Between beach waves and mermaid waves, it’s safe to say that the hair industry takes loads of inspiration from the water when it comes to trending hairstyles. Now, there’s another ‘do to add to the list that’s equally as glamorous as those aforementioned looks but way more natural in results: water waves. Despite being in an era where sleek, straight hair is sought after by the likes of Kim Kardashian West and Jennifer Lopez, water waves are a fresh hairstyle gaining traction for its ability to be worn no matter your hair’s length, texture, or type. And, these waves aren’t exclusive to summer (as beach waves tend to be) or too time-consuming to achieve (ahem, like mermaid waves), rendering them the perfect hairstyle for busybodies and lazy-girl-hairstyle-lovers alike.
TZR spoke to top hairstylists in the industry to learn exactly how the style differs from the other water-inspired hairstyles, as well as how to nail the ‘do at home. (Spoiler alert: it’s really easy.) Whether you’re in need of a style refresh or you’re eager to stay on top of trends, keep reading to learn how to master what the pros are predicting will be a top hairstyle for spring and beyond.
What Are Water Waves?
“Water waves are flat, S-shaped waves that have a loose, graceful appearance, mimicking the motion of waves in the water,” says celebrity hairstylist Barry Lee Moe. But are they really that different from the other water-inspired hairstyles that people know and love? Absolutely. Where mermaid waves embody volume at the crown, thicker, more defined waves via a curling iron, and products that give that “wet” look, water waves are a modern take on the trend that tends to be more wearable.
“Not everyone feels comfortable walking around with the “fresh out of the water” editorial style that’s synonymous with the mermaid-inspired look,” says professional hairstylist Amy Baines. As it relates to beach waves, water waves don’t have the same windswept, lived-in texture. “Water waves are still at the beach in spirit, but they tend to be more relaxed and smooth, using a flat iron to create movement,” says Moe.
TL;DR: Water waves are looser and less structured than mermaid waves, less textured than beach waves, and have a softer look overall, says celebrity hair stylist Chris Appleton.
How To Achieve Water Waves
Achieving the trend is as simple as getting comfortable with the flat iron (though if your hair already has texture, you’ll want to smooth it out with a blowdryer before introducing the flat iron). First, since this style relies on using heat to create relaxed waves (though you can still achieve it without — more on that later), you’ll want to apply a heat protectant all over your hair. Then, working in small, two-inch sections of hair, drag the iron from the root to the ends, using a staircase motion to create an “S” shape. “Slow, smooth movements from left to right will help achieve the perfect loose, flowing wave,” says Moe, noting that this technique should be random and imperfect. For the most natural look, Appleton says to pivot the straightener for each section, alternating the waves so that some sections go toward the face and others go towards the back of your head. Adding in an anti-frizz treatment will help keep the waves intact, without the stickiness that can result from a hairspray.
Prefer to go the heatless route? Hairstylist and salon owner Nunzio Saviano says you don’t need multiple hot tools to create the look. “Braids are the best heat-free way to create the look that don’t require blowing the hair straight with a blowdryer and then using a flat iron,” he says. “Create seven to eight small, loose braids all over the head while your hair is still damp. Then, when you wake up, release the braids and use a paddle brush to gently brush the strands out.” To keep the crown smooth and flat, start your braid a few inches off the top of your head versus at the root. When it comes to your ends, you can choose to leave them unbraided (to make for a more natural-looking transition) or braided (if you want a beachy-wave flare). And if you’re dealing with dryness or split ends, you can coat the tips with a hydrating, lightweight hair oil like argan oil.) To help the waves stay put all day, spritz a flexible hold hair spray all over — this will maintain the style without adding too much structure.
Ready to master the look? Here are some products that can help you get water waves at home.
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