I am going to be honest, this was a hard one for me to switch over to. Not that I didn't want to, but there just wasn't a lot of natural hair sprays out there that actually performed. Being a hairstylist makes it even harder. But, thankfully, natural hairsprays have come a long way in the past 10 years, and there are non toxic ones that work. Can I get an amen?! Now I will give a little disclaimer. These by no means are going to feel like an aerosol hairspray…yeah, sorry. But once you get used to these top brands, you will never look back! Oh, and I am including my top texture sprays for you too:)
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What are the dangers of using conventional hairspray?
I think it is no secret that conventional hairspray has some less than stellar ingredients in it. It is these ingredients that are able to hold a hairstyle so well that also come with unwanted side effects.
Aerosol hairspray was actually developed from technology created during World War II that was used for bug spray in the Asian jungles. (1)
The general makeup of conventional hairspray is as follows:
- Holding Agents: Polymers which are chain like molecules and the ‘glue’ that will ultimately hold your hairstyle in place (most commonly polyvinylpyrrolidine (PPV) or vinyl acetate is sometimes mixed with PPV (PVPVA) for extra hold in humid conditions)
- Solvent: Typically alcohol or hydrocarbons (used to be chlorofluorocarbons aka CFC’s until it was discovered how harmful these CFC’s were to the atmosphere and ozone layer). It is the solvent that evaporates to allow the polymer to hold your hair in place.
- Additives: This includes things like essential oils, fragrance, conditioning agents or silicone.
- Propellants: (non-aerosol products don’t contain): This is what actually pushes the product out of the container. An example would be isobutane.
So some big hitters for toxic ingredients have been taken out of hairspray over the years thankfully. However below are just some of the ingredients that are still in conventional hairspray that come with unwanted side effects:
- Fragrance: The International Fragrance Association (IFRA) lists 3,059 materials that are reported as being used in fragrance compounds. Yikes! And when we use a product with fragrance, we have no idea which of these materials are in it because they don’t have to disclose it! This makes it impossible to make an informed choice. Of these 3,059 ingredients, some have evidence linking them to health effects including cancer, reproductive toxicity, allergies and sensitivities. (2)
- Propellants: The same chemicals that are needed to create that lovely aerosol spray we all love are most often a chemical mix that includes Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s). Exposure to VOC’s can lead to eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches, loss of coordination and nausea and potentially even worse! (3)
- Parabens: Typically used as a preservative to prevent growth of unwanted microbes, these scary ingredients have been shown to have an effect on hormones in the body, potentially harm fertility and reproductive organs, affect birth outcomes and increase the risk of cancer (4)
- Phthalates: An interesting fact: Adult women have higher levels of metabolites measured in urine than do men for those phthalates that are used in soaps, body washes, shampoos, cosmetics, and similar personal care products. (5) So finding products without these are a must! Especially considering the effect they have on our endocrine system (think hormones). (6) Fragrance can commonly contain phthalates, so that is important to know too! Since phthalates might not be listed in the ingredients, but they could still be in your hairspray!
Obviously the more you use a product, the more exposure you will have to the toxic ingredients it has. If you are using conventional hairspray daily, that is going to increase your exposure and your toxic load. Plus, did you know breathing in chemicals is the fastest way to get it into your bloodstream…scary. Yeah, sorry but that stuff is just downright toxic and we don't want to be anywhere near it.
What exactly is a natural hair spray?
First, a natural hair spray will use more of a pumping mechanism versus a pressurized mist, so you’re less likely to breathe them in. And while they may not have the same hold as an aerosol, they also won’t be having those negative effects on you or the environment.
And the best part about a natural hairspray besides the lack of nontoxic ingredients is that it can even contain ingredients that are good for your hair!
Some of my favorite hair sprays contain things like herbal infusions that stimulate follicle circulation supporting continued hair growth and a healthy, nourished scalp. Or aloe, which research suggests (unfortunately no firm scientific link yet) that there is a positive correlation between this nourishing and hydrating ingredient and hair health. Or even essential oils that promote hair health.
And these are just a few examples! Ultimately, as always, check the ingredients in your beauty products to know what exactly you are using!
What are the best natural hairspray products?
DISCLAIMER: My hair is thin and fine, so what works for mine may not be perfect for your hair. However, I like each of these for different reasons and styles.
The best natural hairspray I’ve found! It’s in pump form, there’s no aerosol. I love the smell! It has a list of essential oils but the ones that stick out to me are the rosemary and lavender. I love knowing exactly what I’m breathing in, no hidden fragrance! Second, it doesn’t goop up when you spray. And it actually has a mist feel. Yeah, pretty cool. Lastly, it just works. With my hair being fine and thin, this product delivers hold throughout the day, volume, and doesn’t get crunchy…you know what I’m talking about. It’s just good stuff. I would recommend this for anyone transitioning from a mainstream hairspray. Get it here!
It holds up, is free of toxic chemicals and smells earthy. It doesn't leave my hair with a plastic feeling, but just a really great medium hold. I love that it feels light on my hair and doesn't weigh it down at all. The spray is more direct than the Josh Rosebrook hairspray, and not as mist-like. The Josh Rosebrook has a bit more hold to it as well. This is more of a medium hold spray and I would recommend it for those with natural wavy/curly hair. It's going to provide that hold but with a little swing to it. This hairspray would also be good for someone with thick/coarse hair that doesn't need a ton of hold. Get it here!
This is a lighter hair spray overall. It's alcohol free and quick drying. It helps to refresh your style but doesn't leave it feeling sticky or heavy. It’s also easy to brush out and restyle if you want the next day. It keeps my hairstyle pretty well even after brushing it out the next day but doesn’t feel dirty. More so like it has some texture in it. Initially it will feel a little more wet, but it doesn’t stay like that. Get it here!
This hair spray is a great alternative to conventional spray. It comes in a pump form, not an aerosol. It is a bit more of a wet formula. I find myself using it on my daughter's hair more because it's less expensive and I can save the Josh Rosebrook for my hair;) It comes in an 8 oz. bottle and is $24 and the Josh Rosebrook comes in a 4 oz. bottle and is the same price. A little more bang for your buck! Get it here!
I really like this formula. I just wish it didn’t have fragrance in it. I used to do wedding hair a lot years ago and I would bring this along because it works so well and is cleaner than an aerosol spray. It holds up extremely well. I love the pump applicator, it comes out great. It not only has extremely good hold, but also adds some shine too. It is easy to find and can be found at a lot of natural food stores. The downside is it’s not as clean as the other hair sprays. As I mentioned above, it has natural fragrance in it. And, it definitely smells like there is fragrance in it, so if you’re sensitive to fragrance, I would steer clear of this one. It’s nice to have a better holding option however for special occasions! Get it here!
This is a very lightweight hair spray and more nourishing and hydrating then any of the other sprays. It’s a flexible hold. Great for those who have drier hair, curly hair and just need a light hold with some added hydration. For my fine, thin hair I found it didn’t provide enough holding power and was too hydrating. I love the pump/mist on the bottle. The hairspray comes out great. Get it here!
This one is definitely the most budget friendly of all the hair sprays. It is $9.99 for 8.2 oz. It offers medium hold and some shine. The sunflower and citrus scent isn’t overwhelming and dissipates fairly quickly. I love using this on my kids too since it’s such a budget friendly option. It feels a little sticky at first but then dries out and gives a nice flexible, medium hold. And bonus, you can get it on Amazon! If you look this up on EWG it will rank a 5, but it’s because of the essential oils, which unfortunately the computerized system of the EWG can’t take into account. The only other ingredient it’s listing the 5 for is for Polysorbate 20, which ranks a 3 on the EWG for concerns of toxicity with 1,4 dioxane possibly being in the Polysorbate 20. I’m ok with using it because it’s pretty small and I’m not directly applying it to my skin, but my hair. Get it here!
What can be used instead of natural hair spray?
A firm hold isn’t always wanted when it comes to hairstyles, and that’s when I like to use more of a texture spray. Texture spray is meant to give more of an undone look. Thankfully, clean beauty brands offer some great choices when it comes to textures sprays too! Here are my top 4 texture sprays!
A lot of texture or salt sprays can weigh the hair down a bit. Not this one. It gives my hair some decent hold, almost like a subtle hair spray, and then it adds texture. Not a heavy texture that gets super crunchy. This is an effortless texture that makes it feel like your hair just did it on it’s own. I spray it in when it’s damp to add some texture and subtle wave and after styling my hair with a curling iron. Get it here!
I always love trying hair products that give hair some texture, while at the same time giving some hold and this product does just that. It helps create more texture in my hair and make it more piecey looking. Plus, it gives a great hold, without looking crispy. The smell is so good too- takes you to the beach! I even sprayed it in my hair without curling it and loved the texture it gave it. Get it here!
This sea salt spray really lives up to its name. It gives hair that beachy vibe instantly. I love using it after curling my hair. It brings some definition and hold to my style and makes the curls look less perfect. It comes in two scents- coconut and lavender. I'm partial to the coconut smell! Get it here!
It gives me the tousled beach waves and texture. It smells divine too! I get notes of geranium and palmarosa. This one has a little less hold overall than the other salt sprays and feels more hydrating. Get it here!
And there you have it! All my favorite natural hair sprays along with some top picks for natural texture sprays. What is your favorite natural hairspray?
If you enjoyed this post, make sure to check out these past posts:
- Favorite Organic Hair Products
- How To Curl Your Hair With A Flatiron
- My Natural & Organic Hair Routine
- The History of Hairspray: How Updos Became a Thing (Aug 29 2019). History Daily. Retrieved from: https://historydaily.org/the-history-of-hairspray-how-updos-became-a-thing
- Fragrance (n.d.) Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. Retrieved from: https://www.safecosmetics.org/get-the-facts/chemicals-of-concern/fragrance/
- Volatile Organic Compounds’ Impact on Indoor Air Quality (n.d.) United States Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved From: https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/volatile-organic-compounds-impact-indoor-air-quality#Health_Effects
- Stooiber, Tasha (Apr 9 2019). What Are Parabens And Why Don’t They Belong In Cosmetics. Environmental Working Group. Retrieved from: https://www.ewg.org/what-are-parabens
- Phthalates Fact Sheet (Apr 5 2021). Centers For Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/biomonitoring/Phthalates_FactSheet.html
- Grindler, N. M., Vanderlinden, L., Karthikraj, R., Kannan, K., Teal, S., Polotsky, A. J., Powell, T. L., Yang, I. V., & Jansson, T. (Apr 17 2018). Exposure to phthalate, an endocrine disrupting chemical, alters the first trimester placental methylome and transcriptome in women. Nature News. Retrieved from: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-24505-w