The question “how to add volume to my hair” is one of the most searched for hairstyle questions on Google, and that’s never more true than around the December party season.
It’s no wonder: whatever your hair type, from straight to afro, adding a little more body to your tresses can provide an effortless, final flourish to your festive beauty look.
However, according to hairstylists, many volume-seekers are inadvertently making key mistakes when attempting to add volume – which could explain why your hair falls flat so fast.
Discover the five most common styling mishaps below, as explained by the hairstylist and creative director at the Aveda Lifestyle Salon & Spa, Michael Lendon. Plus, he gives his expert advice for achieving effortlessly volumised hair throughout the festive season and beyond – whether you have a big party planned, winter travels booked, or something more low-key on the agenda this year.
MISTAKE 1. NOT WASHING YOUR HAIR THOROUGHLY
This one might surprise you, but let’s explain. While it’s true that freshly washed hair has a smoothness that can make it harder to hold a curl (especially for super straight hair), under-washing is also problematic.
More specifically, if you are not thoroughly washing your hair when you do wash it, you’re likely to have product residue and dried oil built up on your scalp (even if you can’t feel it). According to Lendon, this will be affecting the volume of your day-to-day hairstyle.
“Any build up on the scalp directly impacts the hair growing out of it, by interfering with the root,” Lendon explains. “Oil weighs down your roots, so while you may be able to achieve waves through the lengths, your roots are much more likely to fall flat.” That’s only exacerbated during party season, where you are likely to be out for extended periods of time, in adverse weather conditions. This build up on the scalp also affects the overall health of your hair, which contributes to perceived body as well.
So, while being less generous with your conditioner on the day you want a voluminous hairstyle isn’t a bad idea, you do probably want to consider a deep cleanse in advance to prep your hair (and keep it healthy in general). Try an intensive scalp cleanser, which are available in the form of grainy salt scrubs that physically exfoliate away dead skin cells, or lighter lotions that use chemical exfoliants to directly target the scalp.
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MISTAKE 2. CONFUSING VOLUME AND THICKNESS
The terms “volume” and “thickening” can be a little confusing: you’ve probably seen the terms used both as separate hair concerns and interchangeably when we talk about adding body to the hair.
Put simply, thickness refers to the overall diameter of each hair strand, while volume (itself often seen as a depiction of density) normally refers to the overall space which your head of hair takes up. That’s important because if you merely add volume to your hair, you can actually risk it looking sparser. For example, you may notice it looks wispy or flyaway if you hair is already naturally thin, or frizzy if you have a coarser hair type.
For that reason, just liberally applying a volumising or thickening spray interchangeably isn’t always the best option. In fact, any volume you do achieve is likely to fall flat pretty quickly. Instead, it’s not about the amount of product you apply, but what you apply (and when) that matters most.
“I like to use a combination of three products on my clients, customising the amount I apply depending on their hair type,” says Lendon. “I start with a thickening product on damp (not wet) hair, such as Aveda’s best-selling Thickening Tonic to instantly bulk up the individual strands. While we often focus on the roots for volume, this product is actually best through the mid-lengths and ends for all-over body-boosting.”
Then, after rough-drying the hair to about 80% dryness, Lendon focuses on the root area by massaging in a volumising spray with his fingers (followed by a thickening foam, for a really full-bodied look). You can commonly use a volumiser on dry hair, but it’s actually a Fashion Week hairstylist secret tip that applying them to slightly damp hair encourages further style hold.
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MISTAKE 3. BLOW-DRYING UPSIDE-DOWN
Flipping your head upside down as you blow-dry your hair is a long-held technique for encouraging some volume at the root (and quickening the process of rough-drying). Yet, if you want long-lasting volume, try “exercising your hair” instead.
“While blow-drying with your head upside down provides quick volume at the root, it’s really unlikely to last,” explains Lendon, who coined the hair exercising phrase. “This is because you are essentially blow-drying your hair all in one direction and eventually gravity, or as I like to say “hair’s laziness”, means the hair will flatten in the direction you have angled it, even if this is away from your traditional parting.”
“Instead, you want to exercise the roots of your hair by moving your hair in all different directions (with your head upright), pushing it up and over as your dry it. Think about your damp hair as like hot plastic, which you can use heat and deliberate shaping movements to mould into your designed style, using a blow-dry brush if you have one and your hair-dryer.”
The volume-boosting aim is to add height at the root and movement through the ends – so reach your lengths up towards the ceiling using your brush as you do so. Then, push the hair upwards and over to one side then the other with the hairdryer, using a concentrator nozzle to direct the airflow from the root. The expert advice: focus on taking rough sections that are no wider than your brush.
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MISTAKE 4: TEASING OR BACKCOMBING
With 60s beehives firmly engrained in “big hair” hairstyling inspiration and imagery, the concept of teasing or backcombing your hair is strongly interlaced with adding volume. However, we probably all know it’s drawbacks: namely, how difficult it can be to comb out in the short-term and the damage it can cause to your hair long-term.
That’s why in the salon, celebrity hairstylists focus instead on creating a horse-shoe shape at the crown, which then allows them to use a technique that Lendon calls “boxing” to more gently add lasting volume to the root. (You’ll be relieved to know, it has nothing to do with working up a sweat in the ring).
The name is related to the “box-like shape” you create, which can be done fairly easily with the end of a rat tail comb, starting from the hair line near the ears all the way back to the crown of the head. You may also find it useful to section off each area with clips, especially if you have a lot of hair, to ensure each section becomes fully dry and can be individually focused on.
Then, when you are blow-drying, angle your hair-dryer nozzle upwards, so that the air flows up into the root from below and ensure you move it around all sides of the shape you have created to encourage the most volume at the crown. This upwards blowdrying can encourage some fluffiness of the baby hairs around your hair line, so Lendon advises pushing these baby hairs upwards using your hairdryer and a concentrator nozzle to keep the style sleek.
MISTAKE 5. UNDER-UTILISING YOUR CURLING TONG
A curling tong is a brilliant tool for adding curl and definition to your hair, but, according to Lendon, most of us are actually under-utilising our curler when it comes to boosting volume.
Whether you want to go on to create full curls or not, the trick is to take your curling tong and “wrap sections from the undermost layer of your hair just once around the barrel right near the root,” he explains. “What you are trying to do is put a bend in this area, which will move the hair out away from your face, giving a rather “regal lift” and the impression of greater density, without encouraging flyaways.”
The technique works best using a wide-barrel tong because you are aiming for a slight bend rather than a defined curl. However, this can be remedied on a smaller barrel by wrapping the hair more loosely around the tool or ensuring you only wrap each section for a few seconds.
A easy mistake to make is also wrapping each section of hair around the barrel in the wrong direction. It needs to be wrapped away from your face to ensure the final bend is directed away from your ears. This means placing the tool underneath the section of hair you are working on, before you start to bend, to provide a subtle lift that acts a little like scaffolding for the volume you have created above.
For lasting hold, don’t forget to add a little hairspray to these areas. Just remember to spray from below so you don’t accidentally flatten the volume you have created.