Wavy Hair Guide: Care, Styling And Tips For Stunning Waves
Updated on June 7, 2022 by Team ShineSheets
We recommend helpful products in our articles. Read our full disclosure here.
In This Article
Ah, wavy hair! The emperor of glamorous and sensual hairstyles that looks great on hair of different lengths. Short wavy hair, medium-long wavy hair, long wavy hair – you name it! Waves add gorgeous texture, style, and volume like nothing else.
How do you create perfect wavy hairstyles? How do you style wavy hair so that your waves stay nice, pretty, and frizz-free all day long? What is the best haircut for waves? In this ultimate guide to wavy hair, we’ll talk about it all – and more. Let’s rock stunning wavy hairstyles with minimal effort, no matter the occasion.
The Wavy Hair Guide We Like! How To Care And Style Waves Like Hairstylists Do
What Exactly Is Wavy Hair?
“Wait, we all know how wavy or curly hair looks.” We do, but it’s not that simple! Before we begin, let’s quickly clarify what wavy hair is, so there are no misconceptions. Wavy hair is hair that is neither straight nor curly. It looks like something in between – loose curls that resemble sea waves or an “S” shape.
While it may seem that there are only “thick waves” or “small waves” and curls around, there are actually several different types of them.
What Are The Types Of Wavy Hair?
Both wavy hair and curly hair come in a few diverse kinds, and each of the varieties comes with its own characteristics. Your curl or wave type is actually defined by your hair follicles – the tiny “bowls” that your hair grows out from, in your scalp. If your hair follicles are mainly flat or oval-ish, your hair will be on the curlier side.
While Type 1 hair is straight, Type 2 hair defines the wavy strands. This kind of hair resembles an S shape and its texture ranges from both fine to coarse. Type 2 hair comes in several subtypes:
- Type 2A hair has very gentle, barely-there waves that look “tousled”;
- Type 2B waves are quite defined but don’t start at the hair roots yet. The head part is “flat”;
- Type 2C waves begin at the hair roots and tend to be thicker, even frizzier.
Anything from Type 3 and up defines actually curly hair in different looseness and shapes (curly, coily, ringlets). To define the exact hair type you have (or curl type, that is!), refer to the infographic below!
Wavy-Curly Hair Terminology
The curly hair types also come with their own terminology that helps to define every type quickly (refer to the infographic below):
- Type 2A is described as “slight waves”;
- Type 2B is described as “soft waves”;
- Type 2C is described as “defined waves”;
- Type 3A is called “classic curls”;
- Type 3B is called “spiral curls”;
- Type 3C resembles “corkscrews”;
- Type 4A is defined as “slightly coiled”;
- Type 4B is defined as “kinky”;
- Type 4C is named “super kinky”.
“Do I Actually Have Wavy Hair?”
To answer this question, take a look at your natural hair right after washing it with shampoo and allowing it to air-dry. If your hair is not straight – yes! You have wavy hair. You can further define the exact wavy hair type you have.
- If you’re Type 2a, your waves are loose, “barely there” waves.
- If you’re Type 2b, your naturally wavy hair has more defined strings, but the head part is still flat, or straight.
- If you’re Type 2c, your waves are very defined, resemble mermaid waves and start right at the roots.
P. S. You can also learn more about the types of black hair.
What Are Different Types Of Wavy Hairstyles?
Now that we know what different types of naturally wavy hair there are, let’s take a look at popular wavy hairstyles that are created with tools. Wavy hairstyles can have several different kinds of waves as well, depending on the form, thickness, and tightness of the waves. Here are the most popular “styled wave” variants. Next to each of these looks, we’ll show you the best styling tools that will help you to achieve them.
1. The Famous “Hollywood Waves”
Thick, glamorous, and voluminous, the “Hollywood waves” are sleek and tidy, usually rolled on medium-long or long hair. They have their name because they’re a popular choice for red carpet appearances, but it’s a beautiful choice for any formal or casual event. We don’t need an occasion to look fancy, okay? Okay!
To create this hairstyle, you want to use a thicker curling iron – and don’t forget to mist your hair with a heat protectant as well!
Best Tool For Hollywood Waves: a Thick Curling Wand
Hollywood wavy hair is all about a thick and solid wave, so choose wands that are thicker (1-1.5 inches at the least). It’s best to use a clipless curling wand with an adjustable heat setting so you don’t fry your precious hair.
2. Sensual Loose Waves
Loose wavy hairstyles were very popular when Victorias Secret was hip. Full, soft, and tousled, loose waves were usually seen on the podium thanks to their flirty and sexy appearance. Of ourse, they still look great now!
The Best Styling Tool For Effortless Loose Waves: 1.2-Inch Curling Wand
1.2-inch curling irons are the best for creating loose, sexy, and romantic wavy hair. They’re not too big, and not too small – just perfect for a big, loose wave. It’s important to brush your hair before using it (so the end result is nice and neat) and use a heat protection product to avoid any heat-related hair damage.
And don’t be mistaken – loose waves are not just for long hair. Shorter hair can also look fantastic with a sensual wavy finish.
3. Tousled, Beachy Waves
Beachy waves may look similar to loose waves, but the difference is still there. Beachy hairstyles tend to have a more “dry” texture as if the hair was affected by salty seawater. This kind of wavy hair is also less tidy than loose waves and allows you to look like you “woke up like this”. Another popular variety is “mermaid’s hair”.
Perfect For Beachy, Mermaid Waves, or “How Do I Get Really Wavy Hair?” – Trust The Three Barrel!
Three-barrel curlers look quite scary at first, but they’re notoriously good at creating those crimpy, beachy waves that look like you’ve been spending your day at the beach. For best results, spray your waves with a little bit of sea salt spray before you start using this tool.
4. Trendy Waves With Straight Ends
Still widely popular (and beloved by probably every hair professional on Instagram), these waves look especially sharp on medium-long bobs and shorter hair. Created with various curling wands (more on these below!), or even with a hair straightener, they give your look a lot of character. Plus, they look chic with any clothing choice.
Create Wavy Hair With Straight Ends (And Any Other Curl, Really) With Interchangeable Curler
Probably the most versatile option of them all, a curling iron with interchangeable ceramic barrels will give you a lot of options to choose from – from wavy hair to tight curls, you can change your hair according to your mood. A clipless wand in multiple widths is a great choice for this particular hairstyle because you can mix in a few thicker or thinner strands for an extra chic effect.
Note – try to limit waving sessions to no more than twice a week! Sure, wavy hair looks gorgeous, but fried wavy hair? Not so much. In order to avoid extensive heat damage, avoid curling or waving your hair daily. In between waving sessions, use restoring hair treatments to keep your hair moisturized, nourished, and strong.
How To Style Naturally Wavy Hair?
Of course, the easiest way to rock wavy hair is if you already have it. If that’s you, consider yourself lucky – you just saved many hours of sitting with a curling wand in front of the mirror!
There are many different variations of wavy hairstyles that you can try and a lot of people have great results with their own variations of waves. You should not be afraid of trying new things – experiment to make your hair look as good as possible! Out of imagination? Here are a few timeless tips for naturally wavy hair:
- Naturally, wavy hair looks best when it’s styled while damp. You can use a spray bottle to create humidity in your hair before styling (if you have just shampooed your hair, skip this).
- Blowdry your hair on a lower heat setting to avoid destroying the natural wave in your hair, or use a diffuser if your wavy hair looks too loose.
- When styling naturally wavy hair, use hair moisturizers for curly hair. These products will keep your hair healthy, shiny, strong, and keep your natural waves in shape. There are a lot of products out there that are specifically designed for wavy hair, so try to find the one that suits you and never let go! Just kidding, nowadays good products appear almost every week.
- If you find that you have a ton of trouble styling wavy hair, visit your hairstylist for advice. They can give you professional tips based on your particular hair structure, texture, wave, and color. A hairstylist can teach you and show you how to achieve the exact wavy look you want (even if you use a weave). You can also get salon-grade keratin treatments to improve your hair porosity, and add more smoothness to your curls.
How To Get Wavy Hair If Your Natural Hair Is Straight?
If you were blessed with straight hair and are dreaming of beautiful romantic waves, you have several options to achieve wavy looks:
- The easiest way is to work with a curling wand to achieve wavy hair of any thickness and texture;
- A bit more challenging way to achieve waves (especially – the Hollywood waves) is by using hot curling rollers – these give beautiful, tidy curls, but you can’t sleep in them, and they’re a little bit trickier than wands;
- An old-school, yet still cool option is to create braids on damp hair or put your hair in a twisted bun before going to sleep. This method allows you to achieve mermaid-like waves in the morning (bonus? no heat involved).
What Are The Best Haircuts For Wavy Hair?
Wavy hair does not discriminate – almost any haircut can look good in waves, except for really short hair that is simply too hard to wave. If you want to look ultra-stylish, you can never go wrong with a bob or long bob with tousled, loose waves and straight ends. Pair it with an ombre or balayage color work and you’ll be sure to make heads turn!
As for naturally wavy hair, your hairstylist can help you to find the best haircut for you. Since every curl or wave type is different (both with the look and texture of it), not every haircut will be as easy to maintain. Thankfully, a well-chosen style enhances wavy hair so you can style it without a lot of daily effort.
The Most Important Hair Care Tips For Wavy Hair
If you want your wavy hair to look perfect, here are a few things to note.
1. Brush Carefully
Wavy hair types are especially susceptible to breaking and they sometimes get tangles easier. Despite that, try to limit hair brushing sessions and when you do brush your hair, use a wide tooth comb. If needed, apply a detangling curl cream before brushing your hair too. Remember that brushing makes waves looser too, so if you want to keep a defined curl, try to limit that.
2. Always Use a Heat Protection Product
That’s a wavy hair rule number 2. Even if you use waving tools sparingly, make sure to protect every hair strand from heat whenever you use any hot hair styling tool (yes, your blowdryer counts as a heat tool). This will help you to avoid dryness, split ends, and hair breakage when and after you’ve been styling your hair. We love Olaplex No. 6 Bond Smoother for blowdrying, and Olaplex No. 7 Bonding Oil for times when a hot styling tool is involved (you can read more about a lovely Olaplex and curly hair relationship here).
3. Allow Your Hair To Air Dry Often
Air drying is a lot healthier for your hair and can prevent a lot of unnecessary hair damage. If you have naturally wavy hair, make use of your gift! Simply spritz your hair with a little bit of sea salt texture spray and let the air do the job. Chances are, your hair will look just as good as when you blowdry it (or even better!).
4. Prioritize Giving Your Hair Moisture
The more moisture your hair has, the tidier the waves. Use a moisturizing shampoo and conditioner for curls in the shower and avoid oily formulas to make sure your waves are not weighed down too much. After washing your hair, apply wave styling creams while your hair is still damp.
Tip: another way to keep moisture in your hair is to choose sulfate-free shampoos and silicone-free hair styling products.
5. Deep-clean Your Hair Regularly
Still wavy or curly hair requires a bit more hair products use, it’s important to regularly deep clean your hair to get rid of any product build-up and dirt. Both of these things can make your hair limp and dull, preventing your gorgeous waves from looking their best. To deep-clean your hair, use a clarifying shampoo (like Head & Shoulders Classic Clean) once a week. If you want to boost circulation and improve your hair health, a scalp scrub can also help.
How To Keep Wavy Hair Looking Great All Day Long?
Whether your hair is naturally wavy or curled with a curling wand, you will benefit from using a little bit of hairspray. Adding this step will help control frizz and keep your curl patterns in place. Now, “strong hold” hairsprays can make wavy hair look very stiff, so look for formulas with light hold. Even more, choose a hairspray that says “flexible, lightweight hold” on the bottle. This kind of hairspray keeps your hair spiral in shape while allowing it to stay bouncy, flexible, and brushable. If you have bangs, a little bit of hairspray will keep them in top shape too.
Another helpful option is hair mousse – a styling product that helps to lift your hair up from the roots and give a slight-to-strong hold, depending on your needs.
Avoid overbrushing your hair. Yes, again, love! With wavy hair, too much brushing equals looser and looser waves every time. If you want your wavy hair style to last the whole day, brush your hair before you start styling your hair, and only touch up gently during the day.
Related: How To Make Curls Last Longer
What Are The Best Accessories For Wavy Hair?
Wavy hair is very forgiving when it comes to accessories. You can use them to help your hair stay in place, or add extra style and character to your look. A few things that every wavy-haired girl should have in her hair arsenal:
- A bunch of bobby pins;
- A colorful silk headband;
- Hair elastics;
- Ponytail clips;
- Metallic, gold hair cuffs (they give you that cute boho chic look);
- Satin or silk scrunchies;
- Beautiful hairpins.
So, “Is Wavy Hair The Best?!”
We don’t know, but it sure looks great on almost anyone! While it takes a little bit of time and investment to fully learn how to create or maintain a wave you like, once you get used to it, creating wavy hair becomes really easy and fast. Just don’t forget to take good care of your hair health too! Most of the shine, beauty, and elasticity of your hair comes from a healthy diet and good hair care – but you already know that, don’t you? Happy waving!
If you like these tips for wavy hair, scroll down for more tips below!
We strive to use high-quality information and deliver content that is based on science, latest research, comprehensive studies, or expert advice. These reputable sources have influenced or inspired this article:
- Thibaut, S., Barbarat, P., Leroy, F. and Bernard, B.A. (2007), Human hair keratin network and curvature. International Journal of Dermatology, 46: 7-10. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-4632.2007.03454.x
- Bruno A. Bernard, Hair shape of curly hair, Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, Volume 48, Issue 6, Supplement, 2003, Pages S120-S126, ISSN 0190-9622, https://doi.org/10.1067/mjd.2003.279.