The ultimate ’80s beauty basic: Hairspray

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Beauty and fashion hairspray

Hairspray: Teens don’t leave home without it! (1988)

Nineteen-year-old Debbie Ziv of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, was not even born during the heyday of the bubble, the beehive, the flip, the bouffant — and that masterful effort, the artichoke.

Yet, she regularly performs a grooming ritual that dates back to that other era, to the tremulous nostalgia of the Watusi and the funky chicken, to Luci Baines Johnson, Apollo 7, op art, Twiggy, “Rosemary’s Baby,” the original Mary Quant miniskirts and the aptly-named “Hair.”

Ziv, who is working this summer as a fashion merchandising intern, is a hair-spray fanatic. In the morning, spiiiiisss In the evening, spiiiiisss. On weekends, before a strenuous night at Club Nu, spiiiiiiiiiiiiisss, and Ziv’s long, blond-highlighted brown hair is calmed into submission and suspended in perfection.

“I started using hair spray many years ago,” Ziv says, “as far back as I first could. I think it started because I got sick of my hair flopping when I went out.

“Let’s put it this way: In the morning, I wouldn’t leave the house without it. I use it every chance I get. I usually carry some in the car. Everybody I know uses it.”

After more than a decade of devotion to the slicked-up, slicked-down affectations wrought by smeared-in, dabbed-on mousses and gels, style-conscious US consumers such as Ziv are getting their heads together with hairspray.

Hairspray Teens don't leave home without it (1988)

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“Hairspray started to grow in double digits in 1984, and most of the increase is coming from teenagers who are just entering the market,” says Laurel Blair, spokesman for the Alberto Culver Co. of Melrose Park, Illinois, maker of Alberto VO5, Alberto European Styling Hair Spray and Consort hair spray for men.

“Up until about five years ago, hair sprays basically appealed to older women, but with the introduction of mousses and gels and the return to femininity in fashion, the younger women were shown more variations in what they could do with their hair. They got into styling it with the mousse and the gels, and then the styles got so complicated, they also needed the help of sprays.”

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In the eighties, 80% of teen girls used hair products

Industry research indicates more than 80 percent of all teenage girls in the United States now use aerosol hair sprays or their updated cousins, pump-spray holding spritzes, such as Conair or Bold Hold.

Indeed, 1987’s combined sales for hair sprays and spritzes hovered between $600 million and $700 million, with the category’s hottest single product, Faberge’s Aqua Net, accounting for $100 million of that all by itself. The standard $2.29 aerosol can of extra-hold Aqua Net, which was introduced in 1953, is now the top-selling toiletry item in drugstore chains throughout the country. Sales for all Aqua Net products have tripled during the past five years.

“People see hair as very important now,” says Daniel J. Manella, Faberge’s chairman. “They are very hair-involved.”

Hairspray Teens don't leave home without it (1988)

A national hairspray revival

Evidence of a national hairspray revival is everywhere, from such bizarre ’60s retrospectives as the John Waters flick “Hairspray” and the musical revue “Beehive,” to the almost subliminal nudge one gets from the Consort ballpark billboards in the movie “Bull Durham.”

The first commercial hair sprays were introduced after World War II as a relief from the constant fussing required by bobby pins. Before that, clever homemakers and salon stylists had to make do with such home-brewed concoctions as sugar water or the more odious combination of lacquer and rubbing alcohol. During the height of the ’60s hair-spray fad, the ideal hairstyle was anything with a smooth, roundish silhouette and a texture one might describe as gunky.

“And the little beads of liquid running down your head after you sprayed,” says Laurel Blair. “Remember?”

Women routinely had their hair washed and set once or, at best, twice a week, applied daily additional coatings of spray and slept with their wretched, teased bouffants swathed in toilet paper and their bodies rigid as logs so as not to traumatize their coifs. “Not tonight, dear,” went the litany in homes all across the land. “Antoine just did my hair.”

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The 1970s’ growing preoccupation with fitness and convenience inspired a preference for shorter, wash-and-wear hairdos. That, along with the condemnation by environmentalists that fluorocarbon propellants in hairsprays junk up the atmosphere, was enough to flatten the market.

Today’s sprays and spritzes, minus the harmful substances of the past, tend to combine chemical resins with an alcohol base and additives such as animal proteins and fragrances.

Household hint: If you pre-treat a piece of clothing stained by lipstick or ballpoint-pen ink with a heavy spritz of hair spray, the blemish will come clean in the wash.

Ogilvie hairspray - vintage ad

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