By the time we hit 50, many of us have dealt with some degree of thinning hair. Whether it’s noticing excessive shedding, discovering a widening part, or spotting sparse spots along the hairline and temples, thinning hair can be a real confidence sapper. Luckily, reversing the thinning is as easy as giving yourself a hair color refresh. Here, colorists reveal the most volumizing hair colors, the inexpensive techniques to achieving them at home, and the secrets to prolonging the results so your locks look thicker and you feel like your best self.
The layers of color created by a darker blond base topped with various-sized bright blond highlights trick the eye into seeing a more “solid” mane, says Alexis Van Brandenburg, a colorist at Bangz Salon in Montclair, New Jersey. Even better? When placed strategically around the face, the highlights reflect onto skin for a wrinkle-blurring glow.
GET THE COLOR: Paint the bleach from a hair-painting kit like Clairol Nice’n Easy Balayage for Blondes (Buy from CVS, $16.49) onto two 2-inch sections of hair on each side of the face from roots to ends. Then paint remaining bleach onto various half-inch sections of hair throughout the head.
PROLONG THE COLOR: Use a purple conditioner like amika Bust Your Brass Blonde Purple Conditioner (Buy from Sephora, $26) once a week to neutralize brass tones so blond stays bright.
“Perfect for a shorter cut, caramel-kissed streaks pop against a deep brunette base, giving hair mega movement so it appears super full and lush,” says colorist Rick Wellman, who has worked with Tina Fey and Brooke Shields. And the sheen created by the highlights leaves strands looking extra healthy and lustrous.
GET THE COLOR: Look for a highlighting kit that comes with bleach and toner like Madison Reed Light Works Balayage Highlighting Kit in Palmi (Buy from Ulta, $45). Follow box instructions to apply the bleach, then follow up with toner to ensure highlights look blended and natural.
PROLONG THE COLOR: Apply a clear glaze (like L’Oréal Paris Le Gloss One Step In-Shower Toning Gloss in Clear (Buy from Walmart, $9.95) to hair twice a month. The glaze coats strands with colorless, shine-inducing molecules that sharpen pigments so the multi-tonal color retains its shine and dimension.
Rich red shades are made up of a kaleidoscope of red, yellow, and brown pigments, creating the illusion of depth and dimension to even the thinnest of hair, says Van Brandenburg. What’s more, the vibrant hue warms up skin, bringing out its youthful radiance.
GET THE COLOR: Since roots take longer to absorb color, saturate them first using a copper dye like Garnier Olia Permanent Hair Color in #6.43 Light Natural Auburn (Buy from Walmart, $16.75). Let sit for half the processing time on the box, then apply the rest of dye all over hair. Let sit for the remaining time.
PROLONG THE COLOR: Red dyes are made up of larger molecules that can easily slip out of the hair shaft while shampooing, so experts suggest using a red-tinted shampoo like Joico Color Infuse Red Shampoo (Buy from Ulta, $23). This method ensures color stays vibrant with each wash. Tip: Use lukewarm water when rinsing to prevent pigment from fading, since hot water can further strip dye.
A multi-tonal brunette shade optically expands hair since the darker shade adds depth and the lighter shade creates visual texture, says Tom Smith, International Color Creative Director for evo hair care. The result? Thicker-looking locks. Plus, placing highlights throughout the head draws attention away from a thinning hairline or temples.
GET THE COLOR: Look for a two-in-one kit that comes with a base color dye and bleach for highlights like L’Oréal Paris Couleur Experte in #6.1 French Eclair (Buy from Walmart, $13.94). First, apply the base color all over and let process. Then apply the bleach onto half-inch sections of hair starting one inch away from the roots and skipping half-inch in between until the whole head is covered; let process as needed. This will prevent the need for frequent touch-ups so you can go six months without re-highlighting hair.
PROLONG THE COLOR: To keep highlights sparkling and hair from becoming straw-like, use an argan oil deep conditioner like Hask Argan Oil Repairing Deep Conditioner (Buy from Ulta, $6.29) once a week. The oil hydrates hair and repairs bleach-caused damage.
“The mix of salt-and-pepper strands’ cool-toned gray and warm-toned brunette creates a shadow effect that ‘thickens’ hair from every angle,” says Wellman. And the intentional combination keeps incoming gray roots from looking undone and makes the silvered strands look modern, not matronly.
GET THE COLOR: Once grays have grown in at least an inch, paint a permanent dye that’s close to your natural, non-gray hue (tip: look to your eyebrows as a guide) onto half-inch sections of hair throughout the crown, similar to how you would apply highlights. Adding the darker color back into the crown area (where emerging grays tend to be concentrated) helps unify the two colors and camouflage the harsh line of demarcation.
PROLONG THE COLOR: Since gray hair lacks pigment, it easily absorbs impurities from product buildup, pollutants, and shower water. To keep the color bright and fresh, try a vitamin C– infused treatment like dpHUE Brightening Powder (Buy from dpHue, $32) once a week. It easily removes any color-changing compounds.
The clever contouring effect of shimmering golden blond locks against a darker root color adds dimension, says Smith. Bonus: It makes coloring the roots once they grow out or concealing incoming grays a cinch.
GET THE COLOR: First, apply a medium golden-blond dye like AGEbeautiful Permanent Liqui-Creme Hair Color in # 8G Medium Golden Blonde (Buy from Sally Beauty Supply, $9.89) all over hair and let process. Next, rather than waste an entire box of color, look for a root touch-up kit in a hue two shades darker than the rest of hair — like Clairol Permanent Root Touch-Up in #6.5G Lightest Golden Brown (Buy from Walmart, $17.49) — and apply the formula to roots in one-inch sections. Then, brush it through with a wide tooth comb to blend the two shades.
PROLONG THE COLOR: Twice a month, apply a color-depositing mask like Wella Professionals Color Fresh Mask in Golden Gloss (Buy from Ulta, $26.50). This will help hair maintain its warmth and vibrancy.
The depth and weight of a one-dimensional, dark brunette hue visually plumps strands all over, says colorist Michael Canalé, who has worked with Jennifer Aniston and Penélope Cruz. The deeper color also “fills in” areas like a wide part or sparse spots.
GET THE COLOR: Opt for a dye that’s infused with keratin and amino acids like Revlon ColorSilk Beautiful Color Hair Color in #27 Deep Rich Brown (Buy from Walmart, $8.75). These nutrients help nourish strands and keep a deeper color from looking drab or inky. Once the dye has been applied all over, brush through with a comb to evenly distribute; let process according to box instructions.
PROLONG THE COLOR: To ensure deep brunette tresses remain dazzling? Treat them with a coffee rinse. Simply pour 2 cups of brewed, then cooled, coffee all over damp hair and let sit 10 minutes before rinsing; repeat twice a month. Coffee’s tannins (which give the brew its deep color) lightly “stain” hair and any incoming grays, restoring richness back to a darker mane.
First For Women aims to feature only the best products and services. We update when possible, but deals expire and prices can change. If you buy something via one of our links, we may earn a commission.
Questions? Reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org