I Have Thin, Flat Hair, But This Old-School Product Gives Me '90s Volume
I've had fine, flat hair all my life. It's the kind that slips out of a braid because there's just not enough density to keep it together. It's the kind that won't hold a curl if its life depended on it. And it's the kind that stays smooth against my scalp, despite the best effort of volumizing products. I used to hate it, and to be honest, I still do from time to time. Generally, though, I've come to accept it, and a short stint with high-maintenance hair extensions helped me with that.
These days, I rely on a few volume-boosting products, including texturizing spray and dry shampoo (I swear nothing lifts my roots quite like dry shampoo). When I really want volume, though—like '90s-style volume—I'll reach for my secret weapon. It's an old-school hair product that gives me the lift and bounce I've always wanted. Think Topanga Lawrence from Boy Meets World–level lift and bounce. Keep scrolling to see what product it is and see some seriously good before-and-after pictures to prove its efficacy.
While I like the naturally beachy texture, I still style my hair with heat tools to polish it up. Usually, that involves using a flat iron to perfect my natural waves and smooth out any kinks. When I want big volume, though, I use hot rollers. Yes, that's my secret weapon.
According to Tatum Neill, the creative director of Aveda Arts and Sciences Institute, "Hot Rollers became fashionable in the '60s as women desired salon-quality hairstyles they could do at home. They were a fixture for most fashion-conscious women into the early '90s."
Celebrity hairstylist and beauty expert David Lopez is also a fan of hot rollers. "Most people who use hot rollers are people with very fine hair who are looking to add volume," he says. "Typically, those with straighter hair types tend to reach for hot rollers. I also think it's for people who are looking for something quick and easy to do. Hot rollers give a very effortless feel to the hair and smooth it out."
These are the ones I use and swear by (Lopez does too. He says he even keeps them in his kit). I like them because they heat up quickly and evenly, and they don't damage my hair, thanks to the velvet-flocked barrels.
So, how do you use them? It's actually quite intuitive. Just section your hair and roll them up to the scalp, securing them in place with the included clips. "I like to use hot rollers on dry hair a few hours before an event so the hair has time to set in position while you are getting ready with makeup and wardrobe," Neill says.
He emphasizes the importance of prep to extend the life of the style. "If you want your set to hold for a few days, blow-dry your roots with a volumizing product, like Aveda’s Invati Advanced Thickening Foam ($13), to give your roots a directional lift. Once you have volume at the roots, you can dry the mid-shaft to ends just with your hands to make sure they are dry but are not too straight. It's important to not stretch all of the elasticity out of your hair before you reset with the rollers."
Lopez also emphasizes the importance of prep. "Before you even put a hot roller in your hair, when you dry your hair, use something like a mousse or a foam that's going to give your hair a lot of style memory, and then rough dry your hair, smooth it out, and wrap the hot rollers around. If you want, you can add even more style memory by adding an aerosol heat protectant like Kenra Professional Heat Block ($26) by adding it to the section, smoothing it through, and wrapping the hot rollers around."
When it comes time to roll your hair, Lopez has a hack. "I would say a lot of people roll it from the end up, but I like to take very clean sections and place the roller in the middle of that section, wrap the ends around first, and then roll the rest of it up towards the scalp and secure. This makes sure you get even heat distribution, meaning the ends aren't getting all of the heat and the mid-lengths aren't getting any heat at all," he says.
I followed all of the stylists' tips (save for the mousse since I didn't have one on hand). I must say, they really made a difference. I mean, I loved hot rollers before, but after following their advice, I was even happier with my hair's newfound bounce and body. Topanga Lawrence, who?
It wasn't just the ends of my hair that looked bigger and fluffier—it was also the roots. As you can see here, my hair was slightly lifted off my scalp. This emphasized the height and movement of the whole style.
The best part about hot rollers is that anyone can use them (not just people who have naturally straight hair). "I don't think there's anyone who can't use hot rollers," Lopez says. "I've used them on tighter textured hair, but when it's already been blown-out straight. You wouldn't use hot rollers on curly hair in its natural, textured state—it would have to be straightened out first."
Still, he emphasizes they can work for anyone, regardless of hair type. "It just depends on what their starting point is. I do love hot rollers for highly textured hair that has a silk press as a great way to refresh the look or add bounce, especially to curly hair that's been blown-out straight."
Shop 10 Products to Pair With Hot Rollers
This mousse is the perfect product to prep fine hair with. It will add lift and volume at the root.
Lopez recommends this heat protectant spray to prevent damage when using heat tools.
A fine-tooth comb is a must for precise sectioning.
Fun fact: my hair is so thin that the clips leave small, visible creases in my hair. After removing my rollers, I'll actually take my flat iron and smooth out these creases for a more polished result.
"Dry texture sprays get a little bit gunky for this kind of look, so I prefer to use something a little bit drier," Lopez says. He calls this volumizing spray "amazing" and says it's the perfect finishing product for hot rollers.
Neill recommends this light-hold hair spray to keep your style in place post-rollers.
I like to finish my look off with a touch of shine mist. This is the one I used.
I don't want my hair to crease from traditional hair ties, so if I need to put my hair up, I reach for a claw clip.
A silk pillowcase is a must for any style, but it especially helps keep my hair smooth for days after using hot rollers.