From crimped hair to banana clips, it’s clear that throwback hair trends are having a moment—but what about nostalgia-inducing products like hair mousse? They’re having a comeback, too. If you’re constantly browsing new hair products to help you achieve the styles of your dreams, you may be surprised to find that mousse may be just what you need.
Long thought of as hairspray’s sticky, crunchy sidekick, mousse for hair is better than ever in 2023. Once you get your hands on the newest formulas and learn exactly how to use them, you’ll wonder why you ever gave them up in the first place. We’re demystifying mousse, breaking down the different ways to use it, and offering up our best hair mousse formulas.
What is hair mousse?
Hair mousse is a thick foam-based styler that shapes and holds hair. Featuring a whipped consistency that’s bouncier than a cream yet lighter than a gel, its airy texture provides flexible yet natural movement that won’t weigh hair down. Often used to boost volume, it’s a valuable addition to any hair care routine, regardless of hair type.
In the past, you might have experienced using mousse only to end up with stiff, crunchy strands that (looked great but) felt terrible. These days, mousse for hair still creates weightless volume but the updated formulas come without the undesirable effects you may remember.
What does hair mousse do?
The better question is, what can’t hair mousse products do? The mousse formulas of today not only help create airy fullness but can also add definition, shine, and hold. If we had to pick our favorite thing about mousse, it’s that it works for every head of hair. The key is to find the best hair mousse for your hair type and styling goals. (We’ll share all our top picks later.)
Does mousse texturize hair?
Since mousses are for wet hair, they won’t provide that traditional gritty, tousled texture you’d typically see after using a texturizing spray on dry hair. However, mousses do add lightweight volume and, in some cases, contain thickening ingredients to give your hair the look and feel of additional plumpness—similar to texturizers.
Should I use mousse or hairspray?
Comparing mousse to hairspray is like comparing apples to oranges: Both stylers serve different purposes in your hair care routine. Mousse is your first step, meant to prep damp hair and leave it with extra body, whereas hairspray is a finishing touch used to give dry hair lasting hold. You don’t need to choose between the two—they’re often seen as bookends to a complete styling regimen, working even better together.
How to Apply Hair Mousse
There are a few ways to use mousse for hair properly. No matter what look you want to create, a general rule of thumb is to start with the recommended amount of product (per the packaging), then add more if necessary. Hair mousse is typically very lightweight and foamy, so it can be tempting to slather tons of it onto your locks, but a little goes a long way.
Do you put mousse on wet or dry hair?
You should always apply mousse to damp strands—never dry hair. Hair mousse is intended to melt into your locks, so combining it with the porous nature of damp hair allows it to penetrate more effectively. For the best results, apply mousse to your hair after it’s freshly washed and conditioned, but before adding other hair products.
4 Ways to Use Hair Mousse Based on Your Styling Goals
Now that you know the basics (apply mousse to damp hair and don’t use too much product), we can get into more specifics about application. The best way to apply mousse will depend on your desired look—we have different tips if you want bouncy curls versus super voluminous roots. Below, find how-tos for four common ways to use mousse (with plenty of product recs along the way).
For curl definition:
Mousse for curly hair may be the mousse you’re immediately familiar with from years past. If you have naturally curly hair, mousse is a great way to define and give body to your ringlets and coils without weighing them down.
Simply apply the mousse throughout towel-dried hair, giving extra attention to your roots for a voluminous final look. After evenly distributing the foam, scrunch your curls to shape them, then allow the mousse to dry completely.
L’Oréal Professionnel Serie Expert Curl Expression 10-In-1 Cream-In-Mousse
When looking for the best mousse for curly hair, you’ll want to opt for formulas that’ll define and hydrate your curls and protect them against frizz. Luckily, L’Oréal Professionnel Serie Expert Curl Expression 10-In-1 Cream-In-Mousse offers all these benefits—and then some—in just a few pumps. Our favorite thing about this curly hair mousse is that it offers heat protection, too, so you can air dry your curls or go in with a diffuser.
Mizani Styling Foam Wrap
Mizani Styling Foam Wrap is our go-to for creating wet sets on naturally wavy to curly hair. Rake this hair mousse evenly throughout wet hair, wrap or twist your locks as desired, and then sit beneath a hooded dryer to set your ‘do.
For voluminous hold:
Priming your mane with mousse will ensure your bouncy blowout never falls flat.
Apply your mousse hair product throughout your strands, focusing on your roots. Then, rough dry or air dry your hair to remove about 70 percent of the moisture (blow drying sopping wet hair with a round brush can result in damage). After, you can go in with your blow dryer and a round brush, gently pulling your hair upwards to add lift at the roots.
Redken Full Volume Mousse
New look, same fan-favorite formula! Redken’s medium-control Full Volume Mousse (formerly known as Full Frame 07) adds maximum volume to hair lengths and ends. If that wasn’t enough, the conditioning formula enhances softness and protects hair against humidity and heat damage.
Biolage Professional Hydra Source Foaming Styler
Make brittle, lifeless hair a thing of the past with Biolage Professional Hydra Source Foaming Styler. Ideal for dry strands, this medium-hold, conditioning hair mousse adds body and natural movement to any style. Plus, the formula contains UV filters to safeguard your color from fading in the sun.
L’Oréal Professionnel Tecni.Art Volume Envy Extra
Those seeking strong-hold volume should look no further than L’Oréal Professionnel Tecni.Art Volume Envy Extra. When you crave runway-worthy volume, this mousse adds wearable yet controlled lift without weighing the hair down.
Matrix Styling Setter Mousse
For both shine and volume, add the Styling Setter Mousse from Matrix to your cart. This versatile mousse keeps looks like sleek ponytails on lock while enhancing luster. We also can’t get enough of its fragrance: With notes of lemon, apple, and watermelon, the formula will leave your strands lightly scented.
Check out one editor’s review of the full suite of Matrix’s Styling Collection.
For a root lift:
If your roots always fall limp, you should opt for a root-lifting mousse to create lasting support at your scalp. A root lifter is often the best mousse for wavy hair, like types 2A or 2B, since these curl patterns tend to be flatter at the top of the head. Applying this type of mousse is slightly different from others since they often feature aerated nozzles or targeted tips for precise application.
Working in sections on towel-dried hair, spray or release the foam onto your scalp, massaging it into your roots. You can also flip your head over and apply the hair mousse that way, using your fingertips to spread it from the nape of your neck to right above your hairline. Blow dry each section with a round or paddle brush in the opposite direction of where your hair will lie.
Pureology Style + Protect On Rise Root Lifting Mousse
Add plumpness from top to bottom with Pureology Style + Protect On Rise Root Lifting Mousse. This medium-control spray is infused with vegetable protein that increases hair's ability to bind with moisture while adding shine. It’s an excellent companion to both blow-dried and air-dried looks.
Redken Root Lifter Volumizing Spray
Redken’s best-selling Root Lifter Volumizing Spray (previously called Guts 10 Root Volumizing Hair Spray) has a targeted spray nozzle that allows you to build customized volume. The results: Boosted roots with flexible fullness and a long-lasting, natural feel. Peep this root-lifting tutorial from Redken artist Sarah Bramham for styling inspiration.
For thickening fine hair:
Some of us need more help than others in the volume department. That’s where thickening hair mousses come in. These airy formulas are especially beneficial for fine or thin hair because they won’t weigh your hair down even further.
Like other applications, you’ll want to use your mousse hair product to prep your hair for styling. Simply apply mousse throughout your freshly washed, damp strands, focusing on your roots.
Kérastase Densifique Densimorphose Hair Mousse
When searching for the best mousse for fine hair, you can find Kérastase Denisifique Densimorphose Hair Mousse at the top of our list. Ideal for hair that visibly lacks density, this advanced treatment mousse combines hyaluronic acid, gluco peptide, and ceramides to strengthen hair. With less breakage, you’ll ultimately get the appearance of increased fullness.
Matrix High Amplify Foam Volumizer
Perfect for long hair, straight hair, and fine hair, Matrix High Amplify Foam Volumizer is a color-safe styler that yields a high-impact look. This silicone-free formula is made with protein for an added boost while providing instant lift. When used with the full High Amplify Shampoo, Conditioner, and Proforma Hairspray system, you can experience up to 35 percent boosted volume.
Shu Uemura Art of Hair Awa Volume Hair Mousse
Fun fact: “Awa” in Shu Uemura Art of Hair’s Awa Volume Mousse stands for “bubble” in Japanese. The circular shape represents this hair mousse's ability to create maximum volume and a soft finish. Finer-haired folks will want to scoop this right up and never look back.