Turn Up the Volume: Tips for Fuller, Healthier-Looking Hair


Reduce hair loss and breakage with these tweaks to your hair care routine and diet. Photo: Andreas Kuehn/Getty Images

Thin, lank, lacklustre? With a few crucial tweaks to your hair care routine and diet, you actually can have healthier-looking hair while reducing loss and breakage.


Pretty on the Inside


“Food is medicine” is our modern wellness mantra and eating a nutritive, hair-healthy diet is both enhancing and preventative. The literal root of healthy, shiny hair is protein. Specifically, keratin, which makes up the central coil of the hair follicle’s cortex. Too little leads to hair weakness and loss. Berries, shrimp, fatty fish, tofu, legumes, nuts and cottage cheese are all sources of protein. With 10 grams per, eggs are the keratin-boosting protein all-stars. By comparison, a medium avocado contains just three grams of protein. Additionally, the B vitamin, biotin, is essential to producing keratin. Studies show that biotin deficiency leads to balding and hair loss. Biotin-rich foods include, micrograms per serving, eggs (10 mcg), along with salmon (5 mcg), pork chops (3.8 mcg), sweet potatoes (2.4 mcg), almonds (1.5 mcg) and broccoli (0.4 mcg), though the biotin bigwig is beef liver (30.8 mcg).

If regular slabs of liver are beyond you, Biotin is available in supplements. You can buy caps and powders to boost your keratin levels as well.  (As a bonus, elevating keratin and biotin levels also improves your skin and nails.) Zinc is another thing to keep in mind. With low levels linked to hair loss, this mineral is prescribed for women suffering from Alopecia. Fun fact: Oysters are the No. 1 source of zinc by a long shot—32 mg per 3 oz serving than the next best, 3 oz of beef (3.8 mg) — so that dozen on the half shell is just as delicious for your hair.

Get Yourself Out of Hot Water


Hair cycles through three phases: growth, transition and shedding and we naturally shed 25 to 100 strands a day. Thinning becomes a concern when you lose more than that. Warm water causes the scalp’s pores and hair follicles to expand. Cold water contracts them, increasing the grip of the follicle on the hair shaft and seals the cuticle, which adds sheen. Overly hot water dries out the scalp, activates the overproduction of oil and breaks down hair cuticles’ protein bonds. Ideal? Wash and condition with warm water, followed by a very cold rinse.


Cleanse Control


Understand the difference between “thickening” and “volumizing” shampoos. Thickening shampoos add protein and collagen to temporarily thicken each strand; polymer coatings that can build up over time, weighing it down for more flatness and less bounce. On the other hand, volumizing shampoos give body and fullness, mostly via moisture-stripping agents that control sebum production to add elevation to the roots. That has downsides for sensitive scalps (dryness and dandruff) and fragile hair (frizz and brittleness). Scan ingredients and avoid anything that contains harsh cleansers like sodium lauryl sulfate or ammonium laureth sulfate. You want a volumizing shampoo that’s lightweight yet hydrating like these. With a quality moisturizing shampoo, you can even skip the conditioner and simply comb a thickening product, such as mousse, through damp hair, which detangles and thickens.


You Knead Stimulation


Another all-natural approach to healthier hair is energizing the scalp with massage. Japanese researchers found that just four-minutes a day with a scalp massager ‘stretches’ the follicles, which, in turn, produce thicker hair shafts. As the study concluded: “Standardized scalp massage transmits mechanical stress to human dermal papilla cells in subcutaneous tissue. In vitro, DNA microarray showed gene expression change significantly compared with non-stretching human dermal papilla cells.” So, add a quick head massage to your daily routine. If you do it before a wash, add some scalp-enriching essential oils. From rosemary oil, which stimulates the roots and increases circulation to lavender oil, used to alleviate dryness and help control dandruff.


Expert Advice


“I like to build volume with layers of products,” explains Toronto hair legend Bill Angst, owner of Queen Street’s Angst Salon. “First a strong gel such as Joico Joigel Firm Styling Gel on the roots. After I dry the hair, I’ll use a texturizing spray to help support the mid-shaft, like Sam McKnight Easy Up-Do for body and volume. Then I finish it with a mist of Evo Builders Paradise — lightweight but strong hold, it leaves hair glossy and flexible. It’s ideal for all hair types.”

“For very fine or thin hair, I apply Kevin Murphy Full Again when it’s damp — a weightless lotion that thickens hair, adding movement and body while keeping it soft and touchable — then finish with Sam McKnight Multitasking Styling Mist, which offers flexibility with a gentle hold.”

“One huge delusion is that layers create volume in fine hair — not unless you use lots of product, which can leave hair stiff and dull. For thin hair, you want a cut that naturally keeps its shape. A classic bob always blows me away. Some think it’s dated but I totally disagree. Side part flirty or trendier center part, it’s a seductive foxy cut, strong and decisive. And you can add detail, like a strong bang shaped to contour the face. For more polish, finish just the top layer and end with a flat iron — but easy does it.”

A version of this story was originally published on May 31, 2023