sign up for our newsletter to get free sample alerts

We Tried It: 5 Flat Hair Fixes

Do volumizers really work? Or is a blow dryer the secret to bounce? We put five hair-boosting techniques to the test -- find out which ones worked best
Photo 1/6
Volumizing Shampoo and Conditioner
The most fundamental way to pump up the volume of your hair? Start with the wash. We used Brazilian Blowout Volumizing Shampoo, $28, and conditioner, $28, and allowed the hair to air dry naturally to see if there really is a difference. What we found? The difference in volume is clear along the length of Sarah's hair and her natural curls seem more bouncy and full. Schueller offers another tip: Don't over-condition. Volumizing shampoos are more effective if your hair isn't weighed down with conditioner.

Photo 2/6
Upside Down Blow Dry
If you typically blow dry your hair after a wash, this volumizing trick creates smooth, soft, all-over fullness. Once your hair is roughly towel-dried, add a little mousse, like Moraccanoil Volumizing Mousse, $29, as you're detangling upside down, combing the product through to the ends of your hair. This increases volume because "polymers in mousse can provide a temporary coating that give the hair more rigidity," says Schueller. Then blow dry your hair in sections, lifting up at your roots as you go. Once your hair is dry, hit the cold air button and dry your hair until it's completely cool while you're still upside down.

"When hair is upside down it has more volume. Blow drying it sets up internal bonds called hydrogen bonds that help hold hair in place and maintain that volume longer," says Schueller. This technique was great for adding fullness to Sarah's hair, but since her natural curls were blown out, it seemed a bit poofy. We recommend fully heat styling (curling or straightening) after blow drying for a polished look that's still voluminous.

Photo 3/6
Flat Ironing
Another way to trick your hair into having more body: Use a flat iron. "It seemed counterintuitive, but I was shocked at how well the flat iron worked," says Sarah. We typically use flat irons to bend and straighten hair when styling, but flat irons can also be used at the roots to give hair an added bump. Sarah's hair looked much fuller at the roots and the flat iron created a tousled, wavy look afterward. It also looks much more finished than the other techniques. Here's how we did it:

1. Section your hair horizontally from ear to ear starting right around your eye level. Clip the top portion out of the way.
2. Using sections just as wide as the length of your flat iron, clamp your hair at the root, twist your wrist to create the bump, hold for just a few seconds, then let loose. Do this with three or four pieces per section (depending on the length of your iron). Then unclip the top portion of your hair to divide a new section from ear to ear.
3. Repeat with the rest of your hair. Remember: Only hold your hair in the flat iron for a few seconds to avoid putting a crease in your hair.

Photo 4/6
Dry Shampoo
Dry shampoo is a staple in our hair styling routine. Not only does it keep hair clean(ish) looking without washing for a few days, it's also great for amp-ing up the texture and volume of your hair on a daily basis. The reason? "Dry shampoos do a good job of increasing interaction between hair fibers because they deposit powder. The tiny particles of starch and talc rub against each other, which increases friction and improves volume," Schueller says.

We tried Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray, $19.50, a product our reviewers said would do the trick. This is also a product Sarah swears by, and you can see why: the outcome was full, textured and bouncy hair. Here's how we did it:

1. Divide your hair into horizontal sections starting from the back.
2. Spritz the dry shampoo at the roots of every section. Then aggressively scrunch and tousle at your roots as you sift through each section.
3. For best results, flip your head upside down and scrunch at your roots generously with your fingers.

Photo 5/6
As you can imagine, teasing is one of the fastest, easiest ways to increasing your hair's volume. You don't need any products or styling tools, and anyone (seriously, anyone) can do it. Schueller says, "The old trick of back-combing or teasing your hair works so well to add volume. It lifts the cuticles and creates a rough surface so the hairs snag against each other to create a more voluminous network of fibers."

Here's what we learned on this test: Teasing should be done in combination with other styling techniques. Because when it's done alone (as seen here), it can look a little ... disheveled (sorry, Sarah). But teasing will always help you add fullness at your roots. Here's how to do it:

1. Section your hair horizontally from ear to ear starting right around eye level. Clip the top portion out of the way.
2. Begin teasing your hair using a fine-toothed comb. The more back-and-forth strokes, the more volume.
3. Repeat with the rest of your hair. Be sure to widen each teased section as you go to create an even fullness. To avoid the frizzy, rough-at-the-roots look, leave the very top layer of hair un-teased to conceal the rough teased sections underneath.

Some things in life are better flat: pancakes, mirrors, washboard abs. Hair? Not so much (ditto soda, live music, and your chest in 6th grade). Limp, lifeless hair is a downer, and getting that full, bouncy, flowing head of hair you see in slow motion on so many shampoo commercials isn't just a matter of buying the right product.

The first step to adding life to a head of flat hair is figuring out the volume of your hair. According to Randy Schueller, chemist and Editor-in-Chief of the Beauty Brains, four factors determine your hair's heft:

1. The number of hair per square inch of your scalp. The more hairs you have, the greater the volume.
2. The thickness of each strand. The greater the diameter of each hair fiber, the more overall volume your hair will have.
3. The bending modulus (a.k.a. the flexibility of your hair fibers) is the measurement of the stiffness of each hair fiber. Stiff fibers will stand up more on their own, creating more natural volume. Fibers with a low bending modulus tend to be floppy and limp.
4. The interaction between hair fibers. The friction between hair fibers can increase the volume of your hair. As hair fibers rub together, they lock into position.

So what's the solution when you're low on hairs per inch? Or your hair fibers have a low bending modulus? Along with loading up on nutrients and popping hair-stimulating pills (which only do so much compared to good 'ol DNA), we stick to products and styling tricks.

We tested five hair volumizing techniques (volumizing shampoo, blow drying, flat ironing, teasing, dry shampoo) on our Senior Editor, Sarah, and took side-by-side comparison photos so you can see the distinct difference between each method. Sarah was the perfect candidate for this road test because she's dealt with flat hair her whole life and tried every product. "I have a drawer full of volumizing sprays, mousse, and gels, but every day I still wish my hair had more volume at the roots to balance out my poofy ends," she says. "My hair is very fine, although I have a lot of it, so it tends to be very flat at the top, especially when my hair gets long like it is now. I try to skip blow drying when I can because I know it can damage my hair, but drying out naturally leaves my hair even more flat. I couldn't wait to find out which of these tricks actually worked."
Full Site | Terms & Conditions | Privacy Policy
TotalBeauty is a property of Evolve Media Holdings, LLC. © 2024 All Rights Reserved. | Affiliate Disclosure: Evolve Media Holdings, LLC, and its owned and operated subsidiaries may receive a small commission from the proceeds of any product(s) sold through affiliate and direct partner links.