Choosing a Hair Product (2)

Fashionable short hairstyle
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Leave-in conditioners are exactly that: conditioners that are left on the hair and are NOT rinsed away. These conditioners are designed to be absorbed by the hair and are formulated as lightweight creams or lotions, or as liquids which can be sprayed onto the hair. These spray-on conditioners offer the benefit of being able to target the portions of the hair that need the most extra conditioning/protection – the ends of the hair, the top of the head only, etc.
Another product mentioned in the header but not described until now is detanglers. Detangling sprays and serums are generally leave-in conditioners or light oils that smooth the cuticle layer of the hair and allow it to be more easily combed free of tangles and snags. These products are typically used on damp hair after the hair is towel-dried to protect it from breakage while being combed. They are especially useful when dealing with very curly or coarse, wavy hair.
Some anti-frizz serums have secondary uses as detanglers, as do some shine enhancers. This is important to note, because with the similarity of the content of these various products, you can overload the hair with conditioner/anti-frizz serum, and shine enhancer and end up with flat, limp hair. Remember that you can always add more hair products when needed, but it is much more difficult to deal with an overload of product on the hair.
Anti-Frizz Serums / Shine Enhancers
These products are made to smooth the cuticle layer, add weight to the hair, and reduce the appearance of frizz and flyaway strands, leaving the hair looking sleek, smooth, and shiny. Anti-frizz serums consist of viscous ingredients such as mineral oils and silicone in some cases, and they are designed to coat the hair shaft and smooth the cuticle layer of the hair. This causes the hair to appear smoother, and in some cases healthier. The serums are excellent for masking the appearance of damaged hair.
Shine enhancers are also great for damaged hair, in that they add shine and luster where there may be none currently. These products are generally made from light fruit oils and are usually partly absorbed by the hair as well as coating the exterior of the shaft. You should use caution when using shine enhancers in combination with heat styling appliances such as curling irons or flat irons.
The presence of oil on the hair can literally result in cooking the hair when a hot flat iron is put in contact with it. If you are going to use shine enhancers on heat styled hair, do so sparingly, or else apply the shine sprays only after the hair has been styled.
Plastic bottles with hair care products
Styling Gels / Mousse / Setting Lotions
These make up the majority of styling products sold and used in the world today. These products are used in a wide range of styling practices, from blow-drying the hair straight, to wet roller sets. The products differ primarily in the "form" in which they come - foam, liquid, or gel.
The foam products, called mousses, are the lightest of the styling products and generally make for voluminous, soft styles. Mousses are great for blow-dry styling because they can help create lasting styles without stiffness. They can also be used for wet look styling, without being overly stiff or sticky.
The liquids, often referred to as setting lotions, are great for use with roller sets and for blow-drying when a stronger hold is needed. Many women who have their hair set using a liquid setting lotion enjoy a style that will last for several days, or until the next shampoo. The setting lotions are great for creating durable styles.
Styling gels are thick, viscous products that give maximum hold and are ideal for creating those styles that need exceptional hold and strength. Styling gels are especially good for hair that is hard to manage and styles that require the most hold possible.
Aerosol hairspray
Hairspray / Spritz
Hairspray is the staple of the hair care product line, dating back to yesteryear when stylists used turpentine and resins to hold the hair in place after styling. Hairsprays can be found in aerosol or non-aerosol varieties, and the non-aerosol varieties are sometimes referred to as spritzes. Both varieties contain ingredients that cause the spray to dry rapidly on the hair to provide the needed hold without "wetting" the hair.
The aerosols are packaged in metal canisters under extreme pressure from propellants that are typically flammable. You must use caution with aerosol hairsprays and never use these products near an open flame (such as a candle) or near anyone who is smoking.
The non-aerosol hairsprays typically contain alcohol to allow the hairspray to dry more quickly. They are applied using a mechanical applicator - a pump sprayer. These non-aerosol hair sprays must be used carefully as they may cause the hair to be overly dampened if applied too heavily, lacking the propellant to generate a finer mist.
Hairsprays are versatile, in that they can be used to create styles (in conjunction with curling irons and flat irons) or to give a final set to a finished style. Because the hairsprays will leave a residue on the hair shaft (this is how they work) you may experience product buildup with repeated use.
See also: Hair products Q&A