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Hairstylist Secrets for How to Add Volume to Thin, Fine Hair So It Looks Instantly Thicker

It's easy to restore youthful fullness to hair

Many of us, regardless of age, struggle to achieve that thick, luscious, voluminous hair we always stars sporting on the red carpet or on hair commercials. However, the problem can become even worse as we get older and experience hair loss and thinning, leading to a frustrating lack of volume. Even more, our environment, location and climate can further strip hair of moisture, leaving strands looking extra limp and flat. The good news? There are many methods for infusing volume and body into strands. Here, easy tips for how to add volume to hair using styling tools, combing methods and more. Read for to discover how to take your hair and confidence to new heights quickly.

Why does our hair lose volume as we get older?

There are many culprits to hair loss, including, but not limited to, “genetics, hormonal changes, thyroid, vitamin deficiencies and stress,” says Chaz Dean, celebrity hairstylist and creator of WEN Hair and Body Care. And unfortunately, those of us over 50 are extra prone to hair loss due to hormone fluctuations (thank you, menopause!). In addition to thinning, many of us experience loss of pigment in our strands, leading to grays and dull hair color. This can make hair appear even thinner and flat/one-dimensional.

Related: 13 Best Haircuts for Thin Hair That Make Hair Look Fuller From Every Angle

How to add overall volume to hair

We get into the specifics of how to add volume to hair more below, but overall, here is a good rule-of-thumb guide to creating volume from Dean.

“For starters, be sure to avoid products with heavy polymers, fillers, binders and waxes that will build up and weigh down the hair,” says Dean. Instead, look for for products that sit lightly on hair. “Opt for a lightweight cleansing conditioner that will not strip your hair. After you cleanse, use WEN Lavender Volumizing Treatment Spray directly on the scalp by spraying into parted sections around the crown,” suggest Dean. “Follow up with a nourishing mousse — like the Wen Lavender Nourising Mousse — from roots to ends, this will help plump the whole hair shaft. Lastly, he advises adding some styling creme, like the Wen Spring Honey Lilac Styling Creme, from the mid-shaft to the ends for a frizz-free finish.

Further, don’t underestimate the power of a good, lightweight hairspray to amp up your volume. “A good trick is to use a light, flexible hold hairspray,” says Dean. “Section your hair in thin parts on your crown, flip to the opposite side of your head and do a light mist of hairspray. Let it dry and flip back over. Repeat in all areas where you want to hold volume, and when you flip your parts back into place, your style will have the extra boost of root lift volume. It’s the perfect cheat to avoid teasing your hair, which is very damaging to the cuticle.”

How to add volume to hair based on your hair concern

Not all volume is created equal. The method you choose to add volume into hair should depend on your initial problem (i.e. a limp ponytail) and the outcome you’re trying to achieve (i.e. a fuller, bounce pony). Here, the solution to each of your volume-lacking hair concerns according to pro hairstylists.

Thinning all over? Try a blowout

Gayle King with a blowout
Gayle KingPaul Morigi / Contributor / Getty

The secret to making hair look thicker from roots to ends? A bouncy blowout, says Rachel Swire, a hairstylist at Salon Cabelo in Atlanta, who assures us you can get salon-worthy results by doing it yourself at home. 

Get the look: Separate damp hair into four equal sections. Leave one section down, clip up the rest, then use a round brush to lift hair up and off the scalp and blow-dry the top few inches from the roots down to the midsection. Once dry, continue from the midsection down; blast with cool air for 10 seconds (this sets the hair but also seals the cuticle for dimension-inducing shine). Repeat on the other three sections.

Amp up the volume: Pre-blowout, wash hair with a wheat protein–infused shampoo, like OGX Thick & Full Biotin & Collagen Shampoo. The protein plumps individual strands for added fullness.

For more blowout tricks, check out the below video from hairstylist and YouTuber Brad Mondo.

Fall-flat roots? Lift them with a side part

Kerry Washington hair
Kerry WashingtonAmy Sussman / Staff / Getty

If your hair is just laying flat at the roots, parting it to the side can help. “Sweeping your hair in the opposite direction of how it naturally grows boosts volume at the root,” says Gregga Prothero, a hair­stylist and owner of Gregga Hair Salon in Los Angeles. What’s more, moving the bulk of hair to one side creates the illusion of a thicker mane overall. Already part your hair to the side? Move the part to the other side. Since hair isn’t used to sitting that way, it stays propped up at the root.

Get the look: When creating a side part, use the arch of the eyebrow as a guide, says Prothero. “The part should start right above the peak of your brow’s arch.” 

Amp up the volume: After parting hair, lightly spritz on a root-lifting spray, like Nexxus Unbreakable Care Root Lift Thickening Spray, at the roots. The hair-helping biotin-, keratin- and collagen-containing formula props strands up and off the scalp for long-lasting volume.

Related: Why Side Swept Bangs Are the Hot New Trend for Women Over 50 + How They Make Hair Look Thicker

Limp curls? Plump them with a diffuser

Kimberly Schlapman with curly hair
Kimberly SchlapmanJason Kempin / Staff / Getty

Those of us with curls have a fuller-looking hair advantage, but if those curls aren’t dried just right, they can fall flat, canceling out any natural oomph. That’s why Swire suggests using a diffuser to ensure curls’ buoyancy. The hair-lifting power of this drying tool lies in its “spikes” that help disperse hot air over a wider area in a steady stream. “This method also helps give roots a lift, while ensuring hair doesn’t get frizzy.”

Get the look: Add a diffuser attachment to your blow-dryer and use the lowest heat setting (this limits damage), gently scrunching hair in 2″ sections with your free hand. Repeat until all of hair is dry. 

Amp up the volume: Before blow-drying, work a nickel-sized amount of a curl-defining cream made with rice aminos, like Briogeo Curl Charisma Rice Amino + Avocado Leave-In Defining Creme, through damp hair. Rice extract deeply moisturizes and plumps strands to make coils look extra bouncy.

For a diffuser tutorial, watch the below video from @JoyBeforeHer on YouTube.

Related: Pro Stylists’ Tricks for Curls That Last and Last So Hair Stays Lush + Voluminous All Day

Sparse spots? Try a root touch-up

Mary Steenburgen hair
Mary SteenburgenDimitrios Kambouris / Staff / Getty

Typically used to mask gray roots, tinted root touch-up powders can also seamlessly “fill in” thinner areas like those along the hairline, part or at the temples. The soft powder ensures a naturally fuller and spot-free finish while absorbing any oil on the scalp that can weigh strands down and create a limp look. Adds hairstylist Scott Cunha, who’s worked with Martha Stewart and Kris Jenner: “These powders make it easy to quickly fill in sparse spots when wearing hair in an updo too.” 

Get the look: Dip a fluffy eye shadow brush into a root touch-up powder in a shade similar to your hair color and lightly tap onto sparse spots until they are concealed. Set with hair spray to lock in the color.

Amp up the volume: Opt for a powder that contains fibers, like Style Edit Root Touch-Up Powder. The fibers instantly add volume and texture to fine hair, boosting the thickening benefits.

Puny ponytail? Create two tails

Jennifer Lopez with ponytail
Jennifer Lopez84428463/Getty

It’s so nice to lift longer locks up and off of the face with a ponytail, but the hair-gathering­ style can make already thin hair look even thinner. What can help: creating two ponytails. “Stacking one pony on top of the other will give the appearance of one single thick and voluminous ponytail,” says Swire. “And the second pony won’t show at all!” 

Get the look: Divide hair in half vertically (a top and bottom section), then clip up the top section. Brush the bottom section and gather to form a ponytail; secure into place at the center of the back of the head with an elastic. Next, unclip the top section and create another pony that sits below the crown (about 2″ above the first ponytail); secure with an elastic. Tip: Gently tug on small pieces of hair near the base of the top pony to fluff it over the bottom one so it looks like one big pony.

Amp up the volume: Before styling, work a dollop of a volumizing mousse, like the John Frieda Volume Lift Volumizing Mousse, from roots to ends to plump up hair even more.

To see this trick in action, watch the below video from @missmalinivideos on YouTube.

Short, fall-flat hair? Do a two-way blow dry

Rita Moreno short hair
Rita MorenoTaylor Hill / Contributor / Getty

If blow-drying is part of your regular hair styling routine, especially if you have shorter hair, you’ll want to try this genius styling trick.

Get the look: First, work a dollop of mousse, like the Pureology Style + Protect Weightless Volume Mousse, through damp hair to give it grip, along with added lift and volume. Then use a paddle brush to comb hair to one side and roughly blow-dry for 3 minutes. Next, brush hair so it falls in the opposite direction and blow-dry for another 3 minutes. This two-way drying technique ensures strands are propped off of the scalp and stay that way, so hair appears fuller from roots to ends all night long.

Amp up the volume: Finish by styling hair to your liking and set with dry shampoo, like Living Proof Perfect Hair Day (PhD) Dry Shampoo. Or for a powder dry shampoo formula, like Dae Fairy Duster Volumizing Dry Shampoo Powder — this gives hair voluminous texture and absorbs volume-sapping sweat and oil.

Related: Is Dry Shampoo Bad for Hair? Experts Weigh In + How to Pick the Best One for You

Fine, limp locks? Opt for a sunflower seed spray

Jessica Chastain hair
Jessica ChastainJeff Kravitz / Contributor / Getty

During the warmer months, humid air settles on fine, straight strands, weighing them down for a limp, lifeless look. But misting on a sunflower seed oil spray can help. The seed’s vitamin B5 gives hair more structure so it’s lifted up and off of the scalp for lasting volume. Plus, the plant’s fatty acids plump hair for an even fuller-looking mane.

Get the look: Spritz a sunflower-infused spray, like Rusk PUREMIX Blooming Sunflower Volumizing Mist, all over damp or dry hair.

Amp up the volume: After misting on the spray, flip your head over and scrunch 2″ sections of hair with hands. Start at the ends and scrunch hair upward toward roots. Repeat until all of hair has been scrunched. This creates effortless waves that make the mane look even fuller.

How to add volume based on hair length

If you don’t have a specific hair concern and just want to know the best general way to add volume based on your hair length, we have you covered.

For long hair: Build volume at the crown

Kelly Ripa with side part
Kelly RipaDia Dipasupil / Staff / Getty

Hair that cascades past shoulders can weigh down roots, making even the thickest tresses look limp. So building the volume at the roots ensures longer locks don’t look lifeless.

Get the look: Create a side part, then wrap a 2″ section of hair at the hairline around a Velcro roller; repeat, moving back along the part (three rollers should suffice). Let sit 10 minutes, then unroll. The rollers help prop locks up and off of the scalp for added fullness.

Amp up the volume: For extra hold and bounce, wrap the rest of hair around hot rollers, like Hairitage Let’s Roll Ceramic Thermal Hot Rollers, which add long-lasting volume, body and shine to your hair in just 10 minutes. Simply roll the curlers into hair and use the provided clips to hold in place. Let cool for 10 minutes, then release and brush out curls if needed.

For medium hair: Focus volume at mid-lengths

Edie Falco hair
Edie FalcoKevin Mazur / Contributor / Getty

Hairstylists have long relied on back-combing, which involves brushing hair multiple times, starting at the ends up to the roots, as a trick to prop hair up and off of the scalp. Cunha’s teasing tweak: Start at mid-lengths, not ends, and brush upward only once. This concentrates the volume closer to the roots (this better holds up strands that sit on top of back-combed sections) and ensures hair won’t get damaged. And this trick works best for medium-length hair as adding volume to the center balances a shoulder-skimming style.  

Get the look: Lift up the top layer of hair from ear to ear and clip up. Then, starting on one side of the head, work in 2″ sections of hair and use a teasing brush to comb the underlayer of hair from the midsection toward the roots in one stroke. Repeat until you reach the other side of your head. When finished, unclip the top layer and smooth over the back-combed sections.

Amp up the volume: Use a teasing brush made with a mix of boar and nylon bristles, like Cricket Amped Up Teasing Brush. The bristles better grip hair for mega body, while they are also gentle on strands to prevent breakage.

For short hair: Add in volume near the brow

Helen Mirren short voluminous hair
Helen MirrenSteve Granitz / Contributor / Getty

A short cut or pixie can put a spotlight on sparse spots and thinning around the temples and hairline. The quick fix: The movement and texture of deep, side-parted wispy fringe gives the shorter style oomph while also masking any thinning.

Get the look: Use a round brush and blow dryer to sweep bangs to the side. Lightly tease all over at the root for an all-over voluminous look.

Amp up the volume: A heated blow dry brush, like the Revlon One Step Volumizer PLUS 2.0 Hair Dryer and Hot Air Brush, gives you a shinier blowout with less effort and less frizz. Plus, the tool’s ceramic titanium barrel offers a smooth glide as you’re using it.

For more hair styling inspiration, click through these stories:

10 Easy Topknot Hair Styles for Women Over 50 That Make Thin Hair Look Thick

How to Achieve Kate Middleton’s Gorgeous Hairstyles + the $13 Product Her Hairstylist Uses

Simple Ponytail Looks for Everyday: 8 Easy + So Flattering Twists on the Classic Style

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