Hair Liberty’s Nicole Hollis, our Resident Curl Chemist, is answering your most urgent hair questions. Got one for her? Email me at nikki@curlynikki.com using “Hair Liberty” in the subject line and she may answer your question right here on the blog.

Q: I have really fine hair, how can I make it thicker?

A: Before you start trying to thicken your fine hair, you have to check your expectations. A strand of hair is considered fine if it has a diameter of about 0.006 cm. That’s compared to a thick strand of hair which is around .01 cm. So, to thicken “fine” hair enough to be considered “thick”, you would need a treatment that could almost double your strand thickness. That type of treatment does not exist. And if it’s ever invented, you will hear about it here first! Most treatments that promise thickening do deliver, but only by turning your .006 cm strands into .007 cm strands. That’s enough for companies to sell products, but not enough to make your hair dreams come true. Plus, the results are product-dependent…if you stop using the thickening product, your hair will go back to “normal”. Most conditioners and treatments that contain hydrolyzed protein, thicken hair by about the same amount when used consistently.

Henna is often recommended for thickening fine strands, but you have to be careful. Adding weight to the surface of the strand can make it break more easily. Naturally thick strands aren’t just thick on the very top layer of the cuticle (where henna sits); they’re thicker at the cortex making them less prone to breakage. There’s nothing wrong with using henna to thicken your hair, just be careful. The first few treatments may plump your hair up nicely, but if you start to do too much, you may experience breakage from the additional weight. People often refer to that as “protein overload” which is not likely to happen if you follow the instructions on a high-quality conditioner, but easy to do when you’re experimenting with henna.

Trying to achieve and appreciate a .001 cm increase in your strand thickness might just drive you crazy! My best advice is to focus on hair health. Hair of African descent is usually much denser than other hair types. So, even though it may seem like many of us have fine hair, nature has already balanced that out by giving us a lot more strands to work with. We usually don’t have problems with thinning hair unless alopecia or breakage (or both) is at fault. Follow what you already know to be true about hair health: low manipulation and low tension styles, weekly shampooing, strengthening treatments, and trims. You probably despise your fine hair the most when you look at the front half, which is most breakage prone. If you can get the breakage prone areas to retain length, they’ll blend in with the rest of your strands and make your hair look thicker overall. It won’t happen overnight, but when your hair is truly in its best condition, it will look thicker than it ever has.

Hair Liberty (def): The freedom to rock whatever style you want, whenever you want. Curly, straight, natural, relaxed, whatever! Free yourself! For more info, visit www.hairliberty.org