Are you familiar with that soul-crushing sense of disappointment that happens only when you’ve convinced yourself you’re getting what you want, only to helplessly watch it slip through your fingers? I’ve experienced it often: but none more so than with salt sprays. I’m not saying they don’t work because I’ve seen them successfully in action before—mostly backstage and on-set, in the hands of professionals. But, I am definitely saying that they don’t work on me. Each time, I envision wind-tousled waves, slightly piece-y and just a tiny bit mussed. I liberally spritz whatever promising formula I’m testing with my eyes closed, murmuring a silent prayer. Then I open my eyes, look in the mirror, and black out.
You could call me an optimist (or deluded, you decide), because this knowledge didn’t stop me from enthusiastically volunteering to test Bumble and Bumble’s brand-new Surf Styling Leave In. The $29 tube launches today (April 10) and features an intriguing spin on the brand’s OG Surf Spray. If you’re unfamiliar, the iconic matte black bottle is the ultimate word in texturizing salt sprays. Introduced back in 2001, it instantly gained legions of fans for its ability to impart matte, slightly gritty texture and breezy movement. We’ve already gone over my relationship with anything in this category, so let’s move on to the brand’s latest Surf Collection addition.
At first, I was drawn in by the Leave In’s promise to deeply condition and detangle, while still creating that coveted fresh-from-the-waves finish. The formula contains no salt at all; it’s a detangling blend of kelp, coconut, and aloe juice with added UV protection. While those words would usually signal some kind of smoothing product, this goes one step further and simultaneously adds texture. Bumble and Bumble’s executive director of product development, Lisa Sykes, describes the special sauce as its “Flexi-Style Blend.” It contains polymers that provide light, flexible hold—essentially coaxing out curls without adding crunch or grit.
Everything about the sunny tube evokes a day at the beach, from the bright blue-and-yellow packaging to its deliciously aquatic scent. You only need a little bit; I squeeze a small dollop of the transparent styler in my hand and scrunch it through slightly damp hair that’s been towel-drying, before twisting it into a messy bun. Hairstylist Christiaan Van Bremen, who is also the brand’s manager of global education, tells me that this is the most important step.
“This product performs best when you encourage your hair to have bend,” he says. “Twist your hair while working the product in, squeeze and scrunch it with your hands. Think of massaging it in the way you’d put on hand lotion. After it’s had some time to air dry, take it down.” You can leave it at that or cocktail it with other products for additional moisture, if you so desire. I like pre-coating everything with a few drops of Hairdresser’s Invisible Oil, just to boost the shine. Van Bremen adds that you can enhance the effect by diffusing the product with a blow-dryer or curling a few pieces with an iron, but I haven’t found that to be necessary.
That brings us to the result—finally, at long last, the beachy texture of my dreams. I am happy to report that instead of blacking out after the first trial run, I immediately took 50 selfies. One hour of product-enhanced dry time gave me soft, loose waves that appeared only gently ruffled by a sea breeze. I strolled out the door to a coffee and cake date with a friend, whose baby dove into my arms and squealed in delight upon seeing my hairstyle. (I know you’re probably thinking that he wasn’t specifically squealing about my hair, but this is the first time since birth that he’s shown the slightest bit of interest in it.)