When it comes to hair, thin isn't in — especially at this time of year, when you want to look particularly fabulous. So if big, bouncy, make-'em-stare hair is all you're after, check out our bagful of all the expert tricks you need to get luscious locks. Here's how to fatten up fast.
Start with Shampoo
Big hair begins in the shower, with a volume-boosting shampoo. Does today's technology really make a difference? Absolutely.
"There are ingredients now, like wheat protein, that can swell each strand to almost twice its size," says Lisa Chiccine of the Lisa Chiccine Salon in New York City. Try Sunsilk Anti-Flat Shampoo ($3.59, drugstores) or Kiehl's Rice Wheat Volumizing Shampoo ($18, kiehls.com).
Another ingredient to consider is niacin (also known as vitamin B3); a 2005 study, reported in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, showed that it made hair visibly fuller when applied topically. Find niacin in Fekkai More Scalp-Purifying Shampoo ($24.50, Sephora; sephora.com).
It's also important to avoid certain products, says Chiccine. On her list: shampoos with conditioning or moisturizing properties, which weigh hair down. Likewise, be sure your volumizing conditioner is lightweight — anything heavy is just going to work against you. Try Dove Extra Volume Conditioner ($4, drugstores) or Infusium 23 (Volum)ologie Conditioner ($6, drugstores).
Blow-Dry It Big
What matters most is what happens in the window between wet and dry, says New York City hairstylist Danny Velasco. The key: great products and an effective blow-drying technique.
Start by using a thickening spray or cream on damp hair to add texture. Try Bumble & Bumble Thickening Spray ($23, bumbleandbumble.com for salons) or Nioxin Volume Texture Creme ($13, nioxin.com for salons).
Next, grab a large round brush. "That shape is great for smoothing while giving volume and movement," says Antonio Prieto of the Antonio Prieto Salon in New York City.
Take a three-inch section from your crown and place the brush against the roots. (The brush should be grabbing your hair tightly so that the roots are lifted and taut.)
Aim your blow-dryer nozzle at the barrel for several seconds. Keep the brush there as the hair cools, then slide it down the rest of the section (with the dryer following behind) to smooth. Repeat on the rest of your hair, going from back to front.
Once hair is nearly dry, use a root-lifting spray to lock in fullness and help prevent midday flop, suggests Haruo Noro, a stylist at the Rita Hazan Salon in New York City. Special polymers in these stylers add pliable hold that lasts all day without making hair stiff, the way a traditional hairspray might. Noro suggests trying one of the latest versions with targeted nozzles, which make it particularly easy to squirt the product directly at the base of your strands. Try Nexxus Root Exxtend Volumizing Root Lifter ($13, drugstores) or Tresemme Big Boost Root Lift Spray ($4, drugstores).
After you've spritzed, flip your head over and finish drying. And remember: Once you're done, keep finger fussing to a minimum — oils from your hands can flatten hair.
Want to go bigger still? After the blow-dry, try one of these bonus styling tricks. (You could even do two or three of them, but beware of going too big...yes, it is possible.)
Get On a Roll
Hot rollers give maximum lift for minimal effort, says Peter Espinosa, a stylist at Salon Shahin in Stamford, CT. His tip: Before putting the rollers in, part your hair in the opposite direction from the way you usually do. (You'll flip back to normal afterward, but initially fighting your hair's natural bent helps create fullness.) Then, roll hair in two-inch sections with large rollers, and leave them in until cool. Remove them, gently re-part your hair, and allow it to fall into place.
Try Infiniti by Conair Tourmaline Ceramic Hairsetter ($50, Wal-Mart; walmart.com). For all-day hold, do a final spritz with an aerosol hairspray ("A nonaerosol will make your hair wet, ruining the volume you've just created," Chiccine explains). Try Aussie Aussome Volume Hairspray ($3, drugstores).
No time to set your whole head? Take a section of hair from the top and put it in a large roller. You'll get subtle-but-noticeable volume at the crown, where it matters most.
Be a Tease
Back-combing adds tons of body in minutes. "You can tease just at the crown for a little bit of volume, or do your entire head," says Chiccine. Start by working a tiny bit of gel – try Pantene Pro-V Extra Fullness Gel ($4, drugstores) – into your roots once hair is dry.
Then, working from the front of your head to the back, take a two-to three-inch section of hair and hold it straight up in the air with one hand. With the other hand, back-comb by dragging a thin-toothed comb from halfway up your strands down to your scalp. This will create a cushion of hair at the base and leave the ends smooth. Continue teasing portions as needed to achieve your desired level of fullness. Finish with a shot of aerosol hairspray to the roots, and then arrange smooth, unteased sections over the back-combed areas.
Jealous of your favorite celeb's magnificent mane? Could be good genes, but more likely it's a hairpiece. (So in case you've ever wondered, that's how stars change styles constantly or go from short to long overnight.) And because today's fakes look and feel better than ever, they're easy to wear in real life, too.
"If you have fine hair, an added piece provides actual thickness, so hair looks fuller immediately," says Velasco. (He prefers pieces made from human hair, because you can wash and style them just as you would your own hair.) Long, fancy extensions start around $300; to get a boost for much less, try Do-Dads ($59, dodads.tv), small sections of real hair attached to two combs – you interlock them at your crown for instant fullness and height. Even easier: synthetic pieces in specific styles (like a chignon or ponytail) that you fasten on with an attached clip.
Simple to use and surprisingly realistic, they're perfect for special occasions and they take just seconds. (When our picky-picky beauty editor clipped on a ponytail to see if it was really that easy, she was amazed at how good the piece looked and wore it out that night.) Try HairUWear Put on Pieces ($19 to $79 depending on style and length, wigs.com).
Originally published on November 21, 2007