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

@jennychohair | Design by Zackary Angeline.

If you've ever been personally victimized by your curling iron or your straightener, raise your hand. Not only are heat tools time-consuming to use, but they can also be damaging to hair, especially if used incorrectly. But have you ever wondered how to get wavy hair without heat—no curling irons, blow dryers, flat irons, or hot rollers?

Your eyes may roll at the thought of scrunching your hair with abandon until it curls in just the right way. Not everyone's mane has the type of texture or pattern that allows for heat-free wavy hairstyles, right? Wrong.

After learning expert tips from several top stylists, we were assured that even folks with stick-straight hair could break up with their hot tools and enjoy beachy tresses without so much as an electrical outlet.

Scroll on to find six easy methods for how to get wavy hair without heat.

01 of 07

Get the Right Cut & Products

person with damp curly hair


First things first: If you want wavy hair, get a haircut that lends itself to the style. Thomas Osborn, TIGI creative director and vice president of education, recommends asking your stylist for a layered cut.

"Layering typically releases weight, which helps create movement," he explains. "Point-cutting these layers helps to encourage movement by taking weight out of the ends and allowing the curl to form more easily."

Lisse Luxe Hair Towel Cloudy Berry 19 x 42 in/ 50 x 107 cm
Aquis Lisse Luxe Hair Towel $30.00

As soon as you step out of the shower, the journey to natural waves begins. Towel-dry your hair to eliminate excess moisture; to cut drying time, use a microfiber hair towel like Aquis Lisse Luxe Hair Turban ($30).

From there, Osborn recommends "cocktailing products together to customize for the specific texture you're working with, but also for the type of wave you want."

"Keep in mind the desired result," he says. If you want relaxed waves, trade hairspray for a shine spray like IGK Good Behavior 4-in-1 Prep Spray ($27); if you want definition, try a texturizing powder or anti-frizz spray.

"Either way, keep it light, as the best thing about wavy hair is the movement—too much product, and you lose that," Osborn says.

02 of 07

Section Into Twists

For a very simple and effective way to get beachy waves, celebrity stylist Nick Arrojo, founder, and owner of ARROJO hair salon in NYC, twists damp hair and allows it to dry.

First, apply Garnier Fructis Smooth Air Dry ($3) as well as the brand's Texture Tease ($4) into damp hair, he suggests. Then grab hair in random sections (about three inches wide) and twist the hair to "look like dreadlocks," he says.

Repeat the action all over your head, twisting each section in different directions. Finish the style by letting the hair air-dry, then raking your fingers through it for a deconstructed look.

For those with frizz-prone hair, celebrity stylist Kenna Kennor recommends using Evo Lockdown Smoothing Treatment ($36): "It's an amazing leave-in treatment designed to control frizz and add shine."

03 of 07

Scrunch With Salt Spray

person uses spray on hair

LUMINA / Stocksy

Kim Vo, celebrity stylist and founder of Vo Blow, suggests the ultimate low-fuss, low-tech method for creating waves: "Scrunch up your hair after spraying it" with a salt spray, he says.

"Sea salt is an amazing ingredient for a beach texture," adds Osborn. The newest salt sprays are meant to avoid overly drying hair, thanks to conditioning ingredients like seaweed extract and glycerin. Kennor's fave is Evo Salty Dog Salt Spray ($29).

If you're concerned about the dehydrating effects of sea salt, spray on a leave-in conditioner before your salt spray; Leave-in conditioner promises to keep hair smooth while sea salt is meant to add texture.

04 of 07

Wear a Braid Overnight

Arrojo says his "absolute favorite way" to achieve wavy hair without any heat is to utilize different braiding techniques. "The proper braid, with the proper product, equals the perfect results," he says.

Arrojo starts with slightly damp hair before applying Garnier Fructis Smooth Air Dry from roots to ends. "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. "Keep your sections clean and tangle-free."

When your hair completely dries, take out the braids and use hair spray for an all-day hold; Arrojo's fave is Garnier Fructis Sleek & Shine Hairspray ($4).

05 of 07

Twist Into Buns

hair buns

okskukuruza / Getty Images

For tighter waves, Vo suggests sectioning damp hair into small buns while it dries. "Once you let them all down, you will have lots of waves," he assures us.

Separate your hair into two- to three-inch sections. (The bigger the sections you make, the bigger your resulting waves). Twirl and twist your hair into tiny buns, securing them close to your scalp with bobby pins, crisscrossing them in an "X" shape for maximum staying power. Stylists love the super-strong Meta Grip Premium Bob Pins ($6).

When hair is dry, take down your buns to reveal gorgeous waves with major body. Set them in place with light-hold setting spray or texture spray like Verb Volume Dry Texture Spray ($18).

06 of 07

Roll Into Pin Curls

Arrojo shares another great way to get waves: Set damp hair in large, old-fashioned pin curls.

"Prep your hair with a curl-sculpting product," he advises. (Try Amika Curl Corps Enhancing Gel, $25). "Comb the section of hair you're working with from roots to ends to ensure it is smooth and tangle-free."

"Roll [each section] into a large pin curl, and secure with a small clip," Arrojo continues. "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."

07 of 07

Tie in Rag Curlers

Need a style that sets overnight, allowing you to wake up with full, tight waves that last all day? Try rag curls.

"This is such an old-school method," says hairstylist Leysa Carrillo. "My mom would do it on my hair back in Cuba."

First, you need a set of rag curlers. Make your own by cutting an old T-shirt into 15 to 20 strips about one to two inches wide and eight to 10 inches long. (The longer and thicker your hair, the longer and wider your strips should be). If you'd rather use a store-bought product, try pillow rollers.

pink pillow rollers with white polka dots
Dababell Pillow Rollers $14.00

"Start with damp hair and section hair in square-like pieces," Carrillo explains. "Grab the rag, start rolling the hair onto the rag from the ends, and tie the rag."

When you let down your hair in the morning, you'll have nice, springy coils. Finish with a soft-hold hairspray like Amika Fluxus Touchable Hairspray, $25.

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