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8 Easy Ways to Get Beach Waves In A Flash — With or Without Tools

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Photo by Oksy001/Getty Images

Beach waves are an easy, effortless-looking hairstyle that's guaranteed to never go out of style. No matter what your hair type is, tousled waves suit just about every occasion and season–whether you actually just spent the day on the beach or it's the middle of winter. They're also super versatile, no matter if you have short hair or long hair, whatever texture, beach waves are for you. Plus, perfection is (definitely) not required to master this hairstyle. In fact, keeping those waves a little bit messy and undone is key.

When it comes to styling your own beach waves, there isn't just one right way to get to create this look. Whether you’re air drying, using a curling iron, or however you want to achieve it, continue reading below for eight simple methods you can try at home.

About the Expert:

Anthony Cole is a Sebastian Professional International Artist and hairstylist.

How to Get Beach Waves

1. Grab an Old T-Shirt.

Seriously! Any piece of fabric or material will do. “Take a long sheet of fabric or material such as paper towel or a cut up tee shirt and roll it into a tube-like shape, similar to a perm rod. Fold the rolled material into a “u” and wrap a 1 to 2-inch section of hair around the fabric/material in a figure 8 motion. (Use thinner sections for tighter waves, bigger sections for looser waves,)” says hairstylist Anthony Cole. Before you start, apply three to four pumps of a leave-in styling cream, like SEBASTIAN PROFESSIONAL Potion 9 to tame frizz or flyaways and add body.

Then, while the hair is still wrapped, briefly blow dry the wrapped hair on a low heat setting to activate the wave, says Cole. Then, leave the hair wrapped in the fabric or material of choice for about 10 minutes (or overnight!), and remove the wrap to reveal a loose, beachy wave. 

2. Try Finger Waves.

Cole notes that if you’re fresh out of tools or need beach waves in a flash, you can absolutely use your fingers to achieve the same effect. Just apply a leave-in styling cream or hair oil first, and then “wrap a 1-2 inch section of hair around your finger in upwards circle motion, clip the curl using a pin curl,” says Cole. Then “blast hair with a blow dryer on low heat to activate the wave. Leave hair clipped for a half hour.” After it’s been 30 minutes, remove clips and brush out hair gently into a loose beach wave.

3. Use a Straightener.

Surprise! Your flatiron can do more than just straighten hair; it can actually be used to create a few different versions of beachy waves. The key is to use the right technique, and of course, the right styling products along with it. When using a straightener, you should always apply a heat protectant to damp hair before blow-drying and heat styling to keep it as protected as possible. Try reaching for the BRIOGEO HAIR CARE Rosarco™ Blow Dry Perfection Heat Protectant Crème, which protects the hair up to 425 degrees while also strengthening strands with algae extract.

Of course, you also need a top-notch straightener to create those imperfectly perfect beach waves. The EVA NYC Healthy Heat Nano Silk Styling Iron is one great option. It uses nano silk plates to combine minerals and ceramic nano-particles that lock in moisture for a smooth, silky finish. Dive into our guide on how to get beach waves with a straightener for a step-by-step tutorial on how to create the look.

It's also important to note that using a flat iron to curl works for most hair types and lengths (especially short hair). If you have super kinky/curly hair, you may want to straighten your hair first and then curl for the best results. And if your hair is damaged (or prone to it), don’t skimp on the heat protectant. Instead, spray one on generously—or opt for one of the air dry methods listed below.

4. Spritz on a Sea Salt Spray.

Trying to steer clear of hot styling tools? No problem. You can create gorgeous waves as your hair air dries so long as you have the right product handy. Sea salt sprays like the BUMBLE & BUMBLE Surf Spray are a classic way to get beach waves without heat (or UV exposure). These texture sprays are essentially formulated to mimic the effect salt water has on the hair; they can increase curl, add texture, and boost volume. Once you’ve applied sea salt spray to the hair, you'll want to encourage waves to take shape by twisting and scrunching up small sections of your hair. The more you twist and scrunch, the wavier your hair will be.

5. Try Wave-Enhancing Sprays and Creams.

If you don't love the gritty feel of sea salt sprays or you'd prefer something more conditioning, opt for a salt-free styling product like the OUAI Wave Spray or ORIBE Après Beach Wave and Shine Spray. Both work great for creating tousled, wavy hair that feels silky and hydrated. For just a touch of grit or a boost of volume, you can always add a bit of a texturizing spray like the ORIBE Dry Texturizing Spray on dry hair. If you have curly or natural hair that's naturally prone to dryness, try using a salt-free wave enhancer over a sea salt spray as these are more hydrating and are also better for controlling frizz.

6. Use a Curling Iron.

Using a curling iron or curling wand to create classic beach waves is a tried-and-trusted technique that hairstylists still love to use. Before you get started, you'll want to make sure you're working with the right size curling iron. Look for a curling tool with a larger barrel size for beachy, loose curls. A 1.25-1.5" barrel curling iron is typically best for creating this type of look if you have medium to long hair. If your hair is on the shorter side, a one-inch curling iron might work better.

One tip to try: When using a curling iron to create beachy waves, alternate the curl direction as you go from front to back to make the hair look soft, natural, and not too perfect. And if you have naturally straight hair, finish with a touch of flexible-hold hairspray to make sure those waves don't go limp later in the day.

For an in-depth guide on how to curl your hair at home like a pro, check out our full step-by-step tutorial.

7. Style Overnight Beachy Waves.

Before bed, apply a wave-enhancing styling cream of your choice to damp hair, then gently twist the hair up into two loose buns, securing them with silk scrunchies. Avoid using regular hair ties—silk is famously gentle on hair and won't cause damage or breakage. In the morning, simply take out your buns, tousle your hair with your fingers, and spritz it with a texturizing spray to accentuate your gorgeous beach waves. For a slightly more polished beach wave, try quickly touching up any rogue pieces with a curling iron.

8. Have Fun with Foam.

We all remember the days of crunchy, sticky hair mousse. Lucky for us, those days are over. Modern-day mousses are soft and airy and won’t leave your hair hardened. The OUAI Air Dry Foam is a major winner, especially for those with wavy or curly hair—it will help create textured beach waves by enhancing your natural curl pattern, adding volume, and defining waves. Apply onto damp hair from mid-lengths to ends, gently scrunch into hair, and you are good to go.

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Article Last Updated November 12, 2021 12:00 AM