The world of texturizing products is an expansive one. So expansive, in fact, that no one could be blamed for skipping the category altogether and moving on with one's life. Seriously—it's understandable. But used correctly, a good texture product can make all the difference in styling hair. Some of these right products can eliminate the use of heat tools altogether. Yes, imagine that: life without a blowdryer. It exists, but first you've got to know what you're working with. Below, a run-down of your five basic categories of hair texture products, ranging from pre-styling to post. Results may vary (mostly due to hair type and length) so look in the mirror and be honest because finding what legitimately works for you is worlds better than buying something based on wishful thinking. With that said, let's assess the options:
As has been proven time and time again: beach hair just looks better. Part of that might be attributed to the fact that when you're at the beach, you're happier. Maybe it's also because the beach is the only place frizz looks appropriate. Similar (and less sticky) results can be achieved by salt sprays. Bumble and bumble Surf Spray is the winning contender for best overall texture, but if you really want to feel like you're on the beach, try recently-revived-from-the-dead John Frieda Beach Blonde Sea Waves Sea Salt Spray for its vacation-on-steroids scent (hello, coconut—we can smell you from three rooms away). Use it on damp (not sopping wet) hair and air dry or run a diffuser through hair for something piecey, wavy, and messy (yet still purposeful). If your hair is naturally stick-straight and won't hold a curl, try a curl-enhancing shampoo before, spray in your choice of salt spray, and rope braid your hair into two sections before setting with a blow dryer. Because of the salt, these formulae can be drying, so try and avoid spraying too high up. For root-volume, use in tandem with...
There are two houses (both alike) here: spray and powder. The powders you poof on and comb through, with the effect of (ideally) having your normal-looking non-greasy hair instantly back, maybe with a little fluffiness. A dry shampoo spray takes it further—it’s not about seeming ‘shower fresh’ as much as it is approximating hair that’s not necessarily clean, just not oily. And with Sachajuan Volume Powder, there’s an unmistakable grit to the finish. It’s more about rockstar hair, and not beachy hair or doll hair. Concentrate the spray around your roots, and then give a generous hairspray-style spray all around. You’ll get a slightly waxy, dry feel to your hair—like you rocked the night away and fell asleep backstage. Even if you’re brunette, you’ll be channeling Blondie. But for any color hair, more specifically try AG Hair Care Dry Shampoo in Brunette, Light Brown, Blonde, or Simply Dry.
Gel & Pomade
The most malleable and shapeshifting of texturizing products is the gel/pomade category, though not all were made equal as you'll come to know. For specific curl pattern (think the zig-zag effect braids give you over night) with soft, not crunchy, hold, Bumble and bumble's Gel is a good bet. For the short-haired set, pomade is the way to go to create wind-blown pieces that make a pixie feel more modern and less middle-aged politician. Redken's Move Ability 05 Lightweight Defining Cream Paste ranges in effectiveness from all phases of the grow-out process from pixie to the lob(will never understand that portmanteau and why people can't just say mid-length hair). Think flexible here, never tackiness.
This one's so special, we moved it to another category: Aveda's Brilliant Anti-Humectant Pomade. It's anything but sticky and flexible...actually, it's oily and melts upon contact with fingers, making it a great frizz tamer and texture definer. Coarse, natural, and ultra-curly hair can all benefit from less frizz but tons of definition. The miracle ingredient: castor oil. But if you want to beef up and create curls, go for Kérastase's K Curl Fever. This is a no-frills, curl-defining gel. If you're blessed with curls, apply on damp hair, and go about your day as controlled ringlets take shape. But if you want that '70s bounce and your hair can't hold shape on its own, apply on damp hair and scrunch while blow-drying with a diffuser. The key is to fluff upwards with your hands to get that curl rather than wave.
OK, mousse is more for volume than texture, but if you're thrifty enough, you can find a hack to create fluffy texture—waves or curls—making it one of the more versatile hair products you can use. Fine hair should get closely acquainted with Living Proof's Full Thickening Mousse. Try distributing the product in damp hair and tying it in a bun at the nape of your neck before blasting it with the blow dryer and hello Jessica Rabbit waves. Similarly, curly haired girls know that applying mousse to wet hair acts as well as a gel, but the right one gives a little more softness without sacrificing hold. Aveda Phomollient Styling Foam will take your natural texture from wet to dry while enhancing a style and giving more texture than leaving it alone.
There's a whole host of sins to cover with this one, but the easiest descriptor when it comes to finishing sprays is this: Think of it as a hairspray that you can play around with before it sets. What kind of finishing spray you buy will be dictated by what kind of playing around you're interested in doing. By far the most versatile, Shu Uemura's Texture Wave turns hair into the most moldable substance you've ever played with. On short hair, a few spritzes near the roots can turn a mohawk into an overcomb into novice finger waves, all before going back to something vaguely normal. Longer hair can get instantly scrunched waves. What's more useful is when it takes day-old hair that's all over the place and coaxes it into a style that's tousled but still all in the same area code. Similarly, Redken 05 Windblown can take limp hair and fluff it up in a presentable but still sexy fashion (think of it as a dry shampoo mixed with some of Oribe's Dry Texturizing Spray for grit). Finally there's the product with the name to end all names: Bed Head Queen For A Day Thickening Spray. You can use this one on wet or dry hair, but let's focus on the dry for now—when sprayed at the roots, this stuff defies gravity. Sure, the bottle is less than counter-friendly and it's in-your-face branding might make your nuanced sense of humor sort of ache, but who couldn't use a little pick-me-up every now and again?
Photographed by Tom Newton.