Flat, thin hair has its place in the world, like, say, if you’re dressing up as Cher for Halloween. But a lot of hairstyles require more volume, not less, and sometimes that means working against your natural hair texture. That’s where volumizing and thickening shampoo comes in.
These two products are similar, but not the same. One affects your individual hair strands, while the other affects your whole head of hair. You can use either one, depending on your needs—or hey, why not go all out and use both? Big hair is totally in right now.
Thickening shampoo targets your strands
Thickening shampoo thickens each strand of your hair by infusing it with protein and/or collagen. Your hair is made of protein, and these types of shampoo basically enhance what’s already there. The result is stronger, plumper hair strands.
Thickening shampoos are often popular for women with thinning hair, so they may also contain ingredients to promote hair growth, like vitamin E, ginseng, or biotin.
Hair experts recommend Bumble and Bumble Bb. Thickening Shampoo, or if you’re on a budget, Ogx Thick and Full Biotin and Collagen Shampoo.
Volumizing shampoo creates more body
Volumizing shampoo is slightly different than thickening shampoo. Volumizing or volume shampoos make hair appear fuller, bouncier and more full of body. It’s more about the texture of the hair than the thickness of the hair strands. You’ll often see “thickening” and “volumizing” used interchangeably, though, because the two goals go hand-in-hand, and hey, what do words matter anyway?!
When it comes to volume, there’s no single ingredient that’ll do the trick. Instead, volumizing shampoos should be lightweight enough to not weigh down your hair, thus creating more body in the end. Some high-tech beauty companies like Living Proof have also patented certain volumizing molecules, like ETAS, which are tiny and expandable air-filled spheres. Pretty neat!
So, what’s the best volumizing shampoo for thin hair? Celeb hairstylist Ted Gibson favors the Goldwell Dualsenses Ultra Volume Bodifying Shampoo. Bargain option (also from a celeb hairstylist): Tresemmé Thick and Full Shampoo.
Follow through for the best results
Shampoo is just the very first step of your hair care routine, so don’t expect to go from Cher to Farrah Fawcett by using shampoo alone. It really helps to start with a volumizing or thickening shampoo, but for the best results, you’ll also need to add other products.
Your options include mousse, root volumizers, gel, and hairspray. Mousse is lightweight, so it’s particularly effective. You may need to do some experimenting to find the best hair thickening and volumizing products for your texture. You can also try certain tools, like blow-drying or curling your hair.
Whatever you decide to use, keep in mind that some hair products add volume to your hair at the expense of its health. They’re drying and can cause damage if used constantly, so embrace the Cher look every once in a while—or find products that boost volume without stripping your hair.
Kim Wong-Shing is a writer, lipstick junkie, and plant mama in New Orleans. She grew up in Philadelphia and went to Brown University. She's previously written about wellness, beauty, pop culture and other topics for LittleThings, NaturallyCurly, Lifehacker, HelloGiggles, Wear Your Voice Magazine, and other publications.