I've always had a love-hate relationship with my hair. Blame it on its limp texture, its perpetual propensity for split ends, or my lack of styling ability, but I've always felt rather underwhelmed about it. That is up until about a year ago, when I started paying it some special attention. I started using a new shampoo and conditioner, namely OGX Thick & Full Biotin and Collagen Shampoo ($6) and Sachajuan Moisturizing Conditioner ($29). On my no-wash days, I would apply a dollop of Sans[ceuticals] Nourishing Hair Hydratant Ultra ($28) to my mid-lengths and ends, and then I kept an occasional appointment with a DIY coconut oil hair mask.
Nonetheless, I have to keep a strict watch on which products I use, especially when it comes to hair spray. It's such a drying styling product, mostly thanks to its main ingredient: alcohol. Even a single spritz can leech the hydration out of my hair in 10 seconds flat. That's why I've foregone the use of curling irons and complicated updos for so long—they're just not worth the subsequent hair damage. If I had only known about alcohol-free hair spray sooner. It's so much less damaging to my hair.
Since alcohol is one of the main ingredients in traditional formulations, their alcohol-free counterparts are few and far between, but rest assured they're out there—you just have to do your research. So consider this my PSA. If your hair is colored, damaged, or naturally dry, try subbing out your current hair spray with one of these. You might notice a big difference like I did.
This product is lauded as "the first professional alcohol-free hairspray." It allows the hair to maintain its moisture levels while offering extra-firm hold. Plus, it dries down to a shiny finish, which makes the hair look healthier. It's one of my all-time favorites.
This budget-friendly pick has an ultra-fine mist applicator that makes it easy to apply without oversaturating your hair. By the way, is there anything worse than that? You finish styling your hair, it's just how you want it, and then you accidentally drench your hair in hair spray, and you're walking around with hair that has a texture equivalent to straw. If that sounds like you, you'll like this one.
If your hair requires an extra-strong hold to keep styles in place, then this Pantene product might do the trick. Although it can feel a little sticky if you spray more than a spritz or two, it's super effective.
This is another budget-friendly pick (and it's only $5!). Who knew that the drugstore had so many alcohol-free hair sprays? It's definitely surprising considering that there are still so many professional brands that don't offer alcohol-free options.
This alcohol-free hair spray has aloe, antioxidants, and extracts of sea kelp to treat hair and keep it soft and smooth. It's my favorite everyday hair spray that I use when I need a light-to-medium hold and a flexible finish.
If you love big, voluminous hair, you might be a little hesitant to switch out your beloved hair spray for an alcohol-free version—but don't be. This formula is just as good as the classic and dries down nearly as fast. This spray even goes one step further than most and offers long-lasting humidity protection.
When you think of hair spray, botanical ingredients might not be the first to come to mind, but this non-aerosol and non-alcohol hair spray isn't like the rest. Aloe, chamomile, rosemary, and lavender are just a few of the natural ingredients that make up this vegan, strong-hold formula.
Although the spray pump can take a little getting used to if you're partial to the continual spray bottles, this product works especially well for wetting a small brush or comb to smooth down flyaways and rogue strands.
If hold isn't all you're looking for in your styling products, this multi-use spray might do the trick (or rather, all the tricks). With ingredients like jojoba seed oil, vitamin E, safflower seed oil, and lemongrass extract, this spray can be used to protect against damage, add shine, and nourish hair strands.
To summarize, alcohol in hair spray isn't inherently harmful, but it can do a number on your hair's moisture and nutrient levels, which is why some people (myself included) prefer to use alcohol-free formulas. If you're looking to take alcohol out of all of your haircare products, read up on our favorite alcohol-free shampoos next. We've even listed the specific types of alcohol you should avoid (spoiler: there are quite a few).