The best hair spray on the market today has come a long way since it was first canned in 1948. The ozone depleting chemicals were removed decades ago and now what used to be a sticky, crunchy, hair-drying product can be found with moisturizers and botanicals in flexible, hair-healthy formulas.
If you’re feeling nostalgic you can absolutely still get your hands on that sticky, yucky feeling by picking up some cheap hair spray at the drugstore. Nothing against nostalgia in general, but as far as hair spray is concerned–please come to the future. Your hair will thank you.
Hair sprays work by being full of polymers and copolymers that stick to and bind everything they touch together, including other polymers. These polymers are also used in several types of glue so they aren’t messing around when it comes to stickiness and applying the right formula the correct way makes a huge difference in the result you get.
There isn’t really such a thing as the right hair spray for your hair type–it’s more like the right hair spray for how you wear your hair type, and how you want it to feel.
So fine, straight hair is going to need a different hair spray for daily flyaway control than for formal updo’s. It depends on how you need your hair to perform and what type of environment you need your hairstyle to survive whether that’s intense humidity or a night of dancing.
Are you using your hair spray wrong?
Holding the can too close. You should be holding your hair spray around 10 to 12 inches away from your hair when you use it. In order for the polymers in hair spray to create a stable net they need to spread out.
Right about when your hand is far enough out that your brain is telling you, “There’s no way this is going to even do anything at this height,” is about where you want your can to be. Spraying too close can saturate sections of your hair making making it rock hair, unmanageable, and dirty looking.
The exception here is if you are styling curls. It’s best to spritz each curl individually. Yes, I did just hear your collective sigh. My curly-head feels your pain. But spraying your whole head just glues all your curls together into one mass. If you spray them separately you can keep the bounce of flow of those sexy curls.
Never cleaning your nozzle. For the same reason you want to hold your can a foot away from your hair, it’s important to make sure you keep your hair spray nozzle clean and unclogged so you’re getting a fine mist and not hitting yourself in the head with a water gun full of glue.
If your nozzle clogs, don’t panic. Run the nozzle under hot water for a bit. If that doesn’t work, soak the top of it for a few hours in rubbing alcohol. Never stick sharp or pointy objects into your hair spray can nozzle to try to get it unclogged. That thing is under high pressure and you don’t want to poke at it.
Using it on your roots. Hair sprays contain alcohol in order to be able to dry quickly and have you out the door in no time. But that means if you soak your scalp in hair spray, it’s going to dry your skin out and could cause irritation or dandruff in addition to the hair spray flakes that come from using too much hair spray.
If you’re looking to get more volume, apply your hair spray to the bottom of your hair while hanging your head upside-down. If your hair is generally dry or damaged, hairspray could exacerbate that issue. A deep conditioner now and then can go along way to everyday hair health.
You’re only using it on hair. Hair spray has an almost endless list of practical uses to its name. You can use it to stop a run in your tights, spray your tights to reduce static cling and sticking skirts, or as a low-toxin bug killer for flies and spiders.
Use it to remove nail polish, pen, and marker stains from fabric and stubborn labels from glass jars. For some of these, you might not want to use your high quality hair spray and that’s totally fair. But it’s nice to know the option is there.
Brushing roughly after spraying. Hair spray binds and glues your hair strands in place. Trying to run a brush through your locks afterward is just going to cause breakage. If you must, must do it, make sure you have a flexible hair spray formula and a gentle handle.
Never using it directly on your hands. When you need to apply only a little bit or only in specific places, it’s okay to skip the spray. If all you need is flyaway control, spritz your hands, rub them together and smooth your your hair down. Hair spray dries fast, so make sure you’re going quickly. If flyaways and frizz are your main trouble, you might be looking for a hair serum instead of a hair spray. My guide to the Best Hair Serums will help you figure out which is right for you.
Hair spray has a myriad of uses from around the house to daily styling to keeping a bridal updo in place for hours of dancing. There’s a huge range of hold types and quality from cheap, drying sprays to those that are healthier for your hair and skin. Let’s go through the best on the market to see which one is right for your style.
1. R+Co Outer Space Flexible Hairspray
This is a high quality, flexible hair spray used by professionals. The stylist for the 2015 Victoria’s Secret show used this to achieve their loose mermaid curls.
It’s very forgiving and works with you. Outer Space is never sticky and allows for lots of natural movement. It’s a hold that works for everyday styling as well as formal occasions.
It’s considered a brushable hair spray, but as with any hair spray, take it easy with the combs once you’ve applied it.
Outer Space is gluten-free, cruelty-free, and vegetarian. It is free of some of the nastier chemicals you come across like parabens, sulfates, and petrolatum. What it does have is coconut oil and vitamin B5 for healthy, strong hair, but won’t leave your hair looking greasy at all.
R+Co describes the scent of this hair spray as bergamot, wild fig, cyclamen, lotus flower, cedar wood, and tonka beans–which is a far cry from the hair spray smell I grew up with.
If you’re waffling on this, they do make smaller travel-sized bottle if you want to try that before jumping into the full-size bottle.
- Light to medium flexible hold
- Paraben, sulfate, gluten, and cruelty-free
- Used by professionals
- Great scent
- Not for stubborn hair or firm holds
2. Macadamia Professional Style Lock Strong Hold Hairspray
If you need a stronger hold but don’t want to sacrifice the health of your hair, there’s Macadamia Professional Style Lock Strong Hold Hairspray. This hair spray has the strength to hold your hairstyle all day but with color-safe ingredients gentle enough that will leave your hair soft and and silky instead of hard, sticky, and crunchy.
It has a natural finish that is very touchable. Style Lock contains macadamia oil and argan oil to moisturize, heat protect, and de-frizz your hair. It also doesn’t contain any animal products so it’s vegan-friendly.
This Style Lock Strong Hold Hair Spray comes in this full size bottle and in a travel-size bottle.
- Long lasting, strong hold
- Contains macadamia and argan oil
- Might not be best for overly greasy hair
3. Best Protecting Hair Spray: Oribe Superfine Strong Hair Spray
This hair spray by Oribe has a very fine mist so that your hair is coated evenly and lightly. The result is soft, moveable hair with no crunch or stickiness. As a professional brand, it provides long lasting hold all day and is incredibly lightweight.
You won’t have that heavy dragging feeling some hair sprays can leave you with. The Oribe Superfine Strong Hair Spray has a beautiful glossy finish thanks to the inclusion of a silicone which coats your hair, protecting it from frizz, UV rays, heat damage, and even pollution.
This hair spray also contains hydrolyzed wheat protein, vitamin B5, and plant-derived moisturizers to keep your hair healthy and strong. Not to mention the scent is to die for.
- Flexible medium to strong hold
- Contains wheat protein, B5, and UV protection
- Hair still has movement
- Won’t ever weigh your hair down
- Made in America
- Contains silicone which creates shine but could leave a residue
4. Philip B Jet Set Precision Control Hair Spray
If you’re looking for a completely residue-free hair spray, check out the Jet Set Precision Control Hair Spray by Philip B. The special nozzle produces an ultra-fine mist to evenly coat your hair and provide wide coverage so you can actually use less than sprays that require you to rotate it all around your head.
This hair spray will never weigh you down. The formula is never sticky and provides a medium hold while still being movable and touchable. It’s a plumping hair spray, focused on creating volume and texture. It’s safe for color-treated hair and is paraben and phthalate free.
- Medium hold
- Leaves hair soft and touchable
- Paraben and phthalate free
- Fine mist may make it difficult to treat specific areas
5. Amika Headstrong Hairspray
This hair spray from Amika delivers hold, shine, and protection. With medium to strong hold, Amika Headstrong Hairspray is never sticky and uses a flake-free formula so you won’t have to worry about imitation dandruff messing up your day.
It gives your hair texture and definition but, at the same time, isn’t quite as soft to the touch as some of the other sprays. The spray won’t leave your hair crunchy or stiff, but it will have more of a hair spray feel to it than some of the others.
Amika Headstrong Hairspray contains sea buckthorn berry extract to strengthen and support your hair and dimethicone to protect your hair from heat damage, UV rays, pollution, and frizz. So if you tend to use your hair spray a couple of days in a row without showering or your hair is sensitive to silicones, you might want to skip this one.
However, if you live someplace humid, a hairspray with dimethicone can halt frizz in its tracks and last the whole day long. It’s worth it.
- Medium-strong hold
- Glossy shine and UV protection
- No-flake formula
- Great at controlling frizz
- Contains silicone
- Not as soft as some of the others
6. Chi Enviro 54 Firm Hold Hair Spray
This firm hold hair spray will keep your hairstyle in place through wind, humidity, and long days. It won’t weigh your hair down and isn’t sticky.
The height you hold your can is pretty crucial for this hair spray in particular. Too close, and your hair could end up feeling a little too stiff, but if you spray it from 10-12 inches away, you get strong, flexible hold that isn’t greasy looking or crunchy.
This hair spray is chock full of botanicals to improve the health of you hair. It contains extracts of nettle, black walnut, hops, thyme, sage, rosemary, comfrey, horsetail, burdock, chamomile, cassia, and chaparral.
- Firm hold
- Lots of nourishing botanicals
- If sprayed too close, it can make your hair stiff
7. R+Co Vicious Strong Hold Flexible Hairspray
When you need strong hold, nothing else competes. This Vicious Strong Hold Flexible Hairspray by R+Co will keep your style in place all day long.
It’s copolymer heavy formula and ultra-fine mist blankets your hair in structure and support to maintain volume, curls, and control over flyaways. It contains dimethicone, a silicone, which gives Vicious its superior frizz control, UV and heat damage protection, and increased flexibility.
This isn’t the sort of strong hold hair spray that leaves you with crunchy helmet-head. Your hair will be touchable and movable while still holding its shape. You can run a comb through it, it won’t weigh your hair down, and it won’t feel like you’re wearing hair spray at all.
The scent is slightly fruity and light so if you’re sensitive to strong smells, this one goes easy on the fragrance. This hair spray is vegan, cruelty-free, contains vitamin B5, and doesn’t contain parabens, sulfates, gluten, or petrolatum. Plus, how much do you want to look at that bottle every day? Bravo, graphic designers.
- Strong flexible hold
- Vegan and paraben, sulfate, gluten, and cruelty-free
- Great for taming frizz in humidity
- Scent isn’t overwhelming
- Contains silicone
8. Blowpro Serious Non-Stick Hair Spray
When you need you hair to be soft, this Serious Non-Stick Hair Spray from Blowpro fits the bill. This medium hold hair spray leaves your hair so soft and movable you, or your significant other, can run their hands through your hair without getting stuck in dry, sticky hair clumps that cheaper hair sprays leave. No more stiff, flaky hair, just flowing volume and hold.
This Blowpro hair spray contains silk and soy proteins to leave your hair healthier and stronger for wearing it. To get a hold of frizz, UV and heat damage protection, it contains the silicone dimethicone which also gives your hair that detangling slip and shine.
This formula includes lanolin to keep hair moisturized so say goodbye to that post-hair spray straw feeling. As long as you don’t need wind-tunnel proof hold, this hair spray is an all around winner. If you’re not sold, they also offer a travel-size bottle although the full size bottle is a much better value.
- Medium, long lasting hold
- Contains natural proteins and moisturizers for healthy hair
- Soft enough to run your hands through it
- Never sticky
- Contains silicone
9. Best Non-Aerosol Hair Spray: Big Sexy Hair Spritz & Stay Non-Aerosol Hairspray
Big Sexy Hair can help you phase out aerosols from your beauty arsenal. The hold on this hair spray is great and will last you all day.
A little goes a long way with Spritz & Stay and since you’re not getting as fine of a mist as you might with an aerosol, be sure to keep the bottle moving or you could end up with some stiff feeling hair.
This isn’t the most touchable spray on the list, but when used lightly, you won’t run into crunchy hair. That said, if you need to have your hair sticking straight up, going heavy on this stuff will keep your styling in place. It contains dimethicone for hair protection, frizz control, shine, and flexibility and lanolin to moisturize your hair.
- Firm hold
- Great for creating volume
- Contains silicone
- Not vegan
- Not as soft as others
10. Nick Chavez Beverly Hills Volumizing Extra Hold Hairspray
When it says volumizing, they mean it. This hair spray is lightweight but strong and will prop up even fine, flat hair which has earned it a dedicated following.
It’s never sticky or crunchy and creates a beautiful shine thanks to the inclusion of a couple types of silicone in the formula which also gives your hair UV protection, frizz control, pollution protection, and heat treatment protection.
This hair spray holds up in humidity, wind, and beating sun. It contains the natural moisturizers lanolin and botanicals for promoting hair health including extracts of evening primrose, grapefruit, hops, henna, algae, and white ginger lily.
- Strong hold
- Contains botanicals and moisturizers
- Ultra volumizing
- Contains silicone
- Not as soft as others