Does Hailey Bieber's Sugar Setting Spray Really Work? We Asked a Top Hairstylist

Sugary, simple, seriously effective.

hailey bieber


They say you learn something new every day, and when it comes to beauty, class is almost always in session on Hailey Bieber's social media. The model is fond of sharing her favorite products, application techniques, and assorted tips and tricks to her millions of followers on Instagram and YouTube. And, when a coterie of famous beauty gurus joins her, her videos and tutorials become even more of a master lesson with the very best in the world. 

In a video on her YouTube channel, Bieber takes us through a firsthand account of what it's really like to get ready for a red carpet appearance. Flanked by longtime stylist Maeve Reilly, makeup artist Denika Bedrossian, and celebrity hairstylist/OUAI founder (and honorary Kardashian) Jen Atkin, we caught a glimpse at the paparazzi-proof hair, makeup, and styling techniques typically reserved for the A-list.

The Pro Tip

One tip from Atkin, in particular, caught our attention, thanks to its vintage roots and DIY formula: For maximum hair hold, she likes to mix sugar with water and spritz it all over her client’s head. To find out if Atkin’s old-school hair tip really works, we turned to one of the industry’s top stylists. Read on for her expert take on the DIY hack.

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The Hairspray Alternative

In the video, Atkin says the technique, which should be applied to damp hair, is an old-school trick used by housewives in the 1950s. She's not wrong—a sugar-water blend has long been touted as an alternative to traditional hairsprays, used by housewives and pros alike. Many people still consider the spray to be a more natural (and gentler) solution to keep hair in its desired shape, and it’s also used by some to obtain beach waves in lieu of moisture-leaching saltwater.

As lifelong learners at Byrdie—especially when it comes to a simple DIY beauty hack—we were instantly intrigued. So we did what any good student would do when presented with potentially game-changing information: We dug deeper.

The Proof it Works

To corroborate these sugary-sweet claims, we tapped Sally Hershberger herself, the pro of all pros, to get her supremely expert take on the all-natural hairspray alternative. "I've used this tip in the past," Hershberger tells Byrdie exclusively. "It adds texture without being overly heavy on the hair.” Though she says the trick is a solid one, she also warns that sugar can cause buildup—not unlike other styling agents—and weigh down individual strands as well as roots.

If sugar isn't quite your thing (I’m more of a savory gal myself), Hershberger says there are plenty of setting techniques that will provide a similar hold without playing kitchen chemist. 

If You're Not Into DIY

She explains that setting hair for time-resistant styling is all about the foundation, and adding texture, grip, and hold. Her go-to routine for maximum style longevity? "Start with a mousse, like the 24K Supreme Body Volumizing Mousse ($32), on damp hair. Blow it out, and then style and seal in the look with a texturizing paste—my favorite is the 24K Superiority Complex Texturizing Paste ($40). This will keep a style set for hours.” 

But if quarantine projects and crafts taught us anything, it's that few things feel better than truly nailing a DIY hack—bonus points if it's something that cost nothing, too. Once you've mastered mixing your own sugar spray, Hershberger has your next at-home beauty concoction ready to go. To smooth, she suggests applying a pea-sized amount of hand lotion to hair from the mid-shaft down, tugging strands lightly as you go to encourage smoothness. "Just avoid the roots, as it can add weight and cause hair to look and feel greasy,” she explains.

The Bottom Line

So there you have it: One sugary, celeb-and-expert-approved tip you can probably whip up in less time than it takes to refresh a Twitter feed. Constant candy cravings, however, are all but a guaranteed side effect.

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