Hairspray: It’s a word that conjures up so many images — most of them outdated.
Consider the bouffant, beehive, and pompadour, to say nothing of those gravity-defying ‘80s signatures like the über-teased bangs, side pony, asymmetrical chops and Flock of Seagulls styles; all impossible without this sticky aerosol fixative.
Would you believe that hairspray had its roots in a U.S. Department of Agriculture project in wartime 1940s to develop a canister able to disperse malaria-fighting insect spray? The resulting fluorocarbon aerosol cans begot Helene Curtis Spray Net in 1950 along with a legion of competitors (including the still-going-strong classic, Aqua Net).
Although the cans later came under scrutiny when their ozone layer-depleting powers were exposed, alternative propellants and mechanical pump sprays soon took their place.
The hairsprays that followed in the ensuing decades did the job — perhaps too well — making these styling spritzes synonymous with helmet head, hard-to-wash-out lacquers, a crunchy, gummy texture and alcohol-based formulas.
But those days are over. “The difference in hairsprays today is that while they may contain some of the same styling polymers, the technology has changed to deliver hold with a soft, smooth finish while preventing frizz,” says Rodney Cutler, a stylist, salon owner and Redken Brand Ambassador. In fact, many women use hairsprays solely for their humidity-repelling powers.
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“How it’s applied makes the difference with any hairspray,” says celebrity stylist Jim Crawford. “Remember: Hold the can 12 inches from the head and use a light coating for better staying power and a soft, natural look.”
There are so many tricks today’s hairsprays can do — from hold to height and humidity protection — that this ‘80s staple is back in rotation. Here’s to hoping scrunchies aren’t next.
Hairsprays for Every Need
- Anti-Humidity. A mix of argan oil and coconut extract to nourish strands while forming a barrier against humidity (they claim it reduces frizz by 87 percent). This fine mist dries instantly delivering light hold. Nexxus Frizz Defy Frizz Protection Hair Spray.
- Unscented. This European stylist favorite made landfall on our shores four short years ago and quickly found a new legion of devotee for its residue-free lasting hold that remained soft to the touch. L’Oréal Paris Elnett Satin Extra Strong Hold Unscented.
- Color Protection. Formulated without water to protect hair color, this non-dulling, fast-drying spritz gives medium, flexible hold without any flaking. Use it as a styling or finishing product. Pureology ColourStylist Strengthening Control Zero Dulling Hairspray.
- Variable Hold. Some styles (beachy waves) require movement, while others (an up-do) need to be shellacked in place. Same money and counter space with a multi-taker that lets you dial up or dial down the intensity. Three strength settings (soft, medium and strong) render flexible hold. Unite GO365 Hairspray.
- Rock Solid Hold. For those times you need to keep every single hair in place, get lasting lift and eight hours of humidity protection thanks to this hair spray’s vitamin E and antioxidant-infused Spray-Strong Complex. Redken Forceful 23 Super-Strength Finishing Spray.
- Volume. Add life to limp locks by targeting the roots for fullness, lift and hold. This formula stands up to humidity, static, and UV rays—sans stickiness. Ideal for fine hair. Big Sexy Hair Spray & Play.
- Shine. Lock in sassy styles with a hair spray that adds luminosity without buildup. Argan oil leaves hair weightless, manageable, and touchable. Moroccanoil Luminous Hairspray Medium.
- Waves. Recreate a day at the beach with a texturizing spray for a tousled, sea air texture. Mist on wet hair and air- or blow-dry for big waves, curls and definition that lasts. Paul Mitchell Awapuhi Wild Ginger Texturizing Sea Spray.
- Green. Love the performance of hairspray but feeling guilty about aerosol’s effects on the environment? Find all-day brushable hold in a fast-drying, flake resistant formula that’s offset by renewable energy funding for a net-zero impact on the earth’s climate. Aveda Control Force Firm Hold Hairspray.
- Second Day Style. Volume. Inject some oomph into slept-on styles, blot out oils and add texture with this dry shampoo and volumizing hairspray hybrid. John Frieda Luxurious Volume Anytime Volume Refresher.