Hair spray (also hair lacquer or spritz) is a common cosmetic hairstyling product that is sprayed onto hair to protect against humidity and wind. Hair sprays typically consist of several components for the hair as well as a propellant.[1]

Ingredients and operation

Hair sprays consist of the following components: concentrate, plasticizers, luster agents, and fragrances, as well as propellants.

Polyvinylpyrrolidone is a common component of hair spray that confers stiffness to hair.


Hair spray are a blend of polymers that provide structural support to hair. These frequently include copolymers of polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP) and polyvinyl acetate (PVAc). Vinyl acetate-crotonic acid copolymers give harder films. In this way hairsprays can be formulated as flexible, medium, and maximum hold.[2] The copolymer mixture is usually adjusted to achieve the desired physical properties (adhesive strength, foaming, etc.), using plasticizers such as aminomethyl propanol, surfactants such as benzalkonium chloride, and other agents like dimethicone.


Since the phase-out of CFCs in the 1980s, hydrocarbons are popular propellants. These include propane, butane, isobutane, and related volatile hydrocarbons, as well as mixtures thereof. Such hydrocarbons are poor solvents for the active ingredients such as the polymers. For this reason dimethyl ether is often added as well. It functions both as a propellant and a solvent.[1]

Other components

Plasticizers used in hair spray include esters of citric acid and adipic acid. Silicones and polyglycols are also used.

The concentrate comprises only a small volume of a can of hairspray. Most of a canister is filled solvents such as isopropanol (rubbing alcohol) and ethanol.[1]


Early hair sprays were developed in Europe in the 1920s. In the US, hair sprays were developed around the time of the aerosol can in the 1940s, and the first patents describing copolymers for hair styling were published in the 1940s.[3][4]

In the US, the first to package it was Chase products (an aerosol manufacturer) in 1948, as the beauty industry saw that the aerosol cans used in World War II for insecticides could be used as a dispenser for hairspray.[5] It thrived and became increasingly popular and mass-produced, as updos and other such hairstyles were created. By 1964, it became the highest selling beauty product on the market. However, sales declined in the 1970s as hairstyles became predominately worn straight and loose. By the 1980s, hairspray’s popularity came back as big hairstyles resurged with the glam metal scene.

Prior to 1979, the most popular propellants in hairsprays were CFCs. Owing to environmental concerns, they were replaced.

Harmful effects

Hairspray is an aerosol product containing many harmful chemical compounds. Because of its aerosol application, hair spray is extremely flammable. In 1993, the FDA released a warning statement to prevent hair spray-related fires. Prior to this statement, many fires caused by the use of this product had been reported.[6] Some volatile organic compounds are found in most hairsprays, which have a range of health and environmental effects. Another dangerous substance found in hairspray is formaldehyde, something used in higher concentrations to preserve tissue samples, specimens, and cadavers. Because it is used to kill mold and bacteria as well, it is in hairspray to ward off potential contaminants. However, formaldehyde can cause many problems such as dermatitis, headaches, and respiratory illness. It is also a suspected carcinogen.

See also


  1. ^ a b c T. Clausen (2006). "Hair Preparations". Ullmann’s Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry. Weinheim: Wiley-VCH. doi:10.1002/14356007.a12_571.pub2. 
  2. ^ Victoria Sherrow, "Hairspray." Encyclopedia of Hair: A Cultural History.
  3. ^ US patent 2305356, Luckenbach, William F., "Dressing of Hair", issued 1940-4-4 
  4. ^ US patent 2464281, Peterson, Durey H., "Cream Hair Treating Preparations", issued 1945-3-7 
  5. ^ Liz Suman. "The History of Hairspray." About.com. N.p., n.d. Web. <beautysupply.about.com/od/Hairspray/a/The-History-Of-Hair-Spray.htm>
  6. ^ "FDA ISSUES HAIRSPRAY WARNING." - Free Online Library. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Apr. 2014. <http://www.thefreelibrary.com/FDA+ISSUES+HAIRSPRAY+WARNING-a013119595>


  • Ben Selinger, Chemistry in the Marketplace, fourth ed. (Harcourt Brace, 1994).Abigail Saucedo (2008)
  • Victoria Sherrow, "Hairspray." Encyclopedia of Hair: A Cultural History. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2006. 183-84. Print.