Splitting Hairs is our monthlong exploration of hair based on a survey of women across America. It’s like you brought a photo to the salon — we’re giving you exactly what you want.
Snooping through your mom's, sister-in-law's, or co-worker's medicine cabinet always seems to prove the same theory: No one's hair-styling routine is exactly the same. However, a few common threads run throughout: According to the 1,463 women who took part in InStyle's nationwide hair survey this spring, there are actually three styling products that most women use, no matter what the rest of their routine looks like.
Surprisingly, hairspray (yes, really), is the most popular styling product from coast to coast. Although it's the one product most people love to hate, 31 percent of women ages 17 to 74 are regularly using it. Although it has a bad rap for leaving hair sticky and crunchy, hairspray's come a long way since the can your mom used to coat your hair with on school picture day. TRESemmé's Compressed Extend Hairspray Hold Level 4 ($5; target.com) is a micro-fine mist that offers the right hold level with a natural finish. On the prestige-end of the spectrum, Moroccanoil Luminous Hairspray Strong ($24; nordstrom.com) sets hair in place without drying it out, plus adds shine.
Coming in second is leave-in conditioner. The product may go unseen, but 26 percent of women regularly make a point of using one. Why? The right conditioning treatment can dramatically improve your hair's health, and in turn makes styling it more manageable. If you have curly hair, try Vernon François' Leave~In Conditioner ($28; sephora.com). The spray is specifically formulated to soften and hydrate all damaged and dried-out textured hair. Another option for extremely dehydrated hair is Living Proof's Restore Perfecting Spray ($29; sephora.com). This treatment is formulated to strengthen hair so that you experience less damage when brushing it.
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Thermal protectant sprays round out the top three styling products women are using the most. Considering that a blow-dryer is the number one hair tool used by women who took part in InStyle's survey, it makes sense that 19 percent of them prep their hair with a product that's going to protect their hair from heat damage. Kenra Professional Thermal Styling Spray 19 ($16; ulta.com) is a solid option because the spray also minimizes frizz. At the drugstore, L'Oreal Paris Advanced Haircare Sleek It Iron Straight Heatspray ($4; target.com) is your best bet—whether you're trying for a super-sleek finish with a flat iron, or simply want to blow-dry your hair so you'll be ready faster.
Whether or not the most-popular styling products from InStyle's hair survey are a regular part of your own routine, just know this: The next time you get shamed for using hairspray, chances are whoever is making fun of you is probably using it, too.