There seems to be a never-ending line-up of the products we should add to our stash for even shinier, bouncier, voluminous hair. Have you got your salt spray? Your texturiser? Your dry shampoo? Your curl cream? On and on the list goes. Does anyone know what half this stuff does? And what’s the difference between a texturising mist and a volumising spray?!
A mate of mine has movie star hair. Swishy, gravity-defying at the roots and waved to perfection. Of course, I asked her what she uses to get her hair so fancy and…what followed was a hit list of spritzes, sprays, creams, powders, mists and a crap-tonne more. Heh?
We’re all for choice, but it’s a bit overkill. What we need are some streamlined instructions to decode the bamboozling army of products expanding on the shelves of our nearest drugstore.
To make things clearer, we’ve called on the expertise of top hair stylist Jon Reyman for his take on what’s what.
If you could divide out styling products into the least number of categories to simplify things for consumers, what would they be?
“Oil and hold are the only product categories for styling,” says Jon. “Holds are polymers that grip the hair, swell the hair or set the hair, whereas emollients are oils or creams that soften, shrink, and make the hair heavier,” he explains. “There are lighter and stronger degrees of polymers on the spectrum but as they all accomplish the same thing, a small amount of a strong polymer will be similar to a larger amount of a lighter polymer.”
Which hair types suit which categories?
“While a lot of people talk about the type of hair or the pattern (hair can be curly, coily, straight or wavy), what is more important is the texture: (this will often be referred to as fine, medium or coarse, or small, medium or large),” says Jon.
In general, the grass tends to be greener and unless you’re using styling products to enhance your natural texture ever-so-slightly, you’re likely to be using them to tease your hair into behaving the opposite way to normal. “Small hair wants to be bigger,” says Jon. “This is not density [the number of strands you have on your head]. Density is different,” he explains. “If your hair is fine or small you normally want to swell it up. So for this, use only hold products – no oils which would shrink or soften.”
Likewise, “those with coarse hair tend to want it smaller, so use oil products to soften,” says Jon. Once you know what your hair responds to, “use a combination of rich oils and light holds because you want to shrink and soften the hair, but also set it with the light hold products.”
Which products would fall into each of these categories?
For hold, you’re looking at “gels, mousses, volumisers, hair sprays and dry shampoos,” says Jon. “Oil products are creams, oils, leave in conditioners and curl creams.”
There are so many names now to content with – texturiser, volumiser, pomade, cream, mousse, sugar spray, salt spray etc. Does marketing play into this and do some of these products do the same job as each other? Could you give some examples?
“Product companies are geared to sell products. They create versions of hold and oil products which are essentially the same,” says Jon. The difference between them is the degree to which these products hold or soften. “For instance, curly hair needs different types of products based on whether it’s fine, medium, coarse. The same goes for straight, wavy, and coily hair,” explains Jon. “The delivery system and the name are really not important. The hold and oil degree and combination is what’s important. If your hair needs a heavy oil but you only have a light oil available – use a lot more of the light product to get a similar result,” he says.
“Marketing is extreme and everywhere we look,” says Jon. “Take a heat protectant for example. The truth is all products protect hair from heat styling. Anything you use will act as a buffer between your hair and the heat.” Likewise, volumisers and texturisers are largely interchangeable, both work to add volume. Dry shampoo will do the same job as a texturiser, with the added bonus of mopping up oily roots and hair spray is designed to hold your style in place rather than adding oomf. In general, oils run from light serums to oils, creams and balms. Holds run from light salt or wave sprays, to light mousses, hairsprays, volumisers, texturisers, dry shampoos and thicker pomades, clays and waxes.
“It’s up to consumers to use a practical approach to nailing down what products make sense. This takes understanding – knowing your hair texture and type, and what your goals are,” he says. Once you know this, you can be flexible with the ‘rules’ “For example: ‘Do I want to make my coarse hair bigger?’ If so, heavy oil products will not do that – it will need more hold and less oil. Or, ‘do I want to make my fine hair bigger?’ If so, you’ll need zero oil products and a light medium or strong hold product, depending on the finish you’re looking for.”
The key to getting it right for your specific hair? “Experiment says Jon. “Use a combination of things until you get it right, or talk to an expert – an excellent hairdresser will make this discovery easy with the right recommendations.”
How many products (broadly speaking), is too many products? How many would you generally recommend most hair types would need (and which products)?
“When washing, fine hair needs shampoo and not so much conditioner, while coarse hair needs conditioner and not so much shampoo,” says Jon.
“When styling, for fine hair use a base product [like a mousse or wave spray] when drying to set and hold the hair. Once dry, use a hairspray or texturiser to give the hair a bit of tack but nothing too much. For coarse hair use a rich, creamy product [like a curl cream] and a light hold product [like a mousse] to help the hair soften and set. Once coarse hair is dry you need a light oil product and maybe a texturizing cream to help define. In total, from washing to styling 4-5 products will do the trick.