While thinning hair is certainly not a new concept—it can be brought on by a variety of factors, including diet, genetics, autoimmune issues and more— pandemic-related stress has resulted in a growing number of stylists needing to address this issue with their clients.
“It’s important to note that there are some medical conditions that affect the scalp [and result in hair loss] and need to be addressed by a doctor,” says Emily Baker, a field signature artist for the Wella Company and Nioxin expert, who’s based in Orillia, Ont. “Having a conversation with your client about when they need to seek medical attention is vital, but oftentimes you— and your products—can help minimize or solve the problem.”
When it comes to addressing these concerns with clients, having a proper consultation is extremely important, especially since thinning hair and hair loss can be a sensitive subject for most. “Having that conversation and finding out what has changed in the client’s life to try and get to the root of the issue is crucial,” says Carol Capp, an educator for L’Oréal Professionnel and Serioxyl specialist, who’s based in Port Hope, Ont. “We need some background information so we can help them and try to solve the problem. We created a box in our salon and asked if hair thinning is an issue, and the clients could write their name and number down and we’d call them to have a private conversation. Some people aren’t open to sitting in your salon chair and having that conversation.”
According to Baker, addressing these issues is non-negotiable, so it’s about figuring out an approach that works for you. “When we’re behind the chair, we have to show our clients we care about them,” she says. “When getting into a sensitive issue, make eye contact and maybe lower your voice a bit as they probably don’t want everyone to know what’s going on. There are some key questions you can ask them. For instance, ‘Is your ponytail getting smaller? How has your hair been looking lately? Is your hairbrush getting fuller? How often do you wash your hair?’ Sometimes, stylists are afraid to approach this subject, but no matter how we do it, it’s our job to bring up things like this even if they make us slightly uncomfortable.”
Maintenance is Key
Although clients with all hair types and textures can experience thinning, those with highly textured locks that are more fragile and dry can experience even more breakage, making proper maintenance and care essential. “Fragile hair has a tendency to break off as opposed to falling out prematurely,” says Jennifer Smith, a Quebec-based national educator for BosleyMD. “When it comes to fragile and textured hair, it’s important to nourish the scalp daily to ensure hair gains strength and density. When nourishing the scalp, every hair strand gains some strength and therefore becomes less fragile and less prone to breakage.”
According to Capp, when it comes to hair loss in general but especially with textured hair, a lack of moisture in the hair and body can be an issue. “As far as fragile textured hair goes, sometimes it’s just about what they’re using. Sometimes a product that doesn’t have the moisture the hair needs could be causing excess breakage,” she says. “Especially when you’re talking about different ethnic hair textures, you have to be really careful that they’re using the right oils and the right products to breathe that moisture back into the hair and keep it strong.”
DID YOU KNOW? CLIENTS WHO OFTEN WEAR THEIR HAIR IN BRAIDS, TIGHT PONYTAILS, BUNS OR USE A LOT OF CHEMICALS AND/OR HEAT ON THE HAIR CAN DEVELOP TRACTION ALOPECIA—A CONDITION, RESULTING IN HAIR LOSS, PARTICULARLY AROUND THE HAIRLINE, CAUSED BY REPEATEDLY PULLING ON THE HAIR. CLIENTS DEALING WITH THIS CAN SEEK ADVICE FROM A PROFESSIONAL TO FURTHER TREAT IT WHILE TAKING CARE OF THEIR SCALP BY USING NOURISHING PRODUCTS TO HELP SOOTHE IT.
Cutting thinning hair can be tricky as your style options may be dependent upon where each client is losing their strands. “Some clients are losing their hair in the front, so some nice bangs are a good solution because giving them a full textured bang usually helps their confidence while hair is growing back,” says Capp. “I know a lot of women who have thinned at the back of their head so cutting is a bit more difficult. It comes down to creative styling. You can cut the hair any way you want but at the end of the day it’s about maneuvering and placement. Root touch-up products and sprays are a good way to cover and hide thinning spots.”
Baker says she tries to focus on minimal layering and a lot of disconnection when cutting this type of hair. “We don’t really want to get rid of the fullness at the bottom,” she says. “The disconnection is going to keep that fullness while creating some internal layers.”
And although she has a system for cutting the hair of clients who have thinning concerns, Baker adds that she always starts by addressing the scalp first to determine if she can figure out where the issue is coming from. “Not all clients want haircuts because they want to continue growing out their hair,” she says. “I teach some of my thinning-haired clients, especially those with fine hair, that eventually the ends don’t grow any fuller, so I usually suggest cutting it around or just below the collar bone to maintain fullness. I also recommend that they get a trim every two to three months and to use lots of treatments in between visits to keep the ends nice and strong.”
When addressing thinning hair concerns with your curly-haired clients, Capp says there are a few things to always keep in mind. “When working with textured hair, some stylists believe that because it’s so curly, it needs to be pulled harder when blow-drying or cutting, or that it needs to be really wet when cutting, but it’s actually the opposite of all of those things,” she says. “You want the hair to stay in its natural state when you’re cutting and colouring because you want to be able to work within that texture. Some stylists end up cutting the hair anyway but then it’s too short and the client that’s already insecure about losing hair now just lost a whole lot more hair. Leaving hair in its natural state when working on it will help you avoid things like that. I also make sure to recommend nighttime treatments that help restore moisture to naturally dry hair.”
DID YOU KNOW? AFTER PREGNANCY, SOME PEOPLE MAY EXPERIENCE HAIR THINNING AROUND THE TEMPLES. BAKER SUGGESTS THAT IF A CLIENT IS GOING THROUGH POST-PARTUM OR IS THINNING OUT AT THE TEMPLES FOR ANOTHER REASON, A NICE FRINGE HELPS TO CREATE MORE FULLNESS, ESPECIALLY WHEN LOOKING AT THE FRONT OF THE HAIR.
Filling It In
Colour can be a great option for clients with thinning hair because it can help camouflage thinner areas. “Brunettes can be harder if the clients doesn’t want to go a little bit lighter since you might see [thinning] areas more clearly,” says Capp. “Convincing them to not go full blonde but to go a bit lighter in those areas can help mask it a little bit.” She adds that it’s all about good placement, suggesting natural-looking colours as opposed to bold ones and placing an emphasis on finer and lighter placement (specifically in problem areas), which can help everything blend nicely.
“Creating multidimension in the hair is a great option when dealing with hair thinning,” says Baker. “It creates more of a look where it’s all different highs and lows in the hair, and this distracts the eyes from the scalp, making the hair look a little bit fuller.”
An equally important consideration when it comes thinning strands and colour, though, is assessing the health of the hair prior to the service. “If a client comes in and their ends are completely torched and I know their hair can’t handle a full colour service, I try to adapt the service to something the hair can handle,” says Baker. “I’ll go in with something like a demi-permanent if I’m not able to fully lighten, rather than have my client walk away with nothing.”
DID YOU KNOW? WHEN WE SLEEP, OUR MUSCLES REPAIR THEMSELVES AND OUR HAIR DOES THE SAME THING. ACCORDING TO CAPP, YOUR HAIR BENEFITS A BIT MORE FROM A MASK OR TREATMENT APPLIED OVERNIGHT THAN IT DOES FROM ONE APPLIED DURING THE DAY.
Although styling hair can be a great way to add volume and give thinning hair a fuller look, the health of the hair should remain the priority. “If hair is fragile to begin with, maybe hot tools are not for them,” says Capp. “Blowing out the hair every once in a while is fine, as long as you use the right tools and a heat protectant. Curls are a great look when it comes to adding volume and fullness and texture sprays and powders are great for styling as they give off the illusion that there’s more going on than there really is.”
While Baker agrees that creating curls in thinning hair helps with creating fullness, and limiting the use of hot styling tools and using a thermal protector are a must, she says it’s important to come up with other looks that the client feels comfortable with. “Whether it be a loose ponytail or braid, it’s nice to help clients come up with a few options for how to wear their hair in between the use of tools.”
PRO TIP ACCORDING TO BAKER, SOME CLIENTS THINK THEY NEED TO BE LIGHTER AT THE ROOT SO THEY CAN CAMOUFLAGE THE SCALP, WHEN IN FACT IT’S THE OPPOSITE. THEY NEED SOME DEPTH AT THE ROOT, SO IT DRAWS THE EYES TOWARDS THE ENDS TO CREATE MORE FULLNESS.
“CREATING LIGHTNESS IN THE MID-SHAFT AND ENDS REALLY DRAWS THE EYES TO SEE MORE FULLNESS THERE, WHICH IS WHAT YOU WANT TO FOCUS ON.” — EMILY BAKER, WELLA FIELD SIGNATURE ARTIST AND NIOXIN EXPERT, ORILLIA, ONT.
Nioxin Scalp Relief
Baker recommends this line to clients who are experiencing scalp irritation, and especially to those with textured and coily hair with braids and extensions that may be pulling on the scalp. She suggests it as both a preventative measure and treatment since it’s free of parabens, sulfates and artificial colours, and works to soothe, protect and moisturize the scalp.
L’Oréal Professionnel Serioxyl Volumizing Coloured Spray
Capp uses this spray because it has fibre pieces in it, meaning it creates a very realistic texture on hair. She says it comes in a variety of shades, including grey, and even her male peers and clients use it as a temporary fix.
BosleyMD Bos- Defense System and Bos-Volume Hair Thickening Fibers
Smith suggests this three-step system to nourish and treat the scalp, along with the brand’s Hair Thickening Fibers (available in four intermixable shades), to temporarily cover roots and minimize the appearance of thinning spots.
Toppik Hair Building Fibers
These coloured keratin fibres blend with existing hair and work to create the illusion of thicker hair. Available in four shades (black, dark brown, medium brown and light brown), they instantly camouflage the look of thinning hair, and are perfect for all clients looking to fill in bald spots, patchy beards, part lines and more.
Color Wow Root Cover Up
Available in eight multidimensional shades, Color Wow’s Root Cover Up is perfect for clients looking to cover greys or camouflage roots, as its powder formula seamlessly blends with existing hair to add dimension.
Viviscal Gorgeous Growth Densifying Elixir
Formulated with Ana:Tel, a unique blend of biotin, keratin and zinc, Viviscal’s Gorgeous Growth Densifying Elixir is a lightweight leave- in treatment that cleanses the scalp and adds body, and is perfect for all hair types.