“curly

Pictured: Design Essentials, Lottabody, Cantu

Let's play a game. What do you think of when you hear the word "mousse?" If you're anything like me, it may bring up associations with crunchy curls, the 80's, and drying alcohols, but you should know that things have changed. Hairstyles, techniques, brands and product formulas have all evolved since the days of teased, crispy curls. But because we still get flashbacks when we pick up a bottle of mousse, we spoke with a few curly hair experts about who should be using mousse today - and who shouldn't. 

Why use a mousse?

Brooke Michie, curl stylist and owner of Lyric Salon in Austin, Texas, first made me reconsider mousse when she used it in Grace’s wavy hair transformation. She loves using mousse on her curly haired clients because it’s “easy to apply, economical per use, has buildable coverage and hold, and can be layered with so many other types of products.”

What hairstyles is mousse best for?

Maya Smith, International Master of Natural Curls and founder of The Doux®, a haircare line she created specifically for naturally curly hair, says mousse can be used for “any style that requires definition and light hold. It can be used not only to set wash & go's, but for twist outs and rod sets as well.” As I’ve been starting to experiment with mousse more, I’ve wondered if I can use it on my dry hair as a refresher on second day hair. According to Maya, “Mousse is best applied to wet hair for Wash & Go styling, but it can also be used to set a dry twist-out and to redefine the curl pattern. I wouldn't recommend using it to replenish moisture on next-day hair.” 

What causes that crunch?

Maya says “It's common for mousse to be combined with gel or cream because most mousses on the market contain alcohol to make the hair dry faster. They are also polymer rich, which creates a sticky coating on the hair, much like a hairspray. This can leave hair feeling dry and stiff. We formulated our Mousse Def as an all-in-one solution for this problem. It creates the shine and definition of a mousse, yet leaves hair soft and touchable with no flaking.” Brooke likes DevaCurl’s Frizz-Free Volumizing Foam because it’s alcohol-free and lightweight, and the airy formula helps give your roots lift and volume – especially for fine or looser textured hair.

What are some ingredients to watch out for?

Maya recommends watching out ingredients such as sodium laurel sulfate (SLS), Isopropyl, and Prolyene, which “have been found to cause breakage and dry out your hair. The best way to achieve healthy hair is to have that balance between protein and moisture.”

Who should use mousse?

Brooke says it depends on the mousse, “lightweight, airy mousse or foam is great for wavy hair. Denser mousse is great for 2s and 3s and as a thin layer of added hold for more definition over a moisture foundation for well-hydrated 4s even!” For Maya, it depends on the hairstyle “I recommend mousse for hair up to Type 4b, depending on the desired results.” But before you rule mousse out for your Type 4c coils Gerilyn Hayes, NaturallyCurly Senior Copywriter, loves using mousse on her 4c wash and go, “I use about 5-6 pumps of mousse in my hair after shampooing and conditioning. I do this because I want to make sure that I'm starting with a clean scalp and curls that are free from any other previous products. And because my curls are very coarse and need lots of hydration, I make sure that my curls are soaked with water (which is why the shower is great for applying mousse to my hair). To avoid product and water getting into my eyes, I flip my head over and scrunch my curls' ends to my scalp. Although I do not have a lot of length, I still use this ends to root scrunching method to get optimal curl definition. Sometimes I rake the mousse through my curls and then wrap them in a scarf, giving them more shine. Although rake versus scrunching may look similar to any onlooker, the textural differences are apparent to me!" 

Who shouldn’t use mousse? 

“Curls with moisture as the number one priority” says Brooke, “or those who don't need a product with general hold, but seek more of a product/product combo to hydrate then seal.” So if your curls are thirsty and your top priority is moisture, then you may want to opt for something like the LOC Method, which layers a leave-in for moisture, an oil to seal in the moisture, and then a cream for hold.

How to use mousse 

Brooke prefers “the lightest weight mousse in wavy hair for primary, general hold,” and this is how she recommends applying it:

  1. On freshly rinsed detangled hair in the shower, glaze a small amount over the surface area of the hair.
  2. Then flip and glaze another small amount over the underneath surface area.
  3. Then apply the majority of it via scrunching by distributing it in your palms, making sure not to flatten the airiness of the foam.
  4. Before scrunching the ends of the hair up toward the scalp with a flat palm into a clenched fist motion, rotating your head to reach curls on either side.

If you’re using a denser foam and need more moisture, Brooke recommends applying it:

  • Once a leave-in or moisture foundation is either combed through or scrunched in sopping wet hair.
  • Then add a little denser mousse by finger combing detangled sections, or for longer curls, scrunching as above. 

“This will create a cast of hold” says Brooke, but before you worry about the crunch, remember you need to break that cast by scrunching out the crunch. “Release the cast once hair is fully dry by touching curls gently, or scrunching once more to release the wet-looking hold that was necessary during the drying process to maximize definition.”

What's next?

Here are 12 mousses to try for curly hair.