The 12 Best Drugstore Hairsprays for Tight (But Not Uptight) Hairstyles

Celebrity stylists swear by these long-lasting sprays.

a model having her hair hairsprayed backstage at fashion week
(Image credit: Getty Images)

While Dolly Parton's "the higher the hair, the closer to God" quote is catchy, I'm sure she'd agree with the beauty editor take as well: The higher the hair, the harder the best hairspray is working.

Hairspray has locked styles into place for a long time—since the twentieth century, in fact. Back then, some clever folks would concoct sugar-water mixtures to keep their hairstyles still. Then came shellac-based solutions and the eventual introduction of aerosol sprays (and with them, environmental concerns).

Nowadays, getting your hairstyle to stay put is as easy as running to your closest CVS or Walgreens for a can of the best drugstore hairspray. The everyday options stocked there will not only provide flexible hold, celebrity hairstylist Julius Michael tells Marie Claire, "but they also help fight off humidity, some add volume, and most importantly, give a natural-looking shine." Master stylist Yvey Valcin relies on his as a finishing product, “to set the style or to add a little bit of texture or grit."

If you've yet to find a drugstore hairspray you love, fear not: hairstylist Katelyn Ellsworth promises the aisles include a spray or aerosol that could change your hair game for good. "I recommend trying a few sprays until you find something you love and something that works perfectly for your hair type," she says. "Ask yourself questions to determine your hair goal: Do you want a strong-feeling hairspray or do you want a weightless-feeling product that just helps the style stay all day?"

Whichever answers you land on, the best drugstore hairsprays are affordably up to the task. Keep scrolling to discover the best versions according to stylists who've rigorously tested them with clients first.

The Best Drugstore Hairsprays

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What to Look For In a Hairspray

  • Hold: Hairsprays come with varying levels of strength and hold, likely your biggest determining factors when deciding which one to try. "If you want a touchable, brushable finish, then a light-to-medium hold hairspray is the one for you!" shares hairstylist Jamee Mahmood. "If you want a locked-in style, go for a [strong hold] long-lasting hairspray. Choosing the right weight of hairspray for your specific hair and styling goals will ultimately give you your desired results."
  • Hair type: Your hair type has a lot of say in which hairspray will work best for you. "A good rule of thumb is that the thinner and finer your hair is, usually a light or medium hold will do the trick. With thicker hair you will usually need (and can withstand) a stronger hold hairspray," notes Ellsworth. Michael adds that those with fine hair probably want to look for a hairspray with volume. "For chemically treated hair, you’ll choose something that’s paraben and sulfate-free. For beach waves, curls, or loose, sexy blowouts, I love using a heat-activated hairspray."
  • Product type: Before grabbing a hairspray off the shelf, it's important to know what exactly it was made to do. "Not all hairsprays are created equal!" shares Paula Peralta, hairstylist and artistic director of heritage haircare brand John Paul Mitchell Systems. "There are working hairsprays and finishing hairsprays. A working spray builds texture and memory into the hair as you’re styling and a finishing spray is designed to add polish or protect hair from environmental issues, like humidity."
  • Scent: Scent plays a major role in hairspray; even the "unscented" versions often have some sort of smell going on. If you're sensitive to smell or picky in any way, make sure you know what you're in for—and that you can handle a lingering scent—when picking out your product.

How Hairspray Affects Your Hair

From childhood dance recitals to adult Halloween costumes, using hairspray at some point in your life is inevitable. With that, it's important to know how your hair is affected.

“Hairspray has been around since before we can even remember. There’s always been a way to control hair. But think about anything you try to control without having some type of flexibility: you’re subject to damaging that thing over time," Valcin says. If you're aware of the downsides, the stylist says it's not the worst product to apply to your hair. "But if you don’t know, it could be the worst thing you put in your hair."

Hairsprays are formulated with alcohol that soaks up the natural oils your scalp produces. That results in greasy, brittle hair that's subject to breakage, Valcin explains. As we know, hairsprays have alcohol in them. If your hair doesn’t have moisture, that alcohol will soak up the natural oil that your scalp produces. It will make the hair very greasy and very brittle, and the hair might be subject to breaking."

Before you apply your hairspray, make sure your hair is moisturized and happy. (Products like leave-in drugstore conditioners can help.) When you start from a positive space, after effects such as frizz and breakage won't be nearly as intense.

A post shared by Julius Michael

A photo posted by juliusmichael1 on

How to Use Hairspray

Hairspray can hold anything from slicked-back ponytails to loose, sexy blowouts. Before you spray, you're going to want to shake your product up. Then, hold the can (or bottle) anywhere from six to eight inches away from your strands and spray away.

"One of my favorite tips is to spray the section of hair with hairspray before you curl the hair," adds Peralta. "My go-to is Paul Mitchell Extra-Body Firm Finishing Spray because it’s humidity resistant and provides maximum volume with flexible hold. Spray a light mist on the section, comb through and then curl with your favorite curling iron. The style will last all day!"

Another tip, courtesy of Ellsworth: "When trying to get rid of flyaways, add hairspray to your brush and slightly brush over them. This will tame those flyaways and keep your hair looking clean!"

How to Remove Hairspray

There will come a time when your style needs to bid adieu. At that moment, it's best to treat your hair well.

"To remove hairspray from your hair, it would be good to use a moisturizing shampoo or a shampoo that’s oil-based," Valcin shares. "The moisture will break down the alcohol and it’ll be easy to wash away. Or, put a little bit of argan oil or Moroccan oil on your hands and run them through your hair. You can soften your hair by removing the alcohol, and then wash it."

Meet the Experts

Yvey Valcin headshot
Yvey Valcin

Yvey Valcin is a celebrated Master Stylist and Founder of Yvey Salon. Known for his superior cutting technique and unique gift for uncovering the individual beauty within his clients, Yvey has styled top editorial and fashion events such as New York and Paris Fashion Week and was one the highest rated stylist at the flagship Gene Juarez salon in SeattleHis passion for hair extended his training to the most respected names in the beauty industry including: Jacques Dessange Paris, Raffel Pages Barcelona, La Biosthetique Canada, and Bumble and Bumble New York. The combination of his passion and technical skills enables him to bring out the best version of each individual sitting in his chair.

Julius Michael Headshot
Julius Michael

Julius Michael is a trailblazer in the beauty industry, setting the bar high for new trends. Celebrities rely on Julius to help them create their glamorous style. Julius is known for his mastery of color, highlights, and Balayage. He is also sought after for his original, virtually undetectable, permanent or clip-on hair extensions. Julius’s signature looks can be seen on television and at red carpet events from coast to coast and internationally.

Julius has more than 18 years experience, including working with Rita Hazan and Oribe Hair Salon. He has a true understanding of what style works for any situation. Julius is passionate about his work and makes every one of his clients  feel like a friend during an appointment and be a star as they walk out the door, loving the way they look.

Paula Peralta Headshot
Paula Peralta

Paula Peralta is a Los Angeles based hairstylist and owner of The Salon by Paula Peralta, an exclusive, by appointment only salon in Los Angeles’ Atwater Village neighborhood. Paula works with all hair types and textures but especially enjoys color transformations and lived in blondes. Her portfolio includes color, cutting, editorial and special events including the Grammy Awards, Met Gala and Tony Awards.An award willing stylist, Paula’s work can be seen on runways such as Ralph Lauren and Versace as well in your favorite beauty and fashion publications including Harpers’ Bazaar, Glamour, The Zoe Report, Byrdie, Refinery29 and more.Paula is also currently serving as the Artistic Director of heritage haircare brand John Paul Mitchell Systems.

Katelyn Ellsworth
Katelyn Ellsworth

Katelyn Ellsworth is founder of The Roslyn salon, a natural color and extension specialist, and San Diego's Style Icon.

Jamee Mahmood headshot
Jamee Mahmood

Jamee Mahmood is founder of Square Roots Salon and has over 25 years of hair experience. She was originally inspired to join the hair world by her mom, who was in the business for 40 years.

Sophia Vilensky
Freelance Writer

Sophia Vilensky is a Freelance Beauty Writer at Marie Claire with a beauty, wellness, and entertainment journalism portfolio that includes contributions to Byrdie, Bravo, Teen Vogue, and Us Weekly. Growing up in a family of beauticians—and through her own personal studies—she developed an in-depth understanding of aesthetics, cosmetic product formulation, and beauty treatment development and has also held roles as a senior copywriter, content strategist, and proofreader for top beauty and wellness brands. Even so, you'd be hard pressed to find her with her hair and makeup actually done. Sophia is based in Minneapolis and is a 2019 graduate of the University of Minnesota, where she majored in English and minored in cinema studies. During her time at the university, she was the Arts & Entertainment Editor for the Minnesota Daily, earning the 2019 Editor of the Year award for her work. She connected deeply with the Twin Cities arts scene, collaborating with leading beauty professionals, designers, and artists. Graduating Summa Cum Laude, her thesis—a close-reading of Vanderpump Rules—was featured on NPR. When not immersed in writing or testing new products, Sophia enjoys watching reality TV, reading, and exploring the newest woo-woo wellness trends. Keep up with her on Instagram @sophiavilensky.