If only laugh lines and dated pop culture references were the only age-revealers. “Hair, like skin, ages,” says hairstylist Julien Farel, owner of the eponymous salons in New York City. “The scalp produces fewer hairs as we age, and the strands themselves get thinner.” But just because your hair is thinner doesn’t mean it has to look the part.
Lasting solutions like minoxidil serums, hair transplants, and laser therapy are good long-term options, but there’s often an awkward gap between treatments and results, explains Robert Leonard, a hair transplant surgeon and diplomat of the American Board of Hair Restoration Surgery based in Boston, Massachusetts. Enter our smart styling solutions for a fuller, healthier look, no matter how much you’re working with.
One of the fastest ways to create the illusion of more abundant hair is to cut it off, lopping off inches and adding strategic layers. Shorter hair tends to look healthier and have more volume, since it’s not weighed down by extra inches, says Edward Tricomi, the New York City-based master stylist and cofounder of Warren-Tricomi Salons. Layers add volume, too—ask that layers be concentrated near your face while the back is left full, to create the illusion of both body and thickness, says George Papanikolas, a bi-coastal hairstylist and colorist who works at Andy Lecompte Salon in Los Angeles and Rita Hazan Salon in New York City. If you’d like bangs, make sure they start further back on your head so the fringe looks full.
Here’s the upside of having to cover up all those grays: color swells your hair’s cuticle, making it bigger in diameter and lending extra volume, says Papanikolas.
Your healthy color plan: touch up roots just once a month and highlights every two to three to avoid weakening the hair by over-processing it, and aim a few shades lighter than your natural color to make visible patches of scalp or a too-wide part less noticeable.
It’s only on your scalp for a few minutes, but the shampoo you use can really make a difference. Choose a volumizing shampoo without sulfates, detergents that are harsh on hair but not necessary for a cleansed scalp. This type of formula strikes the perfect balance: It removes excess oils that make hair look limp, but is gentle enough to support a healthy shine. We like Kevin Murphy’s Plumping Wash ($36; kevinmurphy.com.au) which removes residue without sulfates or parabens and nourishes roots with stimulating ginger root and nettle extracts.
Those precious minutes before your hair dries post-shower are the prime time to add volume. Lift roots by working a volumizing mousse or spray into hair near the root, Tricomi says. Our favorites are Livingproof’s Full Thickening Mousse ($15; livingproof.com), which creates lasting volume that never feels stiff or sticky, and Matrix’s Biolage VolumeBloom Full Lift Volumizer Spray ($16; biolage.matrix.com) adds bounce without parabens. No matter which you prefer, make sure it’s the only product you’re putting on your hair post-shower—too many products, even volumizing ones, will weigh down your hair.
The prep is important, but if you expect your hair to look more lively than cooked spaghetti, you need to take your blowout seriously, too. And it’s going to take some elbow grease. Using a round brush, pull sections of hair up and in the opposite direction of the way it naturally falls—all the hair that rests on the right side of your head should be pulled toward the left, and vice versa, Farel explains. While you’re at it, protect your hair from damage by using a natural-bristle round brush. “Metal brushes put too much heat directly on strands, which is especially tough on fine, delicate hair,” he adds. We like the Ibiza Hair Z series ($38; ibizahair.com), whose natural boar bristles are swirled to grip hair for a more effective root lift.