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What is Long-Lasting Hair Volume?

Long-lasting volume can be defined as hair that is lifted and held away from the scalp and defies gravity and humidity over time.

Specifically, consumers who are styling their hair for volume tell us they are looking for:*

  • Hair that has body and fullness (88%)
  • Hair that holds its "shape" (74%)
  • Hair that maintains its volume over time (68%)
  • Hair that has height and lift away from head (68%)
  • Hair that stays away from face (55%)
  • When consumers have volume style failure, they typically see:

  • Hair style loses its shape (70%)
  • Hair lays flat against the head (64%)
  • Hair is limp and has no bounce (63%)
  • Hair falls into face (45%)
  • * Internet Survey, April, 2002.

    Factors Influencing Hair Volume

    Why is it so hard for some people to keep great volume? Why are some of us struggling with lank, limp head-hugging hair while others seem to have full, bouncy hair all the time? The answer is physiological in nature - we inherited a genetic tendency toward fine or limp hair.

    The key physiological factors affecting volume are:

    Hair Diameter

    Human hair diameters range from 40 microns to 120 microns. Hair texture is usually classified as follows:*

    Fine hair - less than 60 microns
    Medium hair - 60-80 microns
    Thick hair - greater than 80 microns

    Unfortunately, there is very little you can do to permanently increase the diameter of your hair shaft, but you can maximize what you do have by making sure your hair is as healthy as possible. Maintain a nutritious, well-balanced diet, as illness and malnourishment can reduce your hair's diameter.

    General Hair Advice
    Styling products like mousse or gel can temporarily give the sensation of increased diameter by coating your hair with a polymer film.

    Hair Styling Advice
    Get the volume that nature didn't give you by using a regimen of styling products that work together to achieve the look you want to keep.

    * Charles Zviak, The Science of Hair Care, 1986 (New York), 142.

    Hair Density

    Density is the number of hairs per square centimeter on your scalp. On average, most adults have 100,000 to 150,000 hairs on their head* or 175-300 hairs per square centimeter. This is a big range that represents a lot of variation - depending on age and genetics, some people can have almost twice as many hairs on their head than others

    Why Hair Density Is Important
    1) If you have greater density, you have more hair and a thicker ponytail.

    2) When hairs are very close together they help hold each other up straighter (think of being in New York's Times Square on New Year's Eve - it would be virtually impossible to sit or lay down there)

    .

    Medical Hair Advice
    The easiest thing you can do to maintain hair density is to keep your hair and scalp healthy. Avoid pulling out hairs by vigorous combing or too much tension on ponytails and braids. Use anti-dandruff shampoo if necessary to keep your scalp healthy and prevent itching and scratching. Severe hair loss, called alopecia, should be treated by a dermatologist.

    Hair Style Advice
    When choosing a product for thin hair, mousses are a good choice because they are lightweight and easy to spread down to the roots. Avoid heavy or waxy products that can cause thin hair to clump at the roots and give the appearance of even less hair.

    * William Montagna, The Structure and Function of Skin, Academic Press, 1974 (New York), 219.

    * Clarence R. Robbins, Chemical and Physical Behavior of Human Hair. 4th Edition, 2002 (New York), 13.

    Hair Stiffness

    The technical term for hair stiffness is "bending modulus." This is a way of measuring the "limpness" of your hair or its ability to hold itself away from your scalp. Unfortunately, stiffness is a direct function of hair thickness. The thinner your hair, the lower the stiffness measure, as indicated in this chart.

    Hair Science Advice
    Increase the stiffness of your hair mass by using styling products that contain holding polymers. Holding polymers can temporarily improve the stiffness of your hair by bonding together separate hairs - when the hairs work together, they have more natural lift and stiffness.

    Hair Style Advice
    A good haircut is very important in maximizing your hair's stiffness. Layers and texturizing create opportunities for hair to work together for greater lift and stiffness. To achieve texture, try using a styling wax.

    Hair Curvature

    This one is pretty simple. Curved or curled hair takes up more space than straight hair, as shown in this diagram.

    Hair Science Advice

    Be sure to use a foundation styler like mousse or gel to help set the curve. Heat makes the styling polymers melt and flow to increase hair-to-hair contact and provide even better long-lasting hold.

    Hair Style Advice
    Enhancing your hair's natural curls or waves is an easy way to create long-lasting hair volume. Use a round brush or shape your hair into a curve around your fingers to help lift the roots. Use a curling iron to add volume to hair ends.

    Hair Friction

    Hair friction, or the roughness of the hair fiber, also affects hair volume. If hair fibers are rough, they catch on each other and build up a network of fiber-to-fiber interaction. In fact, there is a direct relationship between hair friction and fullness. This is why many fine-haired people find that using the "wrong" conditioner can significantly reduce friction, making it difficult for them to achieve volume. Soa little friction is good, but watch out - too much friction can cause severe hair damage and breakage.

    Hair Science Advice
    Styling gels and mousses actually temporarily increase friction during styling to help you achieve and keep your style. They go into your hair as a smooth film but as the film partially dries they go through a temporary sticky phase (in this case, stickiness is a good thing!). This helps you hold your hair into shape while you finish drying your hair. Once the film is completely dry, it stops feeling sticky and your style is set.

    Hair Style Advice
    Although you don't want to over do it, even fine hair needs conditioning. Use a volumizing conditioner that will moisturize and protect your hair without weighing it down.

    Hair friction may also be increased through color treatment. Experiments show bleaching increases surface friction by as much as one third.* Color treating hair changes the chemistry of your cuticle - the important outer layer of the hair shaft. This change in chemistry makes the hair less slippery, increasing friction and making your hair feel and look fuller. But be careful - over bleaching or excessive recoloring can make your hair so rough it becomes susceptible to damage. If you do color treat your hair, be sure to use color-safe styling products that will not fade or change your color.

    * Clarence R. Robbins, Chemical and Physical Behavior of Human Hair. 4th Edition, 2002 (New York), 444.

    Hair Cohesion

    Hair cohesion is the tendency for something to stick to itself. There are two types of cohesion that can hurt hair volume:

  • Greasy, oily buildup - this can make hair clump together and stick to the scalp and is a reason why you want really clean hair when you start styling for long-lasting volume.


  • Static electricity - this can cause hair to either flyaway or stick together. If you hair clings to your neck or face after taking off your hat, you are a victim of static electricity.
  • Hair generates static electricity because it is triboelectric - that means, when rubbed, it can generate electrical charge. When these charges build up they cause static electricity. When opposite charges build up they attract each other and when similar charges build up they repel each other. Static electricity is worse in the winter and better in the summer. That is because the water in humid air helps dissipate static build-up on your hair. Dry winter air acts as an insulator, actually promoting the build-up of larger static charges.

    Hair Science Advice
    Make sure to use volumizing conditioners and styling products containing ingredients like polyquaternium, quaternium 18 and stearamidaproply dimethylamine to prevent static charge build up in fine hair. These ingredients are charged and conductive. That means they help dissipate the static build-up in your hair before it gets big enough to attack your volume.

    Hair Style Advice
    Prevent greasy build-up and static electricity by choosing the right styling products for your hair and using a clarifying shampoo once a week. Regular use of a hair conditioner will help prevent static - just be sure to use the right amount for your hair type.

    *Clarence R. Robbins, Chemical and Physical Behavior of Human Hair. 4th Edition, 2002 (New York), 462.

    howto How To Get Long-Lasting Volume

    The primary challenge in creating volume is creating a space, or air pocket, between the hair and the scalp. The most common areas where volume is desired are:

    Root lift - increases apparent height and length of head)
    Bang lift - keeps hair up and off face)
    Side volume - hair doesn't cling to scalp)
    End volume - hair looks free flowing or shaped without stringiness)

    There are several techniques to "pump it up:

    Hair Reshaping

    The process most people use to reshape the hair strand is wet setting to increase curvature or set a shape in your hair. The basic process is to wet the hair by either shampooing or applying a wet styler. Shampooing works best because the surfactants help the water penetrate the hair shaft really well. Once the hair is wet it is redried into shape either by air drying on rollers or heat drying with a blow dryer and a round brush.

    Why does this work?

    Your hair has three primary bonds responsible for its shape:

    1. Salt hair bonds - temporary and easy to rearrange because they are water dependent. When you wet your hair, the water inserts itself between the salt bonds - breaking them. When you dry out the water, the salt bonds reform in whatever shape the hair is arranged in. The effect is temporary - as soon as the hair is wet, the bonds will break and go back to their original configuration.

    2. Disulphide hair bonds - permanent and can only be changed through chemical processing (e.g. perming, relaxing, etc.).

    3. Hydrogen hair bonds - temporary and easy to rearrange because they are water dependent. Function the same way as salt bonds.

    The illustrations below show the three types of hair bonds at work.



    Initial Reading:
    Illustration shows hair volume before experiencing 80% relative humidity
    in 80-degree F for one hour.


    After One Hour:
    Illustration shows impact of 80% relative humidity
    in 80-degree F for one hour on hair volume.



    Bonding Hair Strands

    Once you have created your hair style through reshaping strands or creating a network of strands, you need to hold it in place in order to have long-lasting volume. Hair volume created via wet styling and friction is especially vulnerable to humidity attack and disruption from wind, head shaking, etc. But you can keep your volume with the help of hair styling products. Styling products help keep long-lasting volume by creating reinforcing bonds between hair shafts at critical locations to your style. These bonds come in two types:*

    1. Hair seam welds

    These are bonds that hold two hair shafts together in side-by-side alignment; by holding these hairs together you increase the stiffness and body of the hair shaft - helping it hold the hair away from the scalp on its own.

    2. Hair spot welds

    These are found where hairs cross each other to create a support structure; the styling polymer glues the shafts together at this critical structural point.

    All hair styling products create both kinds of welds. However, mousse, gel and waxes are preferred for creating seam welds. This is because they are applied in larger quantities and typically rubbed in hand before the finished style is created. Hair spray is preferred for creating spot welds because it is applied through the air in tiny droplets to a finished style and thus can act on critical hair cross-over points.

    * John Gray, The World of Hair, A Scientific Companion, McMillan Press, 1997 (New York), 135.


    Hair Frictional Interactions

    Temporarily increasing hair friction also helps increase volume and fullness. There are four ways to temporarily increase friction:

    1. Clean your hair
    Your hair's natural oils or sebum can build up over time, making your hair more slippery, reducing friction and making hair go limp.

    Hair Science Advice
    Cleaning these oils off with a volume-building shampoo will restore your hair's natural friction and give you the best start at creating long-lasting volume.

    2. Use hair stylers like mousse and gel
    Styling gels and mousses actually temporarily increase friction during styling to help you achieve and keep your style. They go into your hair as a smooth film but as the film partially dries they go through a tacky or sticky phase. This helps you hold your hair into shape while you finish drying your hair. Once the film is completely dry, it is smooth once again.

    3. Hair color treatment
    Another way to increase friction is to color treat your hair. Research has shown that bleaching can increase surface friction by as much as 1/3. Color treating your hair changes the chemistry of your cuticle - the important outer layer of the hair shaft. This change in chemistry makes the hair less slippery, increasing friction and making your hair feel and look fuller. Be careful - too much bleaching or excessive coloring can make your hair so rough that it becomes hard to detangle and more susceptible to damage.

    4. Teasing or backcombing your hair
    Teasing or combing your hair backwards from tip to root will rough up the cuticle, drastically increasing friction. This temporarily creates loads of volume but is very dangerous to your hair shaft over time. Teasing causes the cuticle layers to roll and peel up.

    You might be willing to tease your hair once in a while for a special occasion, but repeated teasing will cause serious hair damage. One alternative to teasing is to use hairspray on the roots of dry hair before styling to give some of the same benefits of increased friction as teasing without damaging the hair cuticle.

    Hair volume created via friction alone can collapse over time as wind, head-shaking or other forms of disruption move around your hair. It is a house of cards that can be sealed into place with the right styling products.

    *Clarence R. Robbins, Chemical and Physical Behavior of Human Hair. 4th Edition, 2002 (New York), 444.