Turn Limp Locks Into Luscious Ones

Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner, MD on October 30, 2013

You don't need to have naturally thick, bouncy hair to look like you do. The right know-how and styling products can give your locks body and fullness.

Get the Right Cut

The most flattering length for fine, straight hair is somewhere between your chin and collarbone, says Christopher Hopkins, author of Staging Your Comeback: A Complete Beauty Revival for Women Over 45.

Growing it longer than shoulder length could work against you. "It will look even thinner and limper,” says Tabatha Coffey, star of Bravo TV’s Tabatha Takes Over.

A blunt cut, rather than layers, brings out the fullness. Bobs are a good choice. Bangs can add flair, but they’re not for everyone. “Bangs can actually be worse on some fine hair, as you can immediately see the scalp from the front,” Hopkins says.

Avoid razor cutting. “Razors and fine hair are never a good mix,” Coffey says. “It can make it look really frizzy and much thinner.”

Styling Tips That Work

Try these techniques from the pros:

  • Dry hair slightly before applying products. Your styling products will work better. Let your hair air-dry, or blot the wetness with a paper towel or T-shirt. It's less damaging than rubbing your hair with a towel.
  • Use old-school tools. Hot rollers can help create bouncy, full hair. “Velcro rollers are super easy, inexpensive, and really quick," Coffey says. Add a light spritz of hairspray to the roots. Let rollers cool before taking them out. “You don’t get body from heat -- you get it from cooling,” Coffey says. With Velcro rollers, warm hair with a blow dryer and then use the cool shot button. Or leave either type of rollers in while you get dressed or put on makeup.

Your Go-To Products

The right products can boost volume, body, and bounce:

  • Dry shampoo. When your locks are limp, lift your hair, spray all the roots, massage it through, and style as usual. It can make hair feel thicker, Coffey says.
  • Mousse. Stylists say it's best for fine, straight tresses because it’s lightweight and builds body. Sprays and very light gel formulas are also good, Hopkins says. Apply them only to your scalp and roots.
  • Volumizers. Choose a volumizing conditioner, which moisturizes and protects without weighing down your fine hair. Most brands have a volumizing line.
  • Scalp shaders. If your scalp peeks through, Hopkins suggests camouflaging it with a colored powder, bonding powder, spray, or lotion. They can be blended in to match your hair color.
  • Round brushes. Use different size brushes to build different amounts of volume and wave. Hopkins suggests a brush with a ½-inch barrel for short hair, a 1 ½-inch barrel for medium hair, and a 3- to 4-inch barrel for long hair.

Avoid These Mistakes

Doing too much to fine hair can make it lifeless. Avoid:

  • Heavy products. Coffey says stay away from serums, oils, pomades, and silicone, which can flatten hair. And she says to go easy on hairspray -- too much can make your hair collapse.
  • Too much heat. Your blow dryer and curling iron can scorch your hair and make it brittle over time. Always start on the lowest setting and gradually increase the heat.
  • Being too rough. “Fine hair is fragile,” Coffey says, so don’t brush it when it’s wet. Use a wide-tooth comb to gently work through tangles. Start from the ends and work up.
  • Back-combing. It may give instant volume, but it damages hair by pulling it in the wrong direction.

Show Sources


American Academy of Dermatologists: “How to stop damaging your hair;” “Going to great lengths for beautiful hair: Dermatologist shares hair care tips for healthy and damaged hair.”

Tabatha Coffey, hair designer and educator, Fort Lee, N.J.; star of Tabatha Takes Over, Bravo TV.

Hair Foundation: “What is Long-Lasting Hair Volume?” “Spray-ons & Thickeners,” “Healthy Hair.”

Christopher Hopkins, hairstylist and owner, reVamp! Salon Spa, Minneapolis; author, Staging Your Comeback: A Complete Beauty Revival for Women Over 45, HCI, 2008.

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