Volume is one of the most sought-after benefits for hair, especially for those with fine, limp or thinning strands. There are several factors that contribute to hair thinning and loss including (but not limited to) genetics, health conditions and age, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. As we get older, hair growth slows and the diameter of the hair strands decreases, causing hair to appear thinner.
To combat thinness, you can opt for volumizing shampoos and conditioners to bulk up strands, dry shampoos to give hair a voluminous look, or styling sprays, gels, and mousses that coat strands to make them temporarily feel thicker. There are also over-the-counter treatments, made with the active ingredient Minoxidil, that stimulate hair growth at the scalp for thicker strands and increased density.
To find the hair thickening products that actually work, the Good Housekeeping Institute Beauty Lab has assessed over 290 volumizing hair products, analyzed on real human hair swatches for changes in the density of individual fibers using a laser micrometer instrument, and conditioning ability is measured using the Instron machine. In addition to Lab data, label-masked products are distributed to consumer testers to use and evaluate at home in order to provide feedback on ease of use, performance and overall satisfaction. GH Beauty Lab scientists have tallied over 2,113 questionnaires to round up the best hair thickening products on the market, below:
Spritz your way to fuller hair instantly with this GH Beauty Lab top-tested thickening spray from Bumble and Bumble. In volumizing spray evaluations, it received the highest score for making hair feel thicker. Testers ranked the salon brand as their favorite mist, with 86% agreeing that they were satisfied with the product and would continue using it. “My hair looked and felt three times fuller than normal!" one raved.
- Makes individual strands feel thicker
- Non-tacky formula
- Ranked as the tester favorite
- May not spray evenly
- Volume was less lasting than others tested
Kristin Ess earned the highest score for performance in the GH Beauty Lab volumizing spray study at a fraction of the cost of its competitors. Testers rated it best for making hair look voluminous and full without deflating, with 82% of testers agreeing it kept hair voluminous all day long. “I’ve never used a product that works this well on my fine hair," a user marveled.
- Instantly volumizes
- Long-lasting fullness
- Nozzle squirts rather than sprays
The winner of the GH Beauty Lab dry shampoo test, Living Proof not only made hair feel fresh and clean but also lifted strands. An impressive 88% of testers agreed that this product added volume to hair.“It made my hair look full and great, not greasy," one commented.
- Increases volume
- Freshens hair
- No powdery or gritty feel
- Can leave white residue on hair or hair brushes
This all-in-one Matrix Biolage spray cream, which adds body and shine plus softens and conditions, outperformed all others in the GH Beauty Lab's leave-in conditioner test. It was the best at hydrating and smoothing strands in Lab measurements, while consumer testers rated it tops for its lightweight cream-like texture that didn't make hair feel greasy. Testers also found it increased volume. "Hair appeared shinier and more bouncy," one reported.
- Makes strands feel soft
- Adds volume
- Doesn't make hair feel greasy
The active ingredient in Rogaine, Minoxidil, is the only FDA-approved over-the-counter topical ingredient for the treatment of hair loss. Containing 5% of the active, this lightweight foam helps stimulates hair growth and slows down hair loss. Consistent application is key for best results, so be sure to thoroughly read and familiarize yourself with the directions before use.
- Increases hair growth
- Easy-to-apply formula
- It takes time to see results
This drugstore bargain spray from Garnier is a GH Beauty Lab chemist go-to and performed well in testing delivering speedy volumizing effects. "The lightweight leave-in imparts nice volume to strands whether you are styling your hair or letting it air dry," she says. In Lab evaluations, testers ranked it tops for its ability to instantly volumize without heaviness and for its fruity scent.
- Doesn't weigh hair down
- Dispensing mechanism squirts rather than sprays
John Frieda's lightweight mousse was a stellar performer in the GH Beauty Lab volumizing mousse test. In the Lab, it was the best at maintaining hair fullness over time, even through humid conditions. Testers echoed Lab results and reported that the delicately scented foam did not leave hair feeling sticky, greasy or crunchy. "I liked that this product made my hair look so thick, held the fullness and still felt soft," one tester said.
- Long-lasting volume
- Doesn't make hair greasy or crunchy
- Might make hair feel stiff
If you are seeking both fuller and smoother hair, look no further than Aloxxi's serum. GH Beauty Lab data showed that it actually increased the thickness of individual strands and consumers ranked it tops for leaving hair looking fuller and touchably soft. "I like how the serum made my hair feel thicker after I applied it and styled it," a tester said.
- Thickens hair
- Softens strands
- Doesn't leave hair feeling crunchy
Get thicker, fuller hair in the shower by sudsing with Kérastase. A winner of the GH Beauty Lab volumizing shampoo and conditioner test, it ranked tops for adding volume, making hair feel thicker and leaving hair feeling clean. "My hair has so much volume and bounce when I use this product," a tester raved. Note that the shampoo and conditioner set have twist-off caps which might make dispensing a bit difficult in the shower.
- Adds body
- Makes hair feel thicker
- Leaves hair feeling clean
- Twist off caps may be tough to open in shower
This innovative Pantene conditioner in foam form, a GH Beauty Award winner, is a game-changer for fine hair. It "melts" into your hair while providing great hydration but without the unwanted heaviness traditional conditioners can impart. In the GH Beauty Lab's test, it conditioned well and 95% of testers reported that it didn’t weigh hair down. "I really like the way my fine, wavy hair looks and feels after using it," a tester said.
- Conditions hair well
- Lightweight foam texture
- Doesn't weigh hair down
- Some testers found it hard to control the amount dispensed
Finding a lightweight hair mask that adds body and hydrates strands can prove to be difficult for those with fine, thin hair. GH Beauty Lab evaluations found that Joico's ingenious gel formula gave strands movement, while making them feel smooth and manageable without any weigh down. "The natural-looking bulk and movement lasted about three days on my hair," a tester noted. Another tester called it “one of the best masks I have tried for my fine/ medium strands".
- Adds volume and movement
- Moisturizes fine to medium hair
- Lightweight gel formula
- May not condition enough for thicker hair
Bumble and Bumble's dry shampoo was the best powder formula in GH Beauty Lab dry shampoo evaluations, thanks to its hair-boosting ability. Testers reported that it lifted limp strands, was easy to brush out, and didn’t irritate the scalp. They also noted that it has a pleasant powdery fresh scent. “It made my hair feel thicker and definitely added volume,” one said.
- Makes hair look clean
- Easy to brush out
- Adds lift
- May leave visible residue on hair
Set your freshly-styled voluminous strands all day long with It's A 10, a GH Beauty Lab hairspray test winner. Lab evaluations showed that it had the strongest hold through humid conditions, while testrs reported that it felt invisible on hair. “It's light enough so that I can barely tell I'm wearing it," one commented.
- Superior hold
- Doesn't flake off
- Some found it left hair feeling crunchy
Create the illusion of thicker, fuller hair with this Color Wow root coverup, which comes in eight shades to match your hair color. In GH Beauty Lab root touch-up testing, users reported that not only did the powder cover gray roots, blending in well with the rest of hair, but some also noted that it can be brushed onto the scalp near the hairline or part to mask thinning spots. "Covered the gray and a few hair loss spots," a tester noted.
- Temporarily masks the appearance of small hair loss areas
- Covers gray roots well
- Easy to apply
- Doesn't actually thicken hair