As soon as sweater season arrives, my wispy fine hair declares war on gravity. Without the slightest provocation, every strand on my head propels itself skyward, like dandelion fluff. To complicate matters, my hair is so fine that most anti-static products make it dull, flat, and greasy-looking. I’ve thus developed a healthy fear of leave-in conditioners and other styling remedies that might otherwise help.
Some scientific background: Static happens when the air gets dry because your hair loses electrons and builds up a positive charge, which in turn makes each individual strand repel the others. In other words, your head looks like a Chia pet because each little hair is trying to put as much distance between itself and its fellow hairs as possible. (Picture two negative magnets repelling each other.) Therefore, the solution is to moisturize your hair so that its charge remains neutral.
Up until now, my No. 1 static-fighting strategy is this: I run to the bathroom, wet my hands at the sink, and dampen my hair. (When I was in middle school, I would sometimes get so desperate that I’d moisten my hands by licking them, which is disgusting. I sincerely hope no one ever witnessed me do this.) I once tried rubbing Bounce dryer sheets on my head, which worked okay, but they’re only a temporary fix and not exactly something you can keep in your purse. Here are some more dignified solutions.
Note: I tested all of these products without knowing their price points, which spared them from my snobbish unfair judgment.
Didn’t help with static, but still made my hair look nice:
T3 Veloce Hair Dryer, $99
All the hair dryers I’ve ever owned have cost less than forty bucks. I’ve tried fancy ones before, and frankly, I don’t see why they’re any better than the kind you find in drugstores (especially considering the price difference). This one definitely felt nicer than the crappy old one I had been using — the weight distribution was more solid, and the stream of air felt stronger and more focused — and while my hair looked shinier afterwards, it was just as static-filled as usual, despite claims that the dryer would somehow "ionize" my hair and make it less static-prone. I still kept using it, though.
Not recommended, at least for static:
Kiehl’s Climate-Proof-Shine-Enhancing Non-Aerosol Spray, $16
The instructions on the bottle encouraged me to spray this into damp hair before and after styling. Maybe this works if you’re letting your hair air-dry, but I sprayed it on before blow-drying, and the results were disastrous. It made my hair clumpy and impossible to brush through, as though I’d used actual hairspray. However, when I sprayed it on my dry, styled hair, it made everything feel a little bit more solid — my ends fell nicely to my shoulders instead of flying all over the place, as usual. The long-term effects were basically the same as a light hairspray, though. As soon as I combed my hair the static sprang back to life.
Denman Grooming Brush, $17.99
I've often heard that these fancy brushes are superior because natural bristles are less prone to static electricity than synthetic ones. However, it worked terribly for me. It flattened my hair to my head at first, clumping everything together, and then when I tried to shake everything out, I wound up looking like Einstein. I tried passing it off to my mom, who has the same type of hair, and she reported the same problem.
Oribe Shine Light Reflecting Spray, $36
Another product that probably works great for people with more hair than me. Even though I was super-careful with the application process, spraying it into my hands and then smoothing it over my dry ends, it made my hair greasy. What’s more, it didn’t help with the static, so my hair was both dirty-looking and flying all over the place.
Recommended with reservations:
Living Proof Restore Targeted Repair Cream, $28
This stuff smells nice, like lemongrass. As usual, I was fearful of putting too much on my freshly shampooed head, so I only used about a pea-sized amount on my damp hair. Post blow-dry, my hair felt really soft and smoother than usual. However, the static-fighting effects didn't last all day: When I went bowling after work that night, my hair took off again.
John Frieda Full Repair Touch-Up Flyaway Tamer, $7.99
This comes in a nifty, purse-friendly little wand, sort of like mascara. But hell if I’m going to glob goo around on my head with a mascara wand, so instead, I just put some on my hands and smoothed it over my dry hair. Pros: It definitely calmed things down a bit, sort of like hair gel. Cons: It was sort of like hair gel, and made the ends a little bit clumpy. It also didn’t last all day, but thanks to its portability, I could do an easy touch-up.
Ted Gibson Hair Sheets, $25 for a pack of ten
These little moist towelettes come individually wrapped, like the wet-naps you get at barbecue restaurants. While I felt weird rubbing my head with what looked like a baby wipe, it did get rid of my hair static and make my hair shinier. I also felt weird throwing out the expensive sheet after just one use, so I folded it up and stuck it back in its wrapper to reuse later, which I wound up having to do because the static crept back by the end of the day.
Oribe Supershine Light Moisturizing Cream, $49
I used just use a tiny bit on the ends of my towel-dried hair after the shower. The smell is a little “salon”-y, but once I blow-dried my hair, it was sleek and static-free. It wasn’t heavy or greasy, either — my strands were soft, shiny, and obedient all day long. Although this one is expensive, the bottle is huge — so big it barely fits in my bathroom cabinet — so you’re getting a lot for your money.
Redken All-Soft Argan 6, $29
This clear goo was almost odorless, which I appreciated. It distributed easily in my wet hair, so much that I thought I’d put too much in, but once I blow-dried my hair it felt soft but otherwise normal and not weighed down in the least. The static-free effect lasted all day, even through a multi-course post-work dinner.
Alterna Bamboo Smooth Kendi Dry Oil Mist, $24
I’m always suspicious of sprays — you just don’t know exactly where the stuff will go when it comes out of the nozzle — so the first time I tried this, I sprayed it on my hands and applied it to the ends of my hair before blow-drying, as instructed. I was worried it would make my hair greasy, but it didn’t at all. Instead, it made my hair incredibly smooth and soft. I later built up the courage to spray the stuff directly on my hair, and appreciated how skimpy the nozzle was — it dispenses just a light mist, not a Super Soaker squirt. My hair felt silky and soft and wonderfully weighty — I could run my fingers through it and toss it around without fear that friction would spawn a mass boycott of gravity on my head. It even stood up to the trickiest test: Over Christmas, I went to my parents’ creaky old house, which is full of clanking, moisture-robbing radiators and wool sweaters. My hair remained swishy, sleek, and obedient throughout.