If you've ever been baffled by all the different styling aids on the shelves and wondered which ones you actually need, you're not alone.
"Any time someone finds out I'm a hairstylist, I end up surrounded by women with questions about products," says Lisa Chiccine, owner of the Lisa Chiccine Salon in New York City.
Here, Chiccine and David Rhys of Jet Rhys Salon in San Diego look beyond the label to demystify what's inside the bottle.
"It will put a nice hold on an elaborate style and lock in a look," says Rhys. "It also helps refresh a look throughout the day."
Be aware that different types of hair sprays, such as flexible and maximum hold, deliver very different results. Higher-octane sprays (generally in aerosol form) are going to give you longer-lasting, stiffer hold and volume while locking out humidity. A flexible spray (in plastic bottles or aerosol cans) gives you more control and hair that still feels soft to the touch.
Style benefit: Hold, control, volume Best for: All hair types and styles How much to use: One to two pumps applied wherever you want to achieve hold. With sprays, you can be generous since they will disperse evenly How to use: Hold bottle several inches from head to get even distribution, and spray on dry hair
Thickening Spray/Root Booster/Volumizer
"Before a blow-dry, this will give your hair body that will sustain itself all day," says Rhys.
Style benefit: Volume Best for: Fine or straight hair How much to use: Apply one to two pumps per section How to use: Spray at the root and work into scalp with fingertips, then mist once over the rest of your hair
"A texture spray makes hair stick together," explains Chiccine. "You don't want to see clumps, so less is more."
Style benefit: Defines waves, curls and reduces frizz and flyaways Best for: Wavy, curly and/or thick hair How much to use: Five to six spritzes How to use: Spray damp hair evenly from mid-shaft to ends of hair, then scrunch
Styling Cream/Styling Lotion/Curl Cream
"These are light and versatile and amazing as blow-drying aids for that non-product feel," says Rhys. "They are also wonderful finishing products to show off layers and movement."
Style benefit: Definition and separation Best for: All hair types, but especially good for short, layered and curly hair How much to use: A nickel-sized blob for creams, and two to three pumps for lotions/liquids How to use: Work through hands, then run evenly all over damp or dry hair
"This is the heaviest product there is," says Chiccine. "It takes just the tiniest amount of wax to create texture, and it's best-suited for thicker hair."
Style benefit: Texture, piecey look, spikiness Best for: Thick hair, especially shorter pieces How much to use: A baby pea-size dab How to use: Spread between fingers, then pinch onto the ends of hair
"Ideal for short cuts, gel is good to mix with paste for a defined style that's not sticky," says Chiccine.
Style benefit: Volume, hold, control, texture Best for: All hair types, but especially short styles How much to use: A nickel-sized dollop How to use: Apply evenly to damp hair
A hair care staple for years, mousse has come a long way. "Like gel, it's evolved into touchable, brushable, non-flaking goodness," Rhys says.
There are different formulations (some thicker and some lighter) to help you achieve different looks -- lift at the roots, all-over thickness, curl definition, tousled "scrunched" waves.
Style benefit: Volume, hold, definition Best for: All hair types, but especially thin or fine hair How much to use: A golf ball-sized dollop How to use: Apply evenly to wet hair
"Everyone needs shine," says Chiccine. "Serums seal the cuticle layer to deliver maximum sheen, which is great for sleek looks."
Style benefit: Shine, curl control, heat protection| Best for: All hair types, but especially frizzy or coarse hair How much to use: A pea-sized dab. Too much will make even clean hair look dirty and weighed down," says Chiccine How to use: Rub between fingers and run over wet or dry hair from midshaft to ends
"If you dislike the syrupy texture of serum, try the creamier, weightless version known as frizz cream," says Chiccine.
Style benefit: Same as a serum but lighter and less likely to weigh down hair Best for: All hair types, but especially frizzy or coarse hair How much to use: Start with a pea-sized dab and add more as needed How to use: Rub between fingers and run over wet or dry hair from midshaft to ends
Holly Crawfordis a Houston-based freelance writer who has contributed to numerous magazines and Web sites, including Glamour, InStyle, Allure, Cosmopolitan, Shape andElle online.
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