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Work It! Learning To Use Styling Products Like A Pro


A few weeks ago I impulsively wandered into a large beauty supply boutique in North Dallas. I had decided to dump my goody-two-shoes image for a more twisted “temporary dreads” type of style. Little did I suspect that I was stepping into a product vortex that would make my head spin off.

As I wondered through endless rows of products with names like Beyond The Zone Stiff Head, got2b full of yourself and Hair Candy, I became disoriented. I had no idea what hair planet I had landed on.

The boutique manager offered assistance. Suggesting that I select a special mousse to coax my waves into soft dread-like twists, she proceeded to pepper me with probing questions. Did I prefer a light, medium or heavy mousse? Should the product be with or without shine? How did I feel about UV protectors, color enhancers and glitter? Huh?

When my mousse quest become unbearable I switched my attention to a row of molding products. Instead of worrying about color enhancing mousses I was now faced with a whole new menu of options. Did I want molding crme, molding mud, spray mud or mud wax?

Surviving The Hair Product Jungle

In the popular movie, Something About Mary, Cameron Diaz forever changed the image of hair gel when she slicked back her do with something that was definitely not hair gel. For mere hair mortals, the reality of choosing the right styling product can be much more traumatic then even Mary’s gel experiences.

What is the best way to find a great styling product for your hair and look? Luckily there are some simple rules of styling product selection that can help you survive your trip through the hair finishing gamut.

1. Understand your hair’s primary styling goals. Do you desire enhanced volume or is your mission stick straight sleek tresses full of shine? Is special control, color hold or other protection a priority or not?

2. Are you willing to “layer” styling products? Do you prefer the biggest bang for your styling buck by buying a one-stop solution?

3. Clarify the method of product delivery you prefer. Most products come in a variety of formulas from solid to liquid and spray.

4. Trying to select a styling product without prior knowledge of the various lines and their capabilities can be daunting. When in doubt ask the help of your favorite hair expert.

Product Maps

Although manufacturers try to dazzle us with slick marketing labels, most hair styling products are designed with one of the following goals:

  • Add volume and body - mousse and/or volumizing gel or spray.
  • Define existing texture and/or add new texture – balm, cream, wax, paste, pomade.
  • Soften, loosen and straighten natural curls, waves and kinks - straightening balm.
  • Block humidity and other environmental factors – pomades and balms.
  • Add gloss and shine – balm, glossers, shine serum, grease.
  • Provide varying levels of hold from soft to super hard hair spray, finishing spray, freezing spray, spiking glues.
  • Control fly-a-ways and static – wax, pomades, finishing sprays.

It is important to remember that not all products will work as well on all types of hair textures. While thin, fine hair will often benefit from volumizing gels, sprays and mousses, thick or heavy textured hair may not. Keep your hair texture and type in mind when you select your styling products. When possible select styling products that are alcohol free.

Product Definitions

Styling products come in a dizzying array of application options. Whether you prefer solid, liquid or spray, there is a solution for just about any hair finishing dilemma. Before you purchase a product consider your goals and select products that meet your criteria.


Used to create, manage and style uncontrollable textures, hair balm often comes packaged as a thick form of gel. Balm can be applied to wet or dry hair depending on the ultimate styling goal. Some balms are specifically designed to smooth frizzy hair. (Phytodefrisant, Phytospecific Moisturizing Balm, got2b - Glossy™ Anti-Frizz Shine Serum, Paves Professional - FLAWless Straight and Narrow Repairing Relaxing Balm For Dry Damaged Hair). Others are designed to enhance curls or to straighten waves, kinks and curls. (got2b - SoSmooth - Creme Straightener, Robert Hallowell Prawduct - the flat factor).


Run a little moisturizing lightweight gel through the length of your wet hair to relax natural curls and create an instant beach babe look. For a wet look with lift, coat dry hair with gel and wear au natural. If you prefer, crank it up with hot styling tools. Most gels are multi-dimensional, working well to relax, sculpt, mold, freeze and scrunch all types of textures from fine to medium, straight to wavy. Whether you select gel in a tube, jar or spray form, beware of overuse. (Phytoplage - Moisturizing After-Sun Styling Gel, got2b - Spiked Up Max-Control Styling Gel, Phytoplage - Protective Styling Gel with Galanga Extract, Robert Hallowell Prawduct - rawhold gel).

Some gels are specifically designed to be anti-sticky or firm (Phytofix Setting Gel, Paves Professional - FLAWless Star Power Firm Hold Repairing Styling Gel For Dry Damaged Hair).

Molding Muds are often a form of a gel that is thick and heavy and used to define small areas like curls or spikes. Gels may be designed for specific styling needs such as volume gels. (Mine's Mr. Bond Hold & Shine Gel, Goldwell Definition Style & Shine Gel).


Just a little dab goes a long way. Used to prevent hair from drying out, too much can result in oil slicks. Grease can be applied to either wet or dry hair for a wet look. Groom & Clean, Alberto VO5 Conditioning Hairdressing).

Hair Sprays: Finishing, Freezing Or Traditional

Although hair spray has been around for many years, it has evolved dramatically. The days of the garish colored hairspray cans have vanished forever. Current hairspray products range from a light holding formulas for natural movement (Phytolaque Hair Spray, Giovanni LA Hold Hair) to strong (PhytoPro - Strong Finishing Spray, Paves Professional - FLAWless Convertible-Proof Firm Hold Repairing Hair Spray for Dry Damaged Hair) and super helmet head molding spray formulas for rigid hold (got2b In Control Hard-Hold Hairspray). Non-aerosol, non-alcoholic and aromatherapy infused formulas are always hot options for some.

Hairspray with medium hold strength (Phytolaque Soie Hair Spray Medium Hold) that is used on styles to maintain shape and hold is often defined as finishing spray.

Freezing sprays provide the firmest possible hold as if the style was frozen in time. (got2b Glued Spiking Freeze Spray Aerosol) These products work best on extreme styles and provide perfect hold within seconds.

Use any of the spray products to set and hold your style in place. Most products include shine enhancement and SPF protection.


As Mel Gibson discovered in the movie, What Women Want, mousse can be used on wet or dry hair to enhance volume (Phytostyle Volumizing Mousse) texture, movement and shine (Phytostyle Volumizing Mousse, Paves Professional - FLAWless Red Carpet Firm Hold Repairing Styling Mousse For Dry Damaged Hair, Giovanni Natural Mousse).

In general mousse products are a great option for most hair types including naturally curly (Phytocurl Curl Defining Spray, got2b Kinky Curl Defining Mousse) or wavy hair and thinning hair. Mousse is available in a wide range of formulas from very light to extra firm hold and easily crafts a natural and soft style. Non-sticky, mousse allows for easy re-styling from day to evening looks.

A popular evolution of mousse is the gel-mousse products (got2B Full Of Yourself Mousse) which combine the benefits of both gel and mousse into one formula.


A softer version of wax, paste provides texture, flexibility and long lasting shine. Paste can be reworked throughout the day for convertible styles. (Redken Rewind Styling Paste, L’Oreal TecNi.Art Head Clay).

Pomades, Glossers, Shine Serums

This styling family consists of pomades, glossers and shine serum products. Products designed to promote shine tend to be less concentrated than pomades and glossers. Shine enhancers, glossers and pomades block frizzies, promote smoothness and add shine. Glossers and shine serums, unlike pomades, are available in both liquid and spray-on versions (got2b Dazzling Shine Spray, PhytoLisse, Robert Hallowell Prawduct - love that shine drops, Robert Hallowell Prawduct - love that shine spray, Giovanni - Frizz Be Gone, got2b - SoSmooth - Smoothing Serum Anti-Frizz Treatment).

Shine enhancers are often based upon silicone oils that act as emollients sealing the hair cuticle, blocking static electricity and protecting the shaft from damage. Shine products are beneficial for coarse or chemically treated hair. (got2b - SoSmooth - Liquid Shine Shine Spray).

Pomades are thicker and more natural than wax and tend to be greasier than many styling formulas. Usually available in either humectant or anti-humectant options they are perfect for creating soft slicked back looks. (got2b - Defiant Shine Pomade, got2b - SoSmooth - Style It Smooth - Shine Pomade). Most beneficial for thick and curly hair that needs extra hold and protection against frizziness. .

Spiking Glue

These products are actually glue for your strands. It will help to create deadly spikes when the cut is short enough and designed around a spiking style. got2B is a pioneer in this arena and offers the hardest styling hold possible. (got2b - Color Heads™ - Colored Spiking Styling Glue , got2b - Rubber Spiking Cement, got2b - Glued - Styling Spiking Glue, got2b - Glued - Styling Spiking Glue, got2b - Glued - Styling Spiking Spray)

Volume Enhancing Formulas

Products in this family are designed to add body and volume. They are usually applied to the root area and work in conjunction with hot styling appliances. Excellent for thin, fine and straight hair, these products are also known as thickening formulas and may be gels, creams or sprays. Lighter hold than most standard gel and mousse products. (Phytovolume Actif, KuscoMurphy Setting Lotion, PhytoVolume Actif volumizing spray, got2B Full Of Yourself Mousse, Robert Hallowell Prawduct - super volumizing tonic).


Twist, scrunch and shape hair with waxes designed for "spot styling". Wax is often applied to the ends of razored, choppy styles for separation, texture and shine. Waxes may also be used at the roots to add texture and volume. Wax offers an overall harder, stiffer finish. (got2B Roughed Up Spray Wax Pomade, Mine, Yours-Detail Wax).


Seek and you shall find the best styling products for your hair. Whenever possible ask your stylist for detailed recommendations on manufacturers. Explain your styling goals and take lots of notes.

Besides the products that are listed above, there are additional styling products with names like hair polish, sculpting liquid, curl enhancer and straightening serum. These products do everything from deal with control static cling and camouflage split ends to provide volume and curl control.

If you want to talk more about this or other hair care articles on or anywhere else, please post a message on's Hair Talk Forums.

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