I have one very toxic personality trait that gets in my way at work: I don't take anything at face value. You can imagine how difficult this makes things for me when I'm spending most of my days quizzing beauty experts. I find the more I quiz them, the less I'm inclined to believe what they're telling me. It's not something that applies to everyone I work with, of course—my brain just tends to be selective about who it wants to trust. Dermatologists who have spent the better part of a decade training for expert status? I'm all ears. Makeup artists who spend all day every day working with real faces? I want to hear everything. But in all honesty, most of the time, when I'm quizzing experts on all things beauty, I take everything they say with a hearty dose of cynicism.
Before I go into why I'm so sceptical, I'd like to note that there are a whole bunch of experts I have really come to trust over the years, but believe me when I say they've given me the benefit of the doubt more often than I've given it to them. I just can't seem to shake my constant eye-rolling and devil's advocate act. And the reason for this, I believe, comes down to hairstylists who like telling me everything I'm doing wrong with my hair even though they've never touched it. I've never met a hairstylist who can give my thin, fine hair long-lasting volume—and the stylists I really trust will admit that.
On behalf of all thin-haired women out there, I would like to take this opportunity to beg the beauty industry to stop telling us that we need to buy more styling products. I've spent my entire life looking for ways to make my hair thicker, and it wasn't until I sat down with a brutally honest trichologist a few weeks ago that I finally understood my situation. I'm never going to grow more hair.
The scalp can't grow more hair follicles. The hair I have is the hair I have, and all I can do is make sure I keep it as healthy as I possibly can. Since learning this, I've thought long and hard about all of the money I've wasted on styling products designed to make my hair look thicker—products that do wonders for hair that's already thick but make thin hair look greasy, weighed down and generally worse than it did before. If only I hadn't hung onto every word of the hairstylists I met in my formative years who, it turns out, were just trying to sell me something.
Luckily, I'm a thin-haired beauty editor who has gotten to work with some of the most in-the-know and honest experts, and I've learned some very important lessons over the years. So if you, too, are fed up with receiving useless advice about what to do with your thin hair, keep scrolling for the six thin-hair tips I wish I'd learned sooner.
1. Tongs Are Better Than a Blow-Dry
After years of confusion about why my hair always looked flat just an hour after a blow-dry, I sat down with celebrity hairstylist Paul Edmonds and realised it wasn't my fault. As he dried my hair, he said, "I bet you've got the kind of hair that just isn't going to hold this, don't you?" Needless to say, I felt seen. He then explained to me that he could put some product in my hair that might hold it a little longer, but it probably wouldn't feel very nice considering I had a day of running around town on meetings.
If you have thin, straight, limp hair that doesn't hold a curl well, do not waste your money on a bouncy blow-dry (or an Airwrap for that matter). In order for thin, straight hair to hold an impressive voluminous curl for a long time, you need some intense heat—and that can only be achieved with a curling tong or heated styler.
This curling tong is without a doubt my favourite. It's the only tool that gives me the sort of bouncy curls I crave that last all day long (with a bit of hairspray, of course).
If your hair is prone to dropping curls, pack this cordless curling tong in your bag and top your lengths up on the go.
The truth is you don't necessarily need a curling tong if you own a good set of straighteners like these from GHD. You can use this styler to straighten, wave or curl.
2. Drying Your Hair Is Essential
Interestingly, if you have thin hair, it's really important not to leave it wet for prolonged periods of time. In fact, I'd recommend blow-drying it as soon as you're out of the shower, the reason being that wet hair is a lot more susceptible to breakage and snapping—things that thin hair also tends to be prone to.
After washing, apply a heat protectant and dry your hair on a low-heat setting, and I promise you'll see results. I shared this tip with my thin-haired friend a few months ago, and she texted me the other day to tell me just how much stronger and healthier her hair looks.
This hair dryer has really impressed me. Yes, it's expensive, but I genuinely have noticed a difference in the health of my hair since I started using it. It dries hair at a much cooler temperature compared to other dryers, utilising light technology to speed up the drying process. Not only is my hair looking better, but my electricity bill is seeing the perks too, considering it uses 60% less energy than a normal hair dryer.
I quite often get tempted to leave my hair to air-dry when I'm on holiday, and my hair is almost always left worse off for it. I've recently added a T3 travel hair dryer to my suitcase, and it's made all the difference.
If your thin hair is seriously susceptible to breakage, these microfibre hair towels are a great way to prevent snapping post-wash. Whereas normal towels create strand-damaging friction, these are designed to keep hair strong and healthy.
3. A Clarifying Shampoo Will Lift Roots
Put the root-lifting products down. Trust me. Sure, root styling products work in the short term, but when you have thin hair, they'll inevitably end up weighing it down. Instead, I have learned that the less product you have on your strands, the better. To keep roots looking volumised and lifted, reach for a clarifying shampoo once a week. This will help to remove oil and build-up that could weigh down roots.
This shampoo works into a rich, satisfying lather that leaves thin hair looking and feeling substantially healthier.
If you find that greasy roots really have a way of making your thin hair look drab, I urge you to give this shampoo a go. It is easily one of the most clarifying formulas I have ever tried.
Doing exactly what it says on the tin, this shampoo acts as a detox for your hair. If you've had a night out that involved using a lot of styling products, use this the next day to rid your hair of weighty build-up in no time at all.
4. A Loose Up-Do Is Your Best Friend
Yep, if you have thin or fine hair, you better believe that tight ponytails and buns are going to cause you problems. Any sort of intense friction on your strands will likely lead to breakage, snapping and split ends. If you want your hair to remain as thick as possible, it's crucial that you keep your up-dos loose. Oh, and it's also worth changing your go-to style up on the reg. If you wear your hair in a high ponytail one day, switch it to a low bun the next. This helps reduce the stress on certain sections of hair that otherwise would be taking all the heat.
I can't get enough of Tort hair clips. Just swivel and twist lengths into a low bun and secure loosely with a claw clip.
Switching out hairbands for these silk scrunchies will change the game. Not only do they keep thin strands stronger, but they also prevent cinks.
5. Keeping Lengths Free From Knots Is Imperative
I found this out the hard way: If you let your thin hair get knotty and don't do anything about it, you can almost guarantee some sort of breakage. And trust me, breakage isn't something you can afford to let happen when your hair is thin.
Whenever thin hair knots, the stress of the knot can either snap the hair or potentially pull the hair out from the root. My advice? Brush your hair as often as you can and be sure to use products that will help condition lengths to prevent tugging.
If your thin hair has been bleached like mine has, I highly recommend investing in a conditioning spray like this one. After washing, my bleached strands are prone to matting, but a few spritzes of this has a brush gliding through my hair with ease.
This serum doubles up as a strand strengthener (helping prevent breakage) and a heat protectant in one. At first, I thought it might be too rich and thick for thin hair, but my ends can't get enough.
If you ask me, wet brushes are the only hair brushes that matter. They detangle hair with unrivalled ease. Once you've tried one, you'll never look back.
6. Teasing Your Hair Can Work Wonders
Okay, I'll admit that sometimes root-lifting products are important. As Edmonds so wisely told me, there are products out there that will hold volume in thin hair—they just might not be the most comfortable. For occasions when I really want my hair to be looking its fullest and most voluminous, I reach for two products: a teasing brush and a texturising and volumising spray. I spray my roots and back-comb my hair into position. Then, I finish it off with a hearty dose of hairspray.
This back-combing brush is absolutely perfect for targeting small areas that need a little lift.
This is the only volumising spray I've ever repurchased. It adds lift, texture and grit without making hair feel gross.
Shannon Lawlor is a renowned beauty journalist and has contributed to Who What Wear’s beauty content since 2020. As a leading beauty editor, expert and brand consultant, she has over eight years of experience working for some of the industry’s most esteemed titles, including Who What Wear (of course), Glamour UK, Stylist, Refinery29 and Fabulous.
Having also worked behind the scenes with some of the industry’s biggest brands and retailers, Shannon has a unique insight into what people really want from their beauty routines. Understanding that beauty lovers seek honest, open and responsible advice, she has it made her mission to demystify the intimidating world of beauty, taking a no-frills approach to the most relatable topics.
While Shannon is the first to admit she doesn’t hold the answer to every beauty question out there, she is dedicated to sharing her expert insights in a bid to help. As a self-proclaimed lazy girl, Shannon has an affinity for easy-to-use, foolproof beauty products and has made it her mission to scope out the best of the best.
When she’s not working, Shannon is likely soaking in the bath or giving no-holds-barred beauty reviews on Instagram from her bathroom floor.
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