Hairstylists Want You To Follow These 5 Easy Steps For Perfect Finger Waves

Hint: it's all in the products.

by Natasha Marsh
finger waves

Thinking of a new protective style for fall? Finger waves, a wet-look with gentle texture, are a particularly stunning style to try out this season. “Finger waves are a method of setting hair with styling products in the form of waves or curls,” says Jamal Edmonds, Mizani hair stylist. The popular 1920s hairstyle was seen on Hollywood stars Josephine Baker and Claudette Colbert, and then in the ‘90s with Missy Elliot, and current day with Zendaya. It is typically styled on pixie cuts and short bobs, but can also work well on medium-to-long lengths — the only difference is the amount of gel you use for pliability and hold when creating the look.

That said, finger waves are not as easy as two-strand twists or bantu knots. Meaning, you can’t easily recreate the shiny, defined wave shape right before a big night out (but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible). The technique requires some trial and error and for the style to be successful, products matter. Although this style may take a couple times to master and a whole lot of patience, it’s really not as complicated as it looks.

Below, TZR spoke to three celebrity hairstylists to get the inside scoop and all the steps to creating the perfect finger wave set. The pros are even sharing the tools and products you need to master the look at home.

Finger Waves Step 1: Gathering Your Products

Having the right lineup of products is half the battle with this S-shaped curve style. To ace the look, Michelle Sultan, celebrity hair stylist and brand ambassador for Imbue, recommends investing in hair gel, mousse, a rat-tail and fine-tooth comb, and a blowdryer or hooded dryer. The hair gel will help bring structure and hold without frizz, while the mousse is the key to smooth, defined, hydrated waves. You’ll use the rat-tail comb to make precise parts and the fine-tooth comb for smoothing the gel, and mousse for perfect S-waves. Lastly, a hair dryer or hooded dryer will lock in the style, sans frizz.

Finger Waves Step 2: Cleanse Hair

Starting with a clean canvas is necessary for all protective styles. Hydrated hair will also have more flexibility and elasticity to secure finger waves. Once hair is cleaned, detangle with a leave-in conditioner and apply gel or mousse all over hair to prep for sculpting the S-wave shape.

Finger Waves Step 3: Work In The Wave

You must have patience in this step as it might take a few tries to really get the wave to come through. To start, place rat-tail comb along your part and comb hair in a C-formation (or the top part of an S), with the curve of the C facing the back of the head. “Once hair is combed in a C-formation, place your pointer down firmly parallel along the sides of the part,” Christiaan van Bremen, global educator for Bumble and bumble, tells TZR. “Keep the pointer finger in place and start to comb hair below the pointer finger and create the bottom of the S shape by combing hair toward the face.”

As a tip, the experts suggests that beginners start with a deep side part to keep you on an asymmetrical path for sculpted waves. Starting in the center could be hard to master mirrored sides. Once you’ve created the first wave, work your way around your head until all the hair is in waves. Edmonds recommends reapplying products as needed to keep the hold secure. “Foam wrap typically works better for straight and wavy hair, while a firm setting gel will keep curls and coils in place,” the expert shares.

Finger Waves Step 4: Sit Under The Dryer

Although you can air dry the hair, using a blowdryer or hooded dryer will speed up the drying process and further cement waves into your hair. When going under the dryer, you can keep styling clips in your hair where the waves are to help solidify the “S'' shape as it dries. Sultan also encourages finishing with a light mist of oil spray for shine and to lock in moisture.

Finger Waves Step 5: Wrap Hair At Night

Finger waves can last up to four to five days. To keep them in tip top shape, work in a hairspray daily to keep them laying flat on the head. When you wake up, press each wave with your fingers and spritz some hairspray to reinforce the waves. Sultan also recommends wrapping the hair with a silk scarf or bonnet at night to lock in moisture and prevent frizz.

After the waves have run their course, you’ll want to deep cleanse and condition your hair to ensure zero product buildup. And if you are low on time for a full wash day, you can always take a boar bristle brush and gently brush out waves for a soft, beach wave look post-finger waves.

Ready to try out the glamours style for yourself? The below products come with glowing reviews from the experts.

We at TZR only include products that have been independently selected by our editors. We may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article.