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How to make thin hair look thicker with easy tips and tricks

A stylist reveals how he made one woman's thin hair look fuller and thicker.
how to get thicker hair
Deb Sessa felt self-conscious about her thinning hair, but these expert tips helped her feel more confident.Anna De Souza / TODAY
/ Source: TODAY

There's a reason Deb Sessa, 60, wears a lot of hats: she's self-conscious about her thinning hair.

Sessa's diligent about touching up her roots as often as every other week to camouflage her scalp, but she's finding it more and more difficult to maintain the appearance of thick hair. "I know as I'm aging it's getting thinner and I have to find a solution," she said.

So TODAY Style sent her to Giovanni & Pileggi in Philadelphia, to get expert solutions on how to make thin hair appear thicker and fuller. The salon's artistic director and owner, Giovanni Mele, was happy to share his top tips.

Sessa is certainly not alone in her struggle. About 80 million people in the U.S. are battling hereditary hair loss, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Hair loss for women typically presents itself initially as a widening part that progresses into overall thinning.

"Thin hair can also be related to certain medications like thyroid replacement medications, anti-anxiety meds and even birth control pills," Dr. Shilpi Agarwal, board-certified physician and author of "The 10 Day Total Body Transformation," told TODAY Style. "All of these medications can affect hormone levels and in turn have an effect on the hair growth cycle, making thinning hair a possibility."

Mele and experts across the country shared their best at-home and salon tips for women with thinning hair. Here's what they had to say.

1. Cutting your hair creates more volume

Nervous to cut thin, fine hair? Don't be! Longer tresses weigh down hair near the scalp, so you lose fullness and volume at the root.

"Some women think by not cutting their hair it'll make it look thicker, but the reality is you have to cut it because if you don't it'll look stringy," Mele explained.

Heavy layers tent to thin the bottom out even more, so that adds to a thinner, more scraggly appearance overall.

"Finer hair typically looks best when the length is at the collarbone or shorter," said Holly Pistas, artistic director, master makeup and hair designer at Gordon Salon in Chicago. "With anything longer than that, the ends can look transparent."

Bobs, lobs or blunt cuts — even pixie cuts — are all great options for giving an appearance of thicker hair. "If your hair lays flat as a board, is prone to static and shows every scissor mark after a cut. I suggest opting for a blunt cut with microlayers," said Fae Norris from Neighborhood Salon in Los Angeles. You definitely want to avoid "The Rachel," she added. (Even Jennifer Aniston hated her most-famous haircut.)

2. Don't cut bangs

"Don't do it," Mele warned. Female pattern hair loss typically begins at the crown; by creating bangs, you're removing hair from where you need it most!

According to experts, you can still create softness around the face with strategic texturing that can give the illusion of bangs, but won't compromise fullness and volume.

3. Be strategic with layers

Layers can make the hair look skimpy. The key word you should hear from your stylist is "texture," not "layers." Hairstylist Claude Baruk of Claude BARUK Salon in Las Vegas suggests starting with a simple cut and style, then adding long bangs followed by a texturized cut, which will provide a fuller look.

"Rather than layering hair, texturizing the ends will make hair look longer and fuller," he said.

"Keeping layers near the crown of the head gives the hair more lift without interfering with the perimeter, giving the hair and the style more density," Pistas added.

hairstyles for thin hair
The right (or wrong) part can make a big difference. Try a zigzag pattern to make it appear more filled in.Anna De Souza / TODAY

4. Consider a blunt cut

Patty Mocarski, owner of Little Space Salon in New York City recommends that clients with thin hair keep the ends blunt to give a fuller, thicker appearance. "Don’t shy away from shaping and graduation around the face though," she said.

"A short precision cut that is worn above the shoulder makes a bold statement while still remaining classic and elegant," said Cassandra Carter from Oranj Studio in Portland, Oregon.

In short, you want to maintain as much bulk as possible. A longer angle can give the illusion of layers and movement without having to shatter the inside bulk of the haircut. If the hair texture is baby fine, stick with an overall bold shape like a bob and get creative with the face-grazing sections of hair.

5. A darker root gives the appearance of a denser scalp

An effective way to create the perception of thickness is to add color at the root. A slightly deeper root color will create the illusion of depth and can camouflage thinner hair.

"It’s similar to darkening eyebrows to make them appear thicker," said Norris. While it won’t provide the appearance of volume necessarily, it does make hair look denser.

One caveat: The deeper root color, also known as a “shadow root,” can reflect less light and make some hairstyles appear smoother and flatter. Her suggestion is to take a test drive first with colored dry shampoo. "They provide volume and actually make the scalp appear a bit darker as well," she said. Plus, it’s temporary so you can experiment before committing!

6. Play with your part

Avoid center part styles and sleek, smooth looks, suggested Dana Caschetta, Eufora national trainer and stylist.

A deep side part will give volume and fullness around the face. Try adding wave and movement through the roots and midshafts of the hair with a curling iron or wand.

thick hair tips
Deb Sessa felt self-conscious about her thinning hair, but these expert tips helped her feel more confident.Adam Holtz

7. Wash your hair with the right products

Be conscious of the shampoos and conditioners you use.

"Unlike traditional shampoos and conditioners, volumizing products expand the diameter of each individual hair shaft, which is the best way to plump limp locks," said Scott Yance, owner of Scottfree Salon in Milwaukee. After styling, plump your ends by pinching small sections of hair and rubbing it together. “Just this small move can help give the illusion of fullness."

Celebrity stylists recommend Thicker Fuller Hair Weightless Volumizing Spray, R+Co Dallas Thickening Spray, and Serge Normant Dream Big Instant Volumizing Spray.

And don't forget to wash! Thin hair should be washed every day, as oils tend to build up more quickly in finer hair. The oils can weigh the hair down and give it an even thinner appearance, said style director Jerome Lordet from Pierre Michel Salon in New York City. "For shorter hair lacking body, there are hair-building fibers and powders that can be used to add texture."

Women with finer hair should avoid the following terms when shopping for products: “smoothing,” “moisturizing” or “silkening.”

About 80 million people in the U.S. are struggling with hereditary hair loss, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.

"Sure, a lot of women will think, 'But hey, I want smooth, moisturized, silky hair,' but in reality, these products are typically made for women with thick, dense hair," said Carter. Any products with silicones and oils tend to weigh thin hair down, so avoid them as much as possible, too.

8. Blow-drying strategies

Devin Graciano, founder and CEO of Use Me Hair, recommends blow drying with a flat-wrapping technique. "Think of this as blowing your hair in a comb-over from ear to ear, alternating sides," he said. "The crown of your head is blown forward toward your face." Repeat until completely dry for longer-lasting results.

But aim to avoid heat styling every day. The high heat strips the scalp of moisture and can restrict hair growth because of lack of healthy oils. "Heat styling also causes significant damage to the cuticle of the hair and alters the oil production from the scalp," said Agarwal. This ultimately leads to breakage and gives an overall thinner appearance.

Let your hair partly air dry before heat styling to avoid damage.

9. If you're open to other solutions ...

Consider getting a texture wave. "Unlike the perms of the '80s, these texture-creating waves are done on much larger rods and use gentler chemicals," Michon Kessler, stylist at Studio M salon in Reno, Nevada told TODAY Style. This option should only be considered if you have strong enough hair that has not been weakened by color. Consult a professional for recommendations.

Nunzio Saviano, of Nunzio Saviano Salon in New York City, recommends a microblading treatment around the hairline so hair appears more voluminous and the scalp is less pronounced. Results can can camouflage problem areas and results last up to 18 months.

This story was originally published March 28, 2018.