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Fat Tricks for Thin Hair

Having a bad hair decade? Don't wig it — instead, take our tips for lovely locks

spinner image Lisa Rinna
Lisa Rinna sporting a choppy shag
David Livingston/Getty Images

Mother Nature has some nerve: Just as we peak in pluck and confidence, she blindsides us with a twist, adding pounds to our figure and taking away our hair. The extra weight is hardly a deal breaker; we simply buy better support bras and shapewear, or dial up the 'tude. But thinning hair threatens our sex appeal and self-confidence. We dread windy days. We consider starting a hat collection. Some of us may go so far as to wig it.

No need for that nuclear option, my friends. Simply follow these tips to make today your last bad hair day.

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Own the problem. What should you do when a mere annoyance — a wider part, say, or a skinnier ponytail — escalates to scalp-exposing, all-over thinning? Consider it a heads-up: "Hair loss is prevalent in women over 50," says Whitney Bowe, a dermatologist in New York. "It affects 25 percent of women by age 49, 41 percent by age 69 and half of all women by age 79." And those statistics don't even begin to touch on female pattern baldness, which is genetic, or hair loss brought on by medical issues.

Before you spring for hair-transplant surgery (or laser combs and caps), consider giving minoxidil — the FDA-approved, over-the-counter hair-regrowth drug — a test run for six months or so. That particular treatment is not your only choice, mind you. Minoxidil now has fresh competition from new brands such as Pantene, Kerastase Densifique and Qilib.

Get a strategic haircut. The goal here is to create the illusion of density and fullness while downplaying — OK, concealing — problems. Layers (helped by products) perk up short-haired pixie and boyish cuts, while long bangs provide movement and extra width at eye level for lobs and bobs.

"Bangs will look thicker if you start them closer to the crown," says celebrity stylist Ted Gibson. "If you prefer to skip bangs, do a haphazard, zigzag part rather than a defined straight one that exposes the scalp." Sparseness or short hairs at the top of your head may be caused by chemical breakage. A layered, shaggy bob and smarter color (see last tip) can disguise the problem while you wait for your hair to grow out.

Add texture. Tousled styling gives pixie cuts or cropped hair a contemporary spin. It also happens to be great camouflage!

Work a matte pomade through your hair, using your fingers to create height and separation. (Guys can try this, too). The result will be edgy but sophisticated. Yes, it should stick out a bit in several directions, as do those iconic Jamie Lee Curtis spikes. And it's OK if it has a slightly undone feeling rather than a coiffed finish; just look at Lisa Rinna's choppy shag!

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If you have a lob or bob, you can try giving it extra texture with a dry shampoo, a styling mist or a tinted aerosol root touch-up: First, spray the roots by lifting your hair section by section. Then use your fingers to gently "rough up" each finished section with a light, back-and-forth lifting movement. If you have wavy or curly hair, an undone bob with uneven edges and long layers will make thinning hair bloom — and summer humidity will aid the expansion. But avoid hair oils. Yes, they restore shine and smell divine, but they cling to hair that's fine, making it look skinnier.

Color it. You know the way striped clothing adds heft to a woman's figure? By the same token, highlights and lowlights in two or more tones will add dimension to your hair, even if you're gray. Ask for balayage or ombré hand-painted highlights, with darker tones toward the roots. These are a fresh alternative to foils and allover color, and they won't stress weakened, fine hair. They will, however, add physical bulk to the hair shaft for a thicker look and feel — and that's what we all want, right?

For more beauty and style tips for women 50-plus, check out The Woman's Wakeup and AARP's new Beauty & Style digital magazine, which is available for tablet.

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