If the triumphant return of scrunchies, padded headbands, and stretch combs has shown us anything, it’s that '90s hairstyles are still having a moment (and maybe we should have kept all the treasures we had stocked in our Caboodles after all). But those looking for further proof can find it in the resurgence of hair-lightening sprays, and just how much we’re clamouring for them: Just one week after Ouai's Sun of a Beach Ombre Spray launched this summer, it completely sold out at Sephora.
Of course, lightening sprays aren't all sunny skies and salon-quality blonde highlights. Those of us who experimented with similar formulations in our youth may recall a certain undesirable brassiness or straw-like texture that tended to occur after religious use. We've been burned before — so we asked Perry Romanowski, an independent cosmetic chemist and co-founder of The Beauty Brains, who notes that this and similar formulas may impart a bit of hair damage, but not nearly as much as a trip to the salon.
"Since [the lightening spray] contains hydrogen peroxide as the primary ingredient, you can expect that the user will experience some protein damage that can result in hair that is more brittle and that feels more dry,” Romanowski says. “However, the damage will be much less than getting hair coloured or bleached in standard ways.”
Unlike with some lighteners of decades past, the stylist-owned brand considered such variables, and included conditioning ingredients to help neutralise the onset of damage. Romanowski points to PEG-40, hydrogenated castor oil, glycerin and even honey, which help mellow harshness brought on by the lightener’s star ingredient.
As for potential brassiness, Romanowski notes the outcome is possible for those with dark hair. “This is because you are only reducing a small amount of the colour molecules in hair,” he says. “The ones that remain can have red or orange undertones, which become more visible with less dark pigments to hide them.”
Though Ouai Sun of a Beach Ombre Spray is currently sold out on the brand’s site, those looking to level up this summer can try Space NK (where the formula has been restocked), or a few alternative options, ahead.