A few years ago, it felt like everyone had all but sworn off hairspray, but it’s officially back—and better than ever. The hairspray of 2022 is nothing like the thick, tacky hairspray you grew up using. Modern formulas are lightweight, beautifully scented, and can often do much more than just hold your style in place. To better understand what hairspray is and how to use it, we tapped Redken artist and stylist Jamie McDaniel to give us the scoop on everything there is to know about hairspray. Whether you’re a lifelong hairspray user or are considering adding it back into your routine, continue reading to get the best tips straight from the pros.
What is the primary purpose of hairspray?
The formulas may have changed, but the main objective of hairspray remains the same: to lock your style in place.
“The primary purpose of hairspray is to hold and secure a shape for longevity throughout the day,” McDaniels says.
When should I use hairspray?
Back in the day, we used hairspray as the last step in our hairstyling routine to lock the style we spent hours so carefully crafting in place. However, sometimes it seemed as though no matter how much hairspray we used, it was never enough to last the whole night. It turns out we were using hairspray all wrong. It shouldn't be the last step of our styling routine; McDaniels says to get the most out of hairspray, we should use it while we style our hair.
“I like to use a workable hairspray through my styles while pinning it into place and then a high hold hairspray for long-lasting hold throughout the day and night,” the stylist explains.
What is the best way to apply hair spray?
By applying hairspray multiple times while you style your mane, you can guarantee it will last all night long. Modern hairspray formulas are much lighter than hairspray formulas of yesteryear, but if the product still feels heavy on your strands, McDaniel has just the tip for you.
“The golden rule, for me, is to spray at least the length of the bottle away from the head to prevent product build-up or crunchiness.”
Do you use hairspray on wet or dry hair?
The shape of hair changes while it dries, meaning that its overall style will, too. Therefore, use hairspray only on dry hair to lock styles into place for long-lasting hold.
Photo credit: Matrix/L’Oreal
No matter how you're using hairspray, you should always follow a few basic rules. Most importantly, you’ll want to spritz from a distance. Because the product comes in mist form, many people assume hairspray very lightly coats the hair. However, a heavy-handed application can easily build up on your scalp and locks. It’s best to spritz your hairspray from at least six inches away. If you feel like your style needs more product after your first application, feel free to add more—from six inches away.
You should also never brush or comb through dried hairspray. Because most hairsprays effectively "lock" your style in place, combing hair with dry hairspray on it can cause unnecessary tearing and breakage. Instead, comb the product through your hair before it completely sets. Opt for a flexible hold formula if you plan to brush or comb your hair after the hairspray has dried.
Depending on your desired styling goals, sometimes you need to enlist different hair spraying techniques. Here are five of the most common objectives of using hair spray and the minor tweaks you need to make to your routine to achieve them.
If you want to add volume:
One of the main reasons people use hairspray is to add major volume to their everyday styles. While adding volume is as easy as picking up a volumizing hairspray, this simple technique ensures your sky-high style lasts all night long: Instead of spraying just the top layer of your hair, section off your mane and spritz a volumizing hairspray underneath each section, right at the scalp.
If you want to set your style:
If you want to make sure your style doesn’t budge all night long, hairspray should be the last step of your routine. After you’ve finished styling your hair, spritz a strong hold hairspray all over your ‘do.
If you want to add shine:
Hairspray can hold your style in place and add shine to it. If you’re looking to give your ‘do a glossy finish, it’s all about which hairspray you use. Look for a lightweight hairspray formulated with oil to add glitz to your style without any crunchy hold.
If you want to get rid of flyaways:
Using hairspray to get rid of flyaways is all about your technique. Applying hairspray the traditional way (spritzing from at least six inches away) won’t do anything to your flyways but lock them in their undesirable position. To smooth down flyaways, spray the formula into your palm and smooth the product over your hair. This technique gives you total styling control and ensures flyaways are a thing of the past. Alternatively, you can spritz a comb or brush and use them to smooth your flyaways.
If you have curls:
Whether you're using hairspray to set your curls or to add extra shine, curly girls should take extra precautions when using hairspray. Because the formulas usually have a sticky consistency, they can cause spirals to stick together. Avoid having one huge curl clump by spraying your hair in sections.
What is the most common mistake people make with hairspray?
When it comes to hairspray, McDaniel says less is more.
“Myth: the more hairspray I apply, the longer it will last. Truth: hairspray tends to be wet, and the one thing that will break down a thermal bond is a hydrogen bond. Meaning, the more hairspray you apply, the more you are enforcing the style to lose its shape,” the stylist explains.
When in doubt, start with a light layer and allow it to dry. You can always apply more hairspray if you think your style needs extra hold.
Now that you know exactly how to use hairspray, we’ve rounded up 17 hairsprays that deserve a spot in your hairstyling arsenal.
Our 12 Best Hairsprays To Try Now
Matrix Vavoom Extra Full Freezing Spray
We love a good multi-tasking hair product, which is why we’re currently obsessed with Matrix Vavoom Extra Full Freezing Spray. More than just a finishing spray, it works double-duty as a dry shampoo to refresh unwashed hair while adding workable volume. It even has you covered against frizz, providing UV protection, 24-hour humidity resistance, and 24-hour anti-frizz protection. The only thing this spritz can’t do is cook us dinner.
Matrix Vavoom Freezing Spray Extra Hold
If you love experimenting with different hairstyles and accessories, Matrix Vavoom Freezing Spray Extra Hold deserves a spot on your vanity. This fast-drying hairspray slays as a hairstyle primer. By adding volume and texture, it’ll give strands grip when creating updos, braids, and ponytails so nothing slips out of place.
Redken Triple Pure 32 Neutral Fragrance Hairspray
Love what hairspray does for your mane but can’t stand the smell? You need Redken Triple Pure 32 Neutral Fragrance Hairspray in your arsenal. This fragrance-free high-hold hairspray offers maximum control with minimal scent.
Pureology Style + Protect Lock It Down Hairspray
Pick up Pureology Style + Protect Lock It Down Hairspray formulated with olive oil if hairspray usually leaves your strands feeling parched. This fast-drying, maximum hold hairspray was created to fight dryness and add radiant shine while providing strong hold and control.
Pureology Style + Protect Soft Finish Hairspray
If you like your hairstyles to be as flexible as your favorite scrunchie, consider adding Pureology Style + Protect Soft Finish Hairspray to your routine, a fast-drying, brushable, flexible-hold hairspray for color-treated hair.
Redken Fashion Work 12 Hairspray
You spend hours at the salon perfecting your salon color, so you need to be sure every product in your hair care routine is formulated to protect your precious hue—including your hairspray. Redken Fashion Work 12 Hairspray is a versatile hairspray is perfect for working, shaping, and finishing styles on color-treated hair.
Redken Forceful 23 Anti-Frizz Super Strength Hairspray
If you’re looking for a hairspray with superhuman hold, look no further than Redken Forceful 23 Anti-Frizz Super Strength Hairspray.
Redken Control Addict 28 Strong Hold Hairspray
Strong hold hairsprays have a reputation for being notoriously flaky, but Redken Control Addict 28 Strong Hold Hairspray guarantees a flake-free style without compromising on hold.
Mizani Humidity Resistant Mist Hairspray
Humidity will never ruin your tropical vacation plans again if you pack Mizani Humidity Resistant Mist Hairspray in your carry-on! It’s the perfect final step following a blowout to help prevent frizz and emphasize sleek styles, since it isn’t heavy or greasy.
Matrix Style Link Style Fixer Finishing Hairspray
Need to hold your style in place in a hurry? Matrix Style Link Style Fixer Finishing Hairspray is a fast-drying spray formula that will lock in your hairstyle for hours with humidity-resistant, anti-frizz powers. No helmet effect, no tack, no flaking.
Biolage Professional Complete Control Hairspray
If your end game is to lock your ‘do into place while still looking as natural as possible, Biolage Professional Complete Control Hairspray may just be your hair product soulmate. Depending on how much you use, it gives you complete control between soft and medium holds that can withstand all of your day-to-day obligations.
L'Oréal Professionnel Tecni.Art Extreme Lacquer High Hold Hairspray
For hair that requires a bit of extra hold without the stiffness, like a fun mohawk or a dance-proof prom ‘do, look to L'Oréal Professionnel’s Tecni.Art Extreme Lacquer High Hold Hairspray. This anti-frizz hairspray locks in the shape of even the most voluminous styles, so you can spend less time touching it up and more time showing it off.
Redken Triple Take 32 Extreme High-Hold Hairspray
Redken Triple Take 32 Extreme High-Hold Hairspray is just what you need to take you from day to night. It offers up to 24-hour hold, anti-frizz abilities, and texturizing grip, so hair is less slippery and more likely to hold its style. Who doesn’t love a triple threat?
Matrix Style Link Volume Fixer Hairspray
Many hairsprays tend to play devil and angel, giving you volume at the roots but adding style-spoiling heaviness throughout the rest of hair. Not anymore! Matrix Style Link Volume Fixer Hairspray lets you have the best of both worlds thanks to a diffusion of lightweight polymers to help lift up roots minus any unnecessary weight.
L'Oréal Professionnel Tecni.Art Infinium 4 High-Hold Hairspray
Style switchers, this one is for you. L'Oréal Professionnel Tecni.Art Infinium 4 High-Hold Hairspray provides shape and memory to your style but will leave hair feeling so natural that you can comb and re-shape it to match your mood—no shampooing required.
Redken Quick Dry 18 Instant Finishing Fast Drying Hairspray
It’s hard to choose between so many great quick-dry formulas on the market, but Redken Quick Dry 18 Instant Finishing Fast Drying Hairspray is a stylist go-to for major events. What gives this spritz its star status? Its super-speedy dry time and its ability to leave strands brushable and shiny, never crunchy.
Matrix Total Results High Amplify Proforma Frizz Control Hairspray
Finding a hairspray that won’t cause curls to clump together is no easy feat, so we rely on Matrix Total Results High Amplify Proforma Frizz Control Hairspray. Ideal for wavy or curly hair, this spray provides continuous lift, fullness, and high-volume to any style while making strands shinier. Plus, the silicone-free formula contains protein for an added boost.
Interested in more professional product recommendations that will help you lock and hold your hairdos into place? Hair.com has got you covered.