A quick scan through any beauty magazine will reveal hair product ads galore touting their ability to add volume to flat or lifeless hair. Volume is the holy grail for so many women: It connotes health, vitality, youth, confidence and power. Think of Kate Middleton’s signature bouncy blowout or Adele’s 60’s inspired updos and swingy flips.
But most women aren’t blessed with naturally voluminous hair, and often suffer from “bad hair days,” which is just code for flat hair days. And a bad hair day, for many women, is just a bad day. Period. When you’re having a bad hair day – or a flat hair day -- your confidence wanes, you turn off the video on those zoom calls, and pull your hair up into a ponytail or don a hat that doesn’t fool anyone. On a good hair day, on the other hand, when your hair is bouncy, shiny and voluminous, you feel like you can take on the world.
So how can you have those great hair days more often? First, you need to understand what is a good hair volumizer. And keep in mind, it’s not that easy to literally defy gravity and coax your hair off your scalp and into a full, voluminous look. And for different kinds of hair types and styles, the solutions will look different. Thin or fine hair, for example, needs extra help when it comes to volume. So you will need to find the best hair volumizer for fine hair. But take heart. There is hope for everyone in the volume department. We’ve taken a look at the best products and methods for getting that coveted look, and picked the top tools, styling products and techniques: Here goes – our list of best volumizing products, techniques and tools.
Hair Volumizing Tools
Volumizing Hair Irons
This is a new category of hair tools, pioneered by the VOLOOM Hair Volumizing Iron with its patented heated checkerboard plates. These tools are designed specifically to be used in the underlayers of the hair, nearest the roots, to add volumizing structure, lifting hair up and away from the scalp and giving the appearance of much greater volume. You can get as much or as little volume as you want by using the tool on one or more layers. These tools are meant to be used near the roots only, with the ends styled any way you please.
Not only do these tools deliver great volume in just a few minutes, but the volume tends to last for days. This is especially important for women with fine or thin hair who tend to wash their hair too often, not because it’s dirty, but to give it some lift. Going longer between shampoos (while maintaining a voluminous look) has many hair-healthy benefits. There is less use of harsh detergents and chemicals, less blow-drying, less heat styling, and even less coloring – all of which can damage fragile thinning hair. And volumizing irons are used only on the hair nearest the scalp, with its own natural oils and “heat protection.” It is never pulled through the fragile ends like other heated tools so it is not damaging to hair. Women find that their hair gets healthier over time by using the tool and can look like it has 2 to 3 times more volume.
These tools have been a game changer for delivering volume to even the finest and thinnest hair. There is a bit of a learning curve with these tools: It can take practice to get the hang of using it, but once you do, you can get the voluminous looks of your dreams. This may just be the answer for “what is the best hair volumizer?”
Crimpers have been around for decades and have become a bit of a hairstyle punchline from 80’s movies. But you’ve got to give them credit. Those crimped looks were voluminous. Some women have adapted crimpers to use in the underlayers of the hair to give them volume. And while they do deliver extra oomph, it can be very difficult to hide the sawtooth texture that just wants to pop through to the smooth upper layers. Another issue with crimpers is that they bend your hair back and forth at sharp angles and many are not coated with ceramic to shield hair from the high heat. This can cause breakage. The bottom line: With tools like volumizing irons that are optimized for adding volume, there is really no need to bring back the crimper for this purpose.
The time-tested blow-out, especially when done expertly, can certainly create a voluminous look. And if you have the time and skills to do it well, it can look phenomenal – bouncy, shiny, and touchable. If you’re a Duchess, with your own stylist on staff, you can get this look every day. For the rest of us, it takes time and skills that most of us just don’t have. But it’s still worth investing in a good blow dryer and a round brush for those special days when we want to work it! By a good blow dryer, we mean one that has several hair-healthy features:
- Adjustable heat and air flow settings allow you to customize the level of heat and the power of the air flow according to your hair type and preferences. Some dryers with just high speeds can blow fine hair right out of that round brush, making it impossible to smooth and style. So make sure you can adjust.
- Wattage/Power. Be sure to look at your hair dry’s wattage which determines its power. If you have finer or thinner hair, you may choose a lower wattage option. But for most hair, look for a range between 1,500 and 2,000 watts, with the most common being 1875 watts.
- Cool air button. High heat can open the hair cuticle and leave hair dull and fly-away. Look for a cool air setting or a cool shot button so that you can close that cuticle and lock in your style at the end of the drying process.
- Ergonomics. When you’re doing your own blowout, it’s tricky at best to wield both dryer and brush while sectioning hair. So the weight, cord length, and handle of the dryer all can make a big difference in your ability to successfully manage this balancing act.
- Safety certification. Look for marks such as ETL and UL on the hair dryer's packaging. Hair dryers are most often used in the bathroom so safety is paramount.
- Ion technology. Ionic technology sounds like it might be just an advertising gimmick, but it can actually be important for a hair dryer. Dryers that have ion generators can produce millions of negatively charged ions that counter the positively charged ions present in water and preventing them from penetrating the hair shaft and producing frizz. You might actually be able to dry your hair with a lower temperature if you have an ionic dryer. But again, hair type matters. If you have fine hair, you may want to avoid an ionic dryer because it can produce flat, limp hair. It’s best to choose a dryer with the option to turn this feature off.
In addition to a high-quality dryer, you’ll need a high-quality round brush for that voluminous blow out. Larger barrels generally produce smoother straighter looks, while smaller barrels impart curls and waves, and is suited to shorter hair or bangs. Natural bristles such as boar can also help distribute oils for your scalp to your ends.
A great blow-out requires three basic skills – managing the dryer, sectioning the hair, and using a round brush to smooth and style. Stylists are trained to exercise all of these skills simultaneously. But unless you have three arms, you may not be able to manage it. That’s where the new generation of brush dryers come in. A dryer and a round brush in one integrated tool can cut the time of your blowout in half -- not to mention, solving the extra arm problem. As with a dryer, look for a good quality motor, a design that you can hold easily, a good swivel cord, multiple heat and air settings as well as the option for no heat. In addition, look for a mix of bristle types – both plastic and natural boar – so that the dryer can hold onto your hair, even if it’s fine. There are several good ones on the market such as the VOLOOM Triple Play and the Dry Bar Double Shot.
Hair Volumizing Products
In addition to tools, there are a variety of other types of products to help volumize hair.
Volumizing shampoos work by not only cleaning the scalp, but also by containing ingredients that can coat individual hairs and give them a thicker appearance. Some also temporarily fortify the strength and rigidity of individual hairs lifting them away from the scalp, which gives the appearance of thicker hair. Hair thickening conditioners also contain hair “thickening” ingredients such as hydrolyzed wheat protein that makes hair shine and improves the body of hair while helping protect it from damage by forming a film on the hair shaft. Rice protein also builds volume and adds weightless moisture.
Dry shampoos can also give you a much-needed volume boost, especially on second or third day hair. Dry shampoo is a type of hair product that reduces the appearance of oil, grease, and dirt in your hair. Unlike wet shampoos and conditioners, dry shampoo can be applied to your hair while it’s dry — hence the name.
Dry shampoo doesn’t need to be washed out of your hair, and it’s typically applied to the crown of your head and other areas where it may get oily, shiny and lie flat on the scalp. Dry shampoo uses a mix of alcohols and starch-based active ingredients to soak up the oils and sweat from your hair and make the hair appear cleaner. Most dry shampoos also include a fragrance, which can make your hair smell fresher between washes, providing you like the “fresh” scent!
Depending on your hair texture, dry shampoo will likely make your hair look less oily and less voluminous. But don’t be fooled by the word “shampoo” in this product’s name. Dry shampoo isn’t meant for cleansing your hair. In fact, dry shampoos disguise dirt and grease on your scalp. They don’t work as a replacement for washing your hair. In fact, overusing dry shampoo can result in an itchy, dry scalp. So use with caution.
Scalp and Hair Treatments
These products can help to treat lack of hair volume at the root: They contain ingredients such as vitamins and amino acids that promote scalp health and hair growth. Most work by removing debris that clog hair follicles and also contain scalp-healthy nutrients and DHT (dihydroxy testosterone) blockers. Ingredients to look for include tea tree oil to dissolve sebum build-up, caffeine which stimulates hair follicles, green tea which strengthens them, as well as pumpkin seed and rosemary oil which work as natural DHT blockers. Rosemary oil has also recently come to the attention of dermatologists for its ability to stimulate blood flow in the scalp and is an increasingly popular ingredient in shampoos, conditioners and scalp treatments. To get the best results, use these products as directed. Because thinning hair can happen for a number of different reasons, you might have to go through a trial-and-error period to find the shampoo or treatment that works best for you.
Hair styling gels, mousses, pastes and powders
There are many styling products in various forms – gels, sprays, mousses, and pastes – that deposit material onto your hair making it feel temporarily more thick or dense. And while these have their place as styling aids to make hair stand up temporarily, the heavier ones weigh hair down and cause it to feel sticky and gunky. These products can also end up clogging hair follicles aggravating already thinning hair. These are short term fixes at best, so use sparingly as they can be cause even more thinning if overused.
Molding pastes are the thickest of these products with a consistency much like toothpaste. They provide a fairly flexible hold and can be reshaped if needed. Because they are quite thick, they are best for shorter hair and for medium to strong hold.
A newer class of styling product is a hair clay. These contain water absorbent powdered bentonite clay, which adds thickness and structure to hair. They can add quite a bit of volume without a lot of extra weight or greasiness. Some clays also contain ingredients that nourish the hair and scalp, so look for those that use those attributes on the package.
Hair gels have been around for a long time and the older ones (remember Dipity Do anyone?) have gotten a bad rep for leaving your hair crunchy, stiff and dry. Fortunately, the newer gels have overcome those drawbacks and can be extremely useful for managing and defining curls, and leaving hair more voluminous.
Hair mousses come in many consistencies, many of which leave your hair with almost weightless volume. While older mousses left hair sticky and stiff, the newer ones have lost the stickiness and are a great solution for adding body and heft to fine or thin hair. Some are especially formulated to leave little residue in the hair such as VOLOOM’s Very Airy Soft Styling Mousse.
Hair powders are a relative newcomer to the volume game. They are essentially like a dry shampoo only instead of being designed to target grease, they are optimized for creating lift, texture and volume when you tap them gently into your roots. While many can be heavy and weigh hair down, some, like IGK 30,000 Feet Volume Powder Spray are ultra-light, with bentonite clay that gently adds texture and grit to fine, flat hair.
Salon Hair Volumizing Methods
The Blow Out Bar
The advent of the blow-out salon has been a boon for women looking for that salon-style polish and volume for special occasions or whenever the mood strikes! Pioneered by Dry Bar, many of these salons have walk-in appointments and exclusively cater to women who want a professional shampoo and blowout – no color, haircuts or extensions on the menu.
Many offer voluminous looks such as Dry Bar’s Southern Comfort or Old Fashioned that require the round-brush and blow-dryer skills of a professional blowout artist. The only down side of these specialty services is that the volume they deliver can be fleeting and last only hours, before deflating like Cinderella after the ball.
Many of us remember perms from our childhood – the pungent sulfurous smell of permanent wave solution, those tiny plastic curlers that got stuck in your hair, and the frizzy caps of curls that required hours in the swivel chair.
In the modern version, soft rollers have taken the place of those hard plastic rods and foam pads are used to achieve waves rather than tight curls. Some salons will even plait your hair with the wave solution to give you that casual, post-braid look. But fine-haired gals beware: One thing hasn’t changed. A perm uses chemicals to break down the molecular structure of the hair, then puts it back together again, so don’t try this at home. A timing mistake can mean the difference between flowing waves and dry, damaged “straw” that can take months to grow out.
Teasing sounds like such fun. But don’t be fooled. Teasing results in knots in your hair that don’t come untied easily, resulting in pulling, shedding and breakage. With all of the other solutions out there for getting volume in your hair, leave this one back in the 60’s where it belongs.
The Net Net
Getting that gorgeous mane of hair has never been easier: There are so many tools, styling products and salon solutions out there to pick and choose from. And the best news is, you don’t need a one-size-fits-all solution but can choose one for your hair type and lifestyle. From a new generation of tools like VOLOOM, specifically designed to add volume to even the flattest hair, to sophisticated new styling gels and mousses coupled with a blow dryer, round brush, and some mad skills -- there’s a solution suited just for you. Now there’s no excuse for not having that bouncy voluminous look of your dreams.