To master wavy hair, you need the patience of a saint and the enthusiasm of a scientist to keep on experimenting until you discover what works best for your waves. One day your waves might look stretched out, stringy and lifeless, and the next you might even get something that resembles curls! Its unpredictable nature causes you to constantly fight against it, resulting in hair that is dry, and has damage that’s hard to handle and stresses you out.
Sadly, many give up and straighten or curl their waves using hot tools and we totally understand why! But it doesn’t have to be a battle. With just a few key adjustments to your hair routine, you can achieve the I-woke-up-like-this waves of your dreams. By following our pro tips you’ll transform your natural waves! Keep reading to finally find out to properly care for your wavy hair. I repeat – wavy NOT curly hair.
Not sure if you’ve got waves or curls?
Get familiar with the easy, widely agreed-upon classification system for curls and waves. Here, they categorise curls into curl families which are represented by a number. A letter is assigned from A-C to represent how tight your curls are.
- the absence of curls,
- identifies waves
- means spiralled curls
- indicates kinks and coils
To understand all there is to know about your curl pattern, porosity, density, reliable curly and wavy hair products and the best hairstyles for you, take the Naturally Curly Texture Typing Quiz.
Never use a towel on wavy hair
Taking a gentle approach is key to properly caring for wavy hair. Using a towel after washing your hair will cause breakage and suck the moisture straight out of your wavy locks leaving you with dry, frizzy waves. Start off like this and you’ll never get the results you desire and over time you’ll destroy the condition of your hair. Instead, opt for a microfibre towel or an old cotton t-shirt.
2. Avoid washing your hair every day
Washing your hair every day is one sure way to wreck your waves. Leave at least two days in-between your wash days and refresh your curls between washes to aid in redefining your waves.
Do this by firstly by detangling your hair using your fingers and use a dry shampoo on your roots if needed. Next, apply a lightweight (meaning it has high water content) product such as a foam mousse. Be sure to focus on areas that need extra hydration and smoothing. Next, dampen your hair by spritzing with water to hydrate your waves and activate the existing product on your hair – smooth over and lightly scrunch. Finger curl those frizzy waves and gently diffuse using the hover method or leave to air dry.
When fully dried apply a tiny amount of a lightweight oil through your lengths to enhance waves, add shine and ward off frizz.
3. Use a nourishing shampoo
Beautiful waves start in the shower! Investing in a nourishing shampoo will make all the difference to your locks. Get familiar with the ingredients in shampoos and conditioners so you know what to look out for and what to avoid. We recommended getting yourself a copy of A Consumer’s Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients by Ruth Winters (image and buying details below) to help you start reading labels like a pro.
Superfruit Complex 10 in 1 Multi-Benefit Shampoo by Shea Moisture. £10.75; available online at Beauty Bay.
4. Go Sulphate and Silicone Free
Lorraine Massey, the creator of The Curly Girl Method, recommends using a sulphate free shampoo aka ‘low poo’ and conditioner that is free from non-water-soluble silicones as they are thought to be too harsh for natural curls and waves.
For wavies, she recommends shampooing once a week, using conditioner before and after, and to leave a little bit of the conditioner on the hair – don’t rinse all the way.
She also recommends going shampoo-free and only using conditioner to wash your hair – a curly girl approved method termed ‘co-washing’. Whilst this can work wonders on curly and some wavy hair, it’s best that those who have waves with delicate, thin hair avoid co-washing.
5. Deep condition once a week
Hydrate hydrate hydrate! Wavies are prone to dry, dull strands – hydrating your hair is essential if you want healthy looking waves.
Fruit Fusion Coconut Water Weightless Hair Masque. £13.00; available at Beauty Bay.
It can be a challenge with wavy hair to maintain volume. The S-shape curl pattern is prone to lacking volume and easily weighs down with product. To deep condition your waves, we recommend using the Fruit Fusion Coconut Water Weightless Hair Masque which gives hair weightless moisture that leaves your waves looking and feeling their best.
*Never apply hair masque to dry hair – waves need water!*
6. Use a clarifying shampoo once or twice a month
The unwanted build-up will wreck your waves – FACT. Clarifying shampoos feature a higher number of surfactants which attract oil, dirt and unwanted build-up like a magnet. In fact, they have an emulsifying effect so it can be pulled into the water and washed off easily. These products are only meant to be used once or twice a month unless you use lots of hair styling products, you have very hard water, your hair is often exposed to chlorine and other pollutants or you require more regular removal of unwanted build-up.
KEVIN.MURPHY MAXI.WASH. £20.00; available online at Cult Beauty.
We recommend using this maximum strength shampoo to deeply clarify your hair and scalp to completely remove build-up and brighten your hair. It’s also important to exfoliate your scalp and this super shampoo has you covered – AHA’s gently exfoliate the scalp, dissolving dead skin cells, oil and break down fatty acids that irritate the scalp causing inflammation.
Whilst we’re talking about product build-up – when you’re not sure what works for you or wondering if anything will ever work for you, it’s tempting to try a new routine and products every wash day. If you do this, you are NEVER going to find out what works for you. You need to give new products and routines at least two weeks before switching to determine if they will work for you long term. Furthermore, avoid trying out too many products and routines.
Suggested Article: The 20 Best Shampoos for Oily Hair in 2020 – Products & Formulas for Less Greasy Hair.
7. Try out the #brushropeshake method
Ali, the wavy hair goddess of @wavycurly spoke to Naturally Curly about her unique brushing method that receives a lot of airtime within the wavy hair community – wavies are officially loving it! And it clearly works for Ali – even mermaids dream of waves like hers! She reveals she uses a D3 Original Styler Denman brush on soaking wet hair. She firstly applies leave-in conditioner, curls cream and then uses her Denman brush to brush through her waves whilst they’re upside down. Next, up – it’s time to ‘rope’ – she gently ropes her hair together in six sections and to finish, she simply gives her head a little shake. She says it gives you “perfectly clumped waves to work with”. And her cult following of wavies agree, confirming it works wonders for forming curl clumps.
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Let’s talk CLUMPS ✨ They come with time/health and proper product application. If you struggle with stringy hair, play with different application techniques like “roping” vs” praying hands” and applying stylers to soaking wet vs damp hair. My favorite, and only way that I obtain big clumps, is by using my Denman brush on soaking wet hair(see my Wave Tutorial in my highlights). The overall health of your hair will also improve how your hair clumps. The healthier it gets, the better the clumps tend to be. Treat your hair to deep conditioning/protein treatments before and after coloring (@marisascurls curls has a great post on this) and keep up with trims to remove breakage that can tangle or weigh down your hair. I know how frustrating it can be for curl clumps to break up, but the only true way (in my personal experience) to get your hair to form is to continue to nourish it back to a healthy place and practice different application techniques ✨ . . . . . . #cgmethod #curlygirl #curls #curly #wavygirl #lovemycurls #hairgoals #blondecurls #healthyhair #curlclumps #cgm #curldefinition #naturallycurly #motivationmonday #curlfriends #longhair #washday #longcurlyhair #highporosity #transitioninghair #curlyhairroutine #wavesarenotfailedcurls #beachwaves #mycurls
Not sure exactly what it means to ‘rope’? Check out the video below:
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✨Product Application – Simplified✨ Above are 3 very basic application techniques to distribute product into your hair. Each will yield different results based on your curl pattern, density, etc. There are MANY more ways to apply product, but these are 3 of the basics to help get you started. I use a bit of each of these throughout my wash day, but I encourage you to try each one to determine which works best for your hair. For those who have been at it for a while, which do you prefer for applying stylers? Share below ⬇️ #cgmethod #curlygirl #curls #curly #wavygirl #lovemycurls #hairgoals #blondecurls #curlclumps #cgm #curldefinition #naturallycurly #wavygirls #curlfriends #longhair #washday #longcurlyhair #highporosity #transitioninghair #curlyhairroutine #wavesarenotfailedcurls #beachwaves #mycurls #curlon #2chair #productapplication #curlygirl101
You might hear some wavies recommending to never brush your hair when its wet and instead suggest combing when dry using fingers and a wide-tooth comb. Try both techniques and find out what works for you!
8. Use the ‘praying hands’ technique for product application
There are several different techniques that can be used to apply products to wavy and curly hair but it’s the “Praying Hands” technique followed by gentle scrunching that receives the most praise from wavies. Ali (@wavycurly), warns that any attempts at “raking” will leave your waves looking “stringy and lifeless”.
Suggested Article: Hacks to take Care of Naturally Curly Hair.
9. Create a gel cast
This technique is part of the Curly Girl Method developed by Lorraine Massey and it gets the thumbs up from wavies. Creating a gel cast helps you to achieve ‘curl clumps’, lock in moisture, keep your hair defined whilst drying and eliminates frizz – resulting in hydrated, defined waves. To create a gel cast, apply a gel to just washed, detangled, soaking wet hair using the ‘praying hands’ technique to mix the gel and water, and evenly distribute the gel throughout your hair. Only apply a little bit of product to the roots – less product = more volume. Wrap hair in a t-shirt or microfibre towel for 10 minutes then either air dry or diffuse.
Allow the gel and water combine and coat your hair, as once dried it then forms a crunchy layer around each curl clump. At this point, it’s time to gently break the cast and ‘scrunch out the crunch’. Some wavies recommend using a little bit of curl cream or leave-in conditioner on the palm of your hands when releasing the cast. Once you have broken the cast to your liking, finish by shaking out your roots to create volume – don’t rake your fingers through your hair just shake out the roots using your fingertips. You’ll get beautiful bouncy waves with tons of volume.
10. Don’t continue to scrunch when drying
Leave your waves to dry without touching them at all! If you have the time, let your hair air dry for at least 10 minutes, then get your diffuser and start drying at the roots first to lift the weight from the ends using the ‘hover method’. If you keep scrunching during the drying process, you’ll separate your clumped waves and diminish your wave definition, resulting in frizzy, stringy waves. Don’t do it! You want to keep you’re your hands off your hair as much as possible during the drying process.
Another method of drying that Ali of @wavycurly recommends that wavies are loving is the ‘hammock method’.
Suggested Article: Stop Common Hair Myths from Harming Your Locks.
11. Don’t touch your hair once it’s styled
Hands off! Leave those waves alone. I know it’s almost impossible but avoid touching your hair once it’s styled. But if you do then you’re at risk of pulling on your waves, breaking up your curl clumps, and transferring oil, moisture and dirt from your hands on to your waves, all of which will result in undefined waves and frizz.
12. Protect your waves whilst sleeping
The Eva Hair Wrap by Silke London. £50.00; available at Beauty Bay.
How you sleep on your hair is super important if you want to avoid breakage and keep your wavy hair looking good in the morning – it’s all about prepping your hair at night! Remember the gentle approach– cotton pillows, as well as sleeping with your hair down, causes damage and frizz and it will guarantee that you wake up to a poofy mess of hair. You need to figure out the best method for you to protect your hair whilst you sleep. You could go for a satin hair wrap or scarf, sleeping on a satin pillow, wearing your hair in a pineapple, loose bun or braids. Work out what works best for you.
Suggested Article: 43 easy Knotless Box Braids – Jumbo To Micro Box Braids 101!
13. Rinse out conditioner with cold water
Switching to cold water to rinse out your conditioner seals the cuticle, helps your strands retain more moisture and, importantly, adds shine.
14. Don’t get a deva cut
A deva cut is performed on dry hair and works great for curlies but it’s not the best technique for wavies due to the unpredictability of wavy hair. Wavy hair lays differently every day which is why a deva cut won’t work for waves, and it will look terribly uneven if you like to straighten your waves occasionally.
Suggested Article: Brass Hair: Prevent and Repair Brassy, Orange Hair After Colour Treatment.
15. Try the ‘plopping’ technique
After you’ve washed your hair and applied product, get your t-shirt or microfiber towel and lay it down flat in front of you. Lean over and ‘plop’ your head on top of the shirt/towel, ensuring all your hair is gathered on top of your head and gently wrap it around your head. Be sure to secure at the back of your neck. Allow your hair to ‘set’ for at least 30 mins. This technique keeps your wave pattern intact as it dries and prevents gravity from pulling your waves downwards.
16. Fake it
If you’re reading this because you love waves, but you have curly or straight hair, you can still achieve the waves you dream of with a little help from heat and working with your natural texture – just be sure to use a heat protection spray. George Northwood, the hairstylist to Alexa Chung and the man behind Megan Markle’s wedding reception updo, told British Vogue exactly how this is done – If you have straight hair he advises that it “…should be rough or scrunch-dried with some volumising or texture spray added to ensure a good base for tonging”. And If you’ve got thick, curly hair he recommends smoothing out your curls before adding waves. He advises that “…a good smoothing cream applied in the drying process can help refine any naturally coarse or frizzy hair.”
Titanium Brilliance Waves. £40.00; available online at Beauty Bay.
Embracing your natural hair texture and learning how to take care of wavy hair is a journey of discovery. To transform your waves, dedicate some time and stay positive! Remember, wavy hair is not about perfection!
Do you have a holy grail wavy hair hack? Please share your wavy hair success stories with us in the comments below. We’d love to know!
All good wishes,
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