Hair sprays are an essential styling product, but a lot of us have a love-hate relationship with it. You've probably had some run-ins with hair sprays that left your hair sticky, stiff, or crunchy. Does the term "helmet hair" apply to your experience with some products? Even though it might have preserved your hairstyle, it might have transformed your hair into something that didn't look quite natural.
Now, though, there are so many great hair spray formulas that keep your strands in place, but leaves some room for movement, so it looks effortless and more natural. Plus, you've got a lot of options to choose from for your specific hair type and need, too. Want a little more lift? Choose a volumizing spray. Something to control frizz? There are products for that. And if you really do need to lock everything in place and have something that's similar to the old helmet hair sprays of the past, there are super strong-hold versions.
"Hair spray, once considered a vestige of post-war presentation, has undergone more than your typical makeover," says hairstylist and groomer Timothy Aylward. "Innovations in polymers and powders have ushered in a new generation of multitasking spritzes designed to democratize beautiful hair."
I polled some hairstylists for their favorite recs to help you shop. Take a look at their favorites below, plus some other editor must-haves.
For All Hair Types
1. L'Oréal Paris Elnett Satin Extra Strong Hold Hairspray
Almost every hairstylist I spoke to recommends this classic hair spray. "For all hair types, I recommend Elnett—a classic with supreme hold and comes in an array of options from color-treated to extra strong hold (my favorite)," says Dritan Vushaj. "It's extremely brushable and has the best hold. the scent reminds me of a bygone era."
"For all hair types my go-to hair spray is R+Co's Outer Space. It's very lightweight and long-lasting but your hair looks natural without looking like you just left the salon! I love it because it has a matte finish," says hairstylist Dimitris Giannetos.
3. Bumble and Bumble
"Sometimes you need one product that can do it all, one holy grail spray that can declutter your counter or be thrown in a weekend bag, my all-time favorite is Bumble and Bumble's Spray De Mode," says Aylward. "This miracle of modern hairdressing is light enough to refresh second-day hair, but can also be strong enough to transport your high pony to snatched territory. Best of all, it's foolproof! Spritz on bangs before blowdrying for an instant refresher that lasts all day; mist strands pre-flat iron for a humidity-proof sleek look; or apply point-blank to ponies to keep your baby hairs from having a tantrum."
4. Hair by Sam McKnight Modern Hairspray
"Hair by Sam McKnight's Modern Hair Spray is my all-time favorite," says groomer and hairstylist Ben Talbott. "This is a premium multi-task styling mist and the fragrance is sublime. I use this on all my clients after I've finished their blowout—a little spritz of this magic to the roots gives the style more longevity. It's also translucent and doesn't show up in the hair if you add too much and has the added benefit of giving some extra volume to the style. You can also use a spritz of this magic on each section before you use a hot tool to set the style."
For Thin Hair
5. Oribe Free Styler Working Hairspray
6. Redken Triple Pure 32 Neutral Fragrance Hairspray
7. R+C Balloon Dry Volume Spray
"For those with straight, thin, or limp hair, I love Balloon by R+Co. This aerosol, part dry shampoo, part texturizing spray, imparts just the right amount of grip and fluff to make even the laziest of ponytails presentable," says Aylward. "To use, just flip your hair over, spray loosely focusing on roots and the back of the head where hair tends to get flat and ruffle with your fingers. So easy even the most hungover amongst up can pull it together for an early morning Zoom call."
8. Kevin Murphy Bedroom Hair
"I recommend Kevin Murphy's Bedroom Hair. It's technically a 'texturizing hair spray' but it's great for lifting hair and sort of filling it up, giving a slept-in vibe when you need it, or a perfect spray for teasing if you want some extra volume. All Kevin Murphy products are cruelty-free and smell pretty without an overpowering presence of scent," says Vushaj.
9. Bumble and Bumble Thickening Dryspun Volume Texture Spray
"It's great for fine to medium textured hair. It's not as shiny as some, but it will provide the scaffolding to plump up your hair to sky-high volume," says Talbott. "I recommend putting your head upside down giving a good spray of the product then give yourself a good massage of your scalp/roots to achieve that sex bomb, vampy, gorgeous hair."
For Thick Hair
10. Got2b Glued Blasting Freeze Spray
11. Sachajuan Hairspray Strong Control
"The key with thick hair is layering hair spray," explains Vushaj. "So I like to work in sections as I'm laying or curling the hair. I'll spray a section after it's styled and then spray the next section. Each section is no bigger than the width of the round brush that I'm using."
12. Shu Uemera Essence Absolue Multi-Purpose All-in-Oil Milk
"For thick hair, my favorite spray to add definition, shine, and just a bit of weight without feeling sticky or stiff is Shu Uemura's Essence Essence Absolue Multi-Purpose All-in-Oil Milk," says Aylward. "This milky multitasker strengthens and refined course textures, adds mountains of shine, and gives just enough definition for the perfect beach waves."
For Curly and Textured Hair
13. SheaMoisture Hold and Shine Moisture Mist
14. Fekkai Shea Butter Curl Refresh
"I love Fekkai's Shea Butter Curl Refresh. This sulfate-free formula is light enough to be used on even the babiest of curls, but when layered can add refreshing definition to more voluminous textures," says Aylward. "It works beautifully as a base for freshly washed curls as well as midweek pick-me-up to counteract bedhead. To use, apply liberally all over, I recommend using a diffuser to drive the ingredients further into the hair."
15. DevaCurl Flexible Hold Hairspray No-Crunch Finishing Styler
"DevaCurl runs the show in all curly styles for me. They completely get how to ration each ingredient which is integral in textured/curly styling," explains Vushaj. "Avoiding hair sprays with too much water in it or with too much alcohol is important (water will shrink the curl; alcohol will dry it). DevaCurl's flexible hair spray reduces frizz, controls humidity, and leaves no gross residue or tacky feel to the hair."
16. Ouidad Curl Last Flexible-Hold Hairspray
17. Moroccanoil Luminous Hairspray Medium Hold
"Moroccanoil's Luminous Hairspray Medium Hold is my pick for curly, kinky hair," says Talbott. "It is lightweight, moveable, and it fights frizz and humidity. The fragrance is divine, and it is infused with argan oil and UV filters which help moisturize and prevent sun damage to your beautiful tresses. It won't go crunchy or crispy and gives a nice shine to the hair. It's an ideal choice if you like to change your style throughout the day and to keep any wayward curls in place."