Though it has a lot of competition, mermaid waves are arguably the best summer hairstyle ever. Regardless of the length, texture, or color you were born with, absolutely everyone looks stunning with loose, fresh-from-the-ocean waves. We’ve seen them on virtually every celebrity, like Zendaya’s loose beach waves at the Oscars, on Ciara this summer (who fittingly dyed her hair mermaid red to match), this week on Karrueche, every Kardashian-Jenner sister, and in about half of Blake Lively’s best red carpet moments. Mermaid waves’ refusal to go out of vogue, even among the celebrity set, has cemented the trend as a forever go-to, especially as weather heats up.
A few can achieve the look with just a handful of product and some strategic scrunching while others require a fleet of hot tools but regardless of how much time it actually took to achieve, the greatest thing about mermaid waves is they’ll always look effortless. To that end, we’re rounding up the best tools for mermaid waves so defined, they’re worthy of their own summertime film franchise.
The easiest shortcut to mermaid waves is undoubtedly a wave iron. They look a bit like a crimper fused with a trio of curling irons but the results are something entirely unique. The larger models, often the ones that look like three barrels together, are the quickest way to hit your whole head with beach waves. On dry hair, after spritzing a coat of heat protectant like Kevin Murphy’s Heated Defense, hold the waver horizontally and press hair between the plates for 15-second intervals.
For a true mermaid wave, either clamp the waver in a looser hold for fewer seconds on all hair above the ears — too much definition too high up and the look will start to veer towards ‘90s crimps rather than sea-styled waves.
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Curling Irons & Flat Irons/Straighteners
They’re slightly more labor-intensive (particularly if you have a lot of hair) but traditional clamped curling irons and flat irons/straighteners can give you back-from-the-beach waves, too. To use a curling iron for beach waves, hold a medium-barreled iron horizontally and open the clamp wide. After applying some heat protectant, take two- to three-inch sections of hair in the clamp and let it heat for 10 seconds or less. Then, for the next section of hair, flip the iron the opposite way and repeat. In other words, alternate using the clamp below and above hair to get ultra-defined waves that easily separate with a comb for lived-in texture.
Despite the name, straighteners are surprisingly versatile and great for creating waves and curls alike. Some strategic wrist twisting can turn your flat iron into a curling iron, but the shortcut to beach waves is even easier. Depending on how much hair you have, section it up into 2-inch sections and braid. Then, using a heat protectant and a ceramic flat iron, lightly run the straightener up and down the length of the braids. Once cool, unravel the braids to reveal some perfectly-waved mermaid hair.
Of course, as anyone who’s attempted any hairstyle can tell you, the right products applied before and after heat can make all the difference in the style’s structure and longevity. If you have fine hair or can’t hold curls for too long, applying a dollop of mousse and work it through wet hair before rough-drying with a blow dryer. The foam will thicken hair and add grip so you don’t have to worry about your mermaid waves looking washed up before their time.
Once your heat-styled waves are in place, layer on some texture spray or sea salt spray to drive home the authenticity factor: some grit and grip in your hair (along with some finger tousling) disguises and breaks up the uniform sleekness that come with hot tool use.
With these tools, it doesn’t matter if you live beachfront or in a landlocked state — mermaid waves are entirely attainable, no ocean required.