Is Your Salt Spray Secretly Ruining Your Hair?

Urban Outfitters

Ever since Bumble and Bumble launched its OG Surf SprayВ ($27) in 2001, salt spray has become a perennial staple in our summer beauty arsenal, along with SPF and waterproof mascara. The factВ that we can get surf-ready wavesВ in a matter of seconds without braving beach traffic? That aloneВ probably makes it one of the top five beauty inventions ever.

And yet it's started to gain a bit of notoriety over the past year or two, as some experts argue that dousing our strands with salt on a regular basis can actually exacerbate summer damage.В This contrary view has been enough to foster in an entire new market of texturizing sprays, which feature sugar as the main ingredient instead.

So is that it? Should we shelve our beloved sea mists forever? Do sugar sprays actually get the same results?В We asked some experts to clear things up.

Aside from the obvious, it all comes down to the finishВ you're looking for. "Both salt and sugar sprays add texture to hair, butВ if you want the traditional summer texture-the appearance of having lounged on the beach all day-go with sea salt," says Halli Bivona of the John Barrett salon in NYC. "If you are looking for a bit more polish and softness for your hair, go with sugar spray."

"Salt spray is more dry and coarse on the hair, where sugar leaves gives the hair more grip, but with a sheen," adds celeb hairstylist Sabrina Szinay. In other words, if these hair products were types of lipstick, salt spray would be matte and sugar spray wouldВ be more satin-y.

"It's true what they say, that it can be too much of a good thing," cautions Bivona. Just like matte lipstick has a tendency to dry out our pouts, salt spray can do the same for our strands. That's because water molecules are attracted to salt, soВ any salt on our hair will pull the moisture right out. That's not even to mention that many texturizing sprays are also formulated with alcohol,В which is majorly drying and can even fade your color.В

No need to give up your beachy waves! Just shop wisely and try to pick formulas with minimal alcohol and lots of hair-fortifying ingredients, like oils and plant proteins. Consider limiting your spritzing to a few times a week, rather than every day, and giveВ your hair a little extra TLC in general.В "After you use a sea salt spray,В thoroughly shampoo and condition hair," advises Bivona. "I also love to add a lightweight oil such as coconut or camellia oil to wet hair to help along the hydrating and healing process. Olive oil works greatВ for extra dehydrated hair."

One last thing to keep in mind-even if you'reВ really craving surf-tastic texture,В if your hair is already looking a little dry or dull, sea salt spray will probably just make it look more lifeless, says Szinay. In this case, you might be better off reaching for the sugar spray.В

Michela Buttignol

Now that we've establishedВ the difference between salt and sugar sprays, scroll through some of our favorite formulas in both categories below.

Herbivore Botanicals Sea Mist $20Shop

Everything about this formula feelsВ clean, from the delicate, lavender-tinged scent to the ingredient list, which consists of purified water, aloe vera, Dead Sea salt, and essential oils-that'sВ it.В All of this makesВ it an ideal salt spray option forВ dry or damaged hair. It's even safe for skin!

Keratin Complex Sweet Definition Texturizing Sugar Mist $13Shop

Reach for this sugar spray when you're aiming forВ glossier, softer waves.В Cane extract helps give your strands flexible hold, while marine ingredients and sunflower seed extract nourish and protect against the elements.

Sachajuan Ocean Mist $31Shop

It has obvious curb appeal, but this salt spray offers so much more than good looks-an alluring citrus fragrance, for one thing.В

Ouai Wave Spray $26Shop

In the mere months since Jen Atkin launched Ouai, her Wave Spray has already established itself as a cult favorite. That's because the celeb hairstylist opted to ditch the salt in favor of botanical extracts like rice protein, which ultimately offer both an effortlessly tousled lookВ and better hair health.В (That's not even to mention the scent, which is downright addictive.)

Verb Sea Spray $16Shop

The sun leaves our strands particularly susceptible to damage, dryness, and fading in the summer, which is why it's essential to give your hair an extra boost of protection. This formula does just that, thanks to ingredients like quinoa protein,В green tea extract, and sunflower seed extract, which offer an extra barrier against UV rays.

Wella EIMI Sugar Lift Spray $19Shop

Fine-haired folks, this one's for you: Wella's sugar spray is specifically formulated to enhance volume as well as shine and texture.В

What texturizing sprays do you love? Call them out in the comments below.