woman with fine curly hair
Photo by Brio Photography for NaturallyCurly

Although many people with curly hair struggle with too much volume, others face the opposite problem. “Fine curly hair is one of the most challenging hair types,” says Christo of Christo Fifth Avenue. Caring for fine curly hair can be a delicate balance. Too much product—or products that are too sticky or heavy—can weigh it down. But without the right products, the hair can lose its definition and get frizzy.

“They’re actually lucky their hair is curly,” says Jonathan Torch of the Curly Hair Institute in Toronto, Ontario, creator of Curly Hair Solutions. “The curls add volume. If it was straight, they’d have to rely on a perm.”

The right cut and styling products are especially important for fine curly hair.

Tips for styling fine curly hair

1. Avoid a long haircut

Long hair is not recommended because it can pull out the curls and make the hair look even finer. Torch likes to cut it short at the perimeter, leaving the top longer.

2. Avoid chemical processes

Fine curlies may want to stay away from chemical processes like thermal reconditioning or straightening. Without the curl, their hair loses all of its volume and can look flat and lifeless.

3. Incorporate color

Coloring the hair is recommended because it roughens up the cuticle. The color also adds shine, causing light to bounce off the hair, not the scalp, making the hair look fuller. Darker shades, like auburns and browns, look better than lighter ones, which can make the hair look more transparent. “Coloring is more important on fine hair than any other hair type if a person wants volume,” Torch says.

fine curly hair with volume
Photo Courtesy of @shawnaedwards_

4. Shampoo more often

While many curlies avoid shampooing their hair more than once or twice a week, fine curlies should actually wash their hair more often to prevent product buildup and plump up the hair cuticle.

5. Condition less

When it comes to conditioner, less is more. Some lines even offer lighter conditioners especially for finer curly hair. “I don’t even recommend conditioner,” Torch says. “I recommend detanglers. Otherwise, the hair will lie flat and greasy.” This depends on your texture type and the amount of moisture your hair needs, if you do require extra moisture you may want to apply it to the ends and lengths of the hair and avoid the roots. 

6. Apply styler sparingly

Stylist Antoinette Guzzo of Frederic Fekkai in New York, cautions against adding to much of a creamy styling product to fine hair because it will weigh it down.

“While it’s important to apply a dab of a hydrating cream to prevent curls from drying out, use it sparingly,” Guzzo says. She suggests applying a lightweight mousse all over hair to add lift. To avoid product overload, layer your styling aids, according to Style Your Own Hair, a video that provides tips for different hair types. Make sure you don’t use too much product with each layering.

Christo likes to section the hair into three or four parts to provide good product distribution and to ensure that no one area gets too much.

“The more you section your hair, the better distribution of products you will get,” he says.

7. Diffuse & massage

To add volume, diffuse the hair or let it dry naturally. Guzzo suggests placing your hands in your hair against your scalp and gently massage with the pads of your fingers. This technique will wake up volume and add bounce.

Torch also is a proponent of massage, which he believes can also improve hair growth by increasing blood circulation in the scalp. It also relieves stress, which puts pressure on new hair and retards it from growing in. “It works,” he swears. “You’ll notice a huge difference.”

8. Lift at the roots

Another trick is to place your fingers into the hair along the hairline all around the face and lifting the roots up. As you do this, direct the blowdryer on the roots to heat them up and add body and lift. Repeat the technique along the part. “Your part should be the focal point,” Guzzo says.

9. Play with it throughout the day

And unlike coarser, kinkier curls, which can get big and unmanageable the more it’s messed with, fine hair flourishes when touched.

“With finer hair, you want it to expand and get puffy,” Torch says. “The more you play with it, the more fullness you get and the better it looks.”

How to Care for Fine Curly Hair

Products Formulated to Pump Up Fine Curls

1. As I Am Curl Clarity Shampoo

This is a clarifying shampoo to be used sparingly by those with hair that needs moisture, but if you find that products build up and weigh down your hair then it may be useful to add this to your arsenal. 

2. Rizos Hydrating Shampoo

The Rizos Curls Hydrating Shampoo softly cleans the hair and scalp, deeply moisturizing and strengthening the hair, while treating dry scalp. 

3. EVOLVh SmartVolume Leave-In Conditioner

The key to this leave-in is that it’s lightweight and water-based, with added benefits that it protects your hair from natural heat and UV damage.

4. Texture My Way Keep It Curly Stretch and Set Styling Foam

For elongated, springy curls, waves with natural body & bounce, two-strand twists or rod set coils, capture your style with KEEP IT CURLY Stretch and Set Styling Foam. This light-weight, curling therapy is enriched with Shea Butter & Extra Virgin Olive Oil for moisture, strength and shine. Added proteins contribute to healthy style maintenance without build-up and flaking stretch & set Styling foam helps control frizz and locks curls into your desired style.

How to Care for Fine Curly Hair

5. Curly Hair Solutions Curl Keeper

This is the OG frizz tamer. When it comes to fine hair you are striking a balance between curl definition and breaking up the curls to create volume. Either way you want to avoid frizz, and a lightweight styler like this will help you get there.

6. Ouidad Advanced Climate Control Heat and Humidity Gel

The best just got better. Our signature, award-winning formula now upgraded to include Anti-Frizz Nano Technology for advanced frizz protection. Humidity: It’s every curl’s nightmare. That’s because curly hair’s unique structure exposes its cuticle. When humidity gets in, curls expand with unwanted volume and look frizzy, undefined, and dull.

7. Amika Perk Up Talc-Free Dry Shampoo

Traditionally dry shampoos are used to extend the time between washes, but you can also include them in your regimen to add volume to flat roots. This one is formulated without talc or aluminum, and doesn’t leave behind the dusty residue dry shampoos are known for.

8. Afro Pick

A pick can be a must-have tool for fine hair. Use it to pick out your roots and the lengths of your hair for a boost in volume. You may lose some definition this way, but for some with fine curls it’s worth it.

9. AQUIS Hair Turban Waffle Luxe – Moody Grey

With increased surface areas from the layered fabric, AQUIS Waffle Luxe Hair Towels are designed or thick, coarse and porous hair. Ideal for shorter to shoulder length hair, our regular length towels are made with AQUITEX, an innovative fabric woven from ultra-fine fibers to create a lightweight material with superior water-wicking capabilities that dries hair quickly and gently. Wraps and tucks easily. Dries hair to a damp stage fast, with less friction to minimize frizz and damage.

Photo Courtesy of @shawnaedwards_

Styling routine for fine curly hair

Step 1. Cleanse

Shampoo thoroughly twice to remove sebum and scalp oils.

Step 2. Rinse

Completely rinse off the shampoo until it squeaks! Many curlies who struggle with frizz and moisture avoid the squeaky clean feeling, but fine hair can benefit from a full cleansing to prevent it from being weighed down.

Step 3. Condition

It is important understand that this must be a very lightweight conditioner. Apply to the ends first untangling with your fingers or a pick. After the ends are untangled. rinse lightly and then apply more conditioner to the scalp.

Step 5. Rinse

Now it is important to rinse the hair in one direction thoroughly, from the scalp down, to minimize the possibility of tangles. This works best if done under the shower where you wash away the conditioner while untangling your curly hair.

Step 6. Detangle

With a towel, squeeze out excess water from the hair, never rubbing. From underneath in the back begin untangling with a pick or very large comb. It should be much easier since you untangled during the rinse.

Step 7. Air Dry

Position your hair. Remember that it is how it dries that sets the hair in its final position. Part the hair where you want the demarcation to be and reach up and under with your fingertips lifting the hair while it dries and pull it up to give it more fullness.

Step 8. Diffuse

If you must use a hair dryer, dry only with a diffuser, even if you plan to straighten later. Use a dryer with a diffuser hitting just the scalp to set the base of the hair up. The diffuser allows you to be in control and set the base up in a full position. Begin squeezing the ends. Scrunching and wadding the hair up, and lifting the base with your fingers. I suggest not using the diffusers with fingers. Use your hands instead to feel the curl and see the results and shine.

Read more: How to Use a Diffuser Without Ruining Your Curls

Step 9. Set the Hair

Set your hair with whatever method you are familiar. Since you have already set the base, you are finished if you like to wear your fine hair soft and curly.

Read next: 20 Products For Fine Curly Hair

This article was originally published in 2005 and has been updated for grammar & clarity.