I'm old enough to remember several different hair trends:
The long, flat straight tresses of the sixties
The feathered look of the seventies
The big hair of the 80s
The grunge do's of the 90s
And thankfully, today there's more than one acceptable way to wear one's hair. Look at the tremendous variety of hair we see in the first decade of the new millennium! Big hair is fun, flat hair is cool, and curls (especially defined ones) are arguably more popular now than at any time since the Marcel wave (shown below for you young'uns who may not know what it is).
So now, we have the enviable privilege of living in a time when we get to choose whether we want curls or not, and if we do want them, we can also decide whether we want them to dangle, bounce, stick out, or look as if we got caught in a steam room. Another factor in our control that previous generations did not enjoy: volume.
Many curlies struggle with volume. Those who have it want to reduce it and those who weren't blessed with it desperately want it.
HOW TO BUILD VOLUME
I will start with this one, since I've got more experience with it. Everyone thinks I have a lot of hair and maybe that's true, but the hair that I do have is thin, so I'm always looking to make it look thicker. Here are some of the tricks that have worked for me:
- Diffuse dry. Now, there's more to this than simply diffusing. To build volume, I've also learned to:
* Get out most of the water from my hair first. I use my Curl-Ease towel to squeeze handfuls of curls after I apply my styling products.
* Do it upside down. This position helps to keep the roots from plastering to your head.
* Diffuse to about 85% dry. I used to go to 75% or even 80% -- no, I do not have a scientific method for determining this -- but then learned the less water I asked my hair to carry around, the better, volume-wise.
- Mousse it up. Mousse does add a bit of volume, but not if you use it on hair that's too wet or if you use too much of it. The air in the mousse helps keep your hair lighter. Not all gels weigh down your hair, but if you're looking to lighten things up, try mousse. I've had luck with Joico JoiWhip (loaded with protein, so if you love that, great; if you need to avoid it, beware), and also Herbal Essences Totally Twisted. The only downside is that is dews over 50 or 55, frizz is likely without a gel on top of it, which gets to the next point.
- Use fewer products. This rule is pure logic, really. The more stuff you put in your hair, the heavier it gets. One product may work in tandem with another to promote a certain type of curl you desire, but every product you add to your hair adds to the potential of weighing it down. Choose wisely, my curly friend. I find I can never use more than two products over my leave-in. And really, the more you combine products, the more you increase the possibility that none of them will work as they should.
- Look for certain ingredients. Some ingredients raise the cuticle a little and although this can result in making hair a little rougher than the silken tresses we've all been taught to strive for, when you are short on volume, raising the cuticle a wee bit can increase volume, making it look like you have more hair than you actually do. And yay for that. For the first year I was CG, I vaguely noticed that whenever I co-washed, I always had more volume that day. I later read that one of the ingredients in my co-wash (Suave Naturals Coconut) contains cetrimonium chloride, which raises the cuticle. Stearalkonium chloride will also do it, but my hair doesn't seem to like it (gives me frizz). I've also found that panthenol has a good volumizing effect on my hair, too. Panthenol is mostly a humectant, but it also binds to hair and adds to its volume without creating weight. I'm a fan.
HOW TO DECREASE VOLUME
Just as removing water from hair helps to minimize weight, incorporating more helps to make it heavier, thereby decreasing volume. Some tips:
- Add your styling products to soaking wet hair. A person on the naturallycurly.com discussion boards recently earned a lot of devotees when she announced her super-soaker method. Her post is a prime example of how keeping hair very wet for as long as possible will weigh it down and diminish volume.
- Air dry. Not using a blow-dryer prevents any air from helping to fluff things up. It will take forever to dry, of course, so that's why some people opt for using something like this hard-hat dryer. If you have the time and space to set it up, it can be a great way to speed up the drying process without adding volume.
- Apply more product. People who want to reduce volume can use leave-ins and curl cremes more liberally than those with thin or sparse hair. Not only does this help to add weight, but it can also really give your hair a good dose of a given product's benefits.
- Experiment with oils and butters. Thicker-haired people can tolerate oils much better than people looking for fuller hair. And just because one oil or butter doesn't agree with you hair doesn't mean that others won't. Play with oils and see what your hair might like. Keep in mind that coconut oil and avocado oil have been shown to penetrate the hair shaft best and may therefore give you more softness and pliability (is that a word), which are also attributes you'll want in your quest to reduce volume.
Got any tips for reducing or building volume? Share them please!
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