new tech for hair styling
August 3, 2022 7:07 PM   Subscribe

I have bad hair: thin, brittle, grows the wrong way. I also have very little patience for hair styling. Among the new tools that have entered the marketplace in recent years, is there something for me?

My hair makes me sad every day. It grows in directions I hate (either down over my face or limply to the side) and never looks right. It's also very thin and limp. The longer it gets the limper it gets.

I know the standard advice since I was a teen has been to blow dry on a round brush to get volume, but I've never gotten the hang of blow drying, especially not with a brush: I don't have the upper body strength to wrangle heavy tools over my head, for one thing, and also it gets tangled, and looks like old lady hair when it's done anyway, so not a goal worth pursuing. (The results that I've gotten when stylists have done it have been just as bad. My hair is just floppy.)

Straightening irons are too much of a pain for me to use regularly.

I know there is a crop of new technology come to market. I saw one on YT the other day - it claimed to use cold air? Sort of a combination brush and iron. I bet there are others. So my question is, is any of that new technology worth trying for me? Something I can't burn myself on sounds interesting. Are any of the new tools really fast, effective, easy and safe to use?
posted by fingersandtoes to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (21 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
If you hate your hair, cut it all off.
posted by phunniemee at 7:36 PM on August 3 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I already have short hair, which also makes me feel bad. It's all bad.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:49 PM on August 3 [1 favorite]

What’s your budget? Because this sounds like something the Dyson Airwrap can help with.
posted by third word on a random page at 7:53 PM on August 3

Response by poster: With my track record of giving up in this arena, I'm not going to invest in the Dyson tools anytime soon, but I'd be interested in hearing if anyone had a good experience with the various knockoffs. What does the Dyson airwrap actually do?
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:57 PM on August 3

I wonder if you’d enjoy a wig? An acquaintance used to wear them — in their case, because they wanted to have hair suitable for a conservative professional environment while also having hair suitable for their rather different night life; but it could suit this situation too, maybe.
posted by eirias at 8:05 PM on August 3 [4 favorites]

Allow me to rephrase. If you hate your hair, cut it all off.

As a person who is haircare inept, I personally feel very strongly that there is no tool or potion that will make you be able to craft your hair into something you like, if no professional with professional tools and training has ever been able to achieve that for you previously.

I've buzzed my hair down to literally nothing but the fuzz on the shape of my head 3 times in my adult life, and I'll do it again I'm sure. Clean slating down to zero hair has been the single most effective beauty choice I've made toward loving my appearance. I'm me with ratty hair, I'm me with no hair, I'm me when my hair looks femme, I'm me chubby, I'm me slim, I'm me tired, I'm me with other parts of my body that don't do what I'd like them to do. Etc. I've never been glib about suggesting to folks they chop all their hair off, it's THE BEST.

Also fabric will stick to your head like color forms for a week and that's a lot of fun.
posted by phunniemee at 8:08 PM on August 3 [10 favorites]

Best answer: There's this product: Redken Powder Grip 03 Mattifying Hair Powder (cheaper versions available) that you sprinkle on your roots--it takes only a tiny amount--to give your hair volume and control. It bonds with your hair somehow but don't worry, it washes out.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 8:45 PM on August 3 [2 favorites]

I have short, fine, thin, floppy, awful hair. Here’s what works for me:
- a short cut with lots of texture, preferably cut with a razor instead of scissors,
- Salt hair spray
- Batiste dry shampoo
posted by EXISTENZ IS PAUSED at 9:13 PM on August 3 [5 favorites]

Not a tool but a treatment. What about L’Oreal’s Elvive 8 Second Wonder Water? I have had pretty good luck with it, though my hair is fine, but fairly thick and very curly. It’s a pretty cheap, fast treatment and some folks have had really incredible results. No additional tools required. You can air dry if desired.
posted by skye.dancer at 9:16 PM on August 3 [2 favorites]

Since you mentioned blow drying with a round brush, I will tell you that I struggled to do that technique too. About a year ago, I was gifted a blow dry brush (this one), and it's been great. They have different size barrels depending on what suits your length, and it gives a nice polished look with smooth texture and a little bit of body. My hair doesn't tend to hold body long, and it can't really completely fix that, but it looks nice for awhile, at least. You might be able to find a styling mousse or spray that keeps the body for longer.

My other suggestion is to find cute clips and a very simple style (like twisting the front into the clips) that works for your length, and lean into that. YouTube is a good resource for that.

Good luck, the struggle is REAL.
posted by carlypennylane at 9:28 PM on August 3 [2 favorites]

A hot air brush might work, Conair has one called the Infinitipro (I have an older version). You do have to hold it over your head, and it can get tangled and pull your hair if you’re not getting the feel of it. But it would help.

However, as a fellow low maintenance hair person, not sure if this is a long term solution… might be better to not rely on devices. Some people don’t mind styling their hair and always have, some never do, I think maybe you’re with me in the latter category.

My partner has what might be similar hair. It sounds like you might have a hidden wave to your hair (hard to say without a pic). If you have even a bit of wave please consider texturizing/layering, that will help bring it out. Like a shag cut.

As well - for volume get a shampoo that will really clean your hair, even slightly dry it. Just a volumizing shampoo. Or Johnson and Johnson’s head to toe baby shampoo, that’s what my bf uses. Then a light conditioner, like Paul Mitchell’s tea tree oil and lavender moisturizing conditioner, for shine. Then something you can use to tweak out pieces how you like them. (Can’t help with that, sorry. Maybe one of those matte pastes?
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:55 PM on August 3

I have very thin, fine hair that is also brittle and frizzy and generally doesn't cooperate with any of my plans for it.

The hot air brush helps me look like I made an effort - not as good as salon blow drying, but much better than my usual "wash hair in the evening, go to bed with damp hair, wake up with... something on my head" styling technique. It makes my hair sleek and gives it a little volume. I bought a cheap no-name thing that had more than 3 stars on the online shopping website and it works.

I've also started using conditioner every time I wash my hair and a hair mask when I remember to use it (I'd say about once per month). This makes my hair less brittle and nicely shiny.

My stylist (whom I visit about once per year, just FYI so you don't get any ideas about my level of caring for my hair here) recommended using a salt spray or a thermal (heat protectant) styling spray when blow drying hair to give it extra volume. I've tried the salt spray once so far and it helped. But I'll probably get a thermal styling spray, because based on my experince with the conditioner and the hair mask, preventing/undoing damage to my hair makes it look much nicer than just giving it volume/texture like the salt spray does.
posted by gakiko at 11:16 PM on August 3 [6 favorites]

Also, having the right cut for your hair and face makes a lot of difference. I've only ever had one hair stylist whom I could just tell "make me look good without any effort" and she'd do her magic and I would have a low-maintenance haircut that looked great. (Then she retired, sigh.) For the past two years, I had a very straight neck-length cut that was in theory fashionable but looked like crap on my hair. I asked my stylist for a more layered cut the last time I was in and now my hair looks much better without any special tools or techniques. I decided to just accept this reality: I won't always look like I'm keeping up with the trends (hello old lady hair), but at least my hair won't look awful.
posted by gakiko at 11:30 PM on August 3 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have stupid hair and terrible hand/arm/mirror coordination. I have found the (original) Revlon One Step Volumizer to be a miracle. Literally the only time I haven't liked my hair in the past 5 years was when I was traveling in Europe and couldn't bring it because of the power difference.

A friend who'd had similarly "stupid" hair started showing up places looking like she'd just had a fancy blow-out...all the time. Finally, I asked her what her secret was, and she literally dragged me from the restaurant to Ulta, across the parking lot, to show me this combo hair dyer/brush. (It is not one of those spinning brushes.) I'm the type to buy $15 drugstore hair dyers, and drugstore shampoo/conditioner, so I was dubious, but my friend's hair looked magazine-model AMAZING. I got mine at Amazon, but I've noticed Target carries the original and a "new-and-improved" one in a slightly smaller box, but I haven't figured out what's different about that one's function/design.

I'm still terrible at doing my hair, but the thing works magic. I lightly blow my hair dry with a regular dryer so it's not soaking; I am literally reading a book for two minutes while I sort of aim the regular dryer at my head and move it around. I put a little product in it, and just sort of wrap the hair around the brush and let it do it's thing, bit by bit. (Seriously, 90% of the time, I read a book while I'm doing that, too, only putting the book down when I need to dry/smooth a new section.) I do it on the medium temperature (mostly because it's the quietest) and then use the "cool" in a few sections. I go get dressed, spritz with hairspray, and I'm done. My hair takes about 12 minutes of my day and I almost always like how I look; for decades, it took me an hour and I hated my hair most days.

My hair looks shiny, smooth, healthy, and has volume but not frizz. (I mean, unless I go out in high humidity, but then I can use the volumizer on the cool setting for two minutes, and it's good again!) And again, I have stupid hair and wimpy arms.

That said, yes, a good cut makes a huge difference. My hair is anywhere from chin-to-shoulder length, depending on where I am in a 5-week cut cycle. (My hair grows ridiculously fast and gets shaggy by six weeks.)

You might also want to consider eating biotin-rich foods for the brittle aspect.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 12:49 AM on August 4 [5 favorites]

As a person whose hair acts like a complete dork occasionally, I second the use of wigs.
I wear one a few times a month and what a difference it makes! I pull enough of my own bangs and side wisps down underneath to blend in with the wig. They are wonderful for traveling, when your natural hair is always on an anti-social rampage.
posted by BostonTerrier at 6:05 AM on August 4

Nthing “my hair sucks and makes me sad.” Plus I have hard water, which makes everything worse. Round brush and blow dryer doesn’t help because it’s so thin you can see the curve of my skull. In the past I’ve had a shaved head and a crew cut/buzz cut type thing, but I’m not comfortable doing that lately because reasons. So I feel you, fam. Just ducked in to say I recently discovered that not using conditioner makes it look less stringy! I used to think I needed conditioner because it makes it easier to comb without breaking, but it breaks anyway so who cares. I’m happy with this, relatively speaking, but as I approach senior citizen status I become more and more resigned to the idea of a wig.
posted by scratch at 7:05 AM on August 4

Have you tried Olaplex? It's expensive, but it makes your hair strands actually thicker.
posted by Mournful Bagel Song at 8:51 AM on August 4

I have "great" hair and I still cannot be bothered with any styling routine. The first time I got a pixie cut, I was not comfortable with product in my hair. I didn't like and got teased for not performing gender correctly.

The next time I got a pixie cut, I kept it for 10 years. You can use pomades and pastes to put it in a place. It was hat proof - sleet enough that it didn't get ruined under a hat!

Based on this experience, my advide is to go to a hair stylist that is known for their femme short cuts (if you want to perform gender in that direction, otherwise f-it and go to a barber and get a buzz cut). Ask for a product recommendation and make it clear that you will not be blow drying or styling - you want something wash and go.

My success in finding a hairstylist was luck, but other times I have literally approached women with hair I liked to find out where they got the cut.

Best of luck - you deserve to feel good about yourself!
posted by Gor-ella at 11:43 AM on August 4

I got the dyson air wrap as a gift. It’s fun, but the real star is the round brush attachment, which makes a the same as the revlon one, I think. I never figured out how to dry with a round brush, but this is much easier. I dry a bit , then use the brush with my head upside down. It really does look polished. Good luck!
posted by Valancy Rachel at 11:53 AM on August 4 [1 favorite]

Maybe heartless curls could work for you? Hot rollers? My hair is very different from yours, but my weapon of choice is the Beachwaver which makes curling my hair a lot more foolproof for me—I could never figure out the normal clamp irons.
posted by music for skeletons at 1:52 PM on August 4

Response by poster: Updating because there were others interested in the question: I haven't tried any tool yet, but I did take Twinbrooks' suggestion about the hair powder. Turns out that Redken product is discontinued, but I was able to find a dupe (or at least what people said was a dupe, on a hairdresser's forum.) The dupe is Sexy Hair Big Powder Play. This stuff is amazing. Amazing! Even with my totally inexperienced application, it... it just magically makes my thin hair simultaneously fluffy and sticky, creating appearance of volume and making it stay more or less where I put it. I feel hair-hopeful for the first time in a long time.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:28 AM on August 9 [1 favorite]

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