's conducive to building volume, ask your stylist for a few light layers. "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 hair. Another good cut? "Blunt collarbone-length cuts with just a few face-framing layers," she adds. And don't despair: those with fine hair 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. Even on wash days, keep a bottle of dry shampoo handy to prevent your hair from looking piece-y and to add a touch of texture and volume on squeaky clean hair.
Go Light on Conditioner
For someone looking to add volume to fine hair, conditioner can seem like the enemy but don't swear off the moisturizing hair product altogether. Conditioner is very beneficial for replenishing and restoring hair strands and is a must for those with fine hair that's prone to breakage. The trick? Applying the right amount of conditioner to the right part of the hair. Smith recommends using a conditioner like Living Proof's Full Conditioner ($25) only on your ends, and only every other time you shampoo. To avoid weighing it down, she stresses the importance of not over-conditioning your hair. Be sure when washing your hair that you thoroughly rinse your hair to completely remove any trace of the product.
Get Beachy Waves
You know full well that creating waves on fine hair can be tricky, but no matter your frustration, Smith stresses the importance of not rushing the process. "Be sure to dry hair 100% before adding any hot tools," she says. "This will add optimum volume and texture to help secure those beachy waves." She also says that you can mist on a salt spray to encourage a natural-looking wave in your hair and curl it with an iron for an extra texture boost. The Playa Endless Summer Spray ($24) is formulated with chia seed extract instead of alcohol so you get the texture you want without the crunchy, straw-like strands.
Roll Your Hair Up
Go grab your classic foam rollers from underneath your bathroom sink because those could be just what you need for a major volume boost. Another plus? They hardly take any time at all and are great for multitasking. Smith suggests rolling a few on the top of your head to create lift where you likely need it the most (at the crown of your head) while you have your coffee or do your makeup. Apply them when your hair is almost totally dry but still slightly damp. "Take them out right before you walk out the door, and fluff the roots with your hands," she says. Using your fingers instead of a brush will help loosen the curls without causing frizz or fluffiness.
Give Your Hair a Pick-Me-Up
It's a known fact that fine hair can get flat and greasy faster than you can say "dry shampoo," but washing your hair too frequently leads to split ends and dry strands. To revive 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 go back through 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. If your hair still looks a little too piece-y, spray a little dry shampoo at the roots, let it sit for a few minutes, then comb it through with your fingers, Voilà! Second-day hair that looks freshly blown out.
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.