Hair teasing—or back-combing, as it’s often called—gets a bad rap, but when approached the right way, what’s usually thought of as a guaranteed route to a dreaded ’80s effect can actually be modern and subtly sexy, which is what every girl wants when it comes to her hair. To be fair, there is some logic behind the aversion—reckless teasing can result in the kind of rat’s nest that can lead only to damage. Not cute, especially when you just want to wear a look for one night but end up dealing with split ends and breakage for months.
But if you have superfine hair that really doesn’t like to hold volume, back-combing your roots is actually a great way to get a boost—but only when it’s done correctly. “Back-combing can give height and volume to any type of hair with the right tools and technique,” says Matrix SOCOLOR Celebrity Stylist George Papanikolas.
Start off with a ready-to-style base by using a volumizing shampoo and conditioner, focusing conditioner on the ends only. Then, says Papanikolas, a quality back-comb brush is absolutely key to perfecting the look in the gentlest way possible. He recommends finding one with a pintail handle, like the Black Diamond Pintail Comb ($3.99). Gently combing through the hair prior to teasing will help to minimize tangles too.
Use a texturizing spray, like Matrix Texture Builder Messy Finish Spray, at the roots of the hair you’ll be back-combing to keep the section intact while lifting and to create a foundation so that there’s maximum volume with minimal damage. With your pintail comb, Papanikolas says, push in smooth, even strokes—not aggressive back-and-forth movements!—from the middle of the hair to the base to get a full, uniform effect that doesn’t have that roughed-up texture. A volumizing finishing spray will set the hair, help to smooth the pieces you didn’t back-comb, and add a little extra height to finish off your look.
Using this technique, hair should be pretty easy to detangle once you’re ready to wash or restyle. After spritzing a leave-in conditioner on dry hair to help break up the texture, use a wide-tooth comb to work out the kinks, and be sure to use plenty of conditioner to keep your hair soft and healthy. Back-combing may not be all that practical every day, but for special occasions where you just must have gravity-defying style, it can really help to step up your game.