From serums and sprays to creams, lotions, and balms, there are so many offerings out there that choosing the best hair styling products to use can be quite the complicated challenge.
The funny thing with hair is only a tiny percentage of women are actually ‘born with it’ (you know the ones—all effortless shine and bounce). As for the rest of us, we work to fake it: hot irons, sprays, time spent blow-drying and backcombing. Sometimes the battle feels barely worth it.
But it is worth persisting, as along with the best hair dryers, the best hair styling products can truly enhance your styling experience, not to mention make the most of your finished look. Whether you’re looking for the secret weapon to shine or the product that helps you air-dry without frizz, this guide will help you get to know the best products for you while caring for your crowning glory at the same time.
The best hair styling products
1. Best hair styling product for smoothness
You’ve seen those shimmering manes in hair commercials. Common sense says it can’t just be the result of just a shampoo and conditioner, so what’s the secret? Hair health is key (trim off split ends, use heat protection when styling with heat) and the rest comes down to your cuticles, which need to be smooth and unruffled to reflect light.
We like silicone-based serums, which effectively—albeit temporarily—coat strands for serious shine and stop moisture getting in or out, killing frizz. Try classic-for-a-reason John Frieda Frizz Ease.
2. Best hair styling product for body
A-list stylist Larry King says, “I love mousse—I put it on 90% of people, both men and women.” No wonder he’s keen: The good old foamy stuff bulks out every single strand, so hair immediately feels thicker, plus holds volume and root lift like nothing else.
Bad memories of crispy '80s hair? Modern formulas give all of the volume with none of the crunch. Living Proof Full Thickening Mousse offers serious body and bounce with a featherlight, flexible feel.
3. Best hair styling product for hold
Blow-drying products worked into damp hair add structure, versus that gunky, tacky feeling of adding them in when hair dry. L’Oreal Professionnel Tecni Art Pli is a fine spray with superlative hold. Its style-shaping powers are proven by the fact that it’s used so often during Fashion Week, it’s practically the official scent backstage.
4. Best hair styling product for sleekness
Sometimes the best styling results come from the unlikeliest sources, such as consultant trichologist Sally-Ann Tarver’s tip for parched hair.
“If your hair is feeling dehydrated, take a handful of solid coconut oil (the stuff used in cooking), melt it by rubbing it in your hands, smooth through and leave it on overnight. Wash and dry the next day and it will look sleek and shiny for the next few washes.”
5. Best hair styling product for shine
We’d all like a bit more shine, but few of us realize a major dullness culprit has been hiding in plain sight: washing. “Water contains minerals and metals that build up, dull hair, and even change the color, especially if you have hard water or live in an old building with copper pipes,’’ explains New York super-stylist Joseph Maine.
The solution is a clarifying treatment like Color Wow Dream Filter, a pre-shampoo spray that grabs on to hair using an ionic charge, then washes out taking unwanted minerals with it. It takes three minutes and, after using it, expect hair so fresh-looking your other half might ask if you've had your highlights done.
6. Best hair styling product for height
If there’s one thing every woman wants, it’s volume. A bit of root lift looks healthy, sexy, and flatteringly ‘pulls’ facial features up. As well as using root-lifting and strand-bulking products, volume actually starts in the shower with your shampoo.
OUAI Fine Shampoo removes build-up and softens hair without weighing it down. Make sure you condition mid-lengths to ends only to avoid any heaviness at the root.
7. Best hair styling product for a drying detox
You know it’s a practical idea to go barefaced or skip that evening glass of red a couple of times a week, and the same goes for heat styling. Lazy Sundays are great for this, as are days off, and a great product will help you create some texture without the need for heat.
Try Percy & Reed Beyond The Beach Texture Spray and follow Paul ‘Percy’ Percival’s air-drying tips: “Spritz through towel-dried hair, then manipulate with your fingers as it dries into your desired look for beautiful beachy texture.”
8. Best hair styling product for curls
A general rule, curly hair is best left to its own devices, without the intervention of a hair dryer, but if you’re in a hurry, stick on a diffuser, set the speed to low and the temperature to high. Too much wind power and you run the risk of tangles. A caring curl cream, like Aveda Be Curly Curl Enhancer, will speed up the process too, making your ringlets appear instantly more defined.
9. Best hair styling product for texture
You might want your hair to be smooth, but that doesn’t always mean you want it to be short on texture. The blue bottle with the power to give even the finest hair some serious oomph, Bumble & bumble Thickening Dryspun Texture Spray is a cult classic for good reason. Spray at the roots for lift, or along the lengths for a beachy feel.
10. Best hair styling product for detangling
Taking the time to carefully detangle and remove knots from your hair before you even reach for the hair dryer will make for a far more pleasant styling experience. In fact, we’d recommend starting the process in the shower, using a wide-tooth comb or detangling brush and working from the ends up. If you need a little extra help, Drunk Elephant Wild Marula Tangle Spray can be used liberally on damp hair, and sparingly when dry. As it’s oil-based, it is a bit heavy, so is best for thicker hair textures.
11. Best hair styling product for split ends
It doesn’t matter how good your blow-dry skills are; if your ends are frazzled, you won’t get the smooth results your aching arms deserve. Of course, cutting down on heat styling or taking a break from the bleach are the best ways to restore a healthy look and feel to your hair, but for a quick fix, Redken Acidic Perfecting Concentrate Leave-in Treatment can help things along before styling.
“This range ensures clients can ‘have it all’ without the fear of reversible damage,” says Harriet Muldoon, head colorist at Larry King. “The three-step regimen has ten benefits, including strengthening, color protection, and a reduction in the appearance of split ends.” Music to our ears—and our raggedy ends.
12. Best hair styling product for heat protection
Just as you wouldn’t reach for a piping hot dish without oven gloves, leaving your hair unprotected from heat styling won’t do it any favors. “These curling irons can get as hot as the temperature sugar caramelizes at, thus can cause serious damage to your strands,” says trichologist Anabel Kingsley. “When you do heat-style, use a heat protective spray or serum, but keep in mind that heat protective products do not 100% guard your hair from damage, so you still need to be careful.”
Moroccanoil Perfect Defense Heat Protectant is effective at shielding hair from damage without weighing it down and adding a boost of shine.
13. Best hair styling product for taming flyaways
If you’re occasionally frustrated by some fluffy baby hair around your hairline, keeping them in check can feel like a full-time job. Caused by any number of factors, from excess heat styling to regrowth, they can be riled up by humidity and static and can quickly go from adorable to unmanageable without the right product.
Smoothing them down with your hands and a serum or cream can quickly stray into oil-slick territory, so for best results, go slow and sparingly with the help of a bit of styling cream and a toothbrush. Mizani Styling Lived-In Sculpting Paste is just what you need to neaten up edges and perfect a sleek hairline.
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