This story was originally published August 18, 2016.
When Anh Co Tran speaks, we listen. And when he does hair? We don't dare shift our gazes. Last year, the L.A.-based hairstylist set the hair trend by updating the basic lob with soft, A-line, choppy layers, and a cult styling technique. It makes sense that we jumped on board — the cut and style works on most hair textures and types, and there's a version that's right for just about every aesthetic and lifestyle. That, and it's just so damn cool.
It follows that his latest trendsetting move — a technique he's calling "wave formation" — is just as rad. Basically, it's a mixture of two techniques: loose barrel curls, and waves made by using a 1.5-inch curling iron like a waving iron. Neither is new, but when done together, the result is fresh, modern, and very L.A.
"Wave formation" delivers a look that hits the sweet spot between lived-in beach waves and classic S-waves — and is totally customizable depending on how you mess up the waves with product and your hands. "With this look, you have versatility in the sense that you get a truly edgy, rock-'n'-roll look if you deconstruct it," Tran explains. "On the other hand, if you keep it [as is] you get a more modern twist on a finger-wave." But the best part? It's so easy to do.
Tran breaks it down for us below, but first, let's watch the technique in action...
Now in slo-mo...
As you can see, the secret is using a curling iron a bit like you would a waving or crimping iron, with just the right amount of tension (the more tension, the deeper the wave).
In this video, you can see how alternating barrel waves adds even more dimension to the style.
Get the idea? Great, let's dive into what you need to know to start experimenting with "wave formation."
Before we start, there is one caveat to the technique: "It must be done on smoothed-out hair," Tran says. Those with curly or wavy hair should blowdry it straight first.
Let's jump in. Grab a 2-inch section of hair and a classic 1.5-inch iron. Follow the technique shown in the videos above by lightly clamping the iron over each section, alternating the direction as you move down the length. When you get to the ends, you can also choose to alternate with Tran's go-to curls — it's up to you. Let the waves cool down before mussing them up.
A word of warning: Figuring out how to make the three Ts — temperature, time, and tension — work with your texture might take a little trial and error, so heed Tran's advice. He cranks up his iron to 450 degrees, then works on 1.5-inch sections for five seconds each, and says it's important not to hold down the clamp too tightly. Of course, amend this based on how quickly your hair takes the shape.
For a more polished end result, Tran suggests finishing with a few drops of oil on the ends and some hairspray. If you prefer an edgier look, spray your waves with a dry texturizer and work it in with your hands. He recommends L'Oréal's Next Day Hair. [Ed. note: Tran is a spokesperson for the brand.] Perhaps his most important piece of advice? "Practice makes perfect!"