These Pro-Approved Spray-On Hair Colors Won't Mess Up Your 'Do This Halloween

Despite what costume-in-a-bag makers (somehow) sell out of leading up to every fright night, dressing up for Halloween as something sexy, naughty, or just plain offensive isn't your only option. For the diehard among us, the holiday means achieving peak scary, authentic, or gritty — whatever the costume calls for. Things like punky hair color or fake blood take precedence over pretty highlighters and rosy cheeks. The only problem? They tend to require products we wouldn’t normally deem fit to touch our skin and hair.

But as we fired away with cheap, spray-in hair color last year at this time — something we would never use on the daily — a truly scary thought entered our minds: would using this stuff (even for just a day) really eff up our hair? Now, with more and more high-end haircare brands offering spray-in glitter and temporary hair color, we’re left befuddled: should we splurge on the good stuff, as we would with our everyday styling products, or are Halloween products okay?

We took our questions to Susan N. Raffy, a cosmetic chemist with more than 30 years of experience in analyzing and formulating skin and haircare products. Ahead, she helps us break down the differences (and similarities) between fancy and wallet-friendly spray-in hair color and glitter. And like any good haunt, the results delight and fright in the most unexpected of ways.

Splurge Approved: Color Spray

What the Pro Says: The ingredient list on this high-end spray-in shade includes fruit and plant extracts that are generally used to help combat the drying nature of aerosol temporary color. “Coconut fruit extract is a moisturizing ingredient that can help hydrate the hair,” Raffy says. “It uses hydrolyzed pea protein for strengthening and conditioning and polyquaternium-59 for conditioning [as well].”

Our Take: Anyone who has used punky spray-in color nabbed from Halloween stores knows how unbearably putrid their scents can be. This vegan formula (which is free of petrolatum, mineral oil, parabens, and sulfates) smells just like a high-end haircare product should: fresh, slightly floral, and a scent that dissipates quickly. It also delivers a more sophisticated shade of pink (one that’s faint and can be built to shocking) with placement that looks more balayage than sprayed on — which means we will be reaching for this can come festival season or to boost a boring hair week.

IGK Girl’s Club Color Spray, $29, available at IGK.
Save Approved: Color Spray

What the Pro Says: No matter how high or low the price tag, spray in color contains aerosol solvents, which Raffy says, “can be drying to the hair.” She reasons that this formula might be drying to the hair when used over long periods of time. Then again, so might a fancier color spray: though this formula doesn’t contain some of the conditioning ingredients listed in more luxe versions, the chemist notes that those benefits may be negligible. “Without knowing the percentage of beneficial ingredients in the other version, I can’t say whether it provides a real benefit to the hair,” she says.

Our Take: Though the scent on this pink spray wasn’t as mellow as with its pricier counterpart, there was a lot to like about its delivery system. A smaller nozzle and slightly less powerful stream meant better control when targeting specific segments of hair. Those looking for a true hot pink will find major payoff with this formula, too: just one shot deposited brights befitting My Little Pony, Bratz Dolls and brighter-than costumes in between. After one use in which color was generously applied, this formula made our hair feel just as dry as the fancier stuff, which means a salon appointment may be in order if you want to opt for bright color for weeks at a time.

Joico InstaTint Hot Pink Temporary Color Shimmer Spray, $6.99, available at LoxaBeauty.
Splurge Approved: Glitter Spray

What the Pro Says: When looking at formulation alone, Raffy notes that this version of spray-on glitter doesn’t differ too much from wallet-friendly options (including the one on the next slide). “Both formulas are basically the same type of aerosol formula with similar fixative ingredients for holding the glitter in the hair,” she says. Like with IGK's color spray formulation, this glitter spray contains a few booster ingredients aimed at helping condition the hair, including moonstone extract, coconut fruit extract, and hydrolyzed pea protein.

Our Take: A Refinery29 staffer liked this glitter spray so much, she wore it daily for a week — waaaay ahead of any scheduled costume parties. “It creates the perfect veil of shimmer that makes your hair look shiny, while still feeling soft and touchable,” notes Mi-Anne Chan of the lit hair maker that sold out at Sephora in less than a week’s time. (Don’t worry, it’s restocked. Well, for the meantime, anyway.) “Rather than leaving your head looking like a disco ball, this spray lightly mists your hair with tiny silver sparkles. In fact, the effect is so sheer that you can only see the glitter when your hair catches the light just so.”

IGK Preparty Hair Strobing Glitter Spray, $16, available at Sephora.
Save Approved: Glitter Spray

What the Pro Says: As Raffy previously noted, the nuts and bolts of this glitter spray — both its aerosol formula and glitter fixative — look to be similar. While this formula doesn’t contain some of the hair-nourishing ingredients found in the more expensive pick, its absence isn’t likely to make all that much difference if just using this formula for a night or two.

Our Take: First things first: you’ve got to love glitter (make that Kesha levels of love) to give this sucker a go. Even though we aimed strictly for the hair when pressing the canister’s nozzle for the first time, falling particles festooned our clothes, face, arms, shoes, and floor in silver specks. Pro tip: Strip down, cover skin and face with towels, then spray.

Yes, when in the sun and club lights, our hair (and shoulders) sparkled like Cinderella’s. But when the clock struck midnight and we were ready to wash the sparkle away, not a regular shampoo, apple cider vinegar rinse, or even swim in a pool could do the job. As glitter started to cake around our hairline, we pulled out the big guns: a meticulous wash with Sachajuan Scalp Shampoo, which finally did the trick.

Jerome Russell Hair and Body Glitter Spray in Silver, $8.99, available at Ricky’s NYC.
hosted by Lucie Fink.
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