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Hair styling glossary: Do you know which product is best for you?

By Megan Bedford

Hair styling glossary: Do you know which product is best for you?
Do you know your dry shampoo from your dry texture spray? We detail the difference in modern hair styling products so you can get the best out of your locks.

How many of us are still reaching for a similar hair styling product we were using 10 years ago? Going back even further, how many of us are still using a similar product we grew up with, or saw family members or friends using? If they work for you, there’s no real problem in that. It’s just that product innovation has come a long way, and your hair texture and style could well have changed, too.

Given the current array of products, it can be confusing to know how to adapt our hair routines. The best option is to take advice from a stylist in the salon on the best styling products for your hair and ask them to show you exactly how to use it.

But if you’re more of a wash-and- wear type, you want to ask your stylist about a product in particular, or you’re looking to choose something off the shelf … how do you proceed?

Hair styling glossary

Study up on this guide to the different types of hair products out there.

Heat protectant

Sometimes called a blow-dry cream, but can also come as an oil or spray, this product not only smooths texture and adds shine, it helps hold your style as well as protects stands from the damaging effects of heat from the likes of blow dryers, straightening irons or curling tongs. It should be applied prior to styling each time you reach for a hot tool.

Shine serum or oil

Brilliant, reflective shine and nourishment in a bottle. Great for smoothing damaged lengths, hiding split ends and conquering flyaways, but a little goes a very long way, particularly in fine hair.

Dry shampoo

A dry powder in an aerosol can, dry shampoo absorbs oil and grease from your roots as well as giving fine hair more texture and body. It means you can hit snooze on the alarm, skip the shower and head out with ‘clean’ hair! Spray into dry roots and leave for a couple of minutes before massaging in.


Volumisers come in many versatile forms, from mists to foam to gel-creams, all designed to be applied at the roots to give dramatic lift and add some thickness through the lengths. Apply them to damp hair before your blow-dry. Generally lightweight, they provide body, volume, and style memory. Volumisers are especially effective for hair that is fine, curly or wavy.

L-R Hair oil: Kérastase Elixir Ultime L’Huile Originale. Paste: American Crew Defining Paste. Dry Shampoo: Joico Weekend Hair Dry Shampoo. Mousse: Pureology Style + Protect Weightless Volume Mousse. Hairspray: Hair by Sam McKnight Modern Hairspray. Crème: Oribe Imperial Blowout Transformative Styling Crème.

Dry texture spray

Much like dry shampoo, this spray should be applied to dry hair, but it can be sprayed all over to give hair weightless volume and texture – great for removing fluffiness after a wash and blow-dry.

Wax or paste

This medium-hold, matte-look, dry-styling product is used to define short hairstyles. Rub a tiny amount between fingers and manipulate through hair as you arrange it into your style.


A slightly wetter, goopier version of wax, it is also used to define short hair but gives a more flexible look, often with a shinier or wet-look finish.


Provides incredible volume as well as creating some structure and hold for curls and updos. Particularly good for short to shoulder-length, medium to fine hair. Apply to damp hair and blow-dry.


Fixes your style in place or smooths and defines hair to make it less fluffy or slippery. Hold varies from cement-like (sometimes called lacquer) to flexible and easy to brush out. Spray on dry hair from 20-30cm away.

Sea salt spray

This is like bottling sea water, only kinder to your hair. Spray into the mid lengths to ends of dry hair to create beachy, textured waves and encourage natural curl.

Lotion or crème

For thick, coarse and curly hair types, these frizz fighters smooth and define hair with a light hold, as well as moisturising to keep locks healthy.

Powder or dust

Ultra-fine powder to be applied sparingly to roots for giving clean, floppy hair lift and texture without the need for heat. It’s like backcombing in a bottle!



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