Surprising Styling Solutions for Your Hair


In this article:

We've all had those days (or even weeks) where our hair just won't cooperate. Through trial and error, we've learned an assortment of hairstyling tips to get you through those times!
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Your Hair May Be Too Long

Long, luxurious locks are a beauty ideal for lots of women - so much so that even the thought of cutting off ½ inch can cause panic. But when hair is too long it can weigh your hair down and make it look flat. When more than just the ends become damaged, styling is just more difficult - and the longer your hair is, the more it's been exposed to damaging influences.

Exactly how short to go depends on the frame of your face, your height, and the type of hair you have. If you have a narrow, small face, too much length can make your face look gaunt and diminish the appearance of your eyes, cheeks, and lips. If you are tall and have a broader face, you can go a bit longer - but too long can actually potentially make you look "bigger" than you want to be. If you have thick, frizzy hair, longer hair can become unwieldy and end up looking unhealthy and overgrown.

Help for Fine, Limp Hair

It turns out the less you do to fine hair, the better off it is. Just about anything that contains conditioners or styling agents adds weight that drags things down. Consider a shorter, textured cut and then color it. Hair color adds thickness to thin hair because it roughs up the cuticle, which creates artificially induced, but natural-looking, volume. Be careful to not go too blond or your hair will be too damaged, and it will tend to look frizzy or fried instead of full.

For daily care, use a gentle shampoo and a bit of conditioner just on the length of your hair. A lightweight styling spray (keep creams and lotions out of your hair) can be more than enough to get the control you need without weighing your hair down or making it look greasy.

If you need to smooth things in place or reduce flyaways, take an anti-cling sheet from your dryer and rub it over your hair. You can also spray a tiny bit of hair spray on your fingertips and work them through the ends of your hair.

Products for fine, limp hair:

  • Suave Shampoo, Sun-Ripened Strawberry ($3.49)
  • TRESemme Split Remedy Leave-In Conditioning Spray ($5.39)
  • John Frieda Full Repair Style Revival Heat-Activated Styling Spray ($9.99)

Help for Thick, Coarse, or Damaged Hair

If your hair is thick and coarse or chemically treated and damaged, try adding moisturizing ingredients to your conditioner. Take your regular conditioner and mix in a drop a silicone serum, and a drop of safflower oil. Rub this into the ends of your hair and not the roots—unless you have a dry scalp or very full hair you're trying to control—and let the mixture soak in for a while. Depending on your hair type, you can either wash this mixture out or just rinse it off.

Here are some of our favorite products for taming thick, coarse hair—or adding shine to damaged hair:

  • Aveda Anti-Humectant Pomade ($20)
  • Kiehl's Cream with Silk Groom ($18)
  • Dove Style + Care Frizz-Free Shine Cream-Serum ($4.89)
  • TRESemme Nourishing Rituals Cashmere Touch Hydrating Serum ($5.99)
  • TRESemme Anti-Frizz Secret Smoothing Crème ($4.75)

Tricks Of The Trade

Here's what you need to know before styling your hair:

  • Tension and heat are the keys to straightening hair. The tighter you pull your hair and the more direct heat you apply to it, the straighter it will be.
  • Want to enhance waves and curls? Use the diffuser tool on your blow dryer and choose low to medium, not high, heat.
  • A trick stylists use is to keep the blow dryer and flat iron moving along the hair instead of leaving it in one spot for too long. This prevents "burning" the hair.
  • Aim a blow dryer's heat at the roots and make sure they're going in the direction you want—up for more fullness, down for straightening.
  • Using a flat iron? Focus on the length as the root area of the hair is often straight anyway.
  • Make sure you move the blow dryer down along the hair shaft instead of back and forth to keep the cuticle flat and smooth. A flat cuticle layer equals shiny hair!
  • For coarse hair, the best styling help you can get is from hair serums. Pure silicone products add unbelievable shine and a silky feel to every strand. For thin or fine hair, the less you use the better (and consider silicones sprays instead of serums). Examples of silicones include the ingredients cyclopentasiloxane, dimethicone, and phenyl trimethicone.

Fast Fixes

No time to style? Try a tousled look. Use your fingers to separate your hair as you blow it dry. Lift at the roots and apply the heat there if you want more fullness. Depending on your hair type add a little bit of styling cream or wax for thicker coarse hair or a light styling spray for thinner fine hair to help make hair look smooth and not frizzy and leave hair looking shiny. Try these styling creams and waxes:

  • Garnier Fructis Style Curl Calm Down Anti-Frizz Cream, Strong Hold ($4.29)
  • John Frieda Frizz-Ease Secret Weapon Flawless Finishing Creme ($5.99)
  • Bumble + bumble Sumowax ($26; note that a little of this goes a long way!)
  • Every Man Jack Call of the Wild Fiber Cream Fragrance Free ($7.99)

A tried-and-true time-saver for those with long hair is the sleek ponytail. When hair is still damp, apply a generous amount of styling cream or leave-in conditioner, comb through hair, and blow dry for a few minutes. When hair is at least halfway dry, comb it into place, secure with a fashionable hair elastic, and you're done! Note: don't use rubber bands, as these encourage hair breakage.

If you get flyaways during the day, the solution might be in your handbag. Take a tiny bit of moisturizer, spread it all over your hands, and use any excess to coat the ends of your hair. No more frizzies!

Last, remember that if you hair just isn't holding the style you like, it may be time for a haircut! Even if it doesn't seem as though your hair has grown much, if your cut has layers or is highly textured, even minimal growout can make your hair more difficult to style. Of course, it may also be your hairstylist's technique, so speak up about what you experience after leaving the salon and see if he or she is open to a different cutting technique.

The Best Skin (and Hair) of Your Life Starts Here: The same type of in-depth scientific research used to create this article is also used to formulate Paula’s Choice Skincare and Hair Care products. You’ll find products for a range of concerns, from acne and sensitive skin to wrinkles, pores, sun damage, and even dry, damaged hair. See Paula's Choice Hair Care.

About the Experts

Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books on skin care and makeup. She is known worldwide as the Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula's Choice. Paula's expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international television including:

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The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to busting beauty myths and helping you solve your skincare frustrations with research-supported expert advice—so you'll have the facts you need to take the best possible care of your skin.

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