Hair 101 curriculum recs?
October 22, 2018 1:09 AM   Subscribe

I have no idea how to do anything with/to my hair. I use zero products (except shampoo) and zero styling techniques. I have very fine, very thin, shoulder-length straight hair (with a few gray hairs throughout) that doesn't hold curls for very long. I also don't have the vocabulary to look for things I'd like to try. What are some websites that would teach me, step-by-step, how to do something with my hair that isn't a haircut? (I'm an almost-40 woman, with a full-time job, a house, mortgage and two kids, so I'm looking for the holy trifecta of: cheap, fast and practical.)

I spent my first 10 years with a bowl cut (gee, thanks Mom!) and the next 30 with long hair, which I wash with shampoo about every 2-3 days, leave to dry overnight and then brush it and put it in a bun or a ponytail. That's it. No, really, that's it.

I spent my teenage years devouring all the books from the local library and tinkering with computers, so I skipped the usual phase when girls experiment with their looks and learn about these things.

Thankfully, my looks never really mattered (to me or others) so far, but I think having a more polished, professional look might help me at this point in my life.

(Also, OMG, I hate Pinterest. Please give me something that isn't Pinterest, because I find its UI cluttered and hard to use.)
posted by gakiko to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (27 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
PS. Any hair-related advice in the comments would also be appreciated!
posted by gakiko at 1:17 AM on October 22, 2018

I've been following David Lopez on Instagram, and his Stories (you'll need an Instagram account to watch) and his hair tutorials are great. He's not intimidating at all, and while the full process can be a bit time-consuming, you can follow partway to get something simpler.

He also often recommends drugstore products, and has an Instagram Highlight on that.

(I found him via the lovely lovely amazing Katie Jane Hughes, who is a great person to follow if you want to delve into makeup too)
posted by third word on a random page at 2:15 AM on October 22, 2018

While I can’t give you first-hand advice (I have shoulder length, prematurely grey, wiry curls), it usually seems like there are a few ways to make long, wavy hair look more polished (leaving aside cut and color). The first is blowing out, with a hairdryer and a big round brush, and then possibly flat-ironing flyaway hairs. You may want to spray with a thermal protectant first (these can be found in the drugstore or Target.) This can make a ponytail, braid or bun more polished looking. You’ll laugh, but I also blow my 6yo’s hair out after washing, because it doesn’t tangle as easily.

The second thought is to use a diffuser attachment for a hair dryer, and a curl cream (I like the Garnier cream, it’s about $3.) You might find that your hair will make fun, bouncy waves.

Good luck!
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 3:52 AM on October 22, 2018

fine thin hair needs volume, mostly. My mum has hair like yours and she has a short choppy cut, highlights, volumising shampoos and rough blow-drying with the big round diffuser attachment thing.

first step is to try blow-drying with your head upside down, and dry shampoo (drugstore stuff is fine, spray it around the roots and scrunch it a bit) is great for boofing things up a little bit.

here's some more ideas?
posted by corvine at 4:29 AM on October 22, 2018

I have the same hair as you do, along with the same care routine. I don’t have any styling advice, but I can say that avoiding regular blow dryer use will keep your hair looking healthy. Fine hair dries out very easily. Get a cut that will flatter your face and wash your hair as little as possible.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 4:45 AM on October 22, 2018 [2 favorites]

Hi hair twin! Have you tried hotrollers? I apply mousse to my damp hair, focusing on the roots. Just an egg sized squirt gently spread through. Then I blow dry the shit out of my hair. Next step is setting the rollers, use less hair than you think you should, and spray each chunk with hairspray as you’re holding it to prep it for the roller. I like the plastic claw clips over the single pin that comes with most sets. Leave the rollers in until they’re cold. I spray each strand with hairspray AGAIN as I remove each roller. Then, when all my hair is out, I flip my head upside down and spray the whole back and sides. Finally, I flip my hair up and, um, arrange it? I just put it where I want it, spray it a lot again.

I do all the hairspray with the most mega hold spray I can get my hands on.

This process adds a ton of volume to my hair though it doesn’t stay recognizably curly for long.

Other tips, don’t wear a hat. Because I refuse to be cold, I usually have pancake hat hair.
posted by bilabial at 4:52 AM on October 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

I would definitely add conditioner to your routine - shampoo is very drying and wavy/curly hair tends to need more moisture to maintain the curl.
posted by vespertinism at 5:01 AM on October 22, 2018 [2 favorites]

I have very fine hair and a completely minimalist routine. I'm taking you at your word that you have no idea what to do. This is how I'd suggest getting a little bit of a change to start with, given your fastest, easiest, less fuss needs. I'd go for straight hair with a little more volume, not curls.

1. Next time you're at the drugstore or Target type store, go to the hair aisle and get a blow dryer, a large round brush with stiff bristles (like from Conair brand) and some mousse and volumizing hair spray. There will be a lot of mousse and hair spray, just get a brand like Aussie, it doesn't matter for now. (But don't get one of the old fashioned hair sprays like Aquanet, get one for volume.) Get a hair dryer that has more power so it works faster.
2. When you are towel drying your hair, squirt a quarter size blob of the mousse in your palm. Rub it bw your palms, then put 90% of it into the roots of your hair, near the scalp. Rub the rest of it into your hair.
3. Blow your hair dry. With thin hair it'll take less than ten minutes. Hold hair dryer in one hand, and use the brush to roll your hair away from your head near your scalp. Don't try to make curls, just think of the air blowing into the spaces you create with the brush to keep your hair a little bit in that direction for volume.
4. When you get ready to leave in the morning, after brushing your teeth, lift some segments of hair and spray hair spray under them. Just a little. Then bend from your waist and brush your hair.
5. Next time you go for a hair cut, consider asking for some layers. talk to the stylist about it.
posted by nantucket at 5:05 AM on October 22, 2018 [6 favorites]

I have sort of similar hair; it's very fine and I am very much not into it. I invested in a standing hair dryer and twice a week I wash my hair, condition the ends, squish in some Jessie's Jelly Soft Curls product, and use some drying clips to pin up sections to create height. I am not precise about this, and I'm really just trying to create some volume. Then I sit under my dryer for 20 minutes or so. during the other days of the week I simply squish some water into my hair to freshen it up. It does not need to be washed every day.

I just don't have the patience or the time to stand around with my head upside down pointing a hot dryer at it. The standing dryer lets me do my email or read a book while I get ready.

I can then wear it down or clip it back in sort of a French twist. I've also started making buns with scrunchies again; apparently they're back.
posted by sockermom at 5:16 AM on October 22, 2018 [2 favorites]

Highlghts will give your hair more body. You can mousse the roots and blow dry with your head upside down and then use a curling iron but I don't have the patience for that. Thin, fine hair dries just as fast using mousse and old school velcro rollers (just be careful re tangling). The size of the rollers doesn't matter, most of the curl will fall out right away; it's the lift at the root that you want. You can blast the roots with a hair dryer if you're in a hurry but if you shower/shampoo first thing in the morning, quickly set it, you can do the rest of your morning routine while it dries. Head upside down, hairspray and you're done.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 5:18 AM on October 22, 2018

Definitely add conditioner, if nothing else. Use it more often than shampoo (I shampoo every third or so wash, condition every time) and it’ll help combat the stripping that shampoo does as it cleans.

I am super extra mega pathetic about my hair (super wavy post kids, very frizzy, usually goes back in a ponytail or braid while damp and that’s that) but I just recently started using a smoothing leave-in product after I wash and it has helped tremendously with the texture/flyaways/frizz without making my hair look heavy.

I use this one from Aveda because that’s what my salon recommended, but I’m sure there’s a million similar things.
posted by lydhre at 5:38 AM on October 22, 2018

In terms of lessons etc, you can call around to salons and explain that you're looking for an appointment where your stylist shows you how to style your hair for "day looks." My stylists have always been happy to do this as part of a haircut, but I'm sure that you could pay them for their time to teach you two or three techniques for home use.
posted by sockermom at 6:18 AM on October 22, 2018

I have fine shoulder length hair too. Here's some advice about adding volume and texture:

DO NOT wash your hair every day. Wash it only as often as you need to in order to keep it from looking oily. For me that's every 3 days, or just 2 if I have to go into the office.

Use a conditioner. Try to find shampoo and conditioner without any sodium lauryl sulfate, since it's very harsh and will likely just emphasize the fineness of your hair.

Use dry shampoo--which is a spray product that can be had very cheaply ($3-5) from any Rite Aid or similar--to add volume and texture between washes.

Find a texturizing spray to add volume. Not the same as regular hair spray. I like Unite, but be aware it's $30/bottle. I only use a bit at a time, spraying at the roots to about halfway down the strand once my hair is dry, and then just lightly brushing the outside. Adds amazing volume.

Adding a slight wave or curl will also add texture and volume. Here's a tutorial on using 4 different tools--2 types of curling iron + 2 types of flat iron--to add wave to your hair. I'm pretty uncoordinated, but I can use a large barreled curling iron to add some waves to my hair in about 10 minutes. It definitely adds more polish for days when I need that. After I add waves with my curling iron, I hit my roots with a few pops of the Unite texturing spray, and then I'm good to go.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 7:02 AM on October 22, 2018

I have fine hair, a profesh job, and wash hair every other day at night. I don't bother with product, but I do dry my hair upside down, only half assedly trying to flatten it with a brush. it takes 5-8mins, (yay thin hair that dries fast), and gets it straight enough that a pony tail looks intentional; or if it's a dry day, it will look half decent for a while. The day I don't wash; or it's high humidity, or I just let the hair aidry, I usually end up with a braid of some sort.

On 0 humidity, cool dry days I wear my hair down and it usually stays straight through the evening. This happens only in the fall and spring. However, I've gotten so used to my hair back in some form, that I'm shit at life with my hair falling in my face. so uh, it ends up pulled back anyways.
posted by larthegreat at 7:04 AM on October 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

I do a google image search for my hair, so “long fine hairstyles”, copy the ones I like, and show them to a stylist. Be honest, and repeat that you will not use more than 1 product, or spend lits of time. Ask which ones are possible, and have it cut and styled for you.
posted by Valancy Rachel at 7:12 AM on October 22, 2018

I have hair like you describe and over the years found that it is best to not wash too often, and instead use dry shampoo daily. It is cheap and makes my hair look like i spent lots of time and products. I never blowdry it, just towel dry and air dry. No hair spray needed.
I use cheap store brand dry shampoo that i spray into my hair while hanging my head down, knead a little with fingers, and comb with my fingers into place. In the evening I brush it out with a bristle brush.
This only works though if my hair is just a bit below my ear lobes.
posted by 15L06 at 8:35 AM on October 22, 2018

I am 41 and have fine, thin hair. When blow-drying straight, I use Garnier Flat Iron Protector and spray it liberally on the brush, not on my hair. Spraying it on my hair would give me too much product.
posted by 8603 at 8:35 AM on October 22, 2018

Hello similared haired friend! I think what you need is a good and trusted stylist to whom you can say: give me a cut that I literally have to do nothing with, except wash and come to you with on the regular.
This is the relationship I have with my stylist, though my hair is short. I see her ever six weeks for a cut (3/4") and 12 weeks for a color. I do not do a thing, and I honestly refuse to. It is all on her to cut it well, which of course she wants to do because I am a walking advertisement for her services.

This of course, is just one way to do it.
posted by wocka wocka wocka at 8:43 AM on October 22, 2018 [4 favorites]

I spent most of my adult life fighting with my fine hair with no body. I would try lots of the techniques described above and some days they would work. But if I was out in wind or worse, got caught in the rain, it would all come undone.

Finally I decided a couple of years ago to get a perm. I get the largest size rods (peach, I think?) and have one every 9 months to a year. My hairdresser teases me that she only has four clients who get perms and the other three are over 90 years old. But it works for me. I love my curls and perhaps I’m delusional but I think it almost looks natural. I do NOT look like a poodle.

Plus it’s weatherproof. We do lots of hiking and outdoor activities and it no longer matters if it rains. As a matter of fact, my hair just gets a bit bouncier if it gets wet. I love it! The time saved drying and fussing with it is substantial. I dry my bangs and leave the rest to dry itself.
posted by nelvana at 8:46 AM on October 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

holy trifecta of: cheap, fast and practical

Buzz cut!!! Looks great, meets the holy trifecta. For real. Buzz cut.
posted by aniola at 9:10 AM on October 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

If your fine, thin, straight hair is anything like mine, conditioner will just weigh it down and make it limp and heavy. I'm not saying everybody here advising you to use conditioner is wrong, I'm just saying if the results don't turn out the way you hope, it's not you and you're not doing anything wrong, it's just that your hair can't cope with the extra product.

I hope you find some combination of product and technique that works for you, as I've been struggling with exactly the same problem my entire life, and I've yet to find a really good solution.
posted by sardonyx at 9:27 AM on October 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

Truly the easiest if you want wash and wear hair that needs minimal styling is getting a perm. Perms are far more advanced now and a body wave style will give you loose, volumizing waves. They only get tricky if you also color your hair because you need to space out where you do each treatment to minimize damage.
posted by quince at 10:46 AM on October 22, 2018

Blow-dry with round brush.

How to properly blow-dry your hair.

Ask for long layers at the salon.

Consider hot air brushes:

Revlon One-Step Hair Dryer and Volumizer or

John Frieda-- makes it easy if you aren't coordinated.

Use volumizing products like mouse -- concentrate on roots.

Velcro rollers are easy and foolproof. I use mine like this. No need to roll entire head.
posted by loveandhappiness at 2:57 PM on October 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

I have a different hair type than you do, so I don’t think my speciific recommendations will be helpful, but you could try and raid your kitchen / medicine cabinet for moisturizing ingredients you already have (e.g. coconut oil, olive oil, avocado oil, vitamin e, etc.)
posted by oceano at 4:25 PM on October 22, 2018

I basically have your hair except shorter (chin length) and the John Freida hot air brush that loveandhappiness linked to has been life changing. It's 40-ish bucks but it's been beyond worth the price to me.

I slap on some cheap drugstore volumizing gel, blow dry until 95% dry (which literally takes under 1 minute, that's how fine my hair is), then I go to town with the hot air brush. It's super easy to use, and holy crap does it make my hair look crazy voluminous. I use the hot air setting then the cool air setting to set the style, and it's so easy to flip from one setting to another while your hair is wrapped around the brush. I finish with some texturizing dry shampoo and a light mist of flexible hair spray. Volume all day, and it even lasts into the next day if I refresh with more dry shampoo.
posted by sweetpotato at 9:29 PM on October 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

I have hair like yours and here's what I do to get volume: wash, then twist up into a bun while it's wet and let dry almost completely. When it's still a tiny bit damp I take it out of the bun and it's a bit wavy. Then I put a bit Bumble and Bumble Bb Texture Creme in my palms and sort of fluff my hair with it. I do essentially the same thing if I wash my hair before bed and go to sleep with it wet - it's dry by morning so I wet my hands a bit and run through my hair, then use the same creme or the Bumble and Bumble Surf Spray (link is broken on BB site.)

Some people say twisting, etc. while wet will damage your hair and that is probably true but it's never been an issue for me since I never blow dry or use any sort of heated styling implements.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 9:35 AM on October 23, 2018

I have the same kind of hair as you. I also went with the minimalist approach for a long time, but recently decided I needed to up my game, and I am extremely happy with the results.
1. I started coloring my hair, which looks amazing, and also makes my hair a little fuller.
2. I got a cut with long layers - this adds volume, and I still have long hair.
3. I also only wash it every 2-3 days because its oily, so keep doing that. I use shampoo only on the roots (where its oily) and conditioner only on the ends (where its likely to get damaged).
4. After washing it, I put a little volumizing mousse on the roots, in the same way nantucket describes. Then I blowdry it upside-down, so the roots get all the lift.

That's it. The cut and coloring part adds cost, but personally I feel its worth it, because I look and feel so much better. The blowdrying part is really fast, 5 minutes.
posted by Joh at 8:18 PM on October 23, 2018

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