Oh, beachy waves. It's that coveted sun-kissed beauty look that wordlessly translates into endless days spent in the salty air. It's happily faked thanks to masterfully concocted beach sprays, but sadly I've never quite figured it out even though I always tried so hard. I vowed to change that this season. That's why for a recent trip to the gorgeous island of St. Barth's, I asked the InStyle Beauty team to help a girl out. They gave me six of this season's must-try sprays for me to test on my medium-long, fine-textured strands. My suitcase was heavy but my spirits were high—I was off.
I schlepped my half-dozen spritzers down south to the French West Indies and unloaded them at the Hotel Taiwana. I tried a different brand every day. At one point my husband was like, 'Why don't you just sit on this gorgeous beach and let that be enough?" Because. "IT'S NOT ENOUGH. You need the spray," I told him.
After trial and error of pumping these formulas onto my wet hair, I found that each one had its own advantage, and by the end of my experiment, one spray had made my hair perfectly beachy without a dip in the Caribbean. Below a countdown to my top pick.
6. Not Your Mother's Beach Babe Texturizing Spray, $7; ulta.com
Infused with natural Dead Sea salt and sea kelp, this promised me "sexy, tousled waves." The mist went on very light, and I loved how easy it was to spray with its Windex-inspired spout.
5. John Frieda Beach Blonde Sea Waves, $9; target.com
This was for the "windswept look," according to the bottle, and I found it created a little more piecey. Don't let the "beach blonde" in the title deter you—this is for all shades of hair color.
4. Toni&Guy Casual Sea Salt Texturizing Spray, $11; target.com
Toni&Guy got me with the "casual" in the name of the spray, which this one was. I found that it kept my hair wetter longer than the others, which led to more volume after it had finally dried.
3. John Masters Organics Sea Mist Sea Salt Spray with Lavender, $17; ulta.com
InStyle.com Senior Beauty Editor Selene Milano predicted this would be my top pick, and it came pretty close. The certified organic lavender in the spray is meant to prevent hair from drying too quickly to create long-lasting waves, and it did just that with an appealing floral scent to boot.
2. Bumble and Bumble Surf Infusion Spray, $29; sephora.com
Bumble and Bumble's Surf Spray is a cult-favorite, and this is the next evolution in their Surf lineup. With this launch, they added tropical oils and sea botanicals to make hair softer, shinier, and more textured. I was totally sucked in because it has an extra element of UV protection, which comes in handy when you forget you need sunscreen for your hair.
And the number one I found was…
1. Parlor by Jeff Chastain Moisturizing Sea Salt Spray, $24; birchbox.com
N.Y.C. hairstylist Jeff Chastain launched his first line of hair products earlier this year exclusively at Birchbox, and his beach spray formula pumped with almond extract for softness and algae for nourishment worked miracles…for me at least. I sprayed a few pumps on my palms and massaged it into my hair, and got just enough volume to still look all-natural. Plus, it smells like I just stepped out of the salon with its ripe peach, fresh-cut grass, and white wood notes. It's like a perfume and beach spray all-in-one, and I'm all in.