Hairspray has been a beloved styling tool for decades, lauded for its ability to keep our hairstyles intact and maintain their shape throughout the day. However, with concerns rising about the potential damage certain hair products can cause, many are left wondering: Is hairspray truly damaging to our hair? In this article, we will explore the various ways in which hairspray may affect the health of our hair, highlighting both the potential drawbacks and benefits of this popular styling staple. Whether you rely on hairspray daily or only on special occasions, understanding its impact on your hair is crucial in making informed decisions for your hair care routine.

The Basics of Hairspray

What is hairspray?

Hairspray is a common hair styling product that is designed to keep your hair in place. It typically comes in aerosol or pump bottles and is sprayed onto the hair to provide hold and control. Hairspray is popular for creating various hairstyles and maintaining them throughout the day. It is widely used by both men and women to add volume, control frizz, and keep the hair in place.

How does hairspray work?

Hairspray contains film-forming ingredients that create a thin layer on the hair strands upon application. This layer helps to hold the hair in the desired style by providing stiffness and control. Additionally, hairspray often contains resins or polymers that form a flexible coating around the hair, allowing it to retain its shape.

When hairspray is sprayed onto the hair, it quickly dries, forming a protective film that helps to lock the style in place. The film-forming ingredients in hairspray also help to combat humidity, preventing frizz and flyaways. The result is a long-lasting hairstyle that can withstand various environmental factors.

Different types of hairspray

There are several types of hairspray available in the market, each catering to specific hair needs and styles. Some common types of hairspray include:

  1. Flexible Hold Hairspray: This type of hairspray provides a light to medium hold, allowing for natural movement of the hair while still providing some control and humidity resistance.
  2. Strong Hold Hairspray: Strong hold hairspray is designed to provide maximum hold and control. It is ideal for intricate hairstyles or for those who need their style to last throughout the day.
  3. Volumizing Hairspray: Volumizing hairspray is specifically formulated to add lift and body to the hair. It helps to create the illusion of thicker, fuller hair by providing lift at the roots.
  4. Finishing Hairspray: Finishing hairspray is used as a final step to set the hairstyle in place. It adds shine and locks in the style, ensuring it lasts for an extended period. This type of hairspray is usually lightweight and provides a natural-looking hold.
  5. Texturizing Hairspray: Texturizing hairspray is designed to add texture and definition to the hair. It can enhance waves and curls, provide grip for updos, and create tousled, beachy looks.

Ingredients in Hairspray

Common ingredients in hairspray

Hairspray contains a combination of ingredients that work together to provide hold, control, and other desired effects. Some common ingredients found in hairspray include:

  1. Alcohol: Alcohol is often used as a solvent in hairspray formulations. It helps to dissolve other ingredients and aids in the quick drying of the product.
  2. Polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP): PVP is a film-forming polymer that helps to create a protective layer on the hair. It provides hold and control without leaving the hair feeling stiff or sticky.
  3. Dimethyl Ether: Dimethyl ether is a propellant commonly used in aerosol hairspray. It helps to propel the product out of the can and onto the hair.
  4. Fragrance: Fragrance is added to hairspray to mask any unpleasant odours that may be present due to the ingredients used.

Chemicals to watch out for

While most hairsprays on the market are safe for everyday use, there are a few chemicals that some individuals may be sensitive to or need to be cautious about. These include:

  1. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs): Some hairspray formulations may contain VOCs, such as methylene chloride or 1,1,1-trichloroethane. These chemicals have been linked to respiratory issues and can be harmful if inhaled in large quantities.
  2. Butane and Propane: These hydrocarbons are commonly used as propellants in aerosol hairsprays. While they are generally safe when used as directed, they are flammable and should be kept away from open flames or sources of heat.
  3. Silicones: While not necessarily harmful, silicones can build up on the hair over time, leading to a weighed-down appearance or decreased effectiveness of other hair care products.

Potential side effects

When used as directed, hairspray is generally considered safe for most individuals. However, some people may experience side effects or allergic reactions to certain ingredients. Common side effects of hairspray can include:

  1. Scalp irritation: Some individuals may experience scalp irritation or redness due to the ingredients in hairspray. This can be a result of sensitivity to alcohol, fragrances, or other additives.
  2. Dryness and stiffness: Hairspray can sometimes make the hair feel dry or stiff, especially if too much product is applied or if the hair is already dry or damaged.
  3. Residue build-up: If hairspray is not properly washed out or if it is used excessively, it can lead to residue build-up on the hair. This can make the hair appear dull, greasy, or weighed down.

It is important to check the ingredient list and perform a patch test if you have known sensitivities. If you experience persistent scalp irritation or any other concerning symptoms after using hairspray, it is recommended to consult a dermatologist or healthcare professional for guidance.

Effects of Hairspray on Hair

Can hairspray damage your hair?

When used correctly and in moderation, hairspray is unlikely to cause significant damage to your hair. However, excessive or improper use of hairspray can have negative effects on the hair’s health and appearance.

Dryness and brittleness

Hairspray contains alcohol, which has a drying effect on the hair. When used excessively or on already dry hair, it can strip the hair of its natural oils, leading to dryness and brittleness. This can make the hair more prone to breakage and split ends.

To minimize dryness and brittleness, it is important to use hairspray in moderation and ensure proper hydration and moisture for your hair. Using a hydrating shampoo and conditioner, as well as incorporating regular deep conditioning treatments into your hair care routine, can help combat dryness caused by hairspray.

Breakage and split ends

As mentioned earlier, excessive use of hairspray, especially when combined with already dry or damaged hair, can lead to increased breakage and the development of split ends. The film-forming ingredients in hairspray can make the hair more susceptible to breakage, especially when brushing or styling the hair.

To prevent breakage and split ends, it is crucial to handle your hair gently and avoid aggressive brushing or styling. Regular trims can also help remove split ends and promote healthy hair.

Weighing down and lack of volume

Hairspray, especially strong hold or finishing hairsprays, can sometimes weigh down the hair and leave it looking flat or lacking in volume. This is more likely to occur when too much product is applied or when the wrong type of hairspray is used for your hair type or desired style.

To avoid the hair appearing weighed down or lacking volume, it is important to choose the right type of hairspray for your hair. Lighter, flexible hold or volumizing hairsprays are generally better suited for adding volume and maintaining natural movement in the hair.

Colour-treated hair concerns

For individuals with colour-treated hair, hairspray can pose additional challenges. Some hairsprays may contain ingredients, such as alcohol or fragrances, that can fade or alter the colour of the hair over time. Additionally, hairspray can sometimes lead to a build-up of product on the hair, which can affect the vibrancy and longevity of hair colour.

To protect and maintain colour-treated hair, it is recommended to choose hairsprays that are specifically formulated for colour-treated hair or are labelled as colour-safe. It is also important to wash your hair regularly and use clarifying shampoos to remove any product build-up that may be affecting the colour.

Proper Usage and Techniques

Choosing the right hairspray for your hair

To achieve the desired results and minimize potential damage, it is essential to choose the right type of hairspray for your hair type and styling needs. Consider factors such as hold strength, desired finish, and any specific concerns or requirements you have for your hair.

If you have fine or thin hair, opt for lightweight or volumizing hairsprays that provide hold without weighing down the hair. For those with thicker or coarser hair, stronger hold or finishing sprays may be more suitable.

Frequency of use

The frequency of hairspray use largely depends on personal preference and styling needs. Some individuals may use hairspray daily while others may only use it for special occasions or when they require extra hold.

It is generally advisable to avoid using hairspray every day to allow your hair to breathe and recover from any potential dryness or product build-up. If you do choose to use hairspray daily, opt for lightweight formulations and ensure proper hair care and cleansing to minimize the negative effects.

Proper application

Proper application of hairspray is crucial to achieve the desired results and minimize potential damage. Here are some tips for applying hairspray effectively:

  1. Spray from a distance: Hold the hairspray bottle at least 12 inches away from your hair to ensure even distribution and avoid excess product build-up in one area.
  2. Section your hair: If you are styling your hair, divide it into sections and spray each section individually. This will help ensure that every part of your hair is evenly coated with the product.
  3. Avoid excessive application: Start with a small amount of hairspray and gradually build up as needed. Over-spraying can lead to a stiff or sticky feel, weighed-down hair, or excessive product build-up.
  4. Mist, don’t drench: Instead of saturating your hair with hairspray, opt for a light misting motion. This will provide an even distribution of product without overwhelming the hair.

Removing hairspray from your hair

To remove hairspray from your hair, it is important to thoroughly cleanse your hair and scalp. Regular shampooing with a clarifying shampoo can help remove any product build-up and restore the natural balance of your hair.

Additionally, using a deep cleansing or clarifying treatment once a week can help remove any residual hairspray or other styling product residue. Follow up with a nourishing conditioner to replenish moisture and keep your hair healthy.

Tips for Minimizing Damage

Use hairspray in moderation

To minimize the potential damage that hairspray can cause to your hair, it is crucial to use it in moderation. Avoid excessive or unnecessary application and opt for a light or flexible hold hairspray when possible.

Protect your hair before applying hairspray

Before using hairspray, it is essential to protect your hair from potential damage. Apply a heat protectant spray to your hair prior to using any heat styling tools, such as straighteners or curling irons, as hairspray can potentially increase the risk of heat damage.

Avoid using hairspray on wet or damp hair

Applying hairspray to wet or damp hair can lead to uneven distribution and potential product build-up. It is best to allow your hair to dry completely before applying hairspray for better results and to avoid potential issues.

Limit heat styling after applying hairspray

If you have already applied hairspray to your hair, it is advisable to limit or avoid additional heat styling. Excessive heat combined with hairspray can further dry out the hair, leading to increased damage and brittleness.

Invest in quality hairspray

Choosing a high-quality hairspray can make a significant difference in the overall health and appearance of your hair. Opt for reputable brands that prioritize the use of quality ingredients and avoid potentially harmful chemicals.

Alternatives to Hairspray

Heat protectant sprays

If you are looking for an alternative to hairspray that also protects your hair from heat damage, consider using a heat protectant spray. These sprays create a barrier between your hair and the heat styling tools while also providing some hold and control.

Volumizing mousses

Volumizing mousses can be a great alternative to hairspray, especially for those looking to add volume and texture to their hair. Mousses are lightweight and provide lift at the roots, making the hair appear fuller and more voluminous.

Texture sprays

Texture sprays are ideal for creating beachy waves and tousled hairstyles. They add grip and definition to the hair, giving it a natural, effortless look. Texture sprays can be a great option for those who want to avoid the stiffness or heaviness associated with hairspray.

Dry shampoos

Dry shampoos are a versatile option that not only help absorb excess oil and refresh the hair between washes but can also provide some hold and texture. They give the hair a matte finish and work well for creating effortless updos or maintaining natural movement in the hair.

Expert Opinions

Hairstylists’ perspective on hairspray

Hairstylists often consider hairspray an essential styling tool that helps them achieve various hairstyles and long-lasting results. They emphasize the importance of choosing the right type of hairspray for the desired style and hair type. According to many hairstylists, using hairspray in moderation and properly cleansing the hair afterward can help minimize any potential damage.

What do dermatologists say?

Dermatologists generally agree that when used correctly and in moderation, hairspray is safe for most individuals. However, they caution against excessive or prolonged use, especially for those with sensitive scalps or existing hair and scalp issues. Dermatologists recommend performing patch tests and being mindful of any potential allergic reactions or scalp irritation caused by hairspray.

Scientific studies on hairspray and its effects

Scientific studies on the effects of hairspray on hair health and safety are limited. However, some studies have focused on specific ingredients or chemicals used in hairspray. These studies have highlighted potential concerns associated with certain ingredients, such as VOCs, and their impact on air quality and respiratory health. Further research is needed to fully understand the long-term effects of hairspray on hair health.

Finding the Right Balance

Considering your hair type and concerns

When it comes to using hairspray or any other styling products, it is essential to consider your hair type, texture, and specific hair concerns. What works for one person may not work for another, so it is important to understand your hair’s unique needs and adapt your hair care routine accordingly.

Assessing your overall hair care routine

In addition to using hairspray, it is essential to evaluate your overall hair care routine. Proper cleansing, moisturizing, and regular trims are crucial for maintaining healthy hair. Opt for gentle shampoos and conditioners, and incorporate deep conditioning treatments to nourish and strengthen your hair.

Balancing hairstyle goals with hair health

Ultimately, achieving a desired hairstyle should not come at the expense of your hair’s health. It is important to strike a balance between your styling goals and maintaining the overall health and integrity of your hair. This can be achieved by choosing the right styling products, using them in moderation, and prioritizing proper hair care and maintenance.


Hairspray is a versatile hair styling product that can help you achieve a desired look and keep your hair in place. When used correctly and in moderation, hairspray is generally safe for most individuals. However, improper or excessive use of hairspray can lead to potential damage, such as dryness, breakage, and weighed-down hair.

By choosing the right type of hairspray for your hair, using it in moderation, and ensuring proper hair care and maintenance, you can minimize the potential negative effects of hairspray. It is also essential to be mindful of any potential allergies or sensitivities to hairspray ingredients and seek professional advice if needed.

Remember, striking a balance between your hairstyle goals and hair health is crucial for maintaining strong, healthy, and beautiful hair.