Considering the stick-straight, frizz-free, keratin-infused brouhaha of the last few years, the sea-salt texturizing sprays of the early aughts, or the pomades and waxes of the 90s, mousse feels like a relic of the very distant past. Yet more than two decades after it first oozed onto the scene, we still haven’t found another product that’s its rival, capable of delivering fool-proof volume that doesn’t fall flat as the day goes on.
The 80s were the decade of BIG HAIR—courtesy of that foamy stuff. Sure, it left strands feeling crispy and crunchy to the touch, but it also delivered gravity-defying height with a weightless (and dare we say “fun”) product that was easy to use, easily distributed through strands and did away with frizz.
So it’s not so surprising that mousse is having another moment. Science has evolved and so have the formulations, with drying alcohols falling by the wayside to make room for structural polymers that give hair its hold along with conditioning humectants. “Today’s mousses leave hair with a softer, cleaner feel,” explains Matrix Artistic Director and celebrity hair stylist Ammon Carver. Hair that’s fine and straight, almost slippery-soft, would benefit from from mousse—use it to give bounce and texture to otherwise flat hair. It's also good for naturally-textured wavy or curly hair in need of definition and separation, says Carver.
We’ve also learned a lot about correct application since the Flock of Seagulls days. Coating every inch of hair from root-to-tip is a surefire path to the dreaded crunchy zone.
“The biggest mistake people make is globbing it onto hair and running it from mid length through to the ends. Mousse needs to be worked in starting at the roots,” he says. As for how much, Carver admits “it’s one of those games you have to play to find the right amount.” Aim to use enough that you feel a little drag when brushing through hair, but not so much that it’s weighing it down. That’s the sweet spot for prepping a perfect roundbrush blowout, or for drying with a diffuser if you have curly hair and want to keep the spring.
Hey, if scrunchies and shoulder pads can make a comeback, then why not mousse? Give it another shot.
FOR: ROOT LIFT
The science: This aerated formula has what the company calls a “fast breaking composition,” meaning it disperses quickly and evenly through strands. Spray into your hand first, then work chunks of the foam all over hair’s roots, then lift hair as it’s being blow dried.
FOR: COLORED HAIR
The science: While this mousse does deliver some hold, it’s the color-balancing properties that make it unique. A lavender-tinted formula helps counteract brassy tones in blondes. The other, a teal tint, curbs orange and red undertones that crop up on brunette locks.
FOR: A CLASSIC HOLD
The science: Glycerin and micro silk fibers deliver soft and springy, well-defined curls without the halo of frizz.
FOR: SERIOUS STYLING
The science: When you just need your style to stay put, this product will give you that high volume and strong hold without weighing down your hair or making strands feel dry and rough.
FOR: WEIGHTLESS VOLUME
Hold: medium and flexible
The science: Micronized polymers, a fine, stretchable mesh that adheres to each hair fiber, give strands “memory” so it falls back into place after being touseled.
FOR: ALCOHOL-FREE STYLING
The science: Believing that alcohol contributes to dry, sticky, dull and damaged hair, L’Oreal has swapped out the ingredient for a no-residue styling polymer to deliver the same level of hold and without product buildup or flaking.
FOR: HIGHLIGHTED HAIR
The science: Egyptian chamomile, a species rich in the plant flavonoid apigenine, helps bring out hair’s natural blonde and light brown tones. Paraben-, sodium chloride-, and sulfate-free.
The science: Shaping polymers allow tools to get a stronger grip on strands in order to create fuller styles.
FOR: FINE HAIR
The science: To create the illusion of thicker hair, the specialized polymer formula wraps each strand, increasing the hair’s diameter and fullness. Panthenol helps strengthen.
FOR: BEACHY WAVES
The science: Structure-forming starch polymers and glycerin thicken and hold, allowing you to achieve that piecey, tousled look while hydrolyzed wheat protein and amino acids smooth and hydrate strands.
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