This Sold-Out Hair Lightener Is Making Sun-In Cool Again

You never want something until you can't have it. So, each week in The Sell-Out, we're getting the scoop from your favorite retailers on what's selling like crazy. Watch this space to find out what everyone's buying, sign up for wait lists, and keep tabs on restocks.
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 clamoring for them: Just one week after Ouai's Sun of a Beach Ombre Spray launched this summer, it completely sold out at Sephora.
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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 colored 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 neutralize 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 color 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 Sephora (where the formula has been restocked), or a few alternative options, ahead.
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How exactly can an at-home spray lighten hair? Usually, the magic is in an oxidation reaction that occurs via hydrogen peroxide. "The hydrogen peroxide molecule breaks down into a free radical, which then converts hair’s melanin into a colorless version," Romanowski explains. Sure enough, when we used this coconut- and pineapple-scented spray, the star ingredient subtly lifted our dishwater blonde hair.
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Looking for a botanically-driven way to boost blonde? This formula taps chamomile extract to coax pigment out of hair. It’s also the most subtly-scented of the bunch.
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You don’t necessarily have to clock time in the sun when using a hair lightener made with hydrogen peroxide, like this pineapple-scented version. "Hydrogen peroxide will react on its own with hair protein (and color)," Romanowski says. "But the presence of UV light from the sun will speed up the oxidation reaction [and therefore, its lightening effect]."
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This vegan, hydrogen peroxide-free formula utilizes lemon and chamomile to help lighten hair and minimize brassiness.
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