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What Is a Root Lifter?

By Jessica Hobby
Updated May 21, 2024
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The days of teasing, ratting and backcombing lifeless hair or wearing a wig or extensions to have a full head of hair are long gone. A relatively new hair care product, root lifter, gives even the limpest hair some volume to support a hairstyle. Almost all major hair care lines offer a root lifting product, but it may not actually be called a root lifter. Some other names they may indicate a root lifter are root boost, root booster, and volumizing spray, lotion or tonic.

The primary ingredient in most root boosters and volumizing products is polyvinylpyrrolidone/vinyl acetate (VP/VA) copolymer. VP/VA copolymer helps achieve volume in hairstyles by keeping the hair from absorbing moisture, which would weigh it down and cause it to go flat. Volumizing products that provide extra hold will also have other major ingredients. The collective result of the ingredient list will differ depending on the consistency of the hair care product.

Regardless of the consistency of the chosen product, the styling process will be similar. Aside from root lifting hairsprays that are applied on dry hair, most other root lifting products should be applied on damp to wet hair. The product should be sprayed or massaged in the hair at the roots depending on whether it is in liquid, mouse or gel form. Some people prefer to use root boost only in their crown area to obtain more height in their hairstyle, while others use root boost all over their head to achieve all over volume. Most root lifters require heat activation to achieve the most volume.

After applying product to the desired location on the scalp, the best results use the help of gravity. Flipping the head over and completely blow-drying the hair at the roots will volumize the area applied with root lifter. For even better results, blow-drying should be done with a concentrator nozzle, which allows an individual to directly aim at the root areas where lifter was applied. Root lifter applied to short hair will create soft spiked hair, while medium to long hair will be somewhat to completely lifted at the roots.

It is important to note that although root lifter may be used on extra curly or coarse hair, it probably will not give it much more volume than normal and blow-drying will cause unwanted frizz. Additionally, really long hair without layers is very heavy and even blow-drying roots with root booster may not cause very much lifting action. Root lifter works best on short to medium hair and the short to medium layers in long hair.

What Does Root Lifter Do?

Individuals use root lifters to obtain height or perceived volume in the crown, sides or back of their hair. Typically, root lifters work best when individuals apply it to the first inch of growth from the root. If applied higher up on the shaft, the product may weigh down the hair and thwart the root lifter's purpose. When root lifter works as expected for an individual, it can help them achieve a certain hairstyle or desired look.

How To Use Root Lifter?

Since every product is different, experts recommend that individuals interested in boosting their hair's volume and density read and follow the manufacturer's directions before applying the product. They also caution that consumers review the product's ingredients list to avoid items such as alcohol that can dry hair out with frequent use.

Typically, manufacturers design root lifters for use in the following way:

  • Apply the product to the desired area's roots while the hair is wet
  • Create volume while drying the hair
  • Use tools or hands to create hair volume

What Types of Root Lifters Are Available?

Root lifters of all types are available on today's market. Most manufacturers appeal to hair types such as thin, fine and curly, while others appeal to concepts such as sexy bedhead and beachy hair. Generally, root lifters fall into the following groups:

  • Spray for hair thickening
  • Powder for hair volumizing and texturizing
  • Mousse for premium hair lifting
  • Lotion for hair drying

What Tools To Use With Root Lifters?

Many experts consider human hands the best tools for any styling with root lifters. Hands and dexterous fingers give individuals, particularly those with short hair, some of the best control over their styling efforts.

Manufactured tools are also helpful when used with root lifters. Here's a shortlist of some of the most popular items:

  • Curlers: From Velcro to foam versions, curlers of assorted barrel sizes can help you in your quest for greater hair volume.
  • Curler clips: A clip-in version of the traditional curler makes styling easy.
  • Hairdryer: Many root lifters recommend using a hairdryer after applying product to wet or damp hair to achieve the desired volume. 
  • Rolling brushes: Like curlers, rolling brushes are available in varying barrel sizes.

Are Root Lifters Bad for Your Hair?

It's no secret that root lifters work well on some types of hair and not so well on others. If an individual is not getting the desired volumizing effect, it might be that it doesn't work well with their hair type, such as super curly or long and thick. Individuals with thin hair may wish to choose a root lifter in powder or spray form, while those with thicker hair may prefer a mousse or cream.

Alternately, if a root lifter is not working for an individual as expected, too much product might be the issue. An over-application of product can pull down the hair at the root rather than lift it. With this in mind, individuals with thin hair may choose a root lifter in powder or spray form, while those with thicker hair may prefer a mousse or cream.

Who Benefits Most From Root Lifters?

People with thin or fine hair tend to get the most benefit from root lifters simply because they lack the natural body and density of people with thick or curly hair. Many individuals with fine hair often report that tools such as hot rollers and Velcro curlers were ineffective until they combined them with a root-lifting product.

Where Can You Buy Root Lifters?

Root lifters are available for purchase at most high-street drugstores and grocery retailers across the country and at online retailers such as Amazon. In addition, many brand-name beauty studios and salons sell their root lifter products in various sizes for ease of use and storage.

What Is the Best Root Lifter?

The answer to this great question is different for every person. An individual should choose the best root lifter for personal use by considering the following criteria:

  • Hair type
  • Product type (lotion, powder, etc.)
  • Tools needed
  • Results

Results are the best indicator of the ideal root lifter for an individual, whether a personal evaluation of hair height and volume or compliments received from others. Root lifter users may choose to try various products before settling on the one that works the best. Happily, many beauty and personal health product manufacturers offer coupons, discounts, special offers, trial products and sample sizes so that finding a favorite root lifter does not have to be an expensive process.

BeautyAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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