The Secret to Disguise Thin(ning) Hair
For the most part I've always liked my hair. I had enough to do what I liked, but I was never that girl who complained of having a horse's mane, headaches from heavy hair, or offers to be in a Pantene commercial. There were times I wished I had those problems, but in general I was satisfied. UNTIL.
Until three years ago when half my hair fell out. I was a few months postpartum with baby number 6. I didn't lose any hair with babies 1-4. I lost some with number 5, but I lost a ton with number 6. I was really unhappy about it, but I knew it would come back. UNTIL IT DIDN'T. What???!!!!! My hair didn't come back? Nope. In fact, nothing came back. Not my hair, my energy, my zest, my figure, or my mojo. After six babies I knew my body's timeline for things getting back to normal, and it wasn't happening this time.
Turns out I had some pretty serious health problems to deal with, and it took a while to find a doctor who could help me. In that time my hair has filled in and fallen out and filled in, but it's still not as thick as it was. To be honest, I've cried about my thinning hair, many, many times. It's been SO HARD. I felt ugly. And old. And sad. And used up. And broken.
Fortunately I have an amazing stylist who has worked with me to pick haircuts that maximize what I have, as well as choosing products and techniques that make my hair look a lot thicker than it is. I've figured out some tricks on my own as well. Since I'm the one with the problem, I have 365 days a year to experiment. As my health improves, so does my hair, but I have no way of knowing if I'll ever get it all back. I know I'm not alone in this, so I'm sharing what I've learned and figured out, the secrets to disguise thinning hair. Because while I can only do so much to make it come back, I can hide the problem.
Find a fantastic stylist
This is critical. Ask around. Talk to people who have similar hair texture as you, possibly a similar style you are interested in, and find out who they go to. That's how I found my guy, and that is how others have found my guy, because they liked my hair and asked me who does my hair. I always have great things to say about him, so they usually take my recommendation. A great stylist doesn't have to mean you spend a fortune on your hair. I've been to some very expensive places and gotten not great hair cuts. Mo' money doesn't mean mo' betta. That is true to a point. From my experience if you get a $6 haircut, it will usually look like a $6 haircut. More than price point, though, take recommendations from people with great hair cuts. I've even asked strangers. Don't be embarrassed. It's very flattering to have someone ask who does your hair.
Don't go too short and don't go too long if you have thin or thinning hair. If it's too short, like really cropped on the sides, it will show your scalp because there just isn't enough to cover it. I love cropped sides and tried it for a couple of months (against my stylist's advice), but I was constantly battling the coverage. I can't do an undercut, which I would LOVE, for the same reason. You can see below a picture from when it was cut too short on the sides, and I had to do major damage control every day.
If it's too long, thin hair will just look stringy and sad like old yarn. Don't hold on to length that is doing you no favors. Long hair doesn't make you feminine or beautiful. Short hair doesn't make you look unfeminine. These days any length is attractive as long as it maximizes what you have and flatters your features. I'm not saying you have to have a pixie. I have had pixies off and on for 10 years because I love them, not because I had to. In fact when my hair was at its worst, a pixie would have been less flattering because it would have shown more soft spots, as my stylist calls them. Keep thin hair at least above the shoulders. A bob is a great hairstyle and can still be long enough for your beloved ponytail. It also comes in a variety of lengths and shapes.
Go easy on the layers. The more layers you have the thinner the ends will look.
Maybe skip the bangs. When my hair was at its worst I didn't have bangs. I needed all the length on that section of hair to disguise how thin it was in the front and on the sides. I can have bangs now because it's grown in more, and because the whole thing is shorter.
These are the longest versions of a bob, depending on how much hair you have to work with. You can definitely put these in a ponytail if you really want to (a ponytail is life and death to some people, apparently).
These are more mid-length and will still have a lot of variety of how to style them. This is the length that will give you the most coverage without looking too sparse.
And then there is the pixie, which I LOVE. Obviously.
Air drying my hair has always made it look limp and lifeless. Blow drying my hair gives it a lot more volume and life. Air drying is for mermaids. If you are a mermaid you are one of the luckiest creatures on the planet (and I love you).
If you have short hair, or short parts to your hair, don't style it UP, style it DOWN. I mean if you have bangs, don't curl them up and away from your head (for lots of reasons, actually). If you have short hair all over, don't style it up and away from your head. I'm a huge fan of a faux hawk, but lifting my hair away from my head will expose my scalp, just like lifting my skirt. DON'T DO IT. Here are some examples. Look at Judy Dench's hair in the first picture. It looks much fuller because she is keeping the hair closer to the head. While I love the edgy look of her hairstyles in the next two pictures, they don't flatter because they expose her scalp. Even the woman in the fourth picture appears to have a lot of hair, but lifting it up that way shows the soft spots up front on the sides. Last is Halle Berry wearing the faux hawk I wish I could. She has a ton of hair, so she can do it with no problems. Do you see the difference?
Also giving your hair a little curl or wave with a flat iron or curling iron will also give it some depth and bulk. Just don't go crazy. That works better on the medium lengths shown above. With the longer hair it will just separate the hair and exaggerate how little there is.
The more contrast between your hair color and your skin, the more obvious your thin hair will be as your scalp shines through. If you have fair skin, blonder hair color will give more coverage. I don't want to be blond, so I had a light brownish reddish color when my hair was at its worst. I can have much darker hair now that I have more hair to cover it.
For me keeping up on my hair color is critical. I have lighter hair and more gray than I care to admit. If I don't color my hair once a month, the regrowth makes it look like it's much thinner. It makes my part look really wide and my hair look thinner, especially on the sides where it is shortest. My hair does grow really fast and I have a pixie, so I have to really stay on top of it. Most people can go six weeks between coloring.
For a while my stylist was bleaching my hair every 3-4 months. It damages and roughens the cuticle and it basically doubles in size. Then he would re-dye my hair brown. It made a huge difference, so much so that my husband was amazed, too. When husbands notice, the change is big. I also loved it because my hair is very fine and slick and wants to lay smooth. I want it to be textured and piecey, and the bleaching gave me a lot of texture to work with. We recently stopped bleaching my hair because with such short hair, there is a different trick that is easier and less time consuming. Bleaching is a great trick for longer hair. Do be careful not to overlap the bleach on the cuticle with repeat treatments because it really does damage hair and can make it break with repeated treatments on the same part of the hair. Every 3-4 months he only bleached my roots, not my whole head. If you are interested in going this route, DEFINITELY follow tip number one and find someone you really trust. Do not go to a walk-in hair salon, and don't do this on your first appointment with someone. Have some appointments and develop some trust first.
Treat your hair well, especially if it is chemically treated with hair color, perms, relaxers, etc. Be careful with heat. Hair dryers, curling irons, and flat irons can damage hair a lot and cause breakage. One of the benefits of only washing my hair once a week is I only blow dry my hair and fully straighten it once a week. The other days I just touch up with my flat iron to get any unruly spots. There are also products to protect hair from heat damage and to deep condition to help with chemical and heat damage. While damaging your hair a little can make it look thicker and coarser, too much will make it break off.
Ok, this is where you have a lot of options, but it's important not to use anything too heavy that will weigh your hair down and defeat the purpose. I'll go through each one in the order of use in my hair routine, and list the pros and cons.
Thickening cream - I apply this just before blow drying. It gives some volume and life to my hair. Pros: it does help, though once I run out I might see if the rest of the products make just as much impact without it as with. It lasts a long time even though the bottle is quite small. I've been using this bottle since September. You only need a tiny bit. Cons: It's expensive.
Hair powder - ok, this one is my favorite. This is the product that replaced the time, expense and damage of bleaching my hair. It's a hair powder that makes your hair gritty, textured, full, thicker, volumized. It literally gives the appearance of twice as much hair. I make horizontal parts across the top of my head and sprinkle it into my roots like sugar. I also do some on the sides and back, but not as much. Then I run my fingers through and spread it around my roots and hair. You can see me do this in the video below. Style as usual. Pros: It volumizes, thickens, adds texture, grit, spunk, spice and everything nice. If you want texture to show your layers and piecey-ness, this will do that. It allows me to go longer without washing and before I need to use dry shampoo. I can easily go a week without washing my hair now. I use this on day one, nothing on day two, sometimes day three. Dry shampoo day four, more of this on day five, wash on day seven. Don't use this everyday or you will look like Frankenstein's bride. Twice between washings is the maximum for me. It's also fairly inexpensive compared to other hair products. Cons: it's not fantastic for longer hair. It works best on shorter locks.
Hair fibers - These are tiny little fibers that kind of look like hair shavings. Appetizing right? You sprinkle or spray them on where needed to fill in, then pat them on. I really like this for filling in a horizontal surface like a part, or a large area on top of the head. I don't have the spray attachment, so I can't say how well that works. Pros - it's adding actual bulk to your hair. Cons: It can be difficult to control where it is going, and can leave sprinkles on your clothes during application. They should brush off. I haven't tried the spray application, but as for the sprinkling application, it is more difficult to get it on the sides of the head or hairline. Also, it can be expensive. You can watch a video about it here.
Dry shampoo - I love dry shampoo for saving time and going longer between washings so I can get ready in 20 minutes or less. It has the added benefit of making your hair bulkier as well. It doesn't give you as much of a boost as the hair powder, but it does help. Pros: multi-functional for all the reasons mentioned above. Cons: Not the biggest bang in the hair thickness department. Not all dry shampoos are created equally. Some can be very drying. This is my favorite. It actually cleans your hair.
Colored dry shampoo - This is a two-fer. You get to skip a day or three of washing your hair and save mucho tiempo, AND it has some pigment to help cover a wide part or some bare spots. I spritz it in near the roots where needed (spritz, not spray) and let it dry. Then brush it through to make it look more natural and blend with your hair color. Pros: it provides two services in one. It comes in blond, red, some browns (light, medium and dark). It is light to medium coverage and is easy to control where it goes. It is inexpensive, available at many drug stores, and comes in a travel size so you can take it in a carry on (for a minimalist packer like me, that's GOLD). Cons: it's hard to get an EXACT hair color match, which is why you brush to blend. If you are too heavy-handed it will come off on clothes, fingers, pillowcases, etc. It does need to be reapplied every day. It's not as fantastic of a dry shampoo as this one, but it has the coloring, which is more what I use it for.
Colored hair thickener spray - This is heavy duty. It's kind of like spray paint. Shake the can really well (it even has the marble inside like a paint can). Then part your hair and spritz. I find light spritzes on specific areas work best. I often do the crown of my head, especially if I'm coming close to time to get my roots done. Let it dry and then give it a light brushing to distribute. Pros: This gives maximum coverage and can easily be used all over your head. It comes in gray, light brown, medium brown, dark brown and black. Also, one application usually lasts at least two days, unlike the colored dry shampoo. It's easy to control where you apply it. Cons: it will come off on your fingers, clothes, pillowcase, etc. Honestly if you have thinning hair you should keep your hands out of it anyway. Using the light spritzing at the roots, which is where you need it, will minimize the rub off. If you have short hair like mine and need it down where your hair will make contact with your collar, it's likely to rub off on your shirt some. It will make hair a little stiff and sticky like hair spray, but again, light application is key. Light spritzes only in the necessary places will minimize this con. If someone is going to be rubbing their fingers through your hair where you've sprayed, it will come off on their fingers as well.
Several of you asked for a video to show how I style my hair, so I decided it to combine it with this post I've been working on. This video shows how I style my hair, and how I use these products to disguise thinning hair.
The styling paste I use in the video is Mitch Matterial Strong Hold Ultra-Matte Styling Clay
What do you think about the tips I've shared here? Have you cried about thinning hair like I have? Do you have any tricks, tips or secrets to disguise thin or thinning hair?
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