Over the past few years, the tousled beach-wave look has proven to be much more than a passing trend: The windswept effect is a hairstyle with staying power, well on its way to iconic status. Inspired by that perfectly mussed-up state our salt-infused hair gets after a day at the beach, the look is seemingly unfussy, and effortlessly chic.
But the truth is, if there isn’t a massive body of saltwater on hand, achieving this style actually takes some work. Luckily, there are experts who can guide us on our way to beachy hair, even when an actual trip to the beach isn't in our near future. Here, the pros break down exactly how to nail the look, whether your hair is stick-straight, curly, or anywhere in between.
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For Fine Hair: Oribe Surfcomber Tousled Texture Mousse
Lizzy Weinberg, a stylist at Pas de Deux Salon in New York, tells us that perfectly imperfect beach waves begin with the prep. "Start by scrunching a texturizing mousse through your damp strands, then rough-dry with a blowdryer," says Weinberg. “Avoid too much smoothing with a brush, because you want the ends to have a textured, unfinished look.”
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For Fine Hair: BaBylissPRO Curling Iron
"Once your hair is dry, to make the hair lay softer, take angled sections rather than ones that go straight across and add a wave with a wand or hot iron," says Weinberg. "For shorter hair, use a one-inch barrel, and if your hair is longer, use a wider barrel for a looser wave. Wrap the hair around the wand — only at the shaft — from the middle to about an inch from the ends."
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For Fine Hair: Sexy Hair Big Sexy Hair Get Layered
"After you drop the curl, lightly tug on the end to loosen the wave," Weinberg instructs. "If you want an extra tousled look, twist the hair before you curl it. Once your head is done, finish it off with a volumizing texture spray."
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For Fine Hair: Kristin Ess Working Texture Loose Styling Powder
If your roots feel a little flat or need a bit more edge, sprinkle some Kristin Ess styling powder and massage through to add volume and salty dryness, just like you'd have after a beach day.
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For Fine Hair: John Frieda Beach Blonde Cool Dip Purifying Shampoo
If your hair refuses to hold a wave no matter how much product you put in, Weinberg says you need to start in the shower. "This shampoo will set the base for those air-dried waves," she says, "but you'll still want to follow up with mousse or dry texture spray."
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For Curly Hair: Kérastase Oleo-Relax Serum
If you have curly hair, you can master beachy waves even without using a curling iron. “The no-heat trick is to wash and condition your hair before bed," says Weinberg. "Then, towel dry, but be sure not to rough up your ends — just gently press and squeeze with the towel until you absorb all the moisture. When you're done, brush through it and apply a heavy hair oil."
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For Curly Hair: Bumble and bumble Surf Infusion
Next, divide your hair into two sections and loosely braid each side, keeping the top layer as smooth as possible, "Secure the braids loosely with an elastic and pin them on top of your head like a headband — this will prevent them from frizzing while you sleep, and will make your hair dry into waves rather than curling into its usual ringlets," Weinberg explains. "When you wake up, take them down, shake them out, and spray with a salt spray."
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For Curly Hair: Shu Uemura Art Of Hair Cotton Uzu
To finish off the look, Weinberg recommends a light cream wax to smooth out the hairline and control any flyaways. You can also rub a little between your hands and rake it though the ends if you want a little more piecey-ness.
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For Straight Hair: Kiehl's Heat-Protective Silk Straightening Cream
Using braids to get beach waves works with straight hair the same way it does if your hair has a natural curl, but Weinberg says heat tools will help lock the wave in place. "Apply a heat protector to your strands, and blow your hair dry," she says.
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For Straight Hair: IGK Down & Out Dirty Spray
Then, divide your hair in two, braid both sections, and secure with an elastic. “I like to really just braid the mid-sections, leaving the ends straighter and roots flatter," says Weinberg. "Then, take a flat iron and clamp all the way down on the braids numerous times. Undo the braids, and apply a hit of texturizing spray."
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For Straight Hair: Not Your Mother's Beach Babe Texturizing Sea Salt Spray
This spray is packed with algae extract and actual sea salt, which work in tandem to add texture and grit to the hair without drying it out. Now, it won't give you fully-formed waves, but a generous misting of this stuff into towel-dried hair will deliver a curl or bend even on the straightest textures.
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For Straight Hair: Verb Sea Texture Cream
If the braids and flat iron aren't delivering your desired wave, Weinberg recommends prepping the hair with a cream texturizer after you air-dry or blow-dry. "Once it's dry and still a bit tacky, use a small-barrel curling iron and wrap the hair, starting about two inches away from the root," she instructs. "Hold, drop, and gently pull at the ends."
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For Wavy Hair: Shu Uemura Art Of Hair Liquid Fabric
For hair that has a slight wave already, first apply a texture spray to wet strands. "As you blow dry, take small sections, twist them into loose pin-curls, and secure them against your head, leaving out the ends." says Weinberg. "Once all hair is dry, take it down, shake it out, and spritz again with a texture spray. Then, set the hair behind the ear for a while to get that beach-y dent.”
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For Thick Hair: SheaMoisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl & Style Milk
“With thicker hair, you want less volume at the roots, and more bends in the mid-sections,” explains Weinberg. To achieve this, she says, you can blowdry your roots smooth with a paddle brush, focusing on smoothing out your part, "or you can lean into your natural texture by styling with a hydrating leave-in conditioner — coconut oil is a great natural alternative."
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For Thick Hair: Davines This Is A Sea Salt Spray
"You can then twist your hair into small sections and pin them all around your head," says Weinberg. "Let them air-dry or use a diffuser, then unpin the hair, shake it out, and spritz the curls with a light texturizing spray."
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For All Hair Types: Oribe Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray
You'd be hard-pressed to find a "beach wave" article with no mention of Oribe's classic wave-creating spray. Think of it as a texture spray laced with oil, to create a lived-in finish with smoothness and shine. It won't weigh down fine hair or dry out thick hair — which is why pros swear by it for just about every hair type.
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For All Hair Types: Aveda Light Elements Defining Whip
For strong hold and a shiny finish, scoop out a small amount of this whipped cream and gently run it through your ends. The formula is so light, even those with fine hair will find it doesn't weigh them down.
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For All Hair Types: IGK Rich Kid Coconut Oil Gel
Gel is a great option when the weather is humid — and this one is an R29 favorite. Infused with coconut oil, it adds volume and hydration with hold. Celebrity hairstylist David Lopez tells us that bouncy, frizz-free waves are easy; just leave your hair alone while it dries (after applying, of course). "The more you touch it, the less wave you’ll end up with," he says.
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