Restaurants aren’t the only establishments where a customer can order the frothy concoction. Now beauty salons and cosmetic counters across the country are serving mousse—in this case, aerated goo that is meant to solve the most hair-raising problems. According to its proponents, just a dollop of the foam squirted into the palm and then worked into either wet or dry hair with the fingers can provide volume, shine and control without the stickiness of styling gels or the stiffness of sprays.
“Mousse is the Dippity-Do of the ’80s,” proclaims Louis Licari, color director of New York City’s La Coupe hair salon, where the likes of Lauren Hutton, Raquel Welch and Dustin Hoffman have been coiffed. Your hair can be flyaway or frizzy—the texture does not matter. “Mousse,” says Licari, “is for everyone.”
While it represents only a fraction of the $3 billion-a-year hair-care business, mousse sales are expected to increase from $100 million to $250 million by year’s end, making it potentially the hottest new beauty product to hit drugstore shelves since hair spray in the early ’60s.
British and French women were the first to get all lathered up about mousse—the word is French for “foam”—when it appeared in their salons more than two years ago. It became widely available in the U.S. early this year. There are now more than 30 brands—$4 to $10 per aerosol can—including a line of “flavored” mousses (strawberry for redheads, lemon for blondes, etc.). Despite their whipped-cream-like appearance, these are definitely not for eating.
At the root of mousse mania is the current trend toward shorter, more layered hairstyles. Mousse gives these cuts soft, long-lasting control and versatility. “One of the great misconceptions about short hair is that you’re locked into something,” says Avram, art director for Vidal Sassoon in New York. “Mousse can greatly increase the options for styling.”
According to James A. Nixon, senior vice president and general manager of L’Oreal’s retail division, the average user is an urban working woman between the ages of 18 and 39. She is drawn to mousse, he believes, because “there’s something about foam that’s fun.” La Coupe’s Sharon Esche, though not one to split hairs, advances a more hoary explanation for the craze. “Having seen foam used all these years as shaving cream,” she says, “now women have a cosmetic foam of their own.”