Does Coloring Your Hair Really Make It Thicker?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Coloring your hair, according to most stylists and several news articles, may help it look a little thicker. In fact, if you apply permanent color, it will temporarily make each hair strand become as much as a third thicker in volume. You have to understand what applying color, rather than stripping color from the hair, actually means, however.

Coloring the hair can give it a fuller appearance.
Coloring the hair can give it a fuller appearance.

In most cases, if you’re going many shades lighter, you will have to bleach your hair, which actually strips the hair of some of its density. Sometimes, people first bleach and then apply color, which may restore the hair’s look to its original density. You still may look like you have about the same thickness of hair if you use this dual process. When you actually color your hair by adding color deposit, you are increasing the weight of each hair strand. This means you’re not bleaching first in most cases, but instead merely applying color in a shade similar to your own, and not significantly lighter than your hair color.

Certain haircuts can make fine hair appear thicker.
Certain haircuts can make fine hair appear thicker.

You can still apply lighter shades when coloring your hair, but doing so without bleaching may not result in the shade you want. If you’re making a dramatic transition from very dark hair to blond, for example, you often end up with more reddish tints. While your newly colored hair might technically be thicker, it wouldn’t necessarily be what you expected.

Coloring hair can make each strand as much as a third thicker in volume.
Coloring hair can make each strand as much as a third thicker in volume.

For those who want hair to appear thicker, there are a number of ways to get the appearance of thickness, some of which don't involve adding color. When you do use color, one way to add the appearance of thickness if you’re going lighter is to use highlights and lowlights. When hair appears all one shade, it generally appears thinner and flatter. By adding different complementary colors, hair looks more natural and multi-dimensional. So if you want lighter hair, consider highlights, lowlights, or color weaves to make it look thicker.

A person may have to bleach his or her hair if desiring a lighter shade of hair, which will strip the hair of its density.
A person may have to bleach his or her hair if desiring a lighter shade of hair, which will strip the hair of its density.

Of course, if you don’t like color, another way of making hair appear thicker is to choose cuts that will give hair more body. Typically, layering hair will make it appear thicker than it truly is and can give you added body and style. Other women turn to hair replacements like extensions or small hairpieces or tracks, which can be added to hair to make it look less sparse and more voluminous.

Extensions are often used to make natural hair appear thicker.
Extensions are often used to make natural hair appear thicker.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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I have short, color processed hair and can't go a day without washing it because it is sticking up all over the place when I get up in the morning. For you, I would recommend the Shielo Volume Shampoo. Its excellent at protecting the colored hair, and it has worked great to keep the volume in my hair without adding any build up.


I have been a hair stylist for the past 12 years. Here is the truth about this information coming from salons and magazines. The outermost layer of your hair shaft is called the cuticle. If you look at a shaft of hair under a microscope, you will see the cuticle clearly resembles fish scales or bird feathers.

When color is applied to the hair, the developer causes the cuticle layers to open to let the color molecules in. Think of it like the opening of blinds on a window to let the sunlight in. Once the cuticle is open, the color molecules can snuggle up inside under the cuticle which is actually transparent. When the oxidation process is complete, the cuticle layer will close down over the color molecules. It is the developer that is added to the color in the mixing process that enables hair color to be permanent color. the health of the hair as well as the color applied determines how long the color will last without fading, (some colors have larger molecules than others. The larger the molecule, the more likely it is to fade or literally fall out.). When this process takes place, the cuticle never really lies down the same again. The result is the illusion of thicker hair. It will appear thicker and look thicker because the cuticle layer isn't lying down as smooth and tight as it does on virgin hair.

The same chemical reaction takes place when bleaching the hair. Contrary to the information above, stripping the hair of color still requires the opening of the cuticle layer. Again, once the cuticle layer has opened, it never lies down quite as smoothly as before. This is also the reason for duller and slightly frizzier hair. If you have unhealthy hair from perming or previous coloring, it will dull and frizz according to what you've put it through.

Never use over the counter products to color your hair. They contain metallic dyes to mask the dulling and will cause your hair to actually break off and become less dense. Certified colors in salons use other, natural ingredients to take care of this problem, like fresh bees ax and eucalyptus, etc. When a stylist tells you it will make your hair thicker, they are referring to each individual hair shaft. If you are coloring at home and repeatedly applying metallics to already colored hair, your cuticles are breaking off and in some cases the entire hair shaft is breaking off, causing the hair to appear less dense.

Get to the salon. Those folks didn't pay $15,000-$30,000 on their educations for nothing. They can steer you in the right direction for gorgeous hair!


I once had very thick chestnut colored hair and started bleaching it out with a toner on top. After 10 years of doing this, my hair has become so thin and it's awful.

I wish that I could have my thick hair back again. It is down to my rear end and I'm just at a loss what to do with it to make it thicker. It is very healthy and virgin hair. Does anyone have suggestions?


Well, I know that coloring your hair (not bleaching it) doesn't make it thinner. As thin as mine is, if it got thinner when I colored it, I would be bald as a cueball by now.


@allienoelle: Technically you color your hair blonde; you are bleaching it not dying it. Bleaching and dying your hair are two different things. Dying your hair makes your hair thicker because your adding color on top of your own hair, bleaching it makes it thinner because it is removing the color of your hair to a lighter shade.


Allienoelle: Your experience would be accurate because you were lightening your hair. Coloring your hair lighter will usually make it thinner. Adding color to the hair so that is darker or a similar shade to the current one usually thickens it.


My experience has been that repeatedly coloring my hair actually makes it weaker and thinner.

When I first began dying my hair, I had thick brown hair. After dying my hair blond once, the density of my hair did not seem to change much at all. But after I dyed my hair a few more times to touch up the roots, my hair was considerably thinner.

It is possible that certain hair dyes make hair thicker, but all of the hair dye I have ever used has made my hair much thinner.

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