The real secret to styling effortless, tousled beach waves? Heading straight to the source. No, we don’t mean going to the beach (we wish!), and relying on your hair’s natural oils won’t help, either. We need to turn to the powers of sea salt spray, the secret sauce that brings the beach to your hair. A spritz and a scrunch of sea salt spray on damp hair adds as much volume, texture, and surfer-girl swag as a quick dip in the ocean. Sounds simple, right? It is! There are just a few basic steps to take before you can start spraying your way to perfect beach hair.
Continue reading below for our complete guide to what sea salt spray actually is, what it does, and how to use it, plus some bonus tips and recommendations for how to pick the right sea salt spray for you. Now let’s dive in and get that mermaid hair going, shall we?
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Sea salt spray contains water, sea salt, epsom (or other) salt, and sometimes—depending on the brand—additional hair-nourishing ingredients like coconut oil, aloe vera, and essential oils. It's typically designed to replicate the effortless waves that naturally form after dousing ourselves in some salt water at the beach.
"Sea salt spray is the ultimate no-skill-required tool that helps you attain a more laid-back style that looks effortless yet deliberate," says hairstylist Lana Grand. "On fine hair, it's an easy way to add texture and volume; on coarse hair, it is a great way to add texture and body, and it's an easy way to refresh second-day hair. It also works not only on long hair but on short hair too, making it a unisex product."
Grand explains that sea salt sprays work well to create waves because the water molecules in our hair are attracted to salt, which ultimately dry out and shrink the strands, thus forming a naturally wavy texture.
"The most common salt spray gripe is the tendency to make hair feel dry and stiff when all you really want is the effortless tussle," says Grand. "To combat that, some formulations now swap the salt for sugar, rice, or wheat proteins to give hair the body people crave without sucking away moisture."
If you have damaged, dry, or naturally frizzy hair, Grand suggests using sea salt sprays with caution. "Adding a moisturizing conditioner or leave-in spray is a great way to counteract the drying effect of sea salt sprays," she adds.
To get bombshell-status beachy waves, you'll want to start with damp hair. “It can be used on dry or damp hair. Never wet. When dry, you can distribute it through the hair to add texture or as a base to start a tousled look. When used on damp hair, after distribution you can scrunch your hair up to give it more volume in the style,” says Mayfield.
If your hair is freshly washed, you may want to apply a bit of texturizing spray before applying the sea salt spray to give those soon-to-be-waves a little extra oomph. Allow your wet hair to air dry until it's just damp and not soaking wet. Comb through your damp hair to remove any knots and tangles.
Before you start spritzing sea salt spray all over your head, make sure whatever product you’ve chosen is properly mixed. Since sea salt sprays contain solid elements like salt, the ingredients may settle and separate over time. Give your bottle a good shake before you push that button.
Spritz one section of your hair at a time to ensure every part of your hair reaps the benefits of the sea salt spray’s ingredients. Focus on the roots and mid-length area of your strands, as the tips are more likely to get dried out and damaged. Pro-Tip #1: for an easy volume boost that won’t dehydrate your strands, use dry shampoo on your roots and sea salt spray everywhere else.
The amount of sea salt spray you should use depends on your hair type, whether you have thick hair or long hair, and the specific product you use. Just be mindful of how close you’re spraying it to your hair because over saturating the hair can result in some not-so-beachy waves. “Never spray too close to the hair and don’t go overboard. It’s meant to gently coat the hair, not to dampen it,” says Mayfield.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with a small amount of sea salt spray and gradually build up to more, if needed.
Now comes the fun part. Once you’ve applied your sea salt spray, you have a few options for completing the look: "If you're spraying it onto damp hair you can either let it dry naturally or blast it with the diffuser attachment of a blow dryer for a few minutes to add more volume," says Grand. If you want to let it air dry, you can twist and scrunch those strands, or even create loose braids.
“Of course, beach waves and loose curls benefit heavily from using a sea salt spray, but it’s also great for when you are doing any type of braiding. It helps to secure the hair within the braid and if you’re going for a more relaxed braid, it helps to identify which pieces to pull out for a more Boho look,” says Mayfield.
To make sure that your messy waves stay looking beach-ready all day long, you might finish with a bit of texturizing spray or a flexible-hold hairspray once the hair is dry.
Pro-Tip #2: you don't always have to use sea salt spray on damp hair. "Simply adding some salt spray to styled or curled hair can make it look polished but effortless," says Grand. "You can also use it on short hair instead of sticky pomades to give hair a gritty look."
To avoid a crispy, crunchy texture (especially if your hair tends to be dry), try combining your favorite leave-in conditioner, detangler, or hair serum with your sea salt spray. This will give you the messy beach waves you’re looking for without stripping away too much moisture and shine. If you have damaged hair, natural hair, curly hair, or hair that is prone to frizz, this tip can be especially helpful for making sure that your hair stays healthy and hydrated.
Rubbing a towel on your head to dry your hair can lead to more frizz, tangles, and breakage later on. You'll want to be especially wary of towel-drying if you're using a sea salt spray, so opt for either air-drying or blow-drying instead.
You might also try using the hair plopping technique to remove excess moisture while keeping curls and waves looking pristine. Not sure what hair plopping is or how to do it? Here's a full hair plopping tutorial.
To see the best results from sea salt spray on your hair, take a moment to choose a spray that’s designed with your hair type in mind—whether you have thick hair, fine hair, wavy hair, or frizz-prone strands. Trust us, it’ll make all the difference. When in doubt, check out our recommendations below.
Ready to try out this miracle styling product for yourself? Here are four of our top picks. For even more options, check out our list of the best sea salt sprays for your hair type and styling needs.
For years, this iconic spray has been one of the most coveted hair products on the market, thanks to how easy it is to use and its stunning results. Simply spritz it on damp or dry hair, then scrunch and twist strands to add texture. Pro-Tip #3: Let it air-dry for more of a matte finish.
"Dry texture and oil-balancing ingredients make this a great choice for fine hair," says Grand. "This spray is ideal for creating a loose, tousled look with that 'fresh-off-the-sand' finish."
This spray puts back the moisture most other sea salt sprays tend to draw out of your hair—a great perk if you have color-treated hair, curly hair, or heat-damaged hair. The ORIBE HAIR CARE’s signature complex of watermelon, lychee, and edelweiss flower protects your strands from dryness, damage, and color fading, while a blend of exotic oils keep your hair soft, silky, and shiny for hours on end.
Whether you have straight, fine hair, wavy hair, or thick, tight coils, this texture spray will work for any and all hair types. Providing texture, hold, and volume in a vegan, cruelty-free, gluten-free, and paraben-free formula isn't easy, but this product pulls it off. It even offers UV and heat protection to keep your scalp and hair safe from the sun's damaging rays (which you need even when you’re not actually at the beach!).
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