How to get control without resorting to helmet hair.

Walking out of a salon freshly spritzed, it's always tempting to toss back your hair, secure in the knowledge it will fall back into style.

It's a confidence that for many of us doesn't come every day, with the seemingly effortless application of hairspray often stopping with the hairdresser.

Sure, some women are DIY devotees, but if, like me, you don't have much of a knack with hair, then it's time to consult the professionals. Hairspray really is a helper, it's just a matter of finding the right formula and getting a few tips on how to apply it properly.

Advice is something Chetan Mongia, dispenses from his small Mt Albert salon, Focus Hair, Beauty and Nails.

The stylist was named TreSemme's brand ambassador after working on the New Zealand Fashion Festival for the hair company this year. He says hairspray is as valuable for every day as for the runway because it helps achieve and maintain desired looks.

"From a voluminous look to an updo and to keep your flyaway hair tamed, the key answer is hairspray."

It is important, he says, to understand the different types of spray strength and how they should be used to gain "the most effective and beautiful results."

* Flexible sprays deliver a mild to moderate hold that lets hair move naturally with body motion or wind without destroying a style.

* A strong or extra strength spray type is meant to hold nearly all hair in place, making it suitable for tricky conditions and fiddlier styles that need assistance to maintain shape.

* Maximum, ultra-strength or so-called freeze sprays are the strongest holds available. They dry quickly and should keep elaborate styles in place under adverse conditions.

Mongia says frustration about how to style their hair at home is "one thing that is really annoying our clients today".

He helps out by watching then coaching them out of any bad habits. With hairspray, application is often at fault.

"They normally tend to keep it really close which results in patches of product and it gets really sticky."

One of his tricks is to teach women to put hairspray on a brush, so they can then distribute it more evenly, rather than just applying it on top of the head. Here's a few other tips:

* Use spray to set your curls. Once your rollers are in place, or you've wrapped a section of hair around your curling iron, spritz to help create and keep your curly shape.

* Revive a day-old blowdry by flipping your hair forward, giving it a good spray, and then flipping your hair back and using your fingers to smooth your style back into place.

* Add volume with a special volumising spray applied to your roots and under layers. (Mongia recommends TreSemme 24 hour body finishing spray).

* To make your blow wave last, decrease the amount of hairspray you use initially as otherwise it can get sticky on the second day. (Mongia recommends TreSemme Tres Two Firm Control Hairspray, $9.29, as good for daily use because it is brushable and non-sticky. It is new here, but a top supermarket seller in the United States).

Behind the mist

Hairspray has thankfully evolved from its 1950s incarnation as strong-hold lacquer. It felt like fibreglass and was a mission to remove.

L'Oreal's Elnett spray, launched in 1960 and still a favourite of stylists, changed the game, being much easier to brush out than the old lacquers. Elnett is still a versatile, good-value buy, but it has been joined on the shelves by stacks of sprays with quite specific uses.

"There is now something for everyone, and no longer just 'hairspray'," says Hayley Pullyn, national technical manager at L'Oreal Professionel.

"Aerosols, non-aerosol, innovative ingredients that offer consumers different benefits depending on their needs." (She cites the likes of Pureology's new Strengthening Control Hairspray, which contains ingredients that preserve colour and strengthen weakened hair).

To choose the best spray for your hair the two main things to consider are:

1. How much hold factor you want (light, medium or strong)?

2. What is your main goal (anti-frizz, shine, gentle on the hair, added UV protection, and so on)?

Hairspray works, says Pullyn, due to its combination of ingredients.

"Holding agents called 'polymers' coat the hair. The key element to polymers is they are useful for their ability to form films upon drying. They also contain solvents (which activate the ingredients), additives that define what the hairspray is designed to do, and propellants which are gases that deliver hairspray from aerosol cans."

"Once hairspray is applied to the hair, the liquid drops run down the hair shaft until they reach the intersection of two hair fibres. When the drops dry at this fibre intersection, they create an invisible film that bonds hairs together."

Sprays are sometimes described as "workable," meaning they can brush out, allowing the hair to be restyled and resprayed.

Quality modern sprays shouldn't damage the hair. Any problems are probably due to mis-use.

"If you use an excessive amount daily, and/or using it too much in conjunction with heated appliances, you may damage your hair." This is not common, but can happen and may be helped by switching to a fixing mist. (Pullyn recommends the medium hold of L'Oreal Professional Texture expert fixing mist).

Issues with build-up might be due to using the wrong spray or using it incorrectly.

"Hair that would be more prone to this is very damaged hair, undernourished or over layered with spray."

To help counter build-up use a cleansing/clarifying shampoo followed by a deep conditioning treatment, then cut back on spray or switch to another type so you can avoid constant reapplying.

And do check the instructions on the can.

"People often overlook this," says Pullyn, giving the example of one product you should hold 15cm away and another at 35cm.