How to Create Effortless Waves for Short Hair: A Tutorial

Jennifer Lawrence short hair

Stuart C. Wilson / Getty Images

I have a confession to make: I was 20 years old the first time I curled my hair. See, I grew up in the mid-2000s when the au courant look was bone-straight hair. So throughout my formative years, curling techniques really weren't on my radar. But hair trends evolved, as they thankfully do, and soon, messy waves rose as the reigning look. Trust me when I say those first few years curling my hair were a little rough—it took a while for me to get as comfortable curling my hair as I'd been straightening it, especially after I cut my hair short. Let's just say if you don't quite know what you're doing, curling short hair can quickly look less like Jennifer Lawrence and more like Shirley Temple.

Luckily, as it turns out, it doesn't have to be so complicated. It takes a teensy bit of practice, but overall, the steps are super simple, whether you're using a curling iron, wand, flat iron, or even going heat-free (yep, it's possible). To help us nail down perfectly imperfect short hair curls, we turned to Glamsquad artistic hair director Giovanni Vaccaro for some tips. Follow the step-by-step tutorials below to learn how to curl short hair.

Meet the Expert

Giovanni Vaccaro is the artistic hair director at Glamsquad.

How to Curl Short Hair with a Curling Iron

"The smaller the barrel the tighter the wave or curl," says Vaccaro. "Use a .75-inch barrel if you want to curl and use a one-inch barrel if you want a looser wave." This barrel size and technique is great for someone whose curls tend to fall out easily (ahem, those with straight strands).

  1. Start out by misting your hair all over with a heat protectant.
  2. Using an alligator clip or hair tie, section off the upper half of your hair up and out of the way.
  3. If you have straight hair, blow dry a light mousse into the hair to give it some grit (otherwise, it can be difficult to grab the hair and have it respond to the curling iron). 
  4. Feed the section of hair through the barrel and begin curling.
  5. Set each curl by catching it right as you release it from around the barrel, holding it in your hand for a few seconds, then releasing.
  6. Continue curling the top section of hair, alternating between curling away from your face and toward your face for a more natural finish.
  7. Let down the rest of your hair from the clip and repeat the curling.
  8. Lock in your curls with a strong-hold hairspray like GSQ by Glamsquad’s Strong Hold Hairspray ($11). "It’s a touchable but firm hold that will also help you manage frizz," says Vaccaro.

Tresemmé's tried-and-true Thermal Creations Heat Tamer Spray ($5) helps prevent damage from heat styling tools, which is especially important for color-treated hair.

How to Curl Short Hair With a Curling Wand

"If you are someone who wants a beachy natural texture, a curling wand is great because it makes it easy to keep your ends straight," notes Vaccaro. For bob- and lob-length hair, a curling wand with a one-inch barrel works best—anything larger won't work for your short hair, and anything smaller will make the ringlets too tight.

  1. Apply a heat protectant all over the hair.
  2. Section off the top part of your hair with a hair tie or clip.
  3. Hold your iron at a diagonal angle for a more effortless, modern pattern (or horizontally for more volume).
  4. Wrap the hair around the iron (rather than feed it through), leaving about one-inch to one and a half-inch of hair out for a modern beauty texture.
  5. Let down the rest of your hair from the clip and repeat the curling.
  6. Gently glide a flat iron over the very tips of your hair for a more relaxed finish.
  7. Finish with a texture spray. "My secret weapon that I use on all clients for volume and texture is the Glamsquad The Untamed Texturizing Finishing Spray ($27)."

Avoid combing through your curls when they're still hot, as this can cause them to fall right away. After you release your curls, leave them alone until they cool.

How to Curl Short Hair With a Flat Iron

"If you have fine hair that doesn’t hold a curl and you just want a little texture, a flat iron wave is perfect for you," notes Vaccaro. "This is one of the most effortless and modern patterns."

  1. Apply a heat protectant all over the head.
  2. Section off the top part of your hair.
  3. Starting at the root, create bends in your hair by rocking the flat iron and bending your wrist while working down the hair shaft.
  4. For a less spiral-looking shape, wrap the hair around the flat iron and ribbon it as if you were creating a ribbon for gift wrapping.
  5. Let the top part of your hair down and continue the process.
  6. Rough up the ends by twisting through a hair pomade like Kevin Murphy's Free Hold Cream ($44).

How to Get Heat-Free Curls

"Flexirods are great for gorgeous, heatless bouncy curls," says Vaccaro. "These work best when you already have some natural texture to your hair."

  1. Spritz a heat protectant all over the hair.
  2. Apply a leave-in conditioner and a hair mousse to help hold the curl pattern.
  3. Grab a medium-sized section of hair and wrap it around the flexirod from tip to root.
  4. Once you have them all in, wrap a silk scarf around your head and sleep on them.
  5. Remove flexirods in the morning, separate your curls for the most natural body and volume, and use a wide tooth comb at the root to remove any separation lines.
  6. Finish with a hair oil like the Bellami Platinum Perfection Hair Serum ($30).

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