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Hairspray tends to get a bad rap for leaving your hair feeling stiff and crunchy. And while that may be a good thing for slicked-back updos, when you’re styling curls, it's definitely less than ideal. Thankfully, using hairspray doesn't have to mean you're destined for crunchy hair. As professional hairstylist Mitchell Cantrell explains, the best hairsprays for curls deliver hold via a fine mist and contain plenty of moisturizing ingredients. "A flexible, buildable hold will secure curls in place while maintaining softness and bounce," Cantrell says, adding that a finer mist will ensure your hair doesn't become wet or sticky, even if you prefer a stronger hold spray. "Look for natural moisturizers such as hydrolyzed oat protein and sunflower oil that infuse the hair with moisture and help to control [unwanted] frizz," he adds. Additionally, a hairspray that offers anti-humidity protection will ensure that the weather doesn't mess with your curls — something that's especially important if you live somewhere humid.
Mitchell Cantrell is a Los Angeles-based hairstylist and educator. He has more than a decade of experience working across editorial, advertising campaigns, and red carpets. His celebrity clients have included Vanessa Hudgens, Kat Graham, and Tinashe, and he has worked with brands like Savage x Fenty and SKIMS. Cantrell is a Ouidad brand ambassador.
How To Use Hairspray On Curls
Whether your hair is naturally curly or requires the help of a curling iron, Cantrell's advice is the same when it comes to spritzing on hairspray. "Lean your head either over to the side or upside down, then spray the hairspray underneath the hair," he advises, adding that you'll want to hold the can about 8 inches away from your hair. "This helps build volume and encourages your curls to look airy and full." If your hair is naturally curly and you're starting with wet curls, Cantrell recommends using an anti-humidity gel first to encourage more hold. "Once your curls are dry and your style is set, layer on hairspray if you want more hold and control."
Shop The Best Hairsprays For Curls
In a hurry? Here are the best hairsprays for curls:
1. Best Hairspray For All Curl Types: Ouidad Curl Last Flexible-Hold Hairspray
2. Best Hairspray For Beachy Waves: Ouai Texturizing Hair Spray
3. Best Hairspray For Fine Hair: Oribe Superfine Hair Spray
4. Best Drugstore Hairspray For Curls: Garnier Fructis Sleek & Shine Anti-Humidity Hairspray
5. Best Volumizing Hairspray For Curls: Sexy Hair Big Spray & Play Volumizing Hairspray
6. Best Curl-Refreshing Hairspray: Cantu Comeback Curl Next Day Curl Revitalizer
7. Best Hairspray For Color-Treated Curls: Pureology Style + Protect Lock It Down Hairspray
1. The Pro’s Pick: Best Hairspray For All Curl Types
For a hairspray that offers a customizable level of hold for all hair types, Cantrell recommends Ouidad’s Curl Last Flexible-Hold Hairspray. "It's great for all hair types and textures because it is so lightweight," Cantrell says, adding that "it layers beautifully, smells amazing, and doesn't leave the hair dry, crunchy, or wet.” Cantrell explains that the flexible resins in the formula are what lock your style in place while leaving your curls touchable, and you'll also find moisturizing ingredients in here, like sunflower seed oil, to keep out humidity and reduce unwanted frizz.
Hold Level: Light Key Ingredients: Hydrolyzed Oat Protein, Sunflower Seed Oil, Vitamin B5 Anti-Humidity: Yes Size: 9 oz.
2. Writer's Pick: Best Hairspray For Beachy Waves
My hair is poker-straight, so undone, beachy waves are basically my only option, and even that style requires multiple products to achieve. Not so with Ouai’s Texturizing Hair Spray. The multi-hyphenate product works as a texturizer, dry shampoo, and hairspray in one to add volume and hold to my hair while soaking up excess oil (thanks to volcanic minerals in the formula). As a luxurious bonus, it’s fragranced with the brand's North Bondi scent, a blend of florals, bergamot, Italian lemon, and white musk, which is much more pleasant than traditional alcohol-scented hairsprays.
Hold Level: Light Key Ingredients: Vitamin B5, Vitamin E, Sunflower Seed Extract, Aloe Vera Leaf Extract, Kiwi Fruit Extract, Mango Fruit Extract Anti-Humidity: No Size: 4.6 oz.
3. Best Hairspray For Fine Hair
For finer hair types, you need something with a little more hold, but you also still need a spray that’s dispensed in an ultra-fine mist so as not to weigh your curls down. Oribe’s Superfine Hair Spray gives your style medium hold via a sheer mist that's completely dry and flexible. It contains multiple moisturizing ingredients, as well as hydrolyzed wheat protein and nettle leaf extract to add a glossy finish to your hair. And like all Oribe styling products, it includes the brand's signature complex of watermelon, lychee, and edelweiss extracts to protect your hair against environmental aggressors, as well as the brand’s iconic Côte d'Azur fragrance.
Hold Level: Medium Key Ingredients: Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Vitamin B5, Aloe Leaf Extract, Mango Fruit Extract, Kiwi Fruit Extract, Watermelon Fruit Extract, Lychee Fruit Extract, Edelweiss Flower Extract, Nettle Leaf Extract Anti-Humidity: No Size: 9 oz.
4. Best Drugstore Hairspray For Curls (& The Best Value)
This drugstore hairspray has nearly 5,000 five-star ratings on Amazon for its strong, yet flexible hold that works on all hair types. Garnier Fructis Sleek & Shine Hairspray is especially great for curly styles, as it creates an invisible shield that prevents humidity from causing unwanted frizz. It's also infused with bamboo extract to nourish your hair, while a light, fruity scent keeps your hair smelling fresh. Best of all, you get three large bottles for just $10.
Hold Level: Strong Key Ingredients: Bamboo Extract Anti-Humidity: Yes Size: 8.25 oz. x 3
5. Best Volumizing Hairspray For Curls
When you want to add major lift to your curls, you need a hairspray that's able to build up volume while it simultanesouly locks your style in place. Sexy Hair’s Big Spray & Play Volumizing Hairspray contains a blend of volumizing polymers and hydrolyzed wheat protein to give hair up to six times the volume. The medium-to-strong hold hairspray is suitable for all hair types, and it's formulated with a humidity-resistant shield for up to 72 hours of frizz-free curls.
Hold Level: Medium to Strong Key Ingredients: Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein Anti-Humidity: Yes Size: 10 oz.
6. Best Curl-Refreshing Hairspray
If you're looking for a way to refresh and redefine your curls the day after styling, Cantu’s Comeback Curl Next Day Curl Revitalizer has over 6,000 five-star ratings on Amazon. It also works on damp hair that's just been washed, whether your curls can be described as a wavy 2A or tight 4C. To refresh your curls, the spray combines moisturizing and smoothing ingredients like shea butter and hydrogenated castor oil in a light-hold formula. It has a yummy, tropical scent, too.
Hold Level: Light Key Ingredients: Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Shea Butter Anti-Humidity: No Size: 12 oz.
7. Best Hairspray For Color-Treated Curls
This Pureology Style + Protect Lock It Down Hairspray was developed with color-treated hair in mind. The formula uses the brand’s patented “anti-fade complex” to protect your color from fading in the long run, while a high-shine finish immediately counteracts dullness. The strong-hold hairspray still leaves hair brushable, and ingredients like olive oil and vitamin E offer moisturizing and strengthening benefits. And thanks to a blend of almond milk, sandalwood, and tuberose, this is another curl-friendly hairspray with a lovely scent.
Hold Level: Strong Key Ingredients: Olive Oil, Vitamin E Anti-Humidity: No Size: 11 oz.
Mitchell Cantrell, Los Angeles-based hair stylist and educator