green week

Is There Such a Thing As an ‘Ecofriendly Hair Spray’?

Photo: Evelyn Hofer/Condé Nast

Misting aerosol hair sprays that give your hair a certain stiffness and zhuzh have had a long history of not being good for the environment. In 1970, the U.S. passed the Clean Air Act, which outlawed the CFCs, or chlorofluorocarbons, contained in hair spray. What ended up replacing CFCs though — hydrocarbons and compressed gases — wasn’t that much better: They still contribute to global warming by emitting VOCs (volatile organic compounds) that raise ozone levels at the ground level. If you’re concerned about your carbon footprint, though, there are green alternatives that work.

Suzi of ecoproduct blog GurlGoneGreen — a cosmetologist, aesthetician, and former hairstylist with over 15 years of experience — says that what sets “ecofriendly” green hair sprays apart (“ecofriendly” here generally referring to nonaerosols that don’t contain compressed gases) is that they use more of a pumping mechanism versus a pressurized mist, so you’re less likely to breathe them in. And while they may not have the same hold, “the lack of a propellant gas means it isn’t affecting the environment.” Here, we speak to two green experts on which ones are worth your while.

Because there can be a range of chemicals and synthetics in hair spray that can negatively affect your health, too — like phthalates (one of the “dirty dozen” endocrine disruptors) and methylisothiazolinone, a common fragrance enhancer that’s been associated with skin irritation and even neurotoxicity — Tara Foley, the founder of nontoxic skincare and makeup site Follain, prefers to stick to botanical, organic ingredients. “I personally love the I Create Finish spray by Innersense,” she says. It uses certified organic ingredients like honey, aloe, essential oils, and rooibos tea, with a purified water base, and she says “it leaves hair feeling shiny and supple, while still providing really reliable hold.”

Suzi only has one product that she recommends, this Josh Rosebrook hair spray that relies on essential oils like lavender and rosemary, because she says it’s the only product she’s found that actually works. She’s even used it on clients for their weddings and she says it’s held up perfectly. “I love the smell! There’s no hidden artificial fragrance and no plastics, or carcinogens lurking in the hairspray either. It doesn’t goop up when you spray, and with my hair being fine and thin, this product delivers hold throughout the day, volume, and doesn’t get crunchy.”

For those who just need some added texture year-round, Foley suggests this sea-salt spray that the Cut’s Kathleen Hou considers a dupe for Bumble & Bumble’s cult-y sea-surf spray. “It uses sea salt to give your hair a wind-swept, salt-kissed look while providing hydration with aloe vera, plus it comes in a beautiful glass jar that can be repurposed or recycled,” she says.

And since Suzi stressed the importance of fragrance-free products (the FDA doesn’t require fragrance ingredients to be listed out individually, so she says that could be masking dozens of chemicals), we did our own research to find a well-reviewed hair spray that fits the bill. This one from Free & Clear — a brand that derms recommend a lot — is free of fragrances, sulfates, parabens, preservatives, and phosphate. It’s also highly ranked in the Environmental Working Group’s database (which, if you don’t know about it, breaks down the risk factor of all the ingredients contained in popular cosmetics and consumer products).

Here’s another “volume spray gel” that we would suggest. It’s sourced primarily from botanical ingredients like lavender and rosemary, but uses xanthan gum as a thickening agent and sodium PCA as a natural moisturizer to help you avoid the crunchy feeling. It’s lacking in fragrances, is highly ranked by the EWG, and most important, has great reviews online.

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Is There Such a Thing As an ‘Ecofriendly Hairspray?’