Hair trends come and go, but waves never go out of style. There is no one way to wear your hair wavy—you can opt for loose, beachy texture, tighter curls, or big, barrel waves courtesy of your curling iron. How to achieve the look will depend on several factors, such as your natural hair (is it super curly or pin-straight?), whether you like to use heat styling tools, your favorite method for styling, the list goes on. Long strands provide the perfect opportunity to play with the texture. We spoke with two experts, Devin Rahal and Ryan Richman, for their top tips on creating waves at home.
So, keep on scrolling for 40 long, wavy hairstyles you'll want to try immediately.
This gorgeous head of wavy hair on Vanessa Lachey looks like it just came from the beach. To get beachy waves and mimic this classic look for long hair, Rahal says:
- "Start with a shampoo/conditioner combo that won’t weigh your hair down, like a volumizing line."
- Then, "detangle when conditioner is in the hair, rinse, and blot dry gently."
- Rahal recommends applying a curl-encouraging product before either air drying or diffusing your strands. "This will ensure you’re working w the best 'Beachy' canvas," he adds.
- "Depending on how curly your hair is naturally, you can wrap your hair around a curling wand like NuMes Magic Curling Wand ($79) with adjustable heat."
- "You can wrap every section or select pieces. Beachy isn’t perfect, so make sure you’re alternating the direction you wrap each section, away from the face/towards the face, depending on how your hair is cut. I generally wrap the hairline away from the face and alternate from there," says Rahal. He also suggests leaving about one to three inches of the ends "unwrapped" for a more natural look.
Ombré is an especially fitting highlight technique for adding dimension to endless waves. The color of this style is amazing. Follow Rahal's steps for beachy waves from look #1 to let your ombré pop.
Partially unraveled braids, as seen here on Gabrielle Union, are a unique way to create looser waves on natural curls. Hair jewels add a touch of red carpet-ready glitz.
- Start by braiding your entire head of hair or asking for braids at your salon.
- Begin to unravel them at the ends after they've been in for several hours or days, stopping around the jawline. Be sure to vary the lengths of the unraveled ends for a more relaxed, boho appearance.
- Apply a leave-in curl preserving product like Briogeo Curl Charisma Rice Amino + Avocado Leave-In Defining Cream ($22) to the ends.
We love waves paired with balayage highlights, which give the appearance of layers and thickness while keeping the color looking natural. "Highlights can give you a little extra dimension that makes curls look that much more beachy and textured," says Rahal.
Shoulder-Length Ombré Waves
Another take on ombré. These waves move from deep, chestnut brown to a cooler ash brown at the ends.
Blonde Bombshell Curls
Nothing beats a classic old Hollywood curl when you already have thick, luscious blonde strands. Follow Rahal's tips for bombshell waves:
- First, "prep the hair with products that allow the curls to last."
- Take your curling iron of choice and "be sure to wrap your sections close to the scalp but be careful not to burn yourself."
- Rahal says to "wrap the sections above the barrel and don’t allow the hair to twist, [keeping] the hair flat on the barrel to ensure even heat distribution."
- Wrap sections in the same direction "depending on the style your hair is cut." This will help create that more polished, classic wave.
- Finally, let your strands cool and gently shake out the waves with your hands "before using a brush to really separate sections and marry the hair together."
Effortless Wavy Hair
No doubt actress Rachelle Lefevre has some help here from extensions. But if you have thick, wavy hair, you too can have this look.
- For achieving waves on thicker hair, Rahal says, "always prep hair accordingly." He recommends looking for smoothing products as opposed to volumizing. "If you’re trying to tame frizz, go with smoothing."
- Smooth out the crown before sculpting the ends. Get this look with a wide-barreled curling iron.
- "If you want a full, bodacious beachy look, wrap each section above the wand to bump up the root," says Rahal.
- "If fullness isn’t your jam, place the wand on top of the section and wrap. This will help smooth out the root area while still maintaining a nice curl pattern."
- "Alternate going towards and away from your face, leaving ends out, and try not to curl every piece."
Beyoncé changes up her hair texture pretty often, but she's usually rocking thick, honey-colored waves. Here, she pulls the front back into an ultra-high half-up/half-down, with waves cascading down her shoulders. To get this look, follow the steps from #7 before completing your partial up 'do.
Supermodel Gisele Bündchen is the patron saint of gorgeous, beachy waves. Capture her look with Richman's tips:
- Start with "a medium-sized or 1.25” curling iron like the GHD Classic Curling Iron ($199)."
- "Hold the iron vertically, roll the hair back away from the face one turn around the barrel, slide the iron down and repeat until you get to the ends."
- "This will create a flatter and more natural curl, as opposed to wrapping the hair around the barrel from root to ends, giving you a beach wave instead of a round curl."
- "Alternate the direction you curl throughout your style" for a looser, more natural appearance.
- Shake out the waves using your fingertips and "finish with Monat Studio One Dry Texturizing Spray ($35) for a tousled windblown texture," says Richman.
Big, Bouncy Curls
Amber Heard's big, bouncy curls are perfectly polished. To get this look, follow these steps:
- Wash your hair.
- Spritz with volumizing spray and then blow dry hair straight.
- Spray hair with a heat-protecting spray and separate into two or three sections.
- Starting with one section, curl hair with a large-barrel curling iron.
- Let curls cool, then finger comb them into place and finish with a spritz of hairspray.
Long, Casual Waves
Sofia Vergara's casual waves are easy to mimic by following Richman's steps from look #9 and are a great way to add volume to straight hair. Her well-placed highlights are another bonus: "Highlighting your hair causes the cuticle to open which can add body as well as help your hair hold a wave or curl better," says Richman.
For more natural-looking waves, alternate the direction you are wrapping your hair around the curling iron.
Barely There Waves
To get barely-there waves like Erin Heatherton, it's important to only create a few curls around the head. Too many, and you'll end up with a much more formal look, which may not be what you're going for.
Some of us already have some natural waves in our hair. To play them up:
- Let hair air dry, scrunching hair into the palms of hands as hair dries. You can also wind and secure towel-dried hair into a loose bun to get the same effects.
- Once hair is dry, wrap a few sections around a large 2-inch or 1 1/2-inch barrel curling iron to play up more waves. Be sure to leave the ends out, so it looks more natural (don't clamp in the hair, simply wrap it around the barrel).
- For a mussy look, bend over at the waist with your head down and give hair a good shake.
Jessica Alba is another queen of waves. She usually rocks pretty long hair, but we love this medium-length cut that still has loads of body and movement.
This Tyra Banks style shows off the curlier side of wavy hair. Her strands here are a cross between loose curls and tighter waves. You don't need to flat-iron or relax your curls to get a wavier appearance.
- "Wands are the beachy go-to because of how the hair naturally twists around the barrel when you wrap each section," says Rahal.
- "Wrapping just the strands of your hair that don’t curl as well naturally is a great hack for embracing your curls while creating a more seamless finished look."
- Complete with a beanie to steal Banks' relaxed vibe.
We love this look for curly hair that is highly defined. This is a beautiful way to style thick hair with a bit of a natural curl but maybe isn't super coiled. Follow the steps for #15 to embrace your natural texture.
Super Long Hippie Hair
Ciara rocks '70s Cher hair with a wavy twist. A center part and mostly straight strands from the crown of her head to about her chin provide a throwback energy, while undulating ends add a modern twist. For shallow waves, try a heatless technique:
- "Take old stockings, tights, or a robe belt and clip it to the top of your head," says Richman.
- "Wrap or braid your hair on each side around one end of tights or robe belt and secure with an elastic."
- "Clip the braids to the top of your head, sleep, wake up, and remove."
- "The fabric will help absorb moisture as well as give your hair a tousled wave. Tip: for a tighter beach wave, braid the hair and for a loose soft wave, simply wrap the hair."
Salt Water Waves
These beachy waves result from having long, naturally wavy hair, going swimming in an ocean, and then letting hair air dry while suntanning on the beach. To enhance natural waves, Richman suggests reaching for a wave spray or texturizing spray—"any product that will give you a natural second-day look."
Gorgeous Old Hollywood Waves
This wavy Old Hollywood hairstyle on Stephanie Jacobsen is ultra-covetable and truly timeless. "Creating old Hollywood waves is all about uniformity," notes Richman. He suggests the following step-by-step:
- To start, deeply part your hair to one side.
- Next, "prep hair with Monat Studio One Blow Out Cream ($38) to restore softness and shine and to protect against heat," says Richman.
- "Blow dry hair using a medium to large size round brush for volume."
- "After the hair is dry, use a 1.25” curling iron for long hair; iron size can change depending on hair length. Start on the small side of the part and curl 1” sections of hair by wrapping and twisting the hair around the barrel away from the face. Work your way around the head and keep curling all sections in the same direction."
- "Once you get to the other side, you will be wrapping the hair towards the face."
- "The key to finishing this look is the way you brush it out. Using a flat brush, start in the front, and brush the hair back off the face as the hair falls forward and back into its natural position; this will create the beautiful shape that cuts across the face. Brush out the rest of the hair from top to bottom."
- "Finish with Monat Studio One Strong Flexi-Hold Hairspray ($48) for long-lasting hold."
No need to take a flat iron or blow dryer to your natural curls. Instead, take a page from Zoe Saldana's book and brush out your curls for an edgy, big-hair look. Frizz can be totally on-trend, especially when paired with a cool oversized flower accessory.
An elegant twisted half-up, half-down is perfect for a formal event like a prom or even a wedding. It retains a somewhat relaxed vibe on Jourdan Dunn thanks to face-framing pieces and a loose silhouette. Try one of the heatless styles from #17.
Megan Fox is all about the big, beautiful, bouncy curls. To steal her style, you can follow Richman's tips for look #19. "Twisting the hair as you wrap it around the barrel gives you the soft wave with a ridge," notes Richman. "If you wrap the hair flat around the barrel, you will not get the old Hollywood feel."
Straight Bangs, Wavy Body
Audrina Patridge demonstrates that the quintessential early '00s straight bangs-meets-curly body style doesn't have to be dated. Side-swept fringe and natural blonde highlights bring this look to the present day.
If you want hair like Julia Roberts (and who doesn't?):
- Pull it back in a loose bun while it's damp.
- Let dry, then pull out the elastic.
- Finger comb out the gorgeous waves. Super easy.
Iman's luscious curls get even more depth with the help of well-placed caramel highlights and loads of shine.
- For curly hair, Richman recommends prepping with Monat Restore Leave-In Conditioner ($36).
- "Section towel-dried hair into four equal sections. Brush each section repeatedly to distribute your leave-in and to loosen the curl."
- Next, "braid each section and secure with an elastic. Air dry or use a blow dryer with a diffuser attached to speed up the dry time."
- To mimic Iman's healthy strands, add a dollop of a shine serum like Moroccanoil Glimmer Shine ($28) to damp hair.
"The thickness of your braids will determine your wave pattern. For soft, loose waves create thicker braids," says Richman.
When Taylor Swift first debuted on the country music scene, her signature was a head full of classic waves. Though she's never strayed from blonde, she's experimented with very different hair looks since those early days. We love her lob-length take on texture.
We love Naomi Campbell's hair here. Choppy waves with long, eyebrow-grazing fringe are a match made in heaven.
Super Thick and Wavy
To get this look, follow Richman's tips for getting waves on thicker locks like J. Lo's:
- "For thick hair, first prep with Monat Studio One Frizz-Fix Smoothing Hair Primer ($39) to control frizz and defend against humidity while keeping hair shiny and healthy."
- "Blow dry your hair using GHD Helios Professional Hair Dryer ($249) with the concentrator nozzle attached and a mixed bristle round brush to smooth and polish the hair."
- "Use a GHD Platinum+ Styler Flat Iron ($249) to create a soft natural wave. Take 1” sections, start at the root, glide the iron slowly down the hair and bend the hair up and down as you glide the iron down to create an S wave."
- End with Sexy Hair Smooth & Seal Anti-Frizz & Shine Spray ($20), "a very lightweight shine spray that tackles frizz."
Wet Look Waves
The wet look is a fresh take on waves, as demonstrated by Tracee Ellis Ross. Get cozy with the hair gel to emulate.
Wavy High Ponytail
Rihanna has insanely gorgeous lush waves here, aided by the addition of extensions and a super high ponytail that adds tons of volume. You can easily add clip-on extensions to your natural hair, and brands like Insert Name Here even sell pre-made ponytails.
Loose and Bouncy Waves
Remember how Jennifer Aniston's hair was so hot in the '90s? Blake Lively is the modern-day hair icon. Textured is hot right now, as are waves. Gone are the pin straight looks from yesteryear.
Slightly overgrown, shaggy waves, like those on actor Melanie Laurent, give off a quintessential cool-girl vibe that is equally at home on the red carpet as it would be at brunch. To get textured waves on pin-straight hair, follow Rahal's steps:
- To start with, don't overdo it with product. "You’ll want to find the right product line for your hair and use sparingly. A lot of people overuse volumizing styling products, and they weigh their hair down [in] the process, defeating the purpose."
- "You’ll want to rough dry your roots, to give a little extra body that lasts, and try to let your ends air dry or avoid manipulating the strands too much," Rahal adds.
- Then, he recommends a wand with an adjustable heat setting "so you can wrap each section for up to seven seconds without incurring damage."
- "Let cool before breaking up curls/raking through with your fingers. As with fuller hair types, alternate the direction you wrap each section—away and towards the face, leaving ends out. Unlike other hair types, you’ll want to wrap most, if not all, of your hair."
Kerry Washington gives us another example of irresistible waves, this time with well-placed caramel highlights that bring light to the face. "Highlights will also add a lot of dimension to the hair, making beach waves really stand out," says Richman.
To All the Boys I've Loved Before star Lana Condor gives us a super fresh take on pigtails with these wavy, loose double ponytails. It's fun and youthful, without appearing juvenile. To replicate:
- Richman suggests prepping hair using "a product that has some tackiness and volumizing properties to it to help hold your wave."
- "If your hair tends to fall straight, use a smaller 1” iron, like GHD Classic Curl Iron ($199)."
- "If you need volume, wrap the hair around the barrel, leaving the last inch or straight for a natural look."
- "After curling each piece, pull the ends a bit as the hair cools to create a slightly softer beachy wave. Be sure to alternate directions as you curl."
- Finally, "shake out the curl with your fingertips and finish with a strong hold hair spray." Secure a few inches from the end with invisible elastics.
Just Past the Shoulder Waves
Add curl with a curling iron to give straight, shoulder-length hair some body and the illusion of more length.
Leighton Meester's timeless curls give us total goddess vibes. To get gorgeous waves without heat, Rahal says:
- "Always use curl enhancers!" He suggests looking into techniques such as sponge rollers or pin curls "depending on skill level and time."
- Keep in mind that "it can take much longer to air dry than you’d think—don’t wait until one hour before to start air drying, or you’ll have either wet hair or a frizzy look that wasn’t allowed to settle."
- "Most simple would be twisting [hair around] your fingers while your hair is wet and letting it air dry or diffusing it."
Loose, beachy waves are great, but for a more formal look, use a curling iron to create S-shaped waves that frame the face. No fancy up 'do required.
Taraji P. Henson has the shiniest hair. Seriously, we could stare at it for hours and not get bored. Her perfectly defined waves (get them by following the steps for #28) are off-set by a fiery red hue and bold center part.
If you need your hair out of your face but still want to display beautiful, full-bodied waves, steal this styling tip from Penélope Cruz. Follow Rahal's tips from #37 and pin back only one side of the hair with a bobby pin for an asymmetrical, tousled look.
Subtle Ombré Waves
Zendaya has incredible, highly textured waves here, but the coloring technique used is also worth noting. It's a subtle ombré, moving from chestnut brown at the roots to soft, reddish caramel at the ends.
What's the easiest way to smooth wavy hair?
Add a dollop of mousse to your palms and gently run your hands over your hair, coating the strands lightly with product.
What types of products are necessary for wavy hair?
Shampoo and conditioner are key, of course — but a good gloss or shine spray, and a texturizing product work wonders, too.
What's the easiest way to avoid frizz for those with curls or waves?
A little frizz is fine, for those with textured hair (in fact, it adds personality). But to avoid further (or too much) frizz, leave your hair alone. Too much touching will inevitably lead to frizziness and flyaways.