How to pick the best hair styling products? From serums and sprays to creams, lotions and balms there are so many out there that working out what to use and how to use it can feel off-puttingly complicated. But it is worth persisting as along with the best hair dryers the best hair styling products will truly enhance your styling experience, not to mention your finished look.
Another great thing about using the best hair styling products is they can help you achieve the look you want without resorting to hot tools quite as often. The funny thing with hair is only a tiny percentage of women are ‘born with it’ (you know the ones – all effortless shine and swish). As for the rest of us, we work to fake it: Hot irons, sticky sprays, time spent building and backcombing… It’s a battle barely worth the short-lived spoils. So, why not try a kinder approach?
Read on to discover our beauty editor-approved hair products, plus tips from top hairdressing talent. 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.
1. Best hair styling product for smoothness
You’ve seen those shimmering manes in haircare adverts. Common sense says it can’t just be the best shampoo and conditioner, so what’s the secret? Hair health is key (trim off split ends, don’t fry it on the highest dryer heat) and the rest comes down to your cuticles, which need to be smooth and unruffled to reflect light.
I 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 bulk
A-list hairdresser Larry King told me once, “I love mousse – I put it on 90% of people, girls and guys.” 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 guts with none of the crunch. I love EVO Macgyver for serious swish that won’t make you wince every time you touch your hair.
3. Best hair styling product for hold
Blow drying styling products into damp hair adds structure without that gunky feeling of adding them in 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 at fashion weeks 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 realise 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 colour, 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 Colour 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, my other half asked if I’d had my highlights done (and he’s not one to notice these things).
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.
Pureology Clean Volume Shampoo removes build-up and softens hair without weighing it down, then make sure you condition mid-lengths to ends only.
7. Best hair styling product for a drying detox
You know it’s a sensible 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 holidays, 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.”