An Owner’s Guide to Naturally Wavy Hair

A model sports soft waves at Anna Sui's spring 2014 runway show

A model sports soft waves at Anna Sui’s spring 2014 runway show.
Photo: Imaxtree

If you have naturally wavy hair, then you know that sometimes your texture feels like a curse. Wavy hair isn’t as wash-and-go as straight strands, and lacks the bounce that curls have. But even though getting there may take a little extra work, waves can look shiny and gorgeous — as long as you know how to style them.

The key to making your wavy hair work? “Pick a texture and commit to it,” says Gary Howse, co-owner and founder of Gary Manuel Salons in Seattle. “If you’re going to go straight, go straight and really shiny and make that the focus. Or, pick curly and learn how to accentuate the curl.”

If you want to play up your texture…

Scrunch with mousse. Okay, we realize how 1991 that directive sounds, but today’s updated foam formulas leave hair touchable, not crunchy. We like Vidal Sassoon Pro Series Waves Foam Mousse ($3.99, vidalsassoon.com), which enhances waves with flexible polymers that create a soft, defined texture.

Coarser wavy hair may require a more heavy-duty product. Ouidad Curl Recovery Curl Defining Styling Soufflé ($26, ouidad.com) is a new styling cream that’s designed to moisturize and define dry or damaged textured hair (especially those that are natural or transitioning).

Master the anti-gravity blow dry. Wavy hair can get weighed down, so there are additional factors that go into the perfect blow-dry. “When you’re going curly, you have to think about, ‘How do I dry my hair in a way that it’s not being pulled on?’” Howse says. This may mean flipping your head upside down, or leaning your head to one side or the other while you blow dry your hair with a bell-shaped diffuser. A diffuser, of course, is key: this attachment clips onto the nozzle of your hair dryer to spread out the airflow over a wider area, giving you a gentler blow dry that plays up your natural texture while minimizing frizz.

If you want to go straight…

Prep hair with product. Wavy hair needs both moisture to fight frizz and hold to keep a blowout from falling flat. Living Proof Perfect Hair Day (PHD) ($26, livingproof.com) is a new 5-in-1 styling treatment that offers both. The lightweight cream is the first to combines the company’s two patented molecules: OFPMA, which smooths the hair cuticle and adds silicone-free shine, and PBAE, which creates fullness without crunchy texture.

Blow dry with a brush. The key to achieving a smooth, shiny blowout is pulling hair tight with a round brush while you point the dryer down toward the ends. “If you can’t feel the tension pulling, then you’re not doing it right,” Howse says.

Perfect your flat iron technique. “Be very careful about using a flat iron in a way that makes it look like 10 years ago,” Howse advises. You don’t want stick straight strands so much as you want smooth texture with a bit of movement at the ends. “Think circles; I’m not pulling it down as much as I’m pulling it out and around, so you’re actually putting a bit of a curve in it with the flat iron and then it looks modern.”

Essentials for naturally wavy hair

No matter which texture you choose…

DON’T air dry your hair. ”You’ve got to dry your hair all the way,” Howse advises. “When you have curly hair, sometimes getting it three-fourths dry is great, because if you take it all the way it gets fuzzy. When you have wavy hair, that extra water is probably not going to give you the curl you’re looking for. If you’re going straight, it’s probably going to go fuzzy on you as it starts to [air] dry.”

DO brush gently. Wavy hair tends to be more fragile than straight hair, and over brushing can lead to breakage and frizz. With its flexible plastic bristles, the Goody Tanglefix brush ($7.99, target.com) is gentle on waves.

Read more: Is the Blowout Over? This Trend May Make You Ditch Your Hair Dryer

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