A reader writes…
(edited for clarity)
Do you have any advice for very thin, flat hair? I notice that it appears worse on camera. What camera angles should I use? What about product? Usually, the more product I use, the more my hair gets weighed down. It looks good for about 10 minutes and then starts to get heavy. When I look in the mirror, I think it looks pretty good, but when I see the camera playback, yikes! It looks so different.
Maybe you have had one of those frustrating “bad hair days” during a video shoot, where no matter what you do to your hair it just doesn’t look or sit right?
In this article, I will outline steps adapted from my modelling background to help you create more hair volume (ideal for thinning hair), plus what to avoid doing to get your hair camera ready for your video shoots.
This issue is not only limited to my female readers. For my male readers who have thinning hair, don’t worry I’ve got you covered in my next article: Best On-camera Styles for Guys with Thinning Hair. However, in this guide: Steps 1, 2, and 4 below still apply to you.
Let’s Talk Helmet Hair
For women, hair can be really tricky on video, which is why the term “helmet hair” is often used to describe TV news anchors. Every strand of hair is “sprayed” into place so extensively that the hair resembles a solid object that does not move at all. This is done to keep the hair fixed in place throughout the filming process to aid visual continuity. This is an important filming requirement. The hair looks the same in every shot, even though they may be filmed hours apart.
The helmet hair styling technique is also used to prevent the hair from casting shadows on the face due to overhead studio lighting. It also helps to eliminate “flyaways”.
Oh those Flyaways
Flyaways are wispy, fuzzy strands of hair that have a tendency to stick straight up from the top of the head due to static electricity, blow-drying, the environment, or new hair growth. Under the studio lights, flyaways become very noticeable and can be distracting in a medium to a close-up frame.
In extreme cases where there is an excessive number of flyaways (especially around the crown area), it can be an indicator of hair cuticle damage. This is where the outermost part of the hair shaft (the protective barrier), is damaged through the use of chemicals, perms, blow-drying, curling irons, etc. As a result, the hair becomes more susceptible to static.
To help lessen the appearance of flyaways in your crown area, use a non-shine hairspray. Spray the product onto a new toothbrush head (natural fiber is better) and gently comb down the stray strands. Avoid using a smoothing product as this will weigh down or flatten your hair.
What to Avoid
- Avoid hairsprays that contain shine elements like dimethicone (a silicon-based polymer used as a lubricant and conditioning agent). If sprayed on the roots it can make your hair look greasy, not shiny on camera
- Avoid plastic hairbrushes or combs, which are notorious for causing static. Instead, use metal or natural fiber
- Avoid standing against a plain flat wall. Instead, opt for a textured background or setting while filming
Do this Instead
- Do use a smoothing shampoo and conditioner
- Do use smoothing products on your mid-lengths, and a little on the ends to help to neutralize static
- (Optional) use a leave-in conditioner product. Choose ones that contain Amine-functionalized silicones. They are good static fighters and conduct electricity better because of the coating it leaves on the hair. Look for products that contain the word “amine”
- Improve your hair condition, especially if it is dry, porous, or damaged. The dryer your hair type is, the more your hair will build up a static charge
Voluminous Hair and Why You Should Care
Onscreen, we need to remember that the camera sees things differently. Voluminous hair tends to look better on video, by adding dimension to an otherwise two-dimensional plane.
This styling effect can also create lift with your facial features drawing the eye upwards. However, flat, lank, or lackluster hair can be problematic on video, as it sits dead flat against the scalp and offers very little volume or body. In some cases, flat hair can make your features appear drawn and aged rather than lifted. Yes, hair can do that.
Smooth, straight-ironed hair can look great on camera providing that it has some “lift” at the roots, but it requires some preparation and is prone to flyaways onscreen.
Genetics and Harsh Chemicals
Having a good crop of hair comes down to genetics. However, the quality of our hair can be improved by maintaining a healthy lifestyle. For example, by consuming organic whole foods, using premium quality vitamin and mineral supplements, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly.
We can also practice good hair health. This means choosing hair-care products that don’t contain harsh chemicals. Unfortunately, many major consumer hair-care and cosmetics brands contain nasty chemicals that are harmful to the environment or have carcinogenic properties (cancer-causing agents) or chemicals that interfere with the body’s endocrine system (glands that secrete hormones). Some ingredients have been shown in studies to produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological (depression), and immune effects in both humans and wildlife! Yikes!
For most of my adult life, I’ve used natural and organic hair and skincare brands on a daily basis. Brands like Dr. Hauschka and Weleda. Most days I stay make-up free and leave my hair natural (i.e. no hair dyes or products etc) just to limit my exposure to endocrine disruptors found in cosmetics and hair care, and to avoid causing unnecessary damage to the skin and hair.
However, when I’m scheduled to film, I’ll opt for more commercial “performance-based” products. In particular, I use the Aveda haircare range which seems to offer excellent all-day performance.
The Aveda brand from a health score perspective is rated as “average 5.5+” (which is fairly good in comparison to most big brands who rate poorly in the 0-4 range).
A score of 10 is the best and 0 is the worst, as rated by the number of ingredients in a product that is of health or regulatory concern.
To check the chemical contents of your food, skin/hair care, and cosmetic products – I highly recommend the “Chemical Maze” shopping companion. I refer to this gem of a book whenever I’m checking food labels or researching a new product.
Don’t Believe the Marketing Hype!
Be wary of TV commercials and hair advertising in general. This is false advertising at its best, designed to make you feel bad about your own hair. Having auditioned for big brand hair commercials, and attending callbacks (where you are being considered a first choice) I had my hairline evaluated from many different angles and frame sizes. My hairline was measured from the ear to the base of my neck, my ears were measured and checked for balance and symmetry, my hair movement was evaluated to see if it moved in unison, and torches were shined on my hair to see how well my hair naturally reflected light. Yep!
Reading the fine print on the talent non-disclosure agreements, I learned what would actually happen to my hair during the TV shoot, and it was downright scary! A close cinematographer friend who often shot TV commercials for hair and skin care products took me aside and suggested that I think carefully about whether the five-figure sum being offered was worth it. He told me that I would have wires glued to the ends of my hair to make it fan out during movement shots.
An industrial chemical (petroleum-based) would be painted onto my hair strands, where it will stay on for long periods of time 8-10 hours over a two-day shoot. My hair would be exposed to high heat temperatures and wind machines. The big deciding factor for me was when my friend mentioned that most of the models he filmed for TV hair commercials had to cut their hair off after the shoot because their hair was so damaged!
Needless to say, I decided against working with this consumer hair-care brand. I couldn’t hand-on-heart look someone in the eye and say that the product being advertised was what created the effect that they saw on screen.
Off the record, let’s just say that with digital effects a good video editor can create shiny, glossy, impossibly perfect hair on screen. Photoshop is used to create that same unattainable effect on printed material. Even with all kinds of studio wizardry, the better the condition of the raw material (video footage, the appearance of the model, and the quality of their hair, etc) the more that it can be enhanced. You can’t turn a pig’s ear into a silk purse.
This is why models with the best natural features i.e. hair, skin, teeth, nails, symmetry, legs, abs, etc will always get hired for mainstream commercials advertising products for the feature/body part.
What follows is an extensive hair prep routine designed to help your hair last the duration of a full day shoot, without needing to touch up or reset your hair during the day.
Having worked as a professional model and TV actress I have spent a lot of time with make-up artists and hairstylists while on set, and have experienced many different types of hair and makeup products as well as insider styling techniques.
Hopefully, my recommendations will assist you in getting your hair camera-ready, especially if you desire a more voluminous, thicker hair look for your video presentations.
The following products have worked well for me over the years in terms of creating the desired look, without causing any complaints with regard to skin or scalp irritations.
Pre-Shoot Hair Prep
Step 1. Before Your Video Shoot: Deep Cleanse Your Hair
About 4 to 5 days before your shoot deep cleanse your hair to get rid of any buildup of sebum or product residue that can affect healthy hair.
Side note: Also schedule any waxing/eyebrow grooming/tanning/manicures or facial treatments around the same time frame. Scheduling these too close to your video shoot date can cause skin breakouts or issues with your make-up application.
For a deep cleansing hair treatment, I use the Aveda Invati Exfoliating Shampoo range (sample pack on Amazon.com). It is unisex and ideal for people with thin or thinning hair.
Due to my fitness activity, I’ll also use this product once a week for its scalp exfoliation benefits. Depending on your hair washing preferences and level of physical activity, using this product once every one to two weeks will suffice.
Step 2. The Day Prior to Your Video Shoot: Wash your Hair for Volume
Wash your hair the day before your video shoot. This is super important. You want to have what we call in the modeling industry “day old hair” on your video shoot day.
If your hair is too “clean” it can be too slippery to work with when it comes to styling. Also, newly washed hair will have a lot more flyaways than day-old hair.
To prep my own hair I use a volumizing shampoo and conditioner from the Aveda Pure Abundance range. This product is designed to create fullness in fine hair, builds body and volume, and makes my hair look and feel fuller.
Step 3. Smooth it out for Voluminous Locks
- This helps to protect it from heat damage and helps to smooth down the hair cuticle. Apply a small amount to your mid-lengths and ends, but avoid the root area.
Step 4. Blow it Out for Volume
With blow-drying, the focus is on adding volume to the roots, while attempting to keep the hair strands as smooth as possible. For this, I use an Ionic Hairdryer with a narrow nozzle attachment.
- Section off your hair and keep the airflow angled downwards to help smooth the hair cuticles.
- Begin blow-drying using a round barrel brush for volume at the roots and to smooth out your ends.
- To add more volume to your roots, flip your hair forward, by bending at the waist and focusing the airflow at your crown while lightly tugging at the roots.
Voluminous Blow-Drying Tips
What to Avoid
- Avoid drying your hair flat at the roots i.e. by directing the airflow and brushing your hair’s roots flat against the head or down towards the ground
- Avoid using the cool shot setting on the dryer to seal the hair cuticle. Your hair needs to stay open to the heat for Step 5. (However, for my male readers, yes you do finish your blow-dry with a cool shot to the roots. Congratulations! You are now done with your hair prep, and can move on to the “Shoot day” section)
Do This Instead
- Lift and pull the hair up towards the ceiling, or blow-dry your hair in the opposite direction from where you need the additional lift i.e. from the crown forward.
- This will give you more lift and volume at the roots once you push your hair back off your face
Step 5. Turn up the Volume
A Simple Rolling Pattern for Volume:
- 3 to 4 rollers on the top of the head starting from the front to the back followed by
- 2 rollers on either side of the head at the temples followed by
- 2 rollers on either side of the head (behind the ears)
Roll your hair flat against the roller (don’t twist the strands), and roll away from your face when working on the top of the head. For the sides, roll the hair under.
What to Avoid
- Avoid any humidity as this will flatten hair fast
- Avoid excessively touching your hair, especially at the roots. The transfer of skin oils from your fingers to your hair strands will eventually weigh the hair down
- Sweating will flatten hair fast. Be mindful of this while under the lights
- Avoid spraying product directly onto your hair. Instead, spray it onto a finishing brush/comb. As a last resort, spray the product onto clean hands then gently run them through your hair while avoiding the roots
- Avoid standing “straight on” to the camera. Instead, try to position yourself at a slight angle as this will visually add a little dimension to your hair and highlight your facial angles
What to Do Instead
- Have a freestanding mirror set up close to your video camera, so that you can quickly check everything before hitting the record button
- Use good lighting. If your hair is thinning, avoid using low-angled lighting (where the light source points up at you), or a hair light (aka backlight) where the light shines down on you from behind as this will only highlight any thinning hair and the scalp
- If you need to add some volume, spray a finishing brush or comb with a non-silicon product and lightly backcomb at the roots. Allow the product to dry before smoothing the hair into place. Look for any holes in the hair by checking your facial angles (as these will show on camera whenever you move your head).
Travel: Volume on the Road
If I am traveling and shooting video I’ll use the Studio 35 Beauty range. These heated travel rollers are lightweight and are often available at Walgreens or CVS pharmacies throughout the USA or a similar brand can be found online.
I carry two sets. They heat up fast, and the rollers contain ridges that grip the hair well. The volume that I get from these seems to last all day, and they give a nice shine.
Note: I don’t recommend velvet-covered rollers (right image). They make my hair frizzy and the curl would drop out halfway through my video shoots, leaving me with flat, fuzzy hair. I have heard similar complaints from others about this type of roller too.
The videos below (from my travel vlog channel) are examples of the kind of volume, wave, and shine that I usually get with the Studio 35 Beauty travel roller range.
In these videos, I’m on the road exploring Phoenix, Arizona in the middle of summer. If you have ever been there, you will know how incredibly hot it can be in the desert!
I’m not my usual camera-ready self, nor am I sporting any hair smoothing product. I’m standing in hard unflattering overhead light with heavy air conditioning, situated in a highly charged static environment. But, the hair held up with shine and volume.
Quick Behind the Scenes Video
Prepping the hair for a video shoot.
I hope this article helps you in some way or at least gets you thinking about how you can outfox any hair challenges for your future video shoots. And I highly recommend that you experiment with your hair to understand its type and its capabilities before you shoot any important video footage on the day.
If you have a burning question or you want me to cover a topic for you let me know. I’m always listening!
You can also book a time with me to troubleshoot your video creation or a production challenge. See below for details.
Established in 2006 Bianca Te Rito, founder of STEBIAN.com provides an exclusive, consulting service helping business thought leaders, speakers, award-winning authors & VIPs productize their thought leadership and present themselves, their products, services, or brand message to their target audience in the most effective way possible on video. Get the tailored expertise from a real-world operator with over 20 years of TV/Film industry experience working in front of and behind the camera. Learn more about our custom offers here.