How to Create Beach Waves (Without Looking Like a Crunchy Mess)

The go-to 'do for the runway and red carpet is surprisingly easy to create in real life (hint: There's no need to stress about perfection). Follow our simple how-to and we guarantee that beachy waves will become your favorite summer style.

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The Easiest Way to Create Beach Waves

If you've been put off by the tousled tresses that everyone seems to be sporting these days, don't be. Not only do beachy waves work on almost everyone (hair just needs to be at least chin-length), it's one of those styles that actually looks better the more imperfect and messy it gets. Plus, creating this surfer-girl texture is surprisingly fast and easy. We asked Adam Bogucki, owner of Lumination Salon in Chicago to walk us through the process and share some important dos and don'ts to keep in mind.

1. Prep Hair

Work a quarter-size dollop of texturizing cream throughout your hair. "At the beach, the salt in the water and in the air create grip and a wavy texture. At home, a texturizer will have similar effects," Bogucki says. One to try: Not Your Mother's Beach Babe Texturizing Cream ($6; ulta.com).

2. Create the Wave

Depending on your natural hair texture, the technique varies slightly ...

If you have straight hair:

Section it into eight pieces, four on each side (use your fingers, not a brush, since you don't want the sections to be totally smooth and perfect). Using a one-inch curling iron, curl the front pieces away from your face, toward the back of your head. Then, alternate the direction in which you curl every other section. "This random pattern ensures the waves look messy and natural, rather than like-perfect ringlets," Bogucki says. We like the Beachwaver S1 ($129; ulta.com), which automatically rotates and makes it super easy to alternate directions.

If you have wavy hair:

You can actually create waves the night before (just start with damp, rather than dry, hair). Separate hair into four sections, one on each side and two in the back. Coil each piece into what Bogucki refers to as "Princess Leia buns," securing each with bobby pins (be sure to leave the ends of the coil out -- see our "Do" section for more on that). Sleep with hair pinned up. In the morning, blow-dry for a minute to ensure hair is completely dry, then take down the buns.

If you have curly hair:

Split hair into four sections and twist each one into a ropelike strand. Run a flat iron over each section for 30 seconds to one minute to help set the wave and relax some of your natural curls, Bogucki says.

3. Spray to Finish

Resist the urge to touch your curls, coils, or twists until you spritz your whole head with a texturizing spray. Salt sprays work, too, though they can be a bit drying on the hair, says Bogucki, who recommends the salt-free Living Proof Instant Texture Mist ($27; sephora.com). Finish by breaking up the sections with your fingers, massaging the roots, and shaking everything out. The more undone the result, the better.

Beachy Wave Dos and Don'ts

DO:

  • Leave the last inch of your hair straight (regardless of the technique you're using). Straight tips are a defining characteristic of beachy waves, Bogucki says.
  • Alternate the direction in which you curl, coil, or twist; the random pattern is what makes the waves look like, well, waves, and not precise curls.
  • Try this as a second-day style. It will hold better and look more naturally undone on hair that's not freshly washed, Bogucki says. Plus, unlike smooth styles, the tousled texture helps conceal the look of greasy roots.

DON'T:

  • Overuse texturizing spray. One or two mists on each side and two to four in the back is all you need -- overdo it and hair will look greasy, stiff, and crunchy, Bogucki says.
  • Use a brush. Whether for sectioning or breaking up the waves, a brush will make the texture look too smooth.
  • Worry about perfection. The messier, more tousled, more imperfect the look, the better, so if one strand isn't curling correctly or falling the right way, just go with it. After all, beach waves are supposed to look like you spent a day at the shore, not the salon.
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