Styling products for volume can be generally categorized into three categories by their key holding polymers. All three have different unique benefits in the styling process:
Water-based styling polymers are delivered to the hair as a film that dries relatively slowly. As the film dries it becomes sticky and forms bonds between hair strands, making the desired style easier to achieve and maintain. As with gels, this stickiness leads to a positive end result - a smooth style that lasts. After the hair is dry, the polymer forms a hard film that bonds the hair into place. Combing or disrupting the hair can break the bond, but even the broken pieces provide some friction, which provides some hold benefits by helping to prevent hair strands from sliding across each other.
Gels are water-based products that use water based polymers with a variety of thickeners to achieve the desired product consistency and texture. Because of their thickness they are particularly good for creating seam welds that increase apparent hair stiffness and give a texturized look and great root lift.
Mousses & Foams
Mousses and foams use a propellant (pressurized gas) and a surfactant in addition to water-soluble styling polymers to help create a smooth, creamy foam. When you shake the can, liquid propellant is mixed with the water based liquid concentrate. Then, when the can is inverted and product is dispensed, the pressure of the vapor propellant pushes the mixture of liquid propellant and liquid concentrate out of the can. The liquid propellant then quickly evaporates, creating foam. The mousse foam makes it easy to apply the styling polymers to your hair because in the foaming state it can be spread very thinly.
Dianna's Science Advice:
Mousses and foams are great for long hair that would otherwise be weighed down by large clumps of polymer. Another benefit of mousse is that its foamy state is not runny and thus will stay where you put it - making it another good alternative for adding root lift to a straight style.
They primarily hold hair through seam welds creating large locks of many hairs bonded together. The result is hair that stands up from the scalp in large chunks, creating a piece-y, texturized look. The holding power is created by the waxy materials' internal stickiness or cohesiveness. The waxy materials do not "dry" because they are not water-soluble. Thus these bond don't become rigid over time. The positive benefits of not drying means that the bonds can be easily remolded by running your hands through your hair over time.
- Waxes & Pomades
Waxes and pomades are the ultimate flexible styling products and can give great root lift. But be careful - they are potentially heavy and greasy if not used in the proper quantity. They are typically water and oil emulsions that combine water-soluble polymers with waxy ingredients. They are best used on very short hairstyles and create texture for a piece-y, chunky look. If they are not formulated well, they can be difficult to wash out of hair since they are water repellent. Use of a clarifying or purifying shampoo is recommended with waxes.
- Danilo's Style Advice:
Use your knuckle to scoop the wax out the jar to avoid getting it under your fingernails.
Alcohol-based styling polymers are delivered to the hair in a solution of polymer and alcohol that dries very quickly. The rate of drying is much faster than that for water-based styling products because alcohol evaporates much faster than water. As the alcohol evaporates the film dries, forming bonds between hair strands, welding the hairs together in the desired style. A fast drying rate makes alcohol-based stylers perfect for locking in finished styles because they do not rewet the hair.
Alcohol-based polymers are typically much more humidity resistant than water-based polymers. That is because alcohol-based polymers require surfactant, like shampoo, to make them soluble in water. Thus the water available via high humidity does not soften or loosen hairspray bonds.
- Hairspray is the most common alcohol-based styler. Hairspray is a solution of polymer in a mixture of alcohol and water that is sprayed on the hair in small droplets. The droplets are formed when the liquid is forced through a tiny pinhole in the nozzle of the can. In aerosol hairsprays, the force is supplied by pressurized gas called propellant. In non-aerosols, the force is supplied via mechanical action of pumping the nozzle. Typically, aerosol propellants provide more force than mechanical pumping, resulting in smaller droplet sizes. Smaller droplets dry faster, giving aerosol hairspray a "drier" feeling than non-aerosol hairspray.
- It's a myth that alcohol in hairspray dries out your hair. First, you don't soak your hair in hairspray; you only apply a very small amount. Second, the alcohol evaporates away very quickly, without getting a chance to penetrate your hair or pulling out any water.
- Did you know? Hairspray droplets range in size from 30-40 microns for aerosols and 45-55 microns for non-aerosols.