Product labels are all about intent: A smoothing balm is supposed to calm flyaways; texturizing sprays are formulated to add grit; shine serums, well, add shine. But sometimes, the best results come when you use a product off-label—and a genius hack is born.
Apply that idea to everyone’s favorite hair product: salt spray. If you have fine, thin, or majorly fried hair that won’t hold a curl (hi, that’s me), the entire genre may leave your hair less Victoria’s-Secret-model-on-a-beach, and more crunchy-mess-reminiscent-of-the-early-aughts. But instead of forfeiting my dreams of effortless waves, I got creative. Ahead, the totally-not-intended-for-beachy-hair sprays that work for finicky hair—or anyone that loathes the dryness a salt spray can impart. You might not get to Gisele hair the way the rest of the world does, but by god, you’ll get there.
For the fine-haired girl, there’s nothing sadder than the dreaded inverted triangle head: flat on the roots, bushy at the bottom. Beachiness means volume throughout, so let’s take it from the top. Start with a volume spray that you don’t have to round-brush and blow-dry into oblivion to get it to work.
It can take a leap of faith to spray anything on already-limp roots that tend to wilt and die with moisture, but trust: This mist lends just enough lift and smoothness (it’s super anti-frizz-y) to complement whatever comes next.
VERB Volume Spray, $14; at Sephora
One of the only cream formulas that actually plumps up the root, this lifting is somewhat thick and adds a tiny, manageable amount of grit—rather than slip— to the roots.
Tresemme Max The Volume Root Lifting Cream, $6.99; at Ulta
A texturzing spray is generally different than a salt spray in that—you guessed it—there’s no salt. Look for one that says “finish spray,” since they generally offer a bit more hold. That way, you’re not dousing your hair in a drying product, which is probably what turned you off from salt sprays in the first place.
This translucent, totally-non-sticky spray mists like a can of Ellnet without the terrible (or, if you’re a fan, amazing) scent. It’s a godsend for thin, flat hair that can’t hold a wave thanks to the grit it lends.
Bumble and bumble Thickening Dryspun Finish, $31; at Birchbox
There's nothing worse than a hairspray that makes your hair sticky—or worse, hard. This fine dry texture mist, which feels a lot like a hairspray but without the crunch, gives hair a nice bend with enough hold that won't go stiff. Flip your head over, give it a couple sprays while you scrunch and tousle, and you're good to go. If you're hair is super straight, apply this to almost-dry hair, braid it, and then get to zhuzhing.
Garnier Fructis Style De-Constructed Texture Tease Dry Touch Finish Spray, $3.43; at Drugstore.com
This may sound counterintuitive to beach hair, but if your strands are prone to crimp and crinkle with a little moisture, try working with moisture instead of salt.
Jen Atkin’s Insta-famous line was made for bendy, undone waves, and this spray—which relies on rice proteins rather than sodium—imparts the same unfussy look Khloe Kardashian’s been wearing lately. For hair that’s thin or already a bit wavy, a few spritzes and a bit of scrunching’ll do the trick. If your hair is thicker or super-curl-resistant, section off your outer-most layer of hair, and generously spritz this on the bottom layers for some extra grit and body—either scrunching as you go, or twisting it up into a loose chignon while the product dries. Do the same on the outer-most layer, tousle, and try to resist staring at your reflection for the next eight hours or so.
OUAI Wave Spray, $26; at OUAI
Yes, this is a kids’ product. And yes, it’ll look, well, out of place on your vanity. We’re deep into off-road beauty territory here, but spray this on from mid-lengths to ends, twist your hair into a bun or a braid, hit the blow-dryer for 15 seconds or so, and your hair will unravel into shiny, hydrated, piece-y waves that you can still run a hand through, if you’re into that sort of thing.
So Cozy Cinch Detangler and Leave-In Conditioner, $11.95; at So Cozy