Top Hairstylists Tell Us How to Get Wavy Hair Without a Curling Iron

Updated 04/08/19
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If you've ever been personally victimized by your curling iron or your straightener, raise your hand. Ours are raised high, tired from all the hot tool-wielding we've been doing on a daily basis. Not only are heat tools time consuming, but they're also damaging, especially if used incorrectly. They're so hard to quit though, especially when they give you just the right bend and curl that's essentially turned into your daily uniform.

And if your eyes roll at the thought of scrunching your hair with abandon until it curls in just the right way, we hear you—not everyone's mane has the type of texture or pattern that allows for heat-free waves. But after speaking with a few top stylists, we were assured that you don't need to call it a loss—even girls with stick-straight hair can break up with their tools and enjoy beachy tresses without so much as needing an outlet.

Get the Right Cut First

Woman with wavy light brown hair
Imaxtree

"The best cuts for wavy hair all depend on the individual—hair type, texture, density, length, face shape, lifestyle, etc.," explains Thomas Osborn, TIGI creative director and vice president of education. The best cut for waves: point cutting. Why do these cuts enhance a wavy curl pattern? "Layering typically releases weight, which helps create movement, and point-cutting these layers helps to encourage movement by taking weight out of the ends and allowing the curl to form more easily." Osborn adds that the products you apply, the way you dry the hair, and how you finish the style is "everything."

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Dry (Or Don't Dry) Your Hair Properly

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As soon as you step out of the shower, the journey to getting a natural wave to form in your hair begins. Says Osborn, "Towel-drying the hair really well to eliminate excess moisture, cocktailing products together to customize for the specific texture you're working with but also for the type of wave you want, [and] loosely combing through with a wide-tooth comb to help distribute evenly for a more consistent texture throughout are all key elements of the prep."

However, we understand asking you to part ways with both your curling iron and your blow-dryer is asking a lot at first. If you're still connected to your tool, Osborn's got some tips for you: "When it comes to drying the hair loosely—low speed and low heat—working with the hands is essential for a more relaxed vibe versus controlling the texture first by smoothing the hair with a round brush and then tonging it; lightly brushing through will give a more refined look.

When it comes to finishing the look, keep in mind the desired end result: If you're interested in styling a more relaxed vibe, don't use hair spray. Instead, opt for a product like BedHead Headrush ($21) or Catwalk Camera Ready ($21) for shine with no hold. If it's more definition you're looking for, this can be achieved with a texture powder balm in Joyride ($18) or Get Twisted ($22), which is an anti-frizz finishing spray. Either way, keep it light, as the best thing about wavy hair is the movement—too much product and you lose that."

Use the Right Products

Bed Head Foxy Curls product

When looking for wavy-hair products, you should keep the density and thickness of your hair in mind. Osborn says, "Generally speaking, the longer and thicker the hair is, use a product that's thicker in consistency that has a touch more hold. For medium to fine hair, use products that are slightly lighter to the touch like Foxy Curls Contour Cream ($22), i.e., products that don't have a lot of hold and dry much softer.

For a very simple and effective way to get beachy waves, celebrity stylist Nick Arrojo, founder and owner of ARROJO hair salon in NYC, applies Garnier Fructis Smooth Air Dry ($4) and Texture Tease ($4) into damp hair. To follow his go-to technique, he suggests grabbing random sections (about three inches wide) and twisting the hair to "look like dreadlocks." Do this all over, twisting each section in different directions. He finishes off the style by letting the hair air dry before raking his fingers through for a deconstructed look.

And for those of us with frizz-prone hair, celebrity stylist Kenna Kennor and the man responsible for Gigi Hadid’s awesome pink pony recommends using his must-have—Evo's Lockdown Smoothing Treatment ($35). "It's an amazing leave-in treatment designed to control frizz and add shine."

Kennor also assures us it's really easy to get sexy waves—your hair just needs some grit, and volume will follow. "Once you get out of the shower, spritz wet hair with Evo Salty Dog Sea Salts Spray ($29) and a leave-in conditioner" He explains that using a leave-in conditioner will keep the hair smooth while the sea salt will give hair some texture.

Fellow celebrity stylist and founder of Vo Blow, Kim Vo, agrees sea-salt texture sprays will create a nice wave. Says Vo of her favorite trick for this style, "Scrunch up your hair after spraying it" for even more texture.

Keeping with the beachy hair theme, Osborn also loves seaweed extract for defined curls. "There are some amazing new innovations when it comes to products for wavy to curly hair, and it's probably no coincidence that's the reason we are seeing more people embracing their natural texture," Osborn muses. As we know, "Sea salt is an amazing ingredient for a beach texture," but in terms of ingredients to look for, he says "seaweed extract locks in moisture and glycerin is my hero ingredient! It draws moisture into the hair and conditions from within."

Wave While You Sleep

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Vo's minimal effort trick to wake up with wavy hair is to braid the hair before you go to bed. "In the morning, your hair will be nice and wavy—minimal effort required." Kenna uses this same preparation but says he only adds a few braids to damp hair. By just braiding a few sections, you'll create a more diffused set of waves. Creating all different consistencies for your waves proves a more tousled, natural look.

Arrojo says his "absolute favorite way" to achieve wavy hair without any sort of heat is to utilize different braiding techniques. "The proper braid, with the proper product, equals the perfect results," he tells us. We won't argue with math. He starts off with slightly damp hair before applying Garnier Fructis Smooth Air Dry from roots to ends. After you've applied the product, "Decide if you want tight waves or loose waves, and create either a rope braid (for loose waves) or a three-section braid (for tighter waves)," he explains. For perfect waves, "Keep your sections clean and tangle-free," he advises. And once your hair completely dries, take out the braids and use hair spray for all-day hold. Arrojo's fave is Garnier Fructis Sleek & Shine Hairspray ($4).

Set the Waves With Buns and Pin Curls

Bobby pins

The same way you would curl your hair in different directions for a deconstructed, messier look or choose a specifically sized iron for a certain curl, you want to dry your hair following the same rules of thumb. Says Kennor, "Split hair into one-inch sections working up the head and twist/twiddle/coil, alternating the direction of the twist. Once hair is dry, break up the waves a little with your fingertips and go for one last spritz of sea salt."

For a tighter wave, Vo suggests sectioning your hair and tying each into little buns while they dry. "Once you let them all down, you will have lots of waves," she assures us. As for Arrojo, he says another great way to get waves is to set your hair, while damp, in large pin curls. Prep your hair with a curl-sculpting product and comb the section of hair you're working with from roots to ends to ensure it is smooth and tangle-free. Roll into a large pin curl, and secure with a small clip. Do this all over, rolling each pin curl in different directions. Once completely dry, take out the pins and use a large wide-tooth comb to break the curls apart into nice, loose waves."

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