I'm not going to lie. I've spent most of my adolescent, teenage, and adult life feeling personally victimized by hair spray. (Anyone else?) After years of dancing and spraying ponytails, buns, braids, curls, and crimps into sticky, glue-like oblivion (and suffering the damage-inducing repercussions), I found hair spray to be the least appealing option on the menu where haircare is concerned.
However, since becoming a beauty editor and having the opportunity to interview and even sit in the styling seat of some of the best hairstylists in the businesses, I'm a woman turned. Over the past few years, my strands have been doused with all kinds of formulas that have never come close to the Elmer's-esque aftermath of my Aqua Net nightmares of the past. Even more intriguing? So many celebrity hairstylists I've consulted use and love affordable, drugstore hair sprays, claiming they're just as effective as pricey counterparts. Those gorgeous styles we ogle at during celeb-studded red carpets? (OMG—remember those?) They're often dusted, finished, and secured with drugstore staple names such as Suave, Dove, and L'Oréal.
To prove my point, I did some research. I combed through tons of red carpet breakdowns from previous award shows (my inbox is a gold mine), I referenced previous how-to stories we've written here on Who What Wear, and I even DM'd a few of my favorite hairstylists to confirm which drugstore hair sprays are good enough for the pros. Keep scrolling for the final consensus and our official rundown of the best hairstylist-approved drugstore hair sprays.
Suave Professionals Firm Control Finishing Hair Spray
To style Normani's sleek, side-swept waves for last year's VMAs, celebrity hairstylist Jared “JStayReady” Henderson used this affordable drugstore find from Suave to ensure long-lasting hold and finish.
"I love L'Oréal Elnette Satin Strong Hold Hairspray," celebrity stylist Cervando Maldonado tells me. "I’ve used it for years on set and in the salon. It gives the best hold and shine, it doesn't get sticky, and you can still brush through the hair easily to create plenty of styles. It's easy to find at the drugstore and is such a great price."
Celebrity hairstylist Dimitris Giannetos is also a fan, and he used it to perfect the ethereal hairstyle of another VMA attendee, Camila Cabello, last year.
Celebrity hairstylist Jenda Alcorn (who frequently works with the Dakota and Elle Fanning) says the L'Oréal line is also a favorite for light-hold hairspray needs, especially when she's traveling and battling elements like the humidity. For a lighter-hold option that still delivers impeccable shine, try this precious oil-infused formula from the brand.
"Because most of my travel involves red carpets, I absolutely couldn't survive without hair spray!" she told us here. I’m not big on a lot of product, as I prefer moveable hair, so I favor the lightweight sprays that aren’t heavy. I like the light-hold options from Oribe and L'Oréal, as they're easy to layer depending on what kind of look we're creating."
Dove Style + Care Compressed Micro Mist Extra Hold Hairspray
"I use this hair spray on every hairstyle I do because it gives long-lasting hold that never lets me down," shares celebrity hairstylist Mark Townsend. "It stays touchable, and it doesn't flake if you brush it out."
Tresemmé Tres Two Extra Firm Control Aero Unscented Hairspray
"I love the Tresemmé Tres Two Unscented Hairspray!" celebrity hairstylist Justine Marjan exclaims. It has a super-strong hold, and I can trust it to lock in my favorite looks." Marjan is also a fan of the brand's Compressed Extend Hairspray Hold Level 4 ($6), which she used to secure Amanda Brugel's waist-length ponytail at this year's SAG Awards.
If you're envious of Natasha Lyonne's bold hair look à la last January... A) same, and B) you can easily re-create the magic for quite the steal. Celebrity hairstylist Jillian Halouska spritzed this luxe drugstore hair spray for top-notch body and hold.
"This is my favorite," says celebrity hairstylist Jennifer Yepez. "You can tame your flyaways, get a snatched pony, and get your bombshell waves to hold! This is an amazing hair spray that really allows you to lock in your style and brush it out with ease. There's no white residue, and your hair is still soft with zero stiffness."
Dove Style + Care Compressed Micro Mist Flexible Hold Hairspray
Celebrity hairstylist Cynthia Alvarez (who regularly works with Shakira, Becky G, Maye Musk, Dascha Polanco, and Anika Noni Rose), touts this affordable drugstore hair spray as one of the best for keeping styles glued in place.
"This is my fave drugstore hair spray," Alvarez tells us. "It is a great working spray that protects against humidity and has really buildable hold. It brushes out easily, and it never leaves your hair with a stiff, crunchy feeling."