When I look back on the history of my hair, there’s one very obvious recurring theme: the pursuit of volume. From the MySpace-inspired layers I cut into my box-dyed jet-black hair as a teen to the aughts pouf I potentially loved too much to the clip-in extensions I’d whip out of their box on Saturday nights at age 21, my hair goals have always revolved around bigness.
As an adult, my aspirations haven’t changed much: I’m still all about huge hair, despite having a texture that’s naturally quite the opposite. And there have been plenty of big-hair moments in the second-half of this decade to fuel my fire, from Solange on the cover of A Seat at the Table to Natasha Lyonne’s in Russian Doll. So the question of big hair is not “if” or “why” but “HOW”—and it’s a question that has a different answer for every hair texture.
So, I asked a handful of people on Team MR with varying textures—Harling, Mikaela, and Sabrina— to join me in handing our heads over to hairstylist Sergio Estrada so that he could walk us through the process step-by-step. Scroll on to see our makeovers, discover many a blow-dry hack, and absorb a not-so-subtle reminder that big hair is currently… bigger than ever.
When you have chunky loose curls and waves like Sabrina
To add Pantene-model level height and lightweight, bouncy volume to hair that’s prone to wiry frizz:
1. Apply a thickening spray to damp towel-dried hair. Sergio used Bumble and Bumble Thickening Go Big Volumizing Treatment.
2. With the nozzle attached, blow-dry hair. When drying the roots, direct air in the opposite direction to which your hair naturally falls e.g. on the right-side of your head, blow-dry hair upwards and over toward your left-side.
3. Blow out your ends with a round brush, pinning curls into a loop. If you’re not actually that handy with a hairdryer, you can use hot rollers here instead.
4. Once your curls have cooled, remove pins or rollers and gently comb your hair with your fingers or a soft brush.
5. Gently tease your roots on the top of your head and crown with a fine-tooth comb, then smooth any frizz.
Why Sabrina will try this at home: This was a nice reminder that I can get a more polished look without sacrificing my natural volume or losing all my curls. I love my curly hair, but it’s nice to know I have the option of some variety.
When you have hair that’s curly and thick as a good diner milkshake, like Harling
To get huge hair without compromising the structure of your curls or damaging your most delicate strands:
1. After washing and towel-drying, apply a curl-defining product. (Harling personally recommends IGK Mistress Hydrating Hair Balm and Davines This is a Curl Building Serum, used together.)
2. With a diffuser on the end of your hairdryer, blow-dry your hair upside down to create volume while keeping your curls in tact.
3. Once fully dry, gently run a wide-tooth comb through your hair.
4. Finally, add dry shampoo or texture spray to your roots add balance to your bigness.
Why Harling will try this at home: I like to do a big hair look when I’m nearing the end of my wash cycle (i.e. it’s been three or four days since I washed my hair) and the curls are starting to get tangled and flat, and I want to inject some life into them without undergoing the whole shampoo process just yet. Since I’m not a professional I usually just brush my hair out and embrace the shapeless frizz.
When you have fine, always-silky-straight hair like me
To add gritty texture and intentional messiness to soft and slippery hair:
1. Apply a texturizing spray to damp hair. Sergio used Bed Head Superstar Queen For A Day Thickening Spray.
2. Blow-dry with nozzle on a medium-heat setting until dry, focusing on your roots, which should be blown in the opposite direction to how they naturally fall. Finish your blowdry with a blast of cold hair to set.
3. Use a tong to curl your hair. Work in small sections, curling in alternating directions to create a natural look, rather than polished waves.
4. Gently comb through your curls with your fingers then finish with dry shampoo or texture spray. Tease sections with fingers to create a messy texture wherever you so desire it. (For me this was… basically everywhere.)
Why I will try this at home: Despite my frustrations with my silky and fine hair, I do appreciate how easy it is to do in the morning. What I love about the look Sergio created is that it isn’t that much more work than my usual straight blow-dry—it’s just a few added tonged curls (done messily and easily!) and a couple of products. It feels like minimum effort for maximum payout.
When you have kinky textured 4C hair like Mikaela
To get the biggest and bounciest hair of your life without drying or damaging your ends or applying heat:
1. A few days after washing—Mikaela’s hair feels perfectly stretched out after five—sleep with your hair in flat twists, pinning the ends on the opposite side of your head to stretch it overnight.
2. The night before you want your Big Hair Moment, take out your twists and curl your hair into six or seven bantu knots, to create longer, bigger curls.
3. The next day, undo the bantu knots and use your fingers to gently separate the twists, slowly working in small sections into you can run your fingers through.
4. Combine a curl defining cream (Mikaela loves Twisted Sista Curl Activator Creme) and a little water into the palm of your hand, mix, then apply to your ends to add hydration and definition.
Why Mikaela will try this at home: I always thought the secret to big voluminous hair was a cross your fingers and hope to the hair gods kind of thing, but I think strategically separating the twists is the real key! I’d love to try this home. This method gave me hope that I could revive even the worst of hair days
Photos by Mary Kang.