Are you looking for a good non-toxic or natural hair spray that will keep your hair in a stronger hold? Most of the hair sprays available on the market in the United States are full of endocrine-disrupting chemicals that may impact your hormones over time. So what do you do when you want to use hair spray but want to avoid all those nasties? You’ve trusted Mamavation to bring you topics like safest non-toxic shampoo & conditioner, safest non-toxic detanglers, & best non-toxic hair dye, now join us for an investigation on non-toxic & natural hair spray.
Disclosure: This post was medically reviewed by Sondra Strand, RN, BSN, PHN. This post also contains affiliate links.
Table of Contents
Hairspray Can Contain Toxic & Hormone-Disrupting Chemicals
Mamavation evaluated the ingredients of about 120+ different hairspray products. We noticed quite a bit of hormone-disrupting, irritating, or potentially carcinogenic ingredients. In fact, about 85% of what we evaluated had some major issues. Unfortunately, it’s very hard to formulate a really effective hair spray without a few of these ingredients. But ingredients like undisclosed fragrances are completely unwarranted. So we want to call out all the problematic ingredients for you. Here are some of the following ingredients that are best to avoid.
- Undisclosed Fragrance — “Fragrance” is either made from petroleum (synthetic fragrances) or botanical raw materials (natural fragrance) or both. It can also contain ingredients like solvents, stabilizers, UV absorbers, preservatives, phthalates, and dyes. These types of chemicals vary in toxicity. But there is lots of mystery surrounding “fragrance” in personal care products. Companies that make perfume buy chemicals from other companies called “fragrance houses.” This means it is possible for a brand to not even know the fragrance chemicals inside their own product. However, as companies and states are moving toward fragrance ingredient disclosure, this is slowly starting to change. The biggest problem is the mystery because no one has any idea what is inside the word “fragrance.” Unfortunately, this was consistently the largest problem with the hair sprays we ranked.
- Phthalates: Phthalates are another class of ingredient that is also hormone-disrupting and found in most conventional skin-aging products. Phthalates are commonly used as a solvent (a liquid that can dissolve other substances) and fixative (a substance that can help the fragrance last longer on the skin) inside fragrances. The most common phthalate inside fragrance is diethyl phthalate (DEP) and it’s considered toxic by the Toxic Substances Portal of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). The trade name of this chemical is also known as neantine, peilatinol A, and solvanol, but you are very unlikely to see these names on an ingredient panel. Phthalates are linked to health impacts like obesity, and hyperactivity in children, and the kicker is infertility in men by degrading sperm quality. (In other words, wearing fragrances with phthalates around young boys is a problem.) In fact, phthalates are so problematic to male fertility, they are being restricted in places like China. Phthalates, although worse for men, is also problematic for women.
- Parabens: These are very harsh preservatives used in many personal care products that may lead to hormone disruption because they mimic estrogen. The European Union banned these chemicals in 2012. The most controversial study found traces of five different parabens in the tumors of 19 out of 20 breast cancer patients. Make sure to avoid: methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, ethylparaben, isobutylparaben, & isopropylparaben.
- Formaldehyde Releasers: In personal care products, formaldehyde can be added directly to the product OR it can be released from preservatives inside the product. Chemicals that release formaldehyde over time are referred to as formaldehyde releasers. These chemicals prevent microbes from growing in water-based or aloe vera-based products, but are also linked to cancer and allergic skin reactions. Formaldehyde releasers are chemicals like quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, polyoxymethylene urea, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol (bromopol) and glyoxal.
- Quaternary Ammonium Compounds aka “Quats” — These are chemicals that contain quaternary ammonium compound (QAC) in their chemical makeup and are used in a variety of hair products like conditioners, shampoos, hair spray, mousse, hair spray, and detanglers. They are used as preservatives, surfactants, germicides, and conditioning agents. The Association of Occupational and Environmental Clinics classifies quats as “asthmagens,” meaning they can trigger asthma attacks and cause new cases in asthma-free individuals. Not all “quats” are considered asthmagens, but many release formaldehyde or are linked to hormonal effects. Examples of “Quats” you will find in detanglers are Behentrimonium Chloride, Cetrimonium Chloride, Cetalkonium chloride, Stearalkonium chloride, Cinnamidopropyltrimonium Chloride, Quaternium-18, ditallow dimethyl ammonium chloride (DTDMAC), Olealkonium chloride, & Behentrimonium Methosulfate. Quats that are not concerning inside hair sprays are Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, starch hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride, hydroxypropyltrimonium honey & Cocamidopropyl Hydroxysultaine.
- Butane or Isobutane: Butane is a hydrocarbon. Isobutane is a hydrocarbon gas that is used as a propellant in aerosolized products like hairspray. The problem with hydrocarbons are they problematic to health & the environment. For instance, If someone accidentally drinks a hydrocarbon product and it enters the lungs, breathing problems can develop. Depending on how much is consumed, serious injury or even death may result. The other problem is the environment and the ozone layer. Nitrous oxides and hydrocarbon pollutants building up in the lower atmosphere become ozone (O3) when they are exposed to sunlight. These high levels of ozone cause respiratory problems and kill plants. Therefore, the fewer hydrocarbons you have inside your home, the better.
- Harsh synthetic scents: Butylphenyl Methylpropional (also known as Lilial) & hydroxymethylpentylcyclohexenecarboxaldehyde are harsh synthetic scents that are linked to moderate to high toxicity concern in humans, irritability, developmental toxin, and endocrine disruption.
- Harsh Preservative Combos — Although sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate are safer preservatives used by lots of natural products, when you combine them it’s excessive in personal care products. Our advisors do not recommend this specific mixture of preservatives. It’s okay to have sodium benzoate or potassium sorbate by themselves. We are also approving phenoxyethanol in small quantities for adults, but not for children.
- Ethoxylated Ingredients — Ethoxylated ingredients are generally of low concern on their own. However, they can be contaminated with ethylene oxide, a known carcinogen, and 1,4- dioxane, reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen. They may also be linked to organ toxicity and reproduction toxicity.
- Polysorbates: Polysorbates are another type of ethoxylated ingredient we wanted to tell you about. They are widely used surfactants in biopharmaceutical formulations and also used as an emulsifier in cosmetic creams, lotions, hair sprays, & skin-aging creams, etc. In other words, it is used to help mix oil and water. Polysorbates are not problematic on their own, but when they used for cosmetic reasons, they are treated with ethylene oxide. Products treated with ethylene oxide frequently have traces of 1,4 dioxane which is a carcinogen.
- Silicones — There isn’t anything dangerous about using silicone products in your hair, however, it’s been reported that it builds up over time from overuse and can make your hair, dry brittle, and weighed down.
- Sulfates — These chemicals work as a surfactant but may be contaminated with impurities like 1,4-dioxane. They can irritate eyes, skin, and lungs, especially with long-term use. An example is sodium laureth sulfate & sodium laurel sulfate. Both ingredients are known to cause cancer in laboratory animals.
Chemicals That Make Hairspray Hold Your Style
Hair spray is great at fixing updos, supporting curly hair and wavy hair, and decreasing flyaways. The best strong-hold hairsprays you’ll find on most websites use harsh chemicals to make this happen for all hair types. Here are the main parts of hair sprays that you’ll find in most drugstores.
- Holding Agents: This is the “glue” that holds your hair together in place in the style you prefer. It’s made from polymers, which are chain-like molecules similar to plastic. Examples of this are vinyl acetate or PPV (polyvinylpyrrolidine). When the two are mixed it’s called PVPVA.
- Solvent: These chemicals are either hydrocarbons like butane, which are very problematic to the ozone layer, or alcohols. Solvents evaporate but work with the polymers to keep your hair in place.
- Additives: There are all sorts of chemicals that make up this section. You’ll find fragrances, which can be synthetic, natural, or both, also conditioning agents and silicones. Not all additives are acceptable and some are incredibly bad for your hormones.
- Propellants: These are the chemicals that push the product out of the can of hairspray and are also considered aerosol. The most common propellant we found was isobutane, which is also a hydrocarbon gas.
Safe Ingredients Inside Natural Hair Sprays To Look For
As we were evaluating safe ingredients inside hair sprays, we noticed these ingredients that you will find in more natural hair sprays. Just make sure as you are reading the label that you are also avoiding the problematic ingredients we spelled out above. Why? Some sneaky products will have both natural and naughty ingredients. This also happens to brands that are using organic ingredients in organic hairsprays. Not all hair sprays are cruelty-free, fair-trade, vegan, or gluten-free, but there are plenty of choices when using natural ingredients. Here are some of the better natural ingredients found in natural hair spray.
- Rice proteins or rice extract
- Seed oil
- Sea Salt
- Amino Acids
- Green Tea
- Flower Extract
- Organic honey
- Brown sugar
- Vitamin E
- Tea Tree
- Organic aloe vera or aloe vera gel
- Rooibos Tea
- Bergamot Oil
- Acacia Senegal gum
- Essential Oils
- Glycerine or vegetable glycerin
Other Personal Care Investigations You May Like
Mamavation has ranked thousands of products for hormone-disrupting chemicals, carcinogens, and irritants. Here are some other personal care product investigations that may interest you.
- Anti-Aging Creams
- Face Wash & Moisturizers
- Peel-Off Facial Masks, Sheet Facial Masks, & K-beauty Facial Masks
- Beard Oil
- Hair Styling Products
- Hair Dye
- Dry Shampoo
- Shampoo & Conditioner
- Shampoo Bars & Conditioner Bars
- Head Lice Treatment Products
- Hair Relaxers
Mamavation’s Investigation on Non-Toxic & Natural Hairspray
Not Our Favorite Hairspray
These products can contain any or several of the following: undisclosed fragrances, phthalates, parabens, Butane, Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Peg-12 dimethicone, Isobutane, quats, etc.
- 18.21 Man Made Flexible Hold Premium Hairspray for Men
- AG Care Extra Firm Finishing Spray
- Amika Fluxus Touchable Hairspray
- Amika Intense Hold Hairspray
- Amika the shield anti-humidity spray
- Aqua Net Hairspray
- Aussie Instant Freeze Hairspray with Jojoba Oil and Sea Kelp
- Aussie Mega Flexible Hold Hairspray with Jojoba and Sea Kelp
- Authentic Beauty Concept Strong Hold Hairspray
- Aveda Control Force Firm Hold Hair Spray
- Aveda Air Control Light Hold Hair Spray
- Bed Head Hard Head Hairspray
- Bed Head Lightheaded Hairspray
- Bed Head Showdown Anti-Frizz Hairspray
- Bed Head Masterpiece Shiny Hairspray with Strong Hold
- Biolage Styling Complete Control Hairspray
- Boldify Hair Thickening Spray
- Boldify Texture Spray
- Cake Beauty The Hold Out Flexy Hold Hair Spray
- Cantu Beauty Coconut and Shea Shine and Hold Mist
- CHI Keratin Flex Finish Hair Spray
- CHI Enviro 54 Hairspray Firm Hold
- CHI Helmet Head Hair Spray
- CHI Magnified Volume Finishing Hair Spray
- Color Wow Hair Spray
- Color Wow Dream Coat Anti-Frizz Treatment for Glass Hair
- Davines Strong Hair Spray
- Davines This is a Medium Hairspray
- Design Me Dry Texture Spray
- DevaCurl Flexible Hold Hairspray
- Dove Style and Care Extra Hold Hairspray
- DryBar The Money Maker Flexible Hold Hairspray
- DryBar The Sheriff Medium Hold Hairspray
- DryBar Money Maker Flexible Hold Hairspray
- DryBar Triple Sec Hairspray
- DryBar Hot Toddy Spray
- FRAGFRE Hair Finishing Spray
- Garnier Fructis Sleek and Shine Anti-Humidity Aerosol Hairspray
- Garnier Fructis Grow Strong Thickening 10 in 1 Leave in Spray
- Garnier Fructis Volumizing Anti-Humidity Aerosol Hairspray
- Garnier Fructis Full Control Hair Spray
- Giovanni Cosmetics 2chic Ultra Volume Big Body Hair Volume Spray
- Herbal Essences Strong Hold Hair Volumizing Hairspray
- Herbal Essences Touchable Hold Hair Styling Spray Gel
- John Frieda Volumizing Hairspray
- Joico Power Spray Fast Dry Finishing Spray
- Kenra Volume Spray
- Kenru Professional Ultra Freeze Spray
- Kevin Murphy Session Spray
- Kevin Murphy DOO OVER
- L’ANZA Healing Volume Root Effects
- Living Proof Control Hairspray
- Living Proof Full Dry Volume and Texture Spray
- LOreal Paris Advanced Hairstyle Lock It Weather Control Hairspray
- LOreal Paris Elnett Satin Strong Hold Hair Spray
- LOreal Paris Advanced Hairstyle Sleek It Iron Straight Hairspray
- Love Beauty Planet Light hold and frizz control Hair Spray Coconut Milk and White jasmine
- Marc Anthony Strictly Curls Curl It Up Volume Spray
- Matrix Miss Mess Total Results Dry Finishing Spray
- Mielle Organics Heat Protectant Spray
- Mydentity Firm Hairspray
- Nexxus Maxximum Finishing Mist for Control
- Not Your Mother’s She’s A Tease Hairspray
- Not Your Mother’s Beach Babe Sea Salt Spray
- Oribe Free Styler Working Hairspray
- Ouidad Botanical Boost Curl Energizing and Refreshing Spray
- Pantene NonAerosol Texturizing Hair Spray
- Pantene Flexible Hold Alcohol-Free Hairspray
- Pantene Natural Waves Texturizing Salt Spray
- Pantene Strong Hold Hairspray
- Paul Mitchell Super Clean Spray
- Paul Mitchell Extra Body Finishing Spray
- Paul Mitchell Freeze and Shine Super Spray
- Paul Mitchell Texturizing Sea Spray
- Paul Mitchell Awapuhi Moisture Mist
- PRAVANA Super Shape Hair Spray
- Pureology Instant Levitation Mist
- R + Co Viscious Hairspray
- Redken Extra Control Addict 28 Strong Hold Hair Spray
- Redken Spray Wax Hairspray
- Salon Grafix Shaping Hair Spray
- Schwarzkopf Got 2b Freeze Blasting Spray
- Schwarzkopf Got2b High Insta Hold Hair Spray
- Sebastion Professional Shine Define Hair Shine Spray
- Sebastion Professional Volupt Volumizing Spray
- Serge Normant Dream Big Instant Volumizing Spray
- Sexy Hair Big Spray and Play
- Sexy Hair Texture High Tide
- SheaMoisture Bond Release Spray
- Suave Max Hold Unscented Non-Aerosol Hair Spray
- Suave Professional Flexible Control Finishing Hair Spray
- SugarScents Bubblegum Hairspray
- The Beachwater Co. Great Barrier Heat Protectant Hair Spray
- TRESemme Extra Hold Hair Spray for Frizz Control
- TRESemme Pro Pure Volume Spray
- TRESemme Tres Two Extra Hold Hair Spray for Frizz Control
- Tri Haircare Aerogel
- Verb Ghost Hairspray
- VERB Volume Dry Texture Spray
- VO5 Extra Body Hairspray
Better Hair Spray
These products are the happy medium for effectiveness and low toxicity. Granted, they do contain some issues like undisclosed “natural” fragrances, perhaps having between 1-3 problematic ingredients, or using a harsh preservative combo. However, for those of you who want a stronger hold, this may be your best bet.
- 18.21 Manmade Premium Hairspray Sweet Tobacco
- Andalou Naturals Sunflower and Citrus Brillant Shine Hair Spray
- Briogeo Hair Aloe + Oat Milk Spray
- Consort Hairspray for Men
- Four Reasons Strong Hairspray
- Giovanni Cosmetics LA Hold Hair Spritz
- Hair Dance Texturizing Wave Sea Salt Spray- Grapefruit
- Honeybee Gardens Alcohol-Free Hair Spray
- Innersense Beauty I Create Waves
- Innersense Beauty I Create Finish
- Jason Naturals Thin to Thick Hair Spray
- Mill Creek Botanicals Extra Hold Hair Spray
- Naturtint Hair Spray
- Pacifica Beauty Big Waves Soft Hold and Volume Hairspray
- Pacifica Beauty Pineapple Curls Refresher Mist
- Vanicream Hair Spray
Best Hair Spray
These products do not include any of the problematic ingredients that were listed above. But please understand that formulating an effective hold hair spray without any problematic ingredients is tough. We did want to warn you that this list may not be as effective in holding your style for as long as the “better” realm. It’s always good to experiment, so if this category doesn’t work for you, go on to the “better” category.
- Afterworld Organics Flex Hold Natural Hairspray
- Captain Blakenship Sea Salt Texturing Spray
- Carina Organics Fast Drying Hairspray, Sweet Pea
- Carina Organic Fast Drying Hairspray, Unscented
- Druide Styling Hairspray, Alcohol-Free
- EVOLVh UltraFlex Hairspray
- Intelligent Nutrients Flex Hold Hairspray
- John Masters Organics Hair Spray
- Lily of the Desert Aloe Styling Spray
- Nature’s Brands Herbal Choice Mari Organic Hair Spray
- Organic Excellence Wild Mint Styling Spray
- Pure Haven Hair Spray Regular Hold Argan Lavender
- Real Purity Natural Hair Spray
- Yarok Feed Your Hold Hair Spray, Organic