The Pro Guide To Creating Every Type Of Wave

Photo: Donato Sardella/Getty Images.
We don't have to convince you that mastering a few types of wavy hairstyles will serve you well. From black-tie retro bends à la Blake Lively to soft, barely there twists like Ashley Madekwe, acquiring the skills to shape your hair into any variation of wave is beauty gold — and it's way easier than you might think.
To give us the full breakdown, we tapped red-carpet hairstylist Ashley Streicher, whose résumé reads like a Hollywood hair dream. Her clients include Emily Blunt, Kiernan Shipka, and Lily James. She and her two powerhouse sisters own one of Hollywood's hottest new salons, STRIIIKE. Translation: this woman knows her way around hot tools.
We gathered seven of the most envy-inducing waves we've seen and presented them to Streicher to dissect. How can one score Ashley Olsen's signature air-dried texture? What's the trick to Beyoncé's mermaid-inspired waves? Ahead, she breaks down these looks and more — sharing the tips and tricks to master every wave technique at home.
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Photo: Gary Gershoff/WireImage/Getty Images.
Retro Waves
Veronica Lake-inspired waves are a foolproof option for just about any fancy affair, but the best part is that they're actually easy to accomplish. Streicher suggests starting with clean, dry hair that's been blowdried straight or air-dried (if your locks are naturally smooth). Create a deep side part, using the arch of your eyebrow as your guide (it's a universally flattering placement).

"Take sections [of hair] and wrap them around a 1-inch curling iron or wand," Streicher says. After a few seconds, slide the curling iron out without disrupting the curl and pin the section to the scalp to let it fully cool. "All sections [should be] wrapped backwards, away from face," she advises. Then, give your pinned-up hair a heavy mist of medium-hold hairspray, like Streicher's pick, Davines' Medium Hairspray.

The pro takeaway here? "Take the pins out and brush your hair from roots to ends with a Mason Pearson or YS Park boar-bristle flat brush, and spray again with hairspray," Streicher says. On a budget? Sonia Kashuk's Hairbrush will give you an identical result.
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Photo: Donato Sardella/Getty Images.
Barely There Waves
Behold: the I-woke-up-like-this wave. To easily score the look, Streicher suggests picking up a medium-sized curling iron (we like Hot Tools' 1-Inch Iron) and working on a day-two blowout. Of course, you can always wash and dry your locks first, but slept-on hair with a bit of oil or grit will hold this wave much better.

Brush through your hair with a boar-bristle brush to evenly distribute any oils or leftover product. Then, spray the roots with dry shampoo (if needed) and brush again. Take big sections of hair and wrap them around the iron in random directions, Streicher instructs. Be sure to leave the ends out, so the look doesn't appear too done. Allow the waves to fully cool, then shake them out with your hands. Finish with a light shine spray if you have medium to thick locks (we like Oribe's Après Beach) or a shine-inducing hairspray if you have fine hair (try Pantene's Ice Shine).

The pro secret here is picking the right iron temperature for your hair type. Thick, heavy hair can take a higher heat setting (350 to 400 degrees) without getting too wavy, but fine hair requires a lower temperature (200 to 350 degrees), Streicher says.
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Beyoncé / Photo: Raymond Hall/GC Images/ Getty Images.
Mermaid Waves
If you can master Lively's retro waves, then you can easily pull of Beyoncé's softer ones. "This is sort of a modern version of the retro wave," Streicher says. Start with straight or wavy hair (clean or slept-on locks will work) and create a center part.

"Take sections of hair and wrap them around a 1-inch iron, going back, away from your face, and hold the ends out," Streicher says. (You can use any iron as a wand, which will make it easy to keep the ends loose. Just keep the clamp down.)

The key to this one may surprise you: "Instead of pinning hair to the scalp to cool, you're actually going to pull the section straight to cool, giving it the mermaid-like wave, instead of a tight curl," Streicher says. "I like to use a salt spray with this one, too. Either spray each section with it before curling, or spray all the hair at the end and scrunch." She recommends David Mallett's Australian Salt Spray, or try Not Your Mother's Beach Babe Texturizing Sea Salt Spray, which you can score at the drugstore.
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Lea Seydoux / Photo: Jim Spellman/WireImage/ Getty Images.
French-Girl Waves
We don't need to explain all the reasons why Léa Seydoux's waves warrant discussion, but we will anyway — they're sexy, cool, and look totally effortless. Of course, the last accolade is a bit of an misnomer. Sorry guys, this one takes some skill.

The trick to the look, Streicher explains, is that each section is going in a different direction — which is best achieved with a flat iron instead of a curling iron or wand. Start by spraying the crown of straight or wavy hair with a matte volume spray or dry shampoo, Streicher says. (She recommends Sachajuan's Volume Powder.) Then, take random sections and give them soft bends with a flat iron. "Starting at the roots, pull the flat iron up, then flip it over and pull it down in the opposite direction," Streicher says. Keep alternating as you slide down the hair shaft. (To see the technique in action, check out this flat iron wave tutorial.)

The secret: "Wave bigger sections in the front to keep them a bit looser," Streicher says. "This will give this look a sleeker front and a more messy, voluminous back."
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Jamie Chung / Photo: Michael Buckner/Getty Images.
Rich-Girl Waves
Shiny, pristine, and totally "done," this style only looks like you came straight from the salon. "With this wave, it's best to keep the majority of the wave and volume in the bottom half of the hair," Streicher says. "Start by blowing hair out with a nice polishing serum, like Seven Diamond Serum," Streicher says. "Then, add a few drops to the ends of dry hair if your locks tend to get frizzy."

You can use a 1.5-inch curling iron and only focus on the bottom two-thirds of the hair if you prefer, but Streicher suggests taking the time to master the flat-iron wave for smoother results. "With a flat iron, the heat is coming from both sides, which eliminates puffiness or frizz," she explains.

Pro tip: "Start at the middle of the hair shaft and curl the hair through to the ends by spinning the flat iron away from the face," Streicher says. (The technique is similar to curling a ribbon.) Release, then lightly loosen the curl by pulling it down with your fingers. This will prevent it from looking like you're going to prom, Streicher says. "Then, finger-comb the hair and add a small dab of finishing serum," she says.
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Kylie Jenner / Photo: Steve Granitz/WireImage/ Getty Images.
Voluminous Waves
Say hello to Kylie Jenner's amped-up waves, which you can accomplish using the same technique as Ashley Madekwe's barely there waves on slide two. Simply swap your 1-inch iron for a 1.25 or 1.5-inch version, which will provide more volume, Streicher says.

Starting with a voluminous blowout, pick up a 1.5-inch section of hair and wrap it around the iron in random directions, letting each section cool completely before touching it. Be sure to consider the temperature of your iron to prevent the hair from curling too tightly or causing damage.

To keep it looking modern, shake the waves out with your hands and spray them with a matte thickening spray, like Bumble and bumble's Thickening Dry Spun Finish (Streicher's pick), or try Sexy Hair Concepts' Big Sexy Hair Get Layered Flash Dry Thickening Hairspray for a great drugstore alternative.
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Photo: Monica Schipper/FilmMagic/ Getty Images.
Air-Dried Waves
There are a few different ways to score Ashley Olsen's signature air-dried look, but the result will look the most natural if you forgo the blowdryer. "This definitely looks like she started with her natural texture, meaning air-dried completely, which always gives the hair a little bit more frizzy volume," Streicher explains.

If you have straight or wavy hair, try parting wet, just-washed hair down the middle and spraying with salt spray before scrunching and allowing to fully dry. (Streicher recommends Sachajuan Ocean Mist.) If you have curly hair, do the same, but skip the beach spray and opt for a hydrating cream, oil, or whatever product your know will give your natural curls the most smoothness.

"Then, go through with a 1-inch flat iron to give some 'cool girl waves,' in this case, a little tighter of a wave than normal," Streicher says. "Basically, you want to keep it looking as natural as possible by waving any straight pieces or straightening out any pieces that may be too curly."

We admit this one is a bit time-consuming, especially if the weather is cold and leaving the house with wet hair isn't an ideal option. (Find tips for air-drying in the cold, here.) If you prefer to start on dry hair, simply braid your hair in small sections, then go over them with a flat iron to score a similar effect. (More on that, here.)
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