Tame the Mane: Tips for Styling Thick Hair
If you’ve ever tried to wrangle a thick mane in heat or humidity, you know how hard it can be to make your hair behave.
Sure, your stylist marvels about how much gorgeous hair you have, but the rest of the time?
Try dealing with a super dry scalp or waiting for ages while your hair dries in the morning. Agony, amirite?
Time to ditch your laundry list of heavy hair complaints and start showing your hair who’s boss. Here are seven tips you can use to style unruly hair into submission:
1. Say No to Knots
Chances are you’ve chucked half your brushes in the garbage by now because they don’t work, or they tangle your hair into complicated, painful knots.
Especially if you’re transitioning from relaxed to naturally curly hair, your thick mane puts up a heck of a fight against normal styling tools.
Not only is forcing that brush through unruly hair plain painful, but constantly trying to de-tangle your hair can also cause breakage and other damage to your precious tresses.
Don’t despair, just stay proactive with the right detangling brush, says beauty writer Marianne Mychaskiw.
Straight, smooth hair is in sight – you just have to nail down your strategy.
2. Quench Your Thirst
All that thick hair can prevent your conditioner – along with other natural oils – from penetrating all the way to your scalp.
Not only will lack of natural oils leave your scalp dry and itchy, but it might mean the rest of your hair is begging for a drink, too.
An itchy head is uncomfortable – but preventable. You just need to show your hair and scalp a little bit of TLC.
Unlike women with fine hair, you can handle a heavy conditioner that coats strands from root to tip.
“Coarse hair types can get dry and brittle like dried-out leather – you need to restore moisture with oils or shea butter to bring it back to life,” stylist Mark Garrison explained to Women’s Health.
Before you hop in the shower, use a wide-tooth comb to brush the natural oils from your roots through the rest of your hair. This will help alleviate itch and restore balance.
As part of your regular routine, use a leave-in conditioner like Hairfinity Revitalizing Leave-In conditioner made from powerful conditioning ingredients, like quinoa, baobab extract, and camelina oil.
These rich, plant-based ingredients have plenty of moisture and fatty acids to help your hair stay soft, smooth, hydrated, and strong.
3. Outsmart Humidity
If your hair’s already thick, humidity just seems plain unfair.
All that extra moisture in the air makes your hair expand, making you feel bulkier and less beautiful than ever.
According to beauty writer Carly Cardellino, that’s because your hair is fighting its way back to its natural shape, using the extra moisture in the air to accomplish its mission.
“If your hair has any kind of natural texture and you’re trying to keep it frizz-free or straight, any moisture in the humid air will cause it to slowly revert back to its natural curly or wavy state and most likely frizz up,” explains Cardellino at Cosmopolitan.
While you can’t exactly fight nature, you can try to outsmart it by locking in moisture during your shower routine.
“You’ll want to use a lightweight moisturizing formula that will inject your hair with the hydration it needs so that it doesn’t soak up excess from the humid air,” stylist Ammon Carver told Cosmo.
An added oil-based serum can help seal your hair cuticle, keeping all that moisture in – and the humidity out.
4. Dry without Damage
During the summer, we tend not to notice how long it takes for our hair to air dry. But in the winter? Waiting for your hair to do its thing seems to take forever.
You might be tempted to crank up the heat on your blow dryer, but that could lead straight to damage, says Dr. Michael Roizen of the Cleveland Clinic.
“The extreme heat from hair dryers (and from curling irons) causes the water under the cuticles (the outermost layer of the hair) to form bubbles that stress and break the hair,” Roizen explained to Bustle.
When you have super-thick hair, you need a multi-step strategy to get dry, gorgeous hair without causing damage.
The first step, according to health writer Ninia Elias, is to allow your hair to air dry about 80% of the way. Then, use a hair dryer on the lowest heat setting to style your hair in sections.
This strategy gives you the best of both worlds – less heat damage from your hair dryer and a controlled air dry that won’t leave you staring at your watch. Win-win.
5. Cut for Weight, Not Length
While you should definitely rock whatever style makes you feel glam and confident, learning how to talk to your stylist about thick hair can really help keep your mane under control.
To de-bulk, ask your stylist to take out all the extra weight holding you down.
“If you have thick, dense hair and desire something lighter, looser, and more flowing, then asking your stylist to take weight out of your hair is your best bet,” Bumble & Bumble stylist Allen Thomas Wood told Into the Gloss.
“This is done by using the scissors or a razor to carve out slivers of hair and lighten up the overall effect,” Wood explained.
If you’ve never had a stylist do this for you, you’re in for a treat, my friend. You’ll feel lighter than air and twice as happy.
6. Embrace the Braid
Long, thick hair can be overwhelming, especially when you’re at work and need your hair up and out of the way.
According to Marie Claire UK, an over-the-shoulder braid will show off your gorgeous hair while keeping it out of your eyes and away from your neck.
“Braids and plait hairstyles look especially good when thick, as proven by Blake Lively’s incredible fishtail plait,” gushes beauty writer Natalie Lukaitis. (We gotta admit, this style looks pretty great on Ms. Lively.)
An added bonus? Braiding your hair is also one of the best strategies for keeping your hair safe – and styled – overnight.
“Because of the interweaving, there’s less pressure on individual strands, which can result in less breakage – and tangling, too,” explains Miriam Lacey at Prevention.
Not to mention you’ll wake up with extra beachy waves, no effort – or vacation dollars – required.
7. Shop for Extra Security
Raise your hand if you’ve ever broken a hair tie or lost your fair share of bobby pins? Yeah, that’s what we thought.
Sometimes thick hair is just too much for normal-hair restraints – making it harder to pull your hair back or put it up for a night out on the town.
Time to upgrade your hair ties and master the fine skill of bobby pinning tresses.
While thick, lustrous hair sure seems like every lady’s dream, as any woman with a dense mane knows, the dream comes with a price and a ton of hassle.
The grass really is always greener, isn’t it.
But you can beat the heavy mane blues by getting out in front of common problems, like lack of moisture or unruly tangles, with a smart shampoo and conditioner strategy.
And once you find a hairstylist who knows how to de-bulk all that extra hair to give you a light cut full of movement – hold on for dear life. She – or he – is absolutely worth every penny.