Hairstyling Products: Basic Knowledge You Should Know

WrittenbyLuat Duong
Last updated

Gone are the days when hairstyling products had only one job to do: make your hair look good. Nowadays, hair styling products go beyond beauty and seek to fulfil multifunctional goals.

Thus, it is beneficial to have an understanding of the products in your arsenal - including the main ingredients and how they work.

This blog is here to give you the fundamentals, as well as inform you on the latest trends when it comes to using hair styling products effectively and beneficially. We hope that the next time you shop for a product, you know what to look for.

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Hairstyling products play a vital role in forming and holding your hair in different styles. In practice, their uses can be at almost any point in a hair care regimen: to start, refresh or change, and hold (fix) a hairstyle. In addition, they can endow hair with moisturisation, nourishment, and other reparative benefits. 

Regarding ingredients in hairstyling products, polymers act as one of the main ingredients since they help hold the hair in place to get the desired style. Silicones are another vital ingredient that helps your hair achieve a glossy and smooth finish, but without proper removal, your hair can easily get dry.

Also, beware of short-chain alcohols and protein overload. You may need to make sure not to overuse your protein-rich products while adequately moisturising your hair to compensate for the drying effect of the alcohols.

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Hairstyling Aids: An Overview

Hairstyling products typically vary depending on the physical form, application performance, and the effect on the hair or styling equipment to accomplish desired styles.

However, one general use of styling aids is that they should hold a hairstyle in place without causing negative impacts on the look and feel of the hair, such as messiness and dulling. Furthermore, these styling aids are a way of introducing body, volume, and control to a hairstyle. 

A heightened focus on hair health has resulted in the requirement of more multi-functional styling products, ones that provide hydration, nutrition, and reparation, rather than solely the use of styling.

In today's fast-paced society, styling products must also be able to help manage frizzy, tangled hair for the convenience of the appearance-oriented and time-constrained consumer.

Hair Styling Gel
Hair Styling Gel
A light-weight gel to deliver a soft hold and a high-shine look

Hairstyling Products: Then vs. Now

In the past, hairstyling products were mainly designed to provide a strong hold. While this is still important, people now tend to prefer a more natural feel.

As our lifestyles and perceptions of beauty change, so do our standards for hair styling products. A wide range of options are now available, depending on hair types, hairstyles, and hair status.

While the basic formulas for these products may remain the same, they often include lighter levels of polyols and low levels of styling polymers, as well as herbal extracts, proteins, and other additives. These products are meant to keep hair under control while providing enough moisture to keep it healthy and undamaged even with frequent use.

The advances in the cosmetic industry have enabled hair styling products to improve over time, offering a wide range of formulas tailored to different hair types.

For example, rougher hair will benefit from creamier or more detangling products, while fine hair may need a lighter formula or one that provides the extra body. Those with high hair density should look for products that offer additional detangling for easy combing.

Also, secondary use in original hairstyling products is now a norm due to formula upgrades. These products can provide multiple benefits, such as curl activators that moisten and enhance the orientation of curls while taming frizzy hair.

Any good styling product should be easy to apply, compatible with desired additives, and remove easily without leaving a buildup or unnatural look.


A Closer Look Into Hairstyling Products 

As discussed above, expectations for hairstyling products have grown beyond the styling functionality.

While it might be taken for granted now, it is substantial to read the ingredients list of a product if you want to make sure that you and your hair are happy with the results

Here are some ingredients you can usually find in most hairstyling products.


Polymers are made of macro-molecules and were originally utilized as fixative agents and thickeners for hair care products.

However, their use has advanced, and they are now a central part of styling and conditioning treatments thanks to the introduction of new polymers into hair care products.

Polymers for styling products are often soluble in water or alcohol blends. For the polymers to be effective, they must be able to adhere to the hair, or else they will result in unsightly flakes.


Various forms of parabens (methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, isopropyl paraben, and isobutyl paraben) are used as preservatives in many hair care products

Recently, there has been a rise in apprehension surrounding the utilization of these compounds in cosmetics. Several studies have suggested that parabens may possess androgen antagonist properties and demonstrate genotoxic activity.

However, there is no evidence to prove that parabens could lead to potential human health issues. Thus, making the claims that parabens are associated with hazardous health concerns at this point in time is unfounded.

Meanwhile, offering a nature-inspired hair care solution, our Scandinavian Biolabs’ products are always free from parabens so that you can enjoy peace of mind regarding this ingredient.

Hair Styling Gel
Hair Styling Gel
A light-weight gel to deliver a soft hold and a high-shine look

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Hair Strength & Growth Bundle | For Men
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Another ingredient you might consider when checking your hairstyling products is silicones. 

Acting as a protective seal, these ingredients leave the hair with a smooth, glossy finish. Meanwhile, they can help improve manageability and decrease breakage when combing.

Unfortunately, certain silicones can be hard to wash out, resulting in residue buildups that could cause further issues. Indeed, researchers have classified silicones into three groups according to their ability to wane off with water.

To minimise any potential negative side effects, you may want to bypass those silicones classified as stubborn, such as dimethicone. Instead, opt for those easy-to-rinse ones, and you can sit back enjoying the benefits of your hairstyling products.

Proteins and alcohols

Although hairstyling products are for styling purposes, you may want to acknowledge the protein contents and short-chain alcohols contents.

Protein-rich products, the most common in “quick drying” protein gel formulas, provide structural support to the hair strand by filling broken spaces. However, excessive use of such products can lead to protein overload, resulting in breakage due to hair dryness. 

Short-chain alcohols, such as ethanol, propanol, and isopropanol, are often referred to as drying alcohols. This type of ingredient can be found in many hair styling products as an additive. Not only does it speed up the drying time, but it also allows the product to spread evenly across the hair. 

Yet, due to their drying characteristics, drying alcohols may cause dehydration issues for cuticles. Stripping away oil and water from the hair shaft, these ingredients have the potential to cause dryness and frizz.

To overcome these challenges, hair care companies can incorporate moisturising elements into their styling products to achieve their desired result while diminishing any negative consequences of the alcohols.


Quick Tips For Effective Use Of Your Styling Aids 

1. Identifying your hair type is essential for selecting the appropriate hair styling products.

Relaxed or fine hair respond well to lotions, sprays, and mists, whereas thicker or coarser strands benefit more from creamier serums with additional nourishment

To make the most of hair gelsthere are some factors you may want to take into account beforehand in order to maximise their benefits.

2. Before applying any gels to your hair, it is essential to cleanse and condition it. Furthermore, you can apply a hydrating product, such as oil or a moisturiser, to avoid potential drynessAnother way to achieve that goal is to blend the gel with butter or oil before using.

After the gel dries and sets in your hair, make sure to spray some water to loosen the gel before you brush or style your hair again.

Hair Protection Oil
Hair Protection Oil
A blend of natural oils to help provide moisture & protection to hair


3. After using protein-rich products, take a moment to consider the way your hair feels.

When your hair loses its softness, strength, and suppleness, the solution is to switch to a product that is more hydrating and contains less protein to restore the moisture balance and elasticity of your hair

4. Also, pay more attention to the right amount of hair styling products in your daily use. A little can go a long way.

It is recommended to begin with a small amount of product and gradually build up until you have achieved your desired hairstyle. This method of incremental application is preferable and more manageable than trying to apply a lot in one go.


The information we provide is not intended to mitigate, prevent, treat, cure or diagnose any disease or condition. If you have any concerns about your health, please consult your doctor.


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Johnson, D. H. (Ed.). (2018). Hair and hair care. Routledge.

Martiny, S. (2002). Acetylenic polymers for hair styling products. International Journal of cosmetic science24(3), 125-134.

Robbins, C.R. (2012). Polymers in Hair Products. In: Chemical and Physical Behavior of Human Hair. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.

Darbre, P.D. and Harvey, P.W. (2008), Paraben esters: review of recent studies of endocrine toxicity, absorption, esterase and human exposure, and discussion of potential human health risks. J. Appl. Toxicol., 28: 561-578.

Luat Duong

Luat Duong is a Copenhagen-based writer and content strategist specializing in hair loss and health. His work has been featured in MyHealthGuide, The Right Hairstyles, and Woman's Era. He is a graduate of Vaasa University. You can connect with him on LinkedIn.