Pump Up the Volume Got fine hair? Me too—and here is where I let you in on the all-time best prodz for volumizing, thickening and root-lifting (you’re welcome!)

Topshop Unique spring 2011

Remember the halcyon days of the late ’90s and early ’00s? For those of us born with fine, straight hair, that was our heyday. It was definitely post-”Rachel” cut, but before the advent of what I call “Hollywood Hair,” a.k.a. loose, piecey, beachy waves (otherwise known as the hairstyle that refuses to die). Anyway, there was a period of maybe a couple of years in between where SOOPER fine, SOOPER straight, SOOPER stuck-to-your-head hair was actually in style. Everyone else ran out and got a flat iron, but we didn’t need to. Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy was our heroine and life was good.

Sadly, I don’t think those days are coming back… evah. Which means that we volume-challenged need to accept that we’re just going to have to put in some work. That means forgoing the wash ‘n wear at least occasionally in favour of properly styling avec one or more of the bodacious bodifying hair prodz out there.

Now, there are two things to realize: 1) Most of them are mediocre, with a few rare exceptions THAT I WILL TELL YOU ABOUT IN JUST A MOMENT. And 2) You may not be applying them correctly for the results you want. So! Today I’m going to help you out by revealing my top-secret, all-time greatest picks (because if there’s one product category I’ve tested rigorously, it’s this one), as well as how to use ‘em. Excited? You should be.


tresemme 24hrbodyshampoo Got fine hair? Me too—and here is where I let you in on the all time best prodz for volumizing, thickening and root lifting (youre welcome!)

The end. No wait—I just started this post, didn’t I? Anyhoo… I’ve tested way more than my share of volume-building shampoos and this one’s still on top. The reason is because it contains, like, zero moisturizing ingredients (from what I can tell), so there’s none of that weighing-down-your-hair business. AND it’s stupidly cheap and widely available at drugstores. (Or order online for $7.15 from Well.ca—free shipping and no minimum order!)

My theory on why 99 percent of high-end volumizing shampoos kind of suck is because they can’t help themselves with adding luxurious, expensive moisturizing ingredients that we didn’t ask for and which defeat the entire purpose on the label. Now, I’m not gonna lie, you won’t want to use this everyday—especially if you colour your hair—because it can be a bit drying. But for those special days when you’re putting the effort in? Mais oui.

Make sure to use it with a very lightweight conditioner, on your ends only, so that you don’t undo your good work. The matching conditioner is just fine:

Tresemme 24 hour body conditioner Got fine hair? Me too—and here is where I let you in on the all time best prodz for volumizing, thickening and root lifting (youre welcome!)

(Buy it for $7.15 at Well.ca.) Or if your hair’s in pretty good shape, you could just skip conditioner altogether and maybe use a lightweight detangler to comb out.

Honorable mention goes to Kiehl’s Ultimate Thickening Shampoo:

Kiehls Ultimate Thickening Shampoo Got fine hair? Me too—and here is where I let you in on the all time best prodz for volumizing, thickening and root lifting (youre welcome!)

This one’s pricier ($25.50) and actually designed for thinning hair. (Oh the lengths that I will go to!)


Phyto Pro Intense Volume Mousse Got fine hair? Me too—and here is where I let you in on the all time best prodz for volumizing, thickening and root lifting (youre welcome!)

Okay, so we need to have a moment over this one. I was sent a press sample a little while ago, and as I normally don’t get my hopes up with volumizing products (see: paragraph three), I busted it out rather absentmindedly as I was getting ready one evening.

Then I did a double take, because it appeared to have magical thickening powers which to date I have not seen in other mousses. I used it again; same results. So THEN I asked my mom to try it—because she’s even more of a volumizing aficionado than I am. Her verdict? Amazeballs (okay, she didn’t really say that). But she did make me go and buy her three bottles.

So what I’m saying is that this puppy’s a winner. You’ll want to apply about an egg-sized amount both as close to the roots as possible and running the remaining bits through the lengths of your hair, so that they thicken up too when you blow-dry (more on blow-drying in a second).

It’s around $30 and a little tricky to find as it’s not sold everywhere that the regular Phyto line is. (I suggest doing a search of the locations here but calling ahead to make sure they have it.) In Toronto, I got ours at Sudis Salon & Spa at Hazelton Lanes.

BEST ROOT LIFTER: Kiehl’s Super Thick Volumizer

Kiehls Super Thick Volumizer Got fine hair? Me too—and here is where I let you in on the all time best prodz for volumizing, thickening and root lifting (youre welcome!)

This is an old favourite of mine (and my mom’s), for the simple reason that the applicator allows you to get right at the scalp for maximum root-lifting power. It succeeds where many mousses, and other volume-boosting products fail. Word.

That said, you do need to pay attention to how you’re drying your hair too. Don’t expect any of these prodz to work their magic if you just leave your hair down to air-dry, for example. You need to turn your head upside down and blow-dry it *completely dry* that way, OR lift each section up with your fingers or a round brush so that the roots get dry away from the scalp. Capish? In a pinch, you could also twist your hair up into a bun and let it air-dry that way, but it’s not really ideal. And it takes forever!

Just FYI, MOP makes a version of this product called MOP Lemongrass Lift:

Mop Lemongrass Lift Got fine hair? Me too—and here is where I let you in on the all time best prodz for volumizing, thickening and root lifting (youre welcome!)

I can’t really tell the difference. And at the drugstore, an excellent substitute would be good old TRESemmé 24 Hour Body Root Boosting Spray:

Tresemme 24 Hour Body Root Boosting Spray Got fine hair? Me too—and here is where I let you in on the all time best prodz for volumizing, thickening and root lifting (youre welcome!)

(Get it for $5.65 from Well.ca.)

BEST THICKENING MIST: Bumble and Bumble Surf Spray

bumble bumble surf spray Got fine hair? Me too—and here is where I let you in on the all time best prodz for volumizing, thickening and root lifting (youre welcome!)

This isn’t REALLY a thickening mist, of course. It’s a beach spray, which means it’s designed to give you that sexy, saltwater, wind-blown look that you get on vacation. Some peeps do use it to encourage a curl, but since I’ve accepted that curls are #nevahgonnahappen with my stick-straight locks, I use it a bit differently—as a texturizing, thickening spray instead. Sprayed on to damp or even dry hair, it gives you just the right amount of grit (or “guts,” as Sally Hershberger likes to say), which you can then brush out once dry… I swear your hair will feel thicker.

I don’t use it at the roots, though, so if you want one that multitasks for both roots and lengths, I recommend Sally Hershberger Plump Up Thickening Mist:

Sally Hershberger Plump Up Got fine hair? Me too—and here is where I let you in on the all time best prodz for volumizing, thickening and root lifting (youre welcome!)

I talked about it in Friday’s editor’s picks vid, and while it’s not comparable to the Phyto Pro in sheer “Is that really MY hair?” wonder, it’s a fine product with zero crunchiness.

BEST THICKENING CREAM: Living Proof Full Thickening Cream

Living Proof Full Thickening Cream Got fine hair? Me too—and here is where I let you in on the all time best prodz for volumizing, thickening and root lifting (youre welcome!)

Should you fancy a creamy product instead of a mist, this is a great option, especially if your hair is on the drier side. I find this too tricky to apply properly to the roots, so I use a root-lifter there and then this for the lengths. (When I’m not singing love songs to my Phyto Pro Mousse, that is.)

BEST SECOND-DAY VOLUMIZING HAIR POWDER: Bit of a tie here, I’m afraid. If you are blonde, I am going to gently guide you toward Clean Dry Shampoo.

Clean Dry Shampoo Got fine hair? Me too—and here is where I let you in on the all time best prodz for volumizing, thickening and root lifting (youre welcome!)

I raved about it last year, and still heart this stuff—although no, it’s not colourless. However. Just like I adore those root-lifting prodz for the applicators, I love this for the pointed tip. The biggest problem with hair powders/dry shampoos is that you need to get close to the roots and hide any telltale signs of white powder by strategically placing it in the under-layers of your hair. This makes it dead easy. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I used it over the weekend and didn’t wash my hair from Friday night until this morning. Yowza! But I swear it didn’t look manky, and it was tripled in thickness too.

If your hair is darker, however, I recommend a colourless hair powder such as Kevin Murphy Powder Puff:

Kevin Murphy Powder Puff Got fine hair? Me too—and here is where I let you in on the all time best prodz for volumizing, thickening and root lifting (youre welcome!)Also fabulous, although this one doesn’t quite get you the same ridonkulous volume as the Clean Dry Shampoo. You basically sprinkle it on to your roots, lifting up as many sections as you want, and then rub it in, where it morphs into a colourless volumizing product. If your hair needs some de-greasing, combine with something like the John Frieda Luxurious Volume Anytime Volume Refresher:

John Frieda Volume Refresher Got fine hair? Me too—and here is where I let you in on the all time best prodz for volumizing, thickening and root lifting (youre welcome!)

Check out this video to hear about my glowing review. (And if you’re ready to buy, head over to Well.ca, where it’s just $10.49.)

BONUS STYLING TIP: Do you ever backcomb? Well, maybe you should. I only do this once in a blue moon, but when I want Very Big Hair, I’ll spray my dry roots, section by section, with L’Oréal Paris Elnett, before backcombing them in three short strokes with a Mason Pearson brush. Then you can either put your hair in hot rollers or style however you want… but the backcombing will give you a seriously impressive lift. Just make sure to only do it on the underneath sections of your hair, as you want the top part to look silky-smooth.

Do you struggle with adding volume to your fine hair?
What prodz do you swear by?
Ever tried the backcombing thing, or do you have another technique in your bag of tricks?


Tuesday, May 24/2011 at 11:46 pm

Ooh, so excited to see this post, thanks so much for the suggestions. I’ve been on a volumizing kick lately, since I’ve been growing my hair and it has thus started to get all weighed down and limp. Although I am a bit sad to not see the $20 B&B thickening shampoo I splurged on last weekend. Hope it still works!

Last time I was in a salon, my stylist used Kevin Murphy’s Anti.Gravity on me… it worked really well and my hair looked so good that it’s the reason why I started volumizing (or trying to) at home. I like it for the amazing smell and also for the fact it’s oil free despite being cream-like and really easy to apply. You should check it out if you can tear yourself away from Powder Puff!


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Friday, May 27/2011 at 2:37 pm

I don’t think I’ve tried the B&B one… let me know if you think it’s good? I’ve used a few of their other shampoos and found them way too moisturizing for my fine hair so would be interested to hear if the thickening one is different.

And I love me some Kevin Murphy! I’ll have to revisit that one. I remember it being good but not as mind-blowing as the Phyto mousse…..


Wednesday, May 25/2011 at 11:30 am

Ahh this post is PERFECT for a friend of mine! She has lovely hair, really naturally shiny and a very light copper colour with natural highlights to die for… But it’s indescribably flat. I have emailed the link to her – who knows? You may get a new reader :)

Huge fan, fellow blonderexic Thomas xx


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Friday, May 27/2011 at 2:37 pm

Thanks mate! x


Wednesday, May 25/2011 at 2:50 pm

This is a great remedy to the flatness of winter hat-hair. I’ve got lots of hair but it is sooopar straight and fine and tends to get a bit lifeless around the roots. I’ve been inspired by a very bodacious bob I saw on blogger Angelic Blick but I’ve got to grow out my bangs which seems like it will take forfrigginever, but I’m hoping some of these volumizing products will help me swoop and sneak them into the rest of my hair.


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Friday, May 27/2011 at 2:38 pm

I just googled her – wow, total hair envy! http://nyheter24.se/modette/angelicablick/


Wednesday, May 25/2011 at 3:34 pm

Hey Michelle! Flat hair is my number one problem. Have you ever heard of the Babyliss root booster? Do you know if this thing actually works??



Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Friday, May 27/2011 at 2:46 pm

Oh my God I am SO glad you mentioned this because I totally forgot to talk about it in the post. The answer is YES – although I’ve not tried this thing myself – I’ve been told by a few hairstylists that it is amazing for volume if you do it on the under-layers of your hair. Not sure if the Babyliss is sold in Canada but I know you can definitely get the same type of thing here. (Why oh why can’t I remember the manufacturer right now?!)

The only thing I would be concerned about it is the heat damage from doing this every day… you would have to make sure to use a heat-protective product at the roots… which might sap some of the volume out unless you can find one that does double-duty.

Anyway if you’re comfortable with a flat iron you could actually do the same sort of thing without the crimper. My hairdresser flat irons me right from the roots after blow-drying my hair upside down (he doesn’t let me flip my head up until he’s done) – wrote about that technique here: http://beautyeditor.ca/2011/01/27/the-importance-of-finding-your-life-cut-plus-other-random-bits-of-hair-wisdom-from-my-mane-man-bill-angst/

And I found something on Allure about using a bevelled flat iron to sort of achieve a slight curl at the roots to give body: http://www.allure.com/beauty-trends/blogs/daily-beauty-reporter/2010/06/secrets-to-styling-fine-hair.html

Hope that helps!


Wednesday, May 25/2011 at 10:29 pm

The best volumizing product I’ve ever come across is Osis Dust It by Schwarzkopf. It’s fantastic! A close second is Aveda’s Hair Potion, but it’s pricey (~$35). Those two products are the only ones that will give my thick, waist-length hair volume.


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Friday, May 27/2011 at 2:49 pm

Love both of those too! (Actually like you, I prefer the Osis one over the Aveda.) Have you tried KM Powder Puff? Pretty much the same thing.


Thursday, May 26/2011 at 6:12 pm

Love this post! I have extremely fine hair and I always struggle with limp hair :( I was wondering if you know of any products for volumizing hair that doesn’t require blow drying. I usually take a shower at night because I don’t have enough time in the morning for a shower and blow dry!


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Friday, May 27/2011 at 2:54 pm

Well the root lifting prodz won’t do much if your hair is already dry… your roots will have already been set into place. But you could defo use a bit of mousse, thickening spray or beach texturizer to give the rest of your hair some thickness and body. The powders are amazing as well. You could do the KM Powder Puff (or as Magda mentioned the Schwarzkopf Osis Dust or Aveda Hair Potion) on either clean or dirty hair, at the roots, as long as it’s completely dry, not damp. I would only use the Clean dry shampoo on second-day hair that is on the blonder side… it works amazing but it’s pretty powdery.


Thursday, June 9/2011 at 7:22 pm

Actually, I’ve used Aveda’s Hair potion on wet hair with fantastic results!!! Also, if you can get your hands on Batiste dry shampoo it is ah-may-zing!!!! It gives incredible volume, but the hair remains shiny unlike with other dry shampoos. Also, it comes in a variety of colours, including brown and black, so hair doesn’t look powdery.

Hope this helps…


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Sunday, June 26/2011 at 2:16 pm

Oh really? I’ll have to try that! Also didn’t realize Batiste came in different colours… thanks!


Sunday, May 29/2011 at 8:56 am

I highly recommend Aveda’s Pure Abundance volumizing shampoo and conditioner – only shampoo I have ever used that doesn’t weigh down my fine hair. It’s a little drying, so it’s better used every other day, but it’s great! I also use Aveda’s Phomollient Styling Foam which is the best light-weight, non-sticky mouse I have found. LaCoupe’s Root Blast texture and root lift spray has been my favorite root lifter as of late – again light weight and non-sticky with fairly good hold.


Tuesday, May 31/2011 at 10:22 pm

AWESOME post, Michelle! We’ve had a few email convos about volumizing prodz, cuz I, too, have super fine hair. I’m always struggling to find something to give it some boost, and now that summer is just around the corner it’s going to be even harder to find stuff that’ll hold. SO glad to see that you’ve reco’ed some drug store prodz, too. I’ve spent too much money on expensive things only to find that they were useless.

Question 1: do you use all of these prodz at once? Do you need a root lifter, a hair thickener, AND a mousse? I sometimes wonder if I’m using too many prodz or not enough.

Question 2: how concerned do you need to be about styling prodz on colour treated hair? If you’re using a colour-safe shampoo, do you need to worry about your other prodz stripping your colour? In my head, the more prodz you add the worse it is for your hair, but who knows! :)


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Sunday, June 26/2011 at 2:20 pm

Sometimes I use all of them at once, sometimes I just do a root lifter on its own or in combo with the thickener stuff. The Phyto mousse is so amazing that it does a great job on its own.

Good question re: styling products stripping your colour. I know there are now so many of them specifically made for colour-treated hair, but not sure if that’s just a marketing thing or truly a legit concern. Let me investigate!


Friday, July 22/2011 at 12:35 am

I am excited to try out the Phyto mousse, thanks so much for this blog, I am always on the look out for great thickening / voumising products to give some oomph to my fine hair!
I currently use the Tigi Your Highness Root Boost which works well but can be drying.
And I find the De Lorenzo range of shampoo / conditioner good as it doesn’t weight down my hair or add brassiness to my ash blonde colour
I was wondering if you had used the Phyto volume Actif Maximizing Volume Spray – if this does the same thing or something different?
Thanks again, will be tuning in for future blogs :)


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Sunday, July 31/2011 at 12:01 pm

I haven’t tried that one, no. The reviews on Sephora seem mixed. You could probably use it in combo with the mousse to give your roots a bit more lift (the mousse I think works as an all-over thickener, although I concentrate it at the roots as well).


Sunday, August 7/2011 at 5:49 pm

I stumbled across your blog earlier this evening and am really loving it. Although we differ on opinion of TRESemme — I like the mousse but really don’t like the shampoo or conditioner which is partly down to the smell and partly because no matter how much or little I use it feels heavy on my hair. I’ve found Herbal Essences Uplifting Volume shampoo and conditioner (think it’s called Body Envy in Canada and the US) gives me the best root lift and doesn’t drag the hair down. Plus it smells soooo unbelievably yummy.


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Monday, August 8/2011 at 9:37 am

Really? The 24-Hour Body shampoo? Try using it without conditioner (or if you condition, only put it on the bottom 1/3 and rinse for a REALLY long time). I’ll make a note to find that Herbal Essences one!


Wednesday, December 14/2011 at 9:20 am

Brilliant website by the way. I’ve been trying to track down the Phyto Pro Intense Volume Mousse only to be told that it’s been discontinued! Gutted. Can you recommend a substitute pleas? I’m in London, England. Thanks a mil!


Wednesday, March 7/2012 at 3:45 am

Like you guys I struggle with fine limp hair with greasy roots and I found most volumising products are absolutely useless – they make my silky hair even more silky! Now I know – lots of moisturizing agents in the products. Another problem is silicone. I hate the stuff and most cosmetics products do contain them. There is a lot of information on using products with silicone (eg. dimethicone etc) which have short term cosmetic result but long term is very bad for your hair and also for the scalp. My hair does not tolerate any silicone. I can not find any volumizing styling products without silicones. I think this is another problem for fine hair which gets limp and brittle from silicone buildup. Any advise please?


Tuesday, March 20/2012 at 10:51 pm

please help me ! I have very fine straight hair, but as of late it decides to get curly in the wrong places, , the back of my head, when I need it in front. My hair gal colors my blond but graying hair, and when she styles it it has texture, body and is straight.! she does use a hairdryer then a straightener, but it always looks great, swings and makes me sick when I cant duplicate it !!! My hair is not thin except getting that way up front, but will do anything to get that texture! HELP !!!


Bonnie Lou
Saturday, May 5/2012 at 7:25 pm

I am a white female with medium strawberry-blond, shoulder length hair that is fine, straight, flat, limp and lifeless with some static flyaways. Anyhow; I went to a hair salon (now, no longer in business), for a deep conditioning hair maskmasque treatment that instantly brought life back into my hair with incredible bounce, body, movement, touchable, softness and shine with no static flyaways. But; unfortunately, I can’t remember the name or brand of this product. So, if anyone knows of a all-in-one in-salon or beauty supply product that can treat numerous hair type problems, like mine and give the amazing hair results mentioned or at least gives hair bounce and body; then, will you please let me know ASAP? NOTE: This product may have had Tea Tree Oil mixed in with the treatment product; because, it had a tingling, cool sensation when it was massaged on to my hair and scalp. However, this has not been confirmed. It also had a great scent, was used with a plastic cap with andor without heat (can’t remember) and left on hair between 10-20 minutes. Then, rinsed and blow dryed on a low cool setting. Again, giving the amazing results, I mentioned earlier. Thank-you! Sincerely, Bonnie Lou


Wednesday, December 11/2013 at 6:26 pm

I’m surprised no one has mentioned Bumble and Bumble thickening shampoo and conditioner plus the spray. The formula for the spray has changed and isn’t quite as good as it used to be but these products are light for fine hair. Although my favorite product is by Shuga. It’s called Shuga Dressy Mist. It makes you feel like your hair is thick when it really is not.


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