Tips for Caring For and Styling Fine Hair

Tips for Caring For and Styling Fine Hair

Posted by Lisa C. on

What is fine hair?

Fine hair texture is found within all of the curl types, from 1A to 4C.  This type of hair is smaller than a thread in width and almost invisible. It is difficult to feel a single strand between your fingers.  

Fine hair tends...

  • to be silky and smooth
  • to need less product
  • tangles easily
  • may need help with volume

Hair Texture vs. Density

People with fine hair can have a range of densities ranging from low to high.  Density is the amount of hairs coming out from your scalp per square inch. Someone with a lot of hair may be described as having "thick" hair, when actually they have high density, fine hair.

Hair Care Tips for Fine Hair

If you are a fine-haired curly or wavy, here are some ideas for your routine:

1. Use a lathering shampoo.  A shampoo that is a bit more cleansing (compared to a cowash or no poo) will have the ingredients to remove build up from the hair. This is not about clarifying but having more sudsy-type ingredients - check my previous blog on shampoos here for more information on these - to clean the hair.  Low poo and no poo shampoos may act more like a conditioner and leave too much residue on the hair after rinsing. This can weight down fine textures.  Look for cleansers in the first 5 ingredients on a product's bottle and watch for oils and butters in the first few ingredients as well. These can add weight to a product. You will also probably need to wash your hair more often than the other textures as finer hair is usually prone to more build up.

Shampoo recommendations for fine hair:

2. Use a lightweight conditioner.  Watch for oils and butters in the first few ingredients.  Fatty alcohols like cetyl and stearyl as well as behentrimonium or chloride methosulfate are all okay for fine hair. Extracts are usually good as they tend to provide moisture and are film-forming.

Avoid putting conditioner on your scalp especially if you have oily hair.  Be sure to fully rinse it off!  There will always be some left behind because that is what conditioners are formulated to do.  Those ingredients which are negatively charged will stick to your positively charged hair to create the smoothing effect (read more about conditioners in this blog post).  Condition your hair well by letting it sit before detangling and squish to condish.  If your hair is super fine and easily weighed down just do this for a minute.  Good conditioning will help prevent tangles which is a common issue for finer textures.

Conditioner recommendations for fine hair:


3. Reach for a liquid serum as your first styler instead of a leave in conditioner or a cream.  These are lighter in weight and many are great curl / wave activators.   Brush, comb or rake it in to wet hair to fully saturate your entire head.

Serum recommendations for fine hair:

4. Your next styler can be a foam or a gel.  Everyone's hair is different but I tend to apply foam to damp hair and gel to wet hair.  Experiment on what your hair likes best.  Another idea is to use foam at your roots for lift and the gel on your  hair strands for hold and definition.

Styling recommendations for fine hair:

5. Use a diffuser.  You can start upside down so that your hair starts to dry with the roots lifted from your scalp.  Or start right side up but insert a hair pick into your hair and gently lift it up about 1/2 inch or 5 cm.  Repeat this technique throughout your scalp.  Use a fairly warm setting so you get your gel or foam (or both) to start creating a cast.  It is your choice here to blow dry your hair all the way or finish with air drying.  You will usually get more volume with diffusing all the way to dry but this can also start to blow apart your curl clumps. I do recommend more hover-style diffusing and not moving your hair too much while diffusing, unless it is very curly and higher density.

6. Consider adding a hairspray into your routineYou can use it over your damp hair once your stylers are in and/or use it on refresh days.  Adding that bit of hold again will prevent your hair from going flat. There are approved hairsprays that are usually in a pump.  Aerosol ones are also great, but they will always contain alcohol denat. which is not Curly Hair Method approved.  Even though this is an unapproved ingredient I am fond of it because it helps the product dry on impact and prevents stickiness.  It washes away easily and won’t cause build up.

Hairspray recommendations for fine hair:

More Tips for Fine Hair

Curl Clumps
With fine hair the size of your clumps will be smaller and if you are also lower in density, they'll be even smaller still.  To maintain volume, you are going to need to try to let go of the big clump goal.  Remember volume and definition live on opposite ends of the spectrum.  You need to find the happy middle ground that you are happy with and suits your hair, not necessarily what you see on social media.

Micro plopping (removing excess water from your hair). Photo courtesy of Flora & Curl showing their Gentle Curl Towel.

Fine hair tends to respond a bit better to micro plopping over regular plopping. Micro plopping removes moisture a bit quicker and allows the hair to retain a more natural shape.  Sometimes piling it all in a full plop makes the hair stick to your head and it can start to dry in weird directions.  This can bring on the possibility of tangles.

Refreshing fine hair is something that I get asked about a lot. My honest answer is this: it is the hardest texture to bring back to looking like wash day.  Remember to protect it while sleeping for best results. You may need to use more water, or a full soak, on refresh day.  Bring out the diffuser again to set your hair.  It’s okay to add in a bit more product and maybe reach for the foam first.  The further you are out from wash day, the less your hair will look like it did on Day 1. This is true for everyone. 

You will probably need to fluff your hair up thought out the day.  No need to ruffle it a lot but you can get your hands in there, perhaps add a little water and rub it over your hair and then massage your scalp for more volume.  A few rock star head bangs to lift it up again and maybe a dash of hairspray will also help!

For oily hair consider adding in a dry shampoo for in between wash days. The Volumizing Dry Shampoo from Hair Dance is a good choice and it is Curly Hair Method approved.

Layers generally help bring out the best in most textures and curl types. However, you don’t want to overdo the layers in fine and low density hair, so visit a stylist who understands and works with your type of hair.

Products with protein are generally the best for fine hair because they have the ability to add strength and hold to the strands.  The products that stay in your hair (e.g., your stylers) are the ones you want to have protein in their ingredients.  My recommendations of products in this blog have protein.

Root Clipping
I am a huge fan of root clipping but it takes practice and time.  With fine hair clipping can be challenging as you want the hair to stay lifted and a lot of clips just flop, especially if your hair is lower density. I would reach for some smaller claw clips as they are lighter and come out easier. If you have higher density, fine hair, the Curl Keeper Roller Jaw Clamps are great. 

Using oils to seal or scrunch out the crunch can be hit or miss with fine hair.  If you want to try it go, start with 1-2 drops and see how your hair reacts.  This is not a necessary part of a routine,  so just remember if it doesn’t work just use your hands to scrunch or that bit of hairspray to manage your hair on refresh days.

Oil recommendations for fine hair:

You are  not alone out there with your fine hair - remember it crosses all of the curl types and densities!  Experiment and follow others on social media that have similar hair to yours.  Be realistic of your expectations of what your hair can and cannot do.  Take care of your hair, be patient and kind to it, and have fun!

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