Good hair skipped a generation. My mother was endowed with a naturally thick head of hair while I inherited my grandmother’s fine, listless tresses. My later teens were challenging to say the least. Anyone growing up in the 80’s can attest it was the era of big hair. I spent a better part of the decade perming, crimping, teasing and spraying my limp strands with unpredictable, sometimes disastrous, results. Vancouver weather is perpetually damp, wet and by the time I’d turn up at the bar or party scene my Robert Smith ‘do’ would start to deflate and many hours were spent in the ladies’ room teasing and spraying in an attempt to resurrect my lifeless locks.
More hair drama followed me into the 90’s. Supermodels were strutting runways with über-luxurious, free-flowing manes and I desperately tried to emulate iconic hair legends like Cindy Crawford, Stephanie Seymour and Claudia Schiffer. If I did manage to grow my hair long, I could never achieve the glamourous look I coveted. Sure, I didn’t have an entourage of hair stylists at my disposal but neither did some of my peers who somehow managed to pull off a Cindy imitation with little effort.
After four decades of despising my fine hair, I finally discovered a few secrets to making it look fuller and thicker. I get many compliments now as if by some kind of karmic justice for the years of hair despair I’d endured. Hair products got better, more sophisticated too and it became easier to fake voluptuousness even if only temporarily. I finally figured it out, here’s what worked for me:
The Right Shampoo and Conditioner Makes a Big Difference
Let’s get one thing perfectly straight. When it comes to shampoo and conditioner there’s no such thing as 100% chemical-free; however, formulations do exist that are much gentler on the hair. It’s best to avoid harsh chemicals such as Sodium Laurel/Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Chloride, Polyethelyne Glycol and Propylene Glycol. These ingredients can strip the hair of natural oils causing the hair and scalp to dry out, resulting in hair breakage and in some cases hair loss – all of which can make the hair appear fine and lanky.
Adequate Protein is Essential for Thicker Hair
I was a vegetarian for almost 20 years, and although that wasn’t the cause of my fine hair it didn’t help matters. A few years ago I started eating meat again and I noticed that my hair became healthier and a little less limp. I also started taking collagen-boosting supplements such as silica, biotin and orthosilicic acid. It took about six months to see results but these nutrients do work, most notably in improving the quality and speed of new hair growth.
Henna Coats the Hair for Added Volume
I have some greys that I cover up with henna. I noticed that after each henna application my hair would be 20-25% more voluminous than usual. Then I read up on it. It gets a pretty bad rap from stylists but users like me love it. Henna coats the hair shaft which is why you get a boost in volume and body after each treatment. I have black hair so I use a two-step process: first red henna, followed by indigo (black henna). Now I henna every 7-10 days to maintain the thickness that I desire. It’s a lot of work but it’s worth it. If you don’t want to add colour there’s neutral henna which doesn’t deposit any pigment but coats the hair for a thickening effect.
Make Your Own Herbal Hair Rinse
Nettle is one remarkable herb you need to make acquaintance with if you have very fine hair. It has a reputation as a hair tonic for good reason, because it delivers big volume. The most effective way to use Nettle is to make a rinse. Brew it like tea then dilute it in a bowl of purified water. Rinse your hair and scalp with a thick decoction of Nettle tonic and style as usual. This will give you approximately 10-15% more volume, especially at the roots where you want it. If your hair is dry or damaged apply a little leave-in conditioner or smoothing balm to the ends if you plan to blow-dry. I like to add a little Lavender or Chamomile into the mix for a more fragrant experience.
When It Comes to Styling Products Less is More
To this day I haven’t been able to find a styling product that gives me the same non-greasy volume or oomph that I get from herbs or henna alone. I don’t use any of those synthetic hair volumizers on the market. I find just a spritz of medium-hold hair spray to the roots before and after blow-drying is enough to keep the hair from flopping, even during those humid summer days and nights.
It turns out that having fine hair is not the end of the world. Luckily, Mother Nature has provided us with the tools and wisdom to overcome even the most difficult hair challenges. Right now I’m experimenting with making my own thickening hair serum using flax seeds. It’s a work in progress so we’ll see what the future will bring.