Skip to Content

4 Great Hairspray Alternatives to Use in 2024

Hairspray might be an iconic symbol of hair care, and it even inspired a musical! But that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with. Hairspray can be downright annoying. Thankfully, there are hairspray alternatives to pursue.

What Is a Hairspray Alternative?

Hairspray’s key feature is creating hold in your hair, freezing a hairstyle in place. In other situations, it can add volume to hair. A hairspray alternative is any product with the same effect, giving hair either hold or volume.

Options include mousses, hair gels, and dry shampoos. You might be wondering: what’s the point of using a hairspray alternative? Isn’t hairspray good enough? Well, despite its glitz and fame, hairspray has some downsides.

These include:

  • The risk of hair breakage
  • Follicle damage
  • Artificial chemicals soaking your hair
  • Environmental impacts because of the aerosols used in hairspray
  • An unsightly appearance that seems sticky and stiff

Luckily, hair science has progressed considerably since the 1950s, and there are many alternatives to using hairspray. Read below to learn about four of the best options.

4 of the Best Hairspray Alternatives

Different hairspray alternatives work better for different situations. However, each option is a reasonable choice, offering a convenient mix of volume and hold.

1. Mousse

Woman applying mousse, one of the best hairspray alternatives, to her hair


The first hairspray alternative on our list is mousse. This substance is neither an antlered mammal nor a chocolaty dessert but a lightweight foam styler. The main benefit of mousse is that it can keep your hair in place without making it heavy or sticky, as hairspray does.

In addition, since the foam doesn’t suck moisture out of the hair, it avoids any risk of drying out the scalp, which would make your hair brittle and damaged.

In addition, for those among us who want to incorporate a degree of environmental consciousness into our hair routines, mousse is a much stronger choice for Mother Earth since it is not an aerosol. Although they can still produce some waste, the lack of aerosol means they produce far less.

Mousse is the suitable hairspray alternative for you if you’re looking for a loose, textured hairstyle and want volume; this is especially the case for those with wavy hair and loose curls since it can offer hold without weighing down the hair.

Apply mousse to wet hair to maximize its hold. Start conservative — there is nothing worse than having a goopy mess when you use too much mousse.

Do this by using a little hairspray and then building up the product. When you are finished, if you feel your hair needs more volume, you can blast it with a blow dryer to add dimensionality and pinche. 

2. Hair Gel

Woman applying hair gel, one of the best hairspray alternatives, to her finger to apply to her hair


Another strong hairspray alternative is hair gel. This miraculous substance dispenses with the can structure altogether, instead coming in bottles and emerging from its home as a clear, sticky goop, which tends to dry slightly crunchy.

Different gels produce different levels of hold. Some offer only a light hold, while others provide a strong level of hold. Others offer some level in between, allowing you to experiment and select the best gel for you. Although hair gel might seem most notable in greaser films, it remains useful for modern hairstyles.

In particular, hair gel can produce either slicked, structured hair looks or creates “casts” for hair texture. In the former situation, hair gel can give a well-defined, structured hair look that retains its shape even as you move your head around.

The latter is more common for those with more intensely curly hair. For such hair types, it is often best to apply gel to wet hair so that curls will gain definition. This step offers a significant benefit over hairspray.

While hairspray leaves hair sticky until you wash it out, hair gel can easily be broken and reincorporated into soft hair. People with curls like to use gel on wet hair so their curls will dry in more defined shapes.

Then, scrunch the crunchy cast out of their curls once their hair is dry. This method is beneficial compared to hairspray: with hairspray, your hair is sticky the whole time, but with hair gel, it is pretty easy to break open the gel cast when dry. 

3. Pomade

Guy using pomade on his finger for a piece on the best hairspray alternatives


The next item on our list is pomade. It was made famous in films like the Coen Brothers’ O Brother Where Art Thou, but pomade has been a staple of hairstyling for hundreds of years. Pomade has a unique texture, akin to an oily, greasy version of styling cream.

The best analogy we can think of, in terms of texture, is lard. But do not let that gristly comparison fool you: pomade is an excellent way to style hair. In particular, pomade is a good hairspray alternative for short hair, as it can create a light and reliable hold on slicked back or shaped short hairstyles.

This product benefits those who want to get their feathered bangs or boy band heartthrob swoop just right. Jokes aside, pomade is an ideal replacement for hairspray when you want to smooth out frizzy hair or style short hair.

Although the texture is greasy and sticky, this effect is not visibly apparent and becomes subtle as you work it into your hair. Additionally, it is far better for hair than hairspray. Some pomades even have nourishing ingredients!

4. Dry Shampoo

Woman using dry shampoo as a hairspray alternative in a pink room

New Africa/Shutterstock

Dry shampoo has grown considerably in popularity over the last several years due to its convenience and scientific wonderment. This marvel of modern cosmetology usually comes in a spray bottle and works by absorbing oil and moisture on the scalp.

Besides cleaning hair of dirt and grease, this process makes the hair roots less weighed down, which makes it a low-maintenance tool for volumizing a luminous mane of hair.

Additionally, dry shampoo has a leg up over hairspray in terms of texture. While hairspray can create sticky, straw-like hair, using dry shampoo leaves the hair with its natural texture in place. On top of that, dry shampoo dries and cleanses the scalp rather than adding more grease, as hairspray does.

That said, dry shampoo has downsides, depending on your needs. For one, it does not create any hold. While it can make hair larger, it cannot hold hairstyles in place or add definition to curls.

You Might Also Like:

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about hairspray and hairspray alternatives. 

How can I keep my hair in place without hairspray?

If you want synthetic substances to keep your hair in place without hairspray, then your best bets are mousse, hair gel, pomade, or dry shampoo. That said, each of these products has different strengths and drawbacks for different hair needs and textures, so review them carefully before investing in one.

Is mousse better than hairspray?

While there is no objective answer about whether mousse or hairspray is better, there are many reasons why people prefer mousse. For one, it volumizes and defines hair without making it sticky or matted, as hairspray does. In addition, mousse is a far better choice for the environment since it is a foam-based product, not a harmful aerosol like hairspray.

How do I get my hair to hold a style?

To ensure that your hair holds your style, select a product that locks hair in place without damaging it. Hairspray is the traditional option, but it can dry out and damage your hair; far better options include mousse, hair gel, and pomade, which allow you to sculpt your hair into a firm shape or cast that retains its shape for the rest of the day.

How can I add volume to my hair?

If you want to add volume to your hair, you have a wide variety of resources at your disposal. For one, consider grabbing a moisturizing conditioner designed to add volumizing proteins to your hair. Additionally, when it comes to post-shower styling, select a hairspray alternative that supports your hair’s roots, such as mousse or dry shampoo.

Does gel dry out hair?

Hair gel can dry out the hair. This most often occurs when hair gel is not distributed sufficiently throughout the scalp, but long-term gel use can dehydrate your hair and cause tough-to-handle frizz. That said, you can avoid this problem by taking long breaks in-between gel use. If you are using hair gel every single day, you need to tamp it back.

So, Are Hairspray Alternatives Worth it?

Overall, the evidence overwhelmingly suggests that hairspray alternatives are worthwhile. Whether you use mousse, hair gel, pomade, dry shampoo, or an alternative option not listed here, your hair will most likely look healthier and more stylish.

And let’s not forget that you will still be able to keep your well-sculped ‘do in place. The final note is that these hairspray alternatives are far more versatile. While hairspray is limited in its application, you can use the four products above in a wider variety of contexts.

As a result, they are a better investment for your long-term hair styling journey and serve as an excellent way to encourage yourself to experiment with different looks. Happy styling!