A FINE LINEby Naomi Mannino
It´s estimated that about 30 million American women suffer from hair thinning and that doesn´t include men or men and women born with naturally fine, thin hair. And that means business — big business for hairdressers, salon owners and hair replacement experts — in helping those clients look better and feel better about their hair. But first, you need to differentiate between the two types of fine or thin hair. Naturally fine hair is determined by heredity, measured by the actual diameter of one strand. You can either have a lot of those fine hairs or not depending on how many strands there are per square inch. With the exception of fine hair, all other hair types consist of three layers: the medulla at the center of hair, the hard cor-tex covering it, and an outer layer, the cuticle, composed of keratin scales. If the scales are densely closed then hair looks healthy and sleek; if they bristle, then hair looks coarse and dry, or fly-away. The medulla is generally absent in naturally fine hair and the outer layer is not thick enough. That´s why fine hair is extremely vulnerable, easily tangled, difficult to comb, and it frizzles quickly in the sun, in chlorinated water and at the hand of lengthy exposure to heated styling tools. Naturally fine hair can easily be improved depending on cut, color, treatment and styling, all of which YOU as hairdresser can affect through your own technique and client education.
In contrast, hair can be ‘fine´ or ‘thin´ due to diseases like Alopecia Areata and others as well as a symptom of condi-tions that can be improved, once discovered. According toa recent article from Johns Hopkins University, the main causes of thinning hair for both men and women are hormonal ab-normalities, local trauma, medications, stress, scalp inflamma-tion, and normal age variation. If you notice marked signs of hair loss, a general rule of thumb would be to refer your client for testing with their physician and/or a dermatologist to rule out any serious health issues. That said, there are many things you can direct your client to change in their daily routines and habits that will improve the health and look of their hair. For the thinning client it´s worth your while to take a few minutes to ask about the following things during the consultations and make suggestions:
Consultation questions: Get nosy!
● Hormonal abnormalities: Many different hormone problems can be associated with hair loss. Ask your clients whether they are aware of any hormonal abnormalities and if you can see no other reason why hair loss would be occurring, refer them to their primary care physician for blood testing.
● Local trauma: This means tight ponytails and headbands, chemical hair treatments, improper use of heated styling tools. This will be apparent through patterns of breakage. Askyour clients about their styling regimens.
●Medications: Many medicines have a side-effect of hair loss with steroids and chemotherapy the most obvious cul-prits.Ask if your client noticed hair loss when beginninga new medication regimen.
● Stress: Stress can affect your hair the same way it affects other major organs like the heart. The cells quit reproducing and the hair falls. Physical traumas as well as mental traumas can cause hair loss and thinning and many times cause hair problems three to six months after a traumatic event has oc-curred. Ask your client stress-related questions about major events or changes in their life.
● Scalp inflammation: If your client complains of thinning or fall-out also check your client´s scalp and hair follicles for prod-uct build-up, sebum plugs and fungal or other infections. These conditions can all reduce cell respiration at the bulb because sticky styling products not removed well enough attracts dirt and bacteria that plugs up pores and follicles and can lead to seri-ous infections. Ask you client how their scalp feels and if they´ve noticed any changes. If you see signs of infections or scalp con-ditions refer your client to a dermatologist.
● Normal and age-related variations: A single hair's natural cycle is for it to grow for several years, then naturally fall out and be replaced by new growth. If hair fall-out exceeds hair growth then thinning or baldness may become noticeable. Hair thinning is also a common sign of aging as natural hor-mones reduce in production and can be seen by the pattern of the thinning. Women are predisposed to general thinning while men have genetically predisposed receptors located in certain areas which results in male pattern baldness. Look through thinning clients´ hair and note any patterns and scalp health as well. Ask your client if their hair is truly getting thinner or if they are just noticing more normal shedding than usual which can be perfectly normal.
A Stylist´s bag of tricks...
After washing and styling, fine and thinning hair loses natural volume quickly, flattens out, and does not keep its intended form. Aside from medical conditions, another reason for flattened style lies below the scalp. The vol-ume of hair depends on the hair muscle situated under the scalp at the hair root. This hair muscle raises a little the part of hair at the root. And any woman who has ever worn a pony tail too tight on her head has felt the soreness in these muscles! Thick hair possesses very well-developed hair muscles while fine hair muscles are de-cidedly weaker. Since you can´t ‘work-out´ hair muscles to make them stronger you have to increase the volume of the hair at the root artificially — through cut, product choice, and styling tools and techniques.
● Cut: It´s a myth that fine hair looks best only when cut super-short! However most stylists agree shorter hair is stronger than longer hair. “If hair is thinning, bring up the length to keep it as healthy as possible,” advises Ryan Thomas, owner and cre-ative director of Ryan Thomas Hair Studio in San Diego, Califor-nia. “Bob or a pixie styles are great for thinning hair. Try usinga straight razor to design your style to give a unique finish while maximizing texture and movement to give the illusion of more hair.” Undercutting is another great technique where the shorter pieces underneath support the longer surface cut which creates volume, naturally. And adding a few layers to a mid-length cut also supports fine hairs naturally. But watch out: Too many layers will cause layers to lie flat against one another instead of sup-porting one another. Irregular ‘choppy´ or notched ends visually plump up the look and cap cuts with a great fringe help soften and minimize the long, flat look of fine hair on oval face shapes. Cut fine hair clients´ hair on an angle that is forward-moving to look thicker at the front and show them how to style under or flip outward to add an illusion of thickness and volume. Business booster: Remind your clients that the actual cut supports their fine hair and as soon as it loses its shape through growing, their style will fall flat. Trims must be kept up religiously so urge clients to pre-book before they leave.
● Techniques for at-home styling: Teach clients how to use tools at home to create the illusion of volume on their own. Show them how to turn ends under with a large, ceramic barrel round brush (or your own favorite). Show them how alternatively flipping hair up and out also works to their ad-vantage. Remind clients that it´s the amount of exposure to heat that damages fine hair to the point of dryness, breakage and dullness. Actually, correct usage of hot styling tools will yield great results and longer hold for fine hair because the high heat changes the structure of the hair. Show them how to create volume at the roots by using the round brush and aiming the blow dryer at roots as you move the brush away from the scalp. If they want to use hot curlers, or any other type for that matter, show them how to set them in a zigzag pattern so each one holds up the ones on the other sides, instead of laying flat on top of one another. Business booster: Take the time to teach techniques to your clients — it´s what keeps them looking great and coming back to you!
● Care: If you ask most people how they shampoo, they will say they “rub shampoo all over my head.” Ditto for condition-er. Advise your clients on the proper way to shampoo as they could be causing their own bad hair days! Rubbing vigorously damages the hairs´ cuticles leading to breakage and dullness in finer heads of hair while distributing shampoo all the way down to ends results in unnecessarily stripping hair strands of their natural oils they need for protection. Shampoo belongs at the scalp to clean away dirt, bacteria, oil, and sebum. Conversely your scalp does not need conditioner where it only services to attract dirt and plug up pores. Conditioner is meant for ends, distributed gently with palms of hands or a comb. Business booster: Show them how to shampoo and condition correctly to be gentler on their fine hair. Their hair will respond better to anything else you´re doing.
● Products: There are many shampoos, conditioners and styl-ing product lines specifically formulated for fine hair. Some do it through electrically ‘charging´ the hairs to push off one another. Some use a combination of natural compo-nents with synthetic components to form polymers, identical to natural ones, that visually make strands appear thicker. When it comes to styling products, direct clients with fine or thinning hair to avoid waxes, molding muds, and silicone shine sprays and liquids which result in limpness, flatness and greasiness in those with fine hair. Instead, advise lightweight gels, souffles, and airy mousses. Business booster: Increase your retail numbers and guide these clients toward special product lines specially made to support and protect fine/thinning hair. Show them how much and how to use it cor-rectly — be sure to stock at least one line of specific prod-ucts for these clients.
● Color: Coloring is tricky on the client with fine or thinning hair because it is more susceptible to chemical breakage and damage. However, adding highlights with a lightener can swell the size of the hair shaft by up to 33%, explains Thomas. “After the chemical service and before the toner,I always use a Kerastase Treatment to ensure hair is pro-tected and rejuvenated.” Most stylists agree that add-ing low-lights and hi-lights using demi-permanent and semi-permanent color reduces the amount of exposure to peroxide and ammonia which cause damage while adding the illusion of volume. Proper use of highlights and lowlights increases the look of volume because when highlights contrast against the darker base and vice versa with low-lights, hair looks more dimensional, even thicker, although it will still feel the same. Skillful combination (for example, simultaneous usage of several non-contrasting shades) creates the illusion of thicker hair and the inten-tional darkening of the roots visually increases volume by mimicking the natural characteristics of a thick, healthy head of hair. Business booster: The process needs to be repeated at specific time intervals depending on the cli-ent. Give clients a date to pre-book.
● Perming/Relaxing: Beware mixing col-or with other processes on fine or thin-ning hair types because the propensity for damage is too high. Most hairdressers agree on this point in particular. Business booster: You can degrade thin hair so easily to the point of no return that it´s not usually worth the risk.
Many stylists may find that they truly enjoy helping clients with thinning hair or that they´ve had a personal expe-rience with the problem themselves. Elline Surianello of LeMetric Hair Cen-ter Inc. started her hair replacement center after suffering her own expe-riences with Alopecia and realizing there were no services to help wom-en with hair loss and thinning issues. “Back in the 1980´s there was nothing out there except wigs!” she says. Hair dressers are very intuitive with their clients. “If you notice a difference in your client´s hair you should ask about it. You owe it to your clients to com-municate. If you don´t know how to bring it up, then refer them to some-one who can help them,” advises Su-rianello who believes that hairdressers should be educated to be a support system for women. LeMetric, which operates affiliate locations in Phila-delphia, Chicago, Phoenix, Toronto, and soon-to-be-opened in Calgary in addition to its headquarters in New York City, specializes in providing fashion hair systems that are custom-made and tied on to avoid glues, heat and other options that only fur-ther hair thinning conditions. In fact, Surianello will even take online con-sultations, so you can advise clients with serious hair thinning concerns to send pictures to: Elline.Surianello@LeMetric.com. Shelly Beatty, owner and master stylist at Stylemakers Salon in Fort Worth, Texas, suffered hair loss after a thyroid surgery and also searched for solutions. She also creates hair extensions, called a ‘Reprieve,´ attached by links that also put very little stress on the hair and has achieved success using low-light laser therapy to stimulate the follicles to create new hair, when hair loss has been caught early. “You can catch follicles before they die by treating hair loss right away. Don´t wait,” advises Beatty.