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Voluminous hair: not something most men long for or care about until the volume you always depended on starts to decline.
Whether you’re noticing some age-related hair thinning or you just want your already-beautiful hair to appear thicker and healthier, figuring out how to add volume to hair for men can be tricky, because there’s not as much information out there.
More often than not, hitting undo on flat hair involves a multi-pronged approach that can include everything from lifestyle changes to medication. But you can simplify the problem by knowing the strategies that put follicles back to work and big hair back on your head.
Below, we’ll explain what hair volume actually means, how to add volume to your hair and how adding volume while you’re treating hair loss might be different — a solution for every guy, coming at you right now.
We know we sound like a Pantene® commercial, but what those sensual ads call “volume” plays a large part in how you see, styleand present your own hair.
Hair “volume” describes two things: the literal number of hairs covering your scalp (density), and how those hairs fill a space (a desired cut or look).
The number of hairs on your head and how they cover your scalp (and whether those hairs grow and stay resilient to breakage and splitting) all matter, whether you’ve got a close cut or are working on your Samson cosplay.
A third factor that may affect “volume” — the diameter of your hair strands — can also be an indicator of receding or thinning hair. Surprisingly, many guys notice changes in hair volume that are actually changes in their hair texture or thickness at the scalp level.
But there’s no TV remote for your head, so what makes volume go up or down? Hair volume can be impacted by a number of factors — with either permanent or temporary consequences.
It starts with visual traits — someone with a curly hair type may generally have more volume than someone with straight hair. Likewise, wet hair tends to appear more matted or flat than hair that’s dry and voluminous.
Hair type might affect people’s styling needs in a few more ways:
People with frizzy hair or naturally curly hair may even want to tame those curls to reduce volume. A person with thin hair or wispy hair may want to improve density with products or treatments alter how their hair looks.
A person with curly hair may use a straightener to tone down their volume. A person with thin hair may curl or style it to add more volume.
The reality in all of this is that your hair’s volume only matters insofar as it affects how you want to look.
But we’re going to assume you’re here to increase your volume, so let’s look at what you can do to add to and increase your volume game.
Like a dad with a credit card at the electronics store, there are a variety of ways to add volume to your hair almost immediately.
The difference is that instead of using speakers, woofers and soundbars, you’re going to use products, treatments and styling tools to add the appearance of volume.
Depending on the treatment you choose, your volume may last weeks, days or only a few minutes if you’re caught in the rain at the wrong time.
Some commonly used methods of adding volume to hair include:
Wash and dry your hair correctly
Use the right shampoo and conditioners
Avoid perms, curling irons, styling inserts and styling products.
Here are detailed tips to guide you down the right path:
Are you a hard scrubber? Washing your hair too aggressively can lead to breakage and other issues that won’t do you any favors in getting the volume you’re looking for.
One thing you shouldn’t use? A blow dryer. Let your damp hair air dry to keep it healthy and prevent more serious burned or dry hair problems. If you must use a hair dryer, choose the lowest heat setting when you blow dry. But if you can avoid it altogether, all the better.
Now that we’ve got the technique down, it’s time to level up your shower routine, bro. A bottle of Dial dish soap may have been easy in college, but we’d also bed you had a little more hair to lose back then, eh?
Trust us — do the right thing and use the right products. Invest in a quality shampoo (ideally a volumizing shampoo free of sulfates), and look into a good conditioner while you’re at it. Conditioners are necessary because they replace the natural oils you took off while washing your hair.
Those oils are the front-line protection to keep your hair from breaking, which leads to shorter, thinner hair.
The right shampoo can protect them, too — look for shampoos for dry hair if you’re low on oils.
Hey… We get it. Pompadours look cool and voluminous. But they’re not as easy as they look — they involve lots of prep and product to get right. But the big bummer about pomps (and most other super voluminous hairstyles) is that they may not be worth the trouble.
Elaborate hairstyles, the tools you use to achieve them and the strain you put on your hair while styling can all damage hair, which is susceptible to heat, chemical damage and breakage.
In fact, tugging on hair follicles can cause a type of hair loss called traction alopecia — hair loss due to strain on your follicles. That’s why letting go of your tight ponytail or dreads might be one of the lifestyle changes for hair growth you should consider making.
We know the average dude isn’t getting a perm. It’s not 1987, and you’re not hanging with Prince and Charlie Murphy (RIP).
But even if trends from that time capsule miraculously come back into fashion, we hope you’re smart enough to learn from their mistakes. Avoid perms, hot irons and chemicals that burn, straighten or restrain your hair. Don’t wear anything that pulls too tightly on your follicles.
That includes just about every product that coats your follicles or causes build-up. It also doesn’t help that they also usually remove natural oils when you wash them out. In particular, avoid:
The same goes for chemical and heat-based styling tools — velcro rollers and hot rollers, hair extensions, irons, perm procedures, etc. They’ll damage and break your hair more than they’ll ever make you look good while balding.
Real talk: upping your volume game may be an uphill battle.
Making your hair look full may require more than some routine changes, particularly if you’re seeing a sudden loss of volume due to hair loss.
When considering hair loss treatments for male pattern baldness, there are a few options for men. Two medications on the market today can help you stop hair loss in its tracks: minoxidil and finasteride. These two medications are effective for different reasons, so consider both.
Minoxidil is a topical treatment that’s applied to the scalp and has been shown to benefit hair strands and make them grow better and bigger, or even start growing again if they’ve been out of commission.
Topical minoxidil has proven effective for treating a variety of types of hair loss in clinical trials. You can also ask a healthcare provider about oral minoxidil, which has its own benefits and side effects if the topical option is giving you issues.
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Finasteride reduces DHT levels, and in doing so it can help people grow thicker hair again.
Some people would argue that you can never have enough volume. It turns out, those are the same people watching The Price is Right on full volume at the senior center.
Hair volume is a different beast, and if you're looking for a surefire hair product to make your hair look voluminous and beautiful straight out of the box, we have bad news for you: hair doesn't work that way.
The options you have may be limited, so it’s best to consider the following volume-supporting strategies when making your choices:
Before you do anything, make sure you’re protecting against male pattern baldness. Whether you're in the midst of a fight with male pattern baldness, another cause of hair thinning, it may take more than a jar or bottle of the right volumizing products to get what you want.
Avoid gimmicks, hacks and chemicals — they may achieve the volume you want for the day, but could leave you with fewer surviving follicles by the next morning.
Want to rule out hair loss before sitting down to style? Schedule an online consultation about your concerns. Volume is great, but peace of mind about what's going on up top is the best thing for your head — inside and out.
Kate Hagerty is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner with over a decade of healthcare experience. She has worked in critical care, community health, and as a retail health provider.