How To Get The Right Waves For Your Hair

It seems everywhere you look, women are sporting waves. Billboards, magazine covers, and films are filled with seemingly perfect hair, boasting the ideal, thick coiffures so many women envy. Whether your hair is long or short, thick or thin, there is a type of wave ideally suited to your hair type. Below, the tools, tips, and types of waves are identified and explained in further detail.

What Qualifies As a Wave? The Difference between Wavy and Curly.

Wavy and curly are two terms often used interchangeably. Despite this, the two words describe entirely different textures. A curly mane is usually tighter and formed in ringlets, while wavy locks typically only have curves or kinks placed into strands (see photo). While both are relatively easy to achieve, the products and methods used to create each are vastly different—both in permanents and in day-to-day styling.

Permanent Waves Versus Day-to-Day Waves

For men and women whose deepest desire is to achieve permanent curves, there is hope. Although the word “perm” most often conjures images of poodle-like frizz reminiscent of the early 80s, perms have come quite a long way, and can include simple waves. Unfortunately, poodle-perms are far easier to guarantee results, as gentle curves are achieved by using large, loose rollers.

The danger of using large rollers when applying permanent solutions is the possibility of tresses not taking (due to the roll not being tight enough), or easily losing shape. This danger can be combatted, somewhat, by consistently applying the right products, including a gentle shampoo and conditioner, and a curl-specific mousse or gel. Diffusers also work wonders, as they allow locks to be dried in wave-friendly clumps, rather than blowing straight.

Tools Needed for Waves

There are numerous tools designed to help achieve perfect waves. These may include (but certainly are not limited to):

  • Flat Irons
  • Hair Dryers
  • Bobby Pins
  • Clips/Separators
  • Curling Wand
  • Sea Salt Spray

While not all of these will be necessary for each type of wave, having each of these on hand is a good starting point.

Ready, Set, Coif

Before moving on, know this: there are numerous types of waves, largely depending upon hair type (short, long, thick, thin, curly, straight, etc.). While one type may work beautifully in your mane, another type may not take at all. As you explore different types of coiffures, have patience; hair is as unique as a snowflake and will likely require some amount of trial and error.

Boho Waves (boho being short for bohemian) are characterized by long tresses, and loose, frayed bends. This particular style is best achieved by the use of a curling wand, and is typically accompanied by a few loose braids. To get this look, begin by spritzing roots with a lifting spray. From there, take strands in one-to-two-inch sections, and wrap loosely around the barrel of a curling wand, beginning in the middle of the strand, rather than the root. You may wish to hair spray each section as you go. Continue this until all of the sections have been covered. Run fingers through tresses to loosen any still-tight curls, scrunch, and go.

Pincurl Waves (also called retro or finger waves) are the bends most reminiscent of the heroines of films from the 40s. These curves are characterized by large spaces between each bend, and face-framing strands. To achieve this look, pin damp locks using bobby pins or barrettes, beginning 2-3 inches from roots. Keep pinning locks every 2-3 inches, and finish by twisting your mane into a low bun. Either air dry or dry on warm with a hair dryer. Set curls using a liberal amount of hair spray, and pair with a glamorous dress for a fun night out.

Overnight/Heatless Waves are certainly appealing. While wavy hair is desirable, the toll excessive heat can take on tresses is no joke, and can lead to breakage, split ends, brittle locks, and even hair loss. To achieve heatless/overnight bends, all you need is a stretchy headband. Place headband over scalp. To begin, take ½ inch sections of your mane and wrap them around the headband. Continue this process until all strands have been wrapped entirely around the band. This is best done on dry hair. Let the band sit overnight, and remove in the morning. This should result in a simple, relaxed coiffure.

Short Waves can be tricky. They are best achieved with the help of a flat iron. To get springy, fun waves in short hair, part hair into 1-inch sections. Beginning at the root, clamp strands and twist once (see photo). Pull flat iron through to ends and behold! Fun, flouncing waves. Using a ceramic flat iron, waves can typically last from 2-4 days, and may only require a light dusting of dry shampoo.




Beach Waves typically require some product. To begin, spray sea salt spray into dry or slightly damp tresses. Scrunch hair all around your head to create loose curves and kinks in hair. This style is intended to look effortless and messy, so do not worry if your mane does not look perfectly in place—you are attempting to look as though you have just left the beach, after all. Once your locks are scrunched and dry, take either a curling wand or curling iron and wrap any wayward, straight strands around the barrel loosely. To finish the look, spray lightly with hair spray, flip head upside-down, and run your fingers through roots. Stand up and enjoy your messy, casual waves.

Tricky? Nah.

While finally achieving enviable waves may at first seem intimidating, don’t worry: most coifs are intended to look casual, fun, and simple. Do not be afraid to experiment and fiddle with hair once it has been curled; much of the loose, messy look is achieved by running fingers through hair that has been curled rightly or rigidly. Remember, too, that different hair lengths and textures will respond to each of these tutorials differently; while using a flat iron on short hair results in springy waves, it may result in curled ends in extremely long hair. Practice each method thoroughly to determine which best suits your hair and needs.

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