Thin hair: Some of us were born with it, and some of us are adjusting to its thinning as we age. Whatever the cause, there’s one thing that’s certain: Styling it can be a bit more difficult than with thick tresses. That doesn’t mean, however, that those of us with thin hair are out of luck — there are a ton of stylish updos for thin hair that work with even the most meager manes.
And, of course, many of these updos that make thin hair look thicker can be found on the red carpet. So we turned to some of today’s top hairstylists to find out how to make the most out of your hair’s body while also tossing it up and away from your face to get a look that truly flatters. Then we got the tips, tricks and how-tos that will help you get the best updos for thin hair at home with ease!
How to pick the right updos for thin hair
When it comes to updos that make the most of thin hair, “There are options, many and plenty,” assures celebrity hairstylist and DIY color and styling expert for Sally Beauty, Gregory Patterson. It’s all about choosing hairstyles that maximize volume, distract from thinning areas and maximizing your hair’s natural texture to add dimension. “You may just have to keep an open mind and think of the unconventional — this includes using products in ways that they may not be intended for,” says Patterson. Like using a headband to create the illusion of more height or root-blending powder to hide sparse spots.
You can get some extra help along the way, too. Meagan Ford, a hairstylist in San Francisco who specializes in fine hair and extensions says, “Some of my favorite ways for adding extra volume are through gently teasing the hair, adding extensions and utilizing volumizing products which can help create the illusion of thicker hair.”
The one thing to avoid if you have thin hair
Important to note: “First, remember when styling thin or fine hair, you never want to overly tighten or pull on the strands,” cautions says Rogerio Cavalcante, hairstylist/colorist and owner of New York City’s The Second Floor Salon. That means try to keep a relaxed hold, otherwise you can create too much tension, which can cause hair to fall out.
Also smart: Cavalcante says to avoid anything very slicked back which just ends up showcasing any thinning.
The best updos for thin hair for women over 40
1. Best updos for thin hair: a tall headband
“Elevating your look with a tall headband is a smart hack to give your hair that extra volume it might be missing,” says Cavalcante. The key is to find a headband that stands off your head a bit, adding stunning, statement-making height to any updo! One we like: Rubi Paris Padded Headband (Buy from CottonOn, $12.99)
To do: “When adding the headband, position it from the top of your head down, rather than from the forehead to the back,” insists Cavalcante. “This placement will enhance the volume and create a stylish look that’s comfortable and flattering.”
2. Best updos for thin hair: a low, side braid
A softly intertwined braid is a great way to add interest, texture and dimension to a low side-swept style, plus the relaxed bohemian vibe that transmits quiet confidence. It also works for all hair thicknesses, including thin hair. You just have to add a thickening product to beef up your locks, says Patterson.
A technique called “pancaking” can make all the difference when it comes to braids for thin hair. It’s a hairstylist trick that flattens braids so they look wider, resembling a pancake.
To do: Use a texture spray or hair texture powder on your hair before braiding to add some grit and body. Try: Rock On by Beyond the Zone Volumizing Powder (Buy from Sally Beauty, $7.99). Just sprinkle in then begin by braiding your hair — if possible, try not to tie off your braid before trying this technique, or at least leave an inch of hair unbraided at the bottom, just above the hair tie. Once starting at the bottom of the braid, gently tug the outer loops of each braid. If you have a hard time picturing this, check out the below video from TikToker Johanna Westbrook, who says the trick is to not pull out too much hair. Work your way up, taking care to pull only on the outside loops, and make them evenly sized.
(Click through to see more styles of braids for thin hair.)
3. Best updos for thin hair: a bow-tied low pony
Wrapping a silk ribbon tied on in a bow around a ponytail is a smart move because it can help to conceal, or distract from any thinning or sparse areas in the hair, says Ford. “It adds depth and dimension to the ponytail by creating a layered effect making the hair seem fuller,” she insists.
To do: Simply tie a bow around your ponytail. But here’s a key from Ford: Make sure not to go too thick with your ribbon so it doesn’t dwarf your ponytail. “Remember the bow is there to make your hair mimic fullness, not make it look smaller!” she says. So stick with a ribbon that’s 2” wide or less.
4. Best updos for thin hair: Create fuller ends with a full, faux bob
A faux bob is a no-brainer for fine-haired ladies with long hair. By tucking your ends under, you effectively double the amount of hair at your ends! It’s also a fun way to change up your look for a night without chopping your hair off!
To do: Cavalcante says: Part hair on the side, then secure in a low, loose ponytail. Tuck the pony under (creating a roll); gently fan out the sides of the roll and pin in place.
5. Best updos for thin hair: Hide thin temples with a messy pony
When pulling your hair up into a bun, ponytail or backbraid, if your thin hair is focused more around the hairline and temples, it puts it into sharp focus. “This is where perfectly plucked face-framing wisps come into play.” says Patterson. They strategically fall over the thin areas, plus pull attention down to your face in a subtle way that makes you shine. Paterson also points out in this case, “The ponytail itself has a lot of texture to it, which really helps to create the look of a fuller head of hair.”
To do: Sprinkle some volumizing texture powder, like Beyond The Zone Volumizing Powder (Buy from Sally Beauty, $7.99), onto roots, then gently brush into a ponytail from underneath to build full texture and hold. Secure with a hair tie, then gently tug pieces out one by one around your face.
6. Best updos for thin hair: a volume-infused high pony
Adding volume to a ponytail certainly is an easy way to get the most out of thin strands, and it also happens to have a very romantic finish. Cavalcante says, “This style with volume, curves and movement tends to complement women with round or oval faces as it harmonizes with the natural curves of their face shape.”
To do: Cavalcante says that before blow-drying, apply mousse for added volume. Try: Amika Plus Size Perfect Volume Mousse (Buy from Amazon, $12). Then tease your hair before pulling it up into a ponytail and finish off with your favorite hairspray.
For an easy way to double the volume of your ponytail, watch this YouTube video:
7. Infuse life to the top with a soft, curly twist
“This loose curly updo is a fantastic choice for fine hair because it’s simple to create and adds volume to the crown of your head,” says Cavalcante. It’s also particularly great if you have natural curls, since you don’t have to blow your hair out or add coils — you can just toss it right up!
To do: Gently gather your hair and twist it up into the desired shape, using pins to secure the hair in place as you go. If you have trouble with your hairpins showing, Cavalcante has a secret trick: “You can opt for small metal clips with decorative jewels!”
8. Conceal a sparse hairline with a bangin’ bun
It may seem counterintuitive to opt for bangs with thin hair, but since they draw attention to your eyes, they can keep focus right where you want it. The key is to stye your bangs so they look their fullest — since they’re the most visible part of your hairstyle — and keep the rest of your updo simple. In this case, it’s paired with a sweet high bun! Don’t have bangs? Add fake ones! One we like Hairdo Clip in Bangs (Buy from The Wig Company, $30.60).
To do: Patterson recommends blowing your bangs dry using a mousse or thickening product such as the Biomega Up All Night Mousse (Buy from Sally Beauty, $21.99). Then spritz them with a dry texture spray. Try: TRESemme Dry Texture Finishing Spray (Buy from CVS, $8). “This will act as a hairspray/dry shampoo hybrid helping to keep the oil at bay and the hair plump,” he says.
The best volumizing updo products to add to your arsenal
A few of the best products to have on hand to ensure updo perfection.
Gimmie Beauty Fine Hair Bands (Buy from Ulta, $10)
Ford loves these hair ties because, she says, “they come in various colors to help mimic your natural hair color and were specifically made for fine hair.”
Toppik Hair Filler (Buy from Ulta, $24.95)
Sprinkling a bit of this fiber powder into the hair is a red carpet secret. Patterson explains, “It instantly gives the appearance of fuller, thicker hairlines.”
The Fyne Comb by Fully Fyne (Buy from Fully Fyne, $16)
Ford uses this comb to brush out waves on thin hair. “It’s made of bamboo, which is perfect for fine hair as it is anti-static and gentle!”
Hair Thickness Maximizer Saw Palmetto Serum (Buy from Hair Thickness Maximizer, $15.95).
Looking for a serum that can help regrow hair without breaking the bank? A 2020 study found that the use of both topical and oral saw palmetto led to a 60% percent improvement in overall hair quality, 27% improvement in total haircount, and increased hair density in 83.3% of patients with alopecia.
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