The Fine Haired Girl's Guide

Let’s face it. The hardest part about finding a new hairdresser is finding someone who just gets it. They understand your frustrations about how your hair has to be cut a certain way or else it won’t lay perfectly. The way your cowlick always seems to render your bangs unbearable. The texture and how it always seems to frizz up, flyaway or fall down after two minutes. That gift of really understanding your hair’s tendencies and abilities is priceless when it comes to finding a good hairdresser… and it’s often the difference between whether you leave loving your hair or whether you need a good cry after an appointment.

My hair is fine and thin, so you could say I specialize in that hair type. I know what it’s like first thing in the morning, how it responds to all different types of products and I know exactly what it will do in any climate. I know my hair type inside and out and there are no surprises when it come to taming, teasing and tailoring it on anyone. I want every woman to know what works best for her strands so that she can embrace her style with confidence and ease and unfortunately, there hasn’t been a whole lot of help for myself and my fine-haired friends.

So here’s the first part of two meant to help you better understand your hair. Fine-haired girls, this is for you!

What is “Fine Hair” Exactly?

The term “fine” refers to the thickness of one single strand of hair. This is often a confusing situation when I speak to women in the salon. Sometimes a client will have a ton of hairs on their head and have fine hair and sometimes they will have about four hairs on their head like me.. and have fine hair. It has nothing to do with how many strands you have, but rather how skinny or thick those strands are. A very thick strand of hair would be called “coarse” and a very skinny strand would be called “fine”. And this particular texture of hair, fine, has to be treated properly in order to style well, stay hydrated and embrace thickening products. It’s really important to understand this aspect of your hair before trying to figure anything else out.

Why Do I Have Fine Hair? Is There a Cure?

I’ve seen some women in my chair who swear they used to have “thick” hair and now have fine hair. I never argue because for one, I never saw their hair before so I genuinely don’t know and two, it’s really not that important what their hair was like twenty years ago. I’m concerned about making sure it looks good now and if they’ve become insecure about it, it’s my job to help them embrace and own their hair. As far as my experience goes, however, I’ve never seen coarse hair just turn to fine and I’m not sure if that’s even possible. But that’s how important understanding the makeup of fine hair is. Oftentimes when this happens, it’s not that the thickness of your hair strands have gone down. It’s much more likely (and I’ve seen this several times over) that you’ve lost hair from the hair strand and because you have less hairs on your head, it feels like your texture has changed. That can be really normal in some situations. Sometimes we lose hair simply due to stress or climate change. But other times (as was the case with my hair changing), your hair loss can be a symptom of an underlying medical issue and needs to be checked out. I always encourage women who’ve noticed recent hair loss to check in with a doctor and make sure their immune system and nutritional intake are in good condition. However, even with all of this information, it’s important for you to know that hair doesn’t just go from coarse to fine overnight. If you have fine hair, you’ve most likely had it your whole life and will continue to have it.

There is no “cure” for fine hair, though there are several topical options to help us out. Most of the time I see someone in my chair with fine hair who explains their struggles, I tell them I totally understand because I’m rocking the same hair. The response I get is, “Really?!? Your hair looks so THICK!”. Styling products, darling. And a roundbrush. These are miracle workers for us fine-haired girls. But we’ll get to styling routines later… Basically, my whole point is that while you won’t be able to literally alter the composition of your hair strand and make it coarse, there are plenty of products and treatments out there to help with the appearance.

What Treatments Can I Use To Thicken My Hair?

Remember that there is a difference between “thin” hair and “fine” hair. Sometimes, you have both, but not always. For truly fine hair, you’ll want a topical solution, more of a simple styling product. If your hair isn’t thin and you’re just looking for a great way to plump up your strands for a fuller look, then Full Again by Kevin.Murphy is your new essential. It actually uses little Rayon fabrics that attach to each hair strand and almost like tiny, invisible hooks, they add space between each hair strand, making it appear much fuller. This is just a styling lotion you can apply to damp hair before blow-drying in, but it works wonders for making your hair look and feel more plump and thick.

Another consideration with fine hair is how easily it can break. Because each strand is so skinny, it has a hard time enduring things like heat, climate change and color without breaking and drying out easily. Oftentimes, you will feel like it takes forever to grow out your hair and even when you do, it won’t go past a certain point and keeps breaking. Or those baby hairs around the face always stick out short and never grow out. All of these issues are simply because your hair is fragile.

For fine hair that has a hard time staying strong and not breaking and for hair that is thinning out (when you lose hair from the hair follicle), I always recommend Kevin.Murphy’s Body Mass. It’s important for you to know that I recommend these products because I’ve tried them on my own hair and can attest to how well they work for me. With Body Mass, there are a couple fun features that my hair has loved. First of all, this product uses the latest in eyelash thickening and lengthening technology. It’s the first hair product that I know of using this technology and how it works is by lengthening the growing phase of hair to ensure your hair grows as quickly as possible. It also uses oleanolic acid to strengthen the hair at the root so that it has a better chance of growing long and thick. And perhaps best of all, it helps to reduce DHT, which when found in abundance, can cause baldness or thinning. All you have to do with this spray is spritz it on your scalp and hair after each wash and blow-dry it in or let your hair air-dry.

How Should I Wear My Hair?

Fine hair is in its own category entirely when it comes to how to cut, style and treat. I have learned over the years (through failed haircuts on my own head and trial and error with my clients) what works every time, what is a total fail from the start and small, simple tricks to make your hair the most flattering it can be. I like to say I know what to do because someone tried what not to do on my hair… and I’ve had to grow out several times because of it!

Because fine hair tends to be very naturally wispy, soft and prone to static and breakage, a tailored haircut and style can be perfect. And a not so great haircut can be the worst! For me, it’s all about texture and how to place it for the most appeal. With fine hair, you’ll want more volume, more texture and more body. With longer hair, some very subtle, long layers are the way to go. Even better if you can pull off the angled look with your length a bit shorter in back and longer in front.. it will make your hair appear thicker in front where it tends to break easier. If you have a one-length haircut and want to add some spice without thinning your ends out too much, add a long fringe. You can style it to the side or down the middle, but it will add some style and height without making your ends look scraggly.

Short hair or mid-length hair are probably the most ideal for fine hair, though long can work if you take the time to style it out. With short hair or mid-length hair, you can often add some bodifying mousse or thickening lotion and get some great volume. With longer hair, I would recommend using a larger round brush and going through the whole head to get volume that will last all day. And if you are looking to hold curl on fine hair, you’ll need a texturizing lotion or spray. Go for a sea salt spray or just a texture spray, but always use something like this before curling. The grip of the added texture will allow your curl to hold all day long.

Things You Should Love About Fine Hair

I didn’t learn to love my fine hair until I was about 23. It was a long journey of wishing and praying and trying to get my hair to do things that it would never even attempt to look good in. But once I decided to embrace it and learn to get real with myself, I actually fell in love with my hair. Sure, I can’t over-condition or else I’ll look like a greaseball and sure, I might have to rock extensions for certain special occasions, but I take all the bad with the good and at the end of the day, I love my hair.

Think about it, I bet it never takes you more than twenty minutes to style your hair. No hour long blow-drying for us and certainly no “ponytail headaches” from having a mass of hair sitting on our heads all day. And that sleek look that’s so in right now? You know, the look that other women have to spend hours flat-ironing to get? Yeah, that’s called natural for me. So easy! I also love that when I get up in the morning, I have the option of going for a textured look with curl or a roundbrush blowout and either option looks fabulous and takes less than half an hour and a dime size amount of product.

Or being on vacation at the beach? You know exactly what I’m talking about! From the minute my hair hits the humidity and saltwater, each strand plumps up and has this great, sexy texture that I literally won’t get from any bottle of any product. Nothing beats Mother Nature in this context. Instead of having to braid it up or try to tame the frizz like some of my friends, I just get cool, lived in beach waves.

Avoid Tangles & Work Them Out Gently

Not only is this hair type the most prone to tangling, but it’s also the most fragile, so those tangles can cause a lot of unnecessary breakage if you aren’t careful. For best results, comb conditioner through with a wide-tooth comb in the shower before rinsing. Once you’ve rinsed, apply a lightweight leave in conditioner to only your ends and don’t rough up your hair in a towel before combing again; simply blot the moisture out with your towel. And during the day, when you notice those little tangles or static popping up, run a lightweight lotion or oil through your ends to help.

Dry Shampoo Is Your Best Friend

Fine hair feels like it gets greasy and oily much quicker than other hair types. And because you have less room for that oil to go, it ends up making your hair look heavy and unwashed very quickly. Meet your new best friend, dry shampoo. I wash my hair every 3-4 days and on my “off” days, I always use dry shampoo at the root. Spray it in and then work it in better with your fingers. It gives instant lift, body and the product soaks up all of the oils you have at your scalp. After finding this routine, I am the queen of day old hair.

Treat Wet Hair Like The Delicate Thing It Is

Because of the breakage we’ve talked about, never brush your hair when it’s wet. Always use a comb and be as gentle as possible. Also, be careful not to pull or manipulate your hair too much while it’s wet or damp. My fiance was in a phase for awhile of pulling his hair up into a man-bun while his hair was still wet because he liked the sleekness of a wet look. I kept warning him that he would start seeing breakage around his hairline because those delicate, finer hairs around his face would just break off in his ponytail. Sure enough, after a few weeks, I started seeing the breakage and showed him. I know it might seem like a smaller consideration, but having to grow out those baby hairs around the face takes forever and can alter the way your hair looks on a daily basis.

Avoid The “Weather Lady” Haircut

For some reason, when your hair is above the shoulders and fine, everyone wants to cut and style it into what I call “The Weather Lady”. In an effort to get full volume, the well-meaning hairstylist attempts a basic round-brush style based on how she knows to round-brush other hairstyles and textures… and twenty minutes later, you end up with a bubble. Minimal to no volume at the roots and a beveled, bubble shape from the mid-strands down. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been given this style and each time, I end up feeling ten years older than I am. The key for a modern, youthful, straight hairstyle with fine, short hair is to go for volume at the root only and let the rest lay a bit more relaxed. It shouldn’t feel so “done” and “matronly”. To achieve this kind of a look, have your stylist use a mousse or sea salt spray at your roots, rough dry your hair until it’s mostly dry and then, go through with the round-brush concentrating at the root only. Or rough-dry completely and add a few waves with a curling iron and just nix the round-brush completely.

Don’t Be Afraid Of The Occasional Clip In

I love my hair, but I also know what it’s not capable of. And I think that is a very crucial step of learning to love it. But in that, I know that when I’m going for a bit more drama and fullness that a good style just won’t do for me, I rock some clip ins. They are so great because you can easily put them in yourself after having a stylist cut them to your current haircut shape, they are just worn for the day and they add instant fullness and length. And sometimes, when I’m heading to a formal event or a night out with my girlfriend’s, it’s fun to switch it up and try something I understand I can’t rock naturally.

Think Before You Bleach

Fine hair is so incredibly fragile that when it comes to bleach, you have to go slow and steady. Here, that approach will be the only way to win the race. It’s very easy to have breakage, lose elasticity or to even lose hair from the root from over-processing. With my fine clients, I usually only lift them about two to three levels per bleaching just to make sure their hair is healthy and in tact each time. It’s easy to say, “I don’t care, I just want to be platinum!”, but when that platinum is perfect and you have so much breakage you look like you’re rocking a mullet, it’s not so pretty. Go slow, do deep conditioners in between and enjoy your healthy, bouncy tresses in the meantime!

Be Careful With That Conditioner

You can easily overdo it using conditioner on fine hair. When I shower, I literally use a pea sized amount of conditioner and I only work it through what can fit into a ponytail. It’s crucial to only get your conditioner on the ends because too close to the scalp will leave you looking greasy and weighed down all day long. It’s essential to get that moisture from a good conditioner, but just be careful with how much you use!

Don’t Overdo It On Hairspray

There is a huge misconception that fine hair won’t hold curl, so in order to get it to do so, you must curl the hair with an iron and then suffocate each hair in hairspray. With this process, you end up with dry, static-y ends and crunchy, over-done curls.. which isn’t a good look on anyone. The best way to get curl to hold is to start from the beginning: Rough-dry a texturing lotion into the hair to give grip and hold, curl up the hair with an iron, set the hair in pins for about 10-15 minutes, then take the pins out and shake your curls out. Don’t put a brush through the hair before curling because you’ll need the extra texture for hold and body. This is the best fool-proof way to get long-lasting, relaxed, modern waves on fine hair. And if you still want to, spritz some spray at the ends, but work from the beginning to ensure you get the best performance!

Study Which Bangs Work For You

You can definitely do bangs if you have fine hair, it’s just a matter of know which bangs work for you. As a stylist, depending on face shape, I usually recommend a long fringe or side-swept look that can easily appear much fuller than it truly is. A blunt, front-facing bang can be really flattering as well, but will usually look a bit wispier, so you just have to be prepared for that end result. And also, because fine hair isn’t as heavy, you’ll need quite a bit of hair to weigh down any cowlicks you may have at the hairline. Just know that before going in, so that you aren’t surprised when a hairdresser has to take a bigger section than you realized.

Have Some Updo Tricks

While fine hair usually takes less time to style because it doesn’t retain moisture as much as coarser hair, it can still be a pain to have to style it each morning. My go-to move is to have about five upstyles in my repertoire that I can throw my dirty hair up into within five minutes. That way, instead of a messy bun or a sleek ponytail, I have some more intricate, more intentional looking hairstyles that I can rock. If you need ideas, check out this fun piece I did on HelloGiggles.

Don’t Shy Away From Backcombing

On an everyday basis, backcombing is just too harsh for fine hair. BUT on those days when you’re needing extra volume in an updo or down style and everything just seems to be flat, backcombing is a must. The key is to use a small-tooth comb in medium sized sections around the crown only and when you actually place the backcombing, use gentle motions to “pad” it close to your scalp. When you need to take your hairstyle out, I recommend either spraying a leave-in conditioner on the backcombing and gently brushing out or just jumping in the shower and using conditioner to finger it out.

Never Let A Hairdresser Over-Texturize

This has always been my biggest issue with getting a great haircut for myself. Yes, there is texturizing needed to get the perfect shape and to distribute weight in the most flattering way. In fact, that’s essential. But sometimes when a stylist is unfamiliar with fine hair, they go to town and texturize the way they would on someone with thicker or coarser hair and all of a sudden, I have holes in my haircut that they accidentally cut out or I look like I’m rocking more of a mullet. The best way to texturize fine hair is to point cut the ends of the layers so that they lay nice and softly without heavy lines. And usually, a little slide cutting from the root and down the sections of the crown from the interior of the haircut. But seriously, that’s usually all you need to get the perfect amount of texture. If you notice your hairdresser going to town with thinning shears or working in one section for a long time, don’t be afraid to say something. Growing out a crappy haircut is much worse than feeling silly for questioning someone’s technique. As long as you come from a place of concern and approach the situation kindly, there should be no issue and you should still get your perfect haircut! 

Plenty Of Fashionable Celebs Have Fine Hair

Olivia Wilde. Cameron Diaz. Angelina Jolie. Gwyneth Paltrow. Jessica Alba. Amy Poehler. Kiera Knightley. All beautiful, talented women known for their successes and all of them rocking fine hair. And I would dare to say that all of them are uniquely stylish from head to toe and on their heads, we’ve seen everything from blunt bobs to loose waves to pixies. Let these fierce ladies be your inspiration if you get bored or upset with your hair and look at photos of them or other celebs with fine hair to get new ideas. And when you are looking for a new style or haircut, look to photos of these celebs who you know have the same hair type. That way, your stylist will be able to get pretty close to the same result for you!

Add Dimension Through Lowlights or Highlights

One of the simplest ways to fake fullness in fine hair is to add some dimension through color. When I don’t have some kind of lowlight or highlight in my hair, I feel like my hair is a bit more blah and flat. But just a few key highlights around the face and a couple peeking through the sides and suddenly my hair looks instantly thicker. With fine hair, you have to work smarter and not harder and this is a really, really easy way to do so.

Have An Overnight Plan

I love my hair when it’s day old, but I also have to be really picky about how I sleep on it. If I wear it down, I end up with flat, oily, messy hair in the morning and I basically have to wash to look presentable. If I wear my hair up too tight, I end up with breakage around my hairline. But if I sleep with a bit of conditioner on my ends and my hair wrapped up in a very loose, messy bun, I usually end up with a great starting point for the following morning. No static, minimal oil and no weird part lines or messiness. From there, I can either spray some dry shampoo and round-brush the top sections for soft fullness or add some curl with my iron. You can also add in a satin pillowcase to decrease static and dryness.