I finally learned the secret to getting natural waves thanks to these expert tips.

By Samantha Driscoll
August 25, 2020
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This is part of our new weekly series called Test Drive, where our team of beauty experts demystify products and tools, as well as explore new techniques IRL.

I’ve been using a flat iron for about 15 years, ever since I first convinced my mom to let me straighten my hair in middle school. Since then, the flat iron has been my go-to hot tool for both straightening and curling my hair. I love using the beveled edge to create a super polished, ringlet curl. But when I want loose, undone waves like Kate Moss, I recently discovered that a styling wand is the way to go.

Woman with long, wavy brown hair
Credit: Courtesy of Samantha Driscoll

Styling wands are a great option for getting curls and waves with a natural finish, versus the tight, polished ringlet finish you typically get with curling irons, according to Herbal Essences celebrity hairstylist Bridget Brager. The styling technique with a wand is easy: Instead of starting at the ends of the hair like you do with a curling iron, you actually wrap your hair around the wand beginning at the roots and working your way down to the ends.

There are two main styles of wands: straight and tapered. Straight wands look almost identical to a curling iron, minus the clamp to hold onto the ends of the hair. Tapered wands have a barrel that gets smaller as you move away from the handle towards the end of the barrel. For short hair, Brager recommends using a 1-inch barrel. “If you go with a bigger barrel you might not be able to get a full wrap, which means less wave,” she says. For longer hair (and for more voluminous loose waves), try using a wand with a 1 1/4-inch barrel. Some wands like the T3 Whirl Trio ($300, Sephora) even come with multiple barrel heads so you can pick which size you want to use.

Start by parting your hair at your natural part line, and then section off your hair with clips. Maxine Salon stylist Leigh Hardges says that sectioning the hair into vertical pieces (instead of horizontal) will actually help the waves last longer. Working with one-two inch pieces of hair at a time, wrap your hair around the wand. It helps to hold the wand upside down with the end of the barrel pointed to the floor. That way, you begin wrapping the hair closest to the root, and work your way down, away from your face. For thicker hair like mine, waves should start around two inches from your scalp. Otherwise, it creates too much volume at the crown of your head. If you have finer or thin hair, Hardges recommends starting the waves a little bit closer to the scalp to create more volume. For a more natural, undone look, leave the ends of your hair (one or two inches) straight without wrapping them around the barrel, Brager suggests. Another trick to creating natural, undone waves is to alternate the direction of the waves, making sure to always direct the curls at the hairline away from your face, Hardges adds.

If you have coily to kinky textured hair, Hardges says that you might have to start with a little bit of straightening first to make the waves look smooth. “Start by blow-drying, and then use the styling wand in small sections. When wrapping the hair, use high tension to help smooth the hair slightly while setting the wave.”

After you’re done with the wand, you should wait at least ten minutes for the hair to fully cool before combing through it, otherwise, your waves might not last as long if they don’t fully set. Then, comb through your hair with a texturizing cream or finishing spray to break up the waves.

With these expert tips in mind, I finally perfected how to get natural waves every day. Don’t get me wrong, I love my flat iron and still might use it to curl my hair from time-to-time, but I think I’ll be reaching for a wand most mornings for an effortless look. Read on for my must-have styling products and tools!

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heat protectant spray for hair
Credit: Courtesy of Drybar

Heat Protector

Before using any hot tool–wands, flat irons, blow dryers–I make sure to use a heat protectant to prevent any damage to my hair. I love that this mist protects against heat and helps leave my hair less frizzy. Before heat styling, I spray the mist throughout my hair, making sure to lift up the top layers and cover every section of hair all the way down to the bottom layers.

Buy It: Drybar Hot Toddy Heat Protectant Mist ($27, Drybar)

gold curling wand
Credit: Courtesy of Target

Hot Tool

I love this wand because in addition to leaving my hair shiny and smooth, the rotating handle makes it so easy to use. Sometimes, I like to leave the wand straight, but for sections of hair in the back of my head that are hard to reach, I rotate the handle the full 90 degrees (which makes the wand into an “L” shape). That way, I can make sure the barrel is pointed down at the floor, but I don’t have to hold the entire wand upside down.

Buy It: Kristin Ess Soft Wave Pivoting Wand ($60, Target)

hair clips for styling
Credit: Courtesy of Sephora

Sectioning Clips

Having thick hair, I usually struggle with finding clips and hair ties that are big enough to help with blow-drying and styling my hair. These alligator clips are sturdy enough to hold my hair in place, and they’re also gentle on my hair and don’t pull or pinch once they are in place. As an added bonus, they don’t leave any creases once I am done using them.

Buy It: Sephora Collection Hold it Together: Alligator Jaw Clips ($10, Sephora)

texture spray for hair
Credit: Courtesy of KMS

Texture Spray

Hardges says that the key to creating an undone look on textured hair is to let your hair cool completely before separating and tousling the waves. This styling wax comes in spray form and leaves your hair feeling soft while locking in the waves. Hardges recommends spraying this wax in short bursts onto cooled hair. Then, use your hands or a comb to rake through the waves and break them up.

Buy It: KMS Hairplay Dry Wax ($24, Beauty Care Choices)

finishing hairspray in pink can
Credit: Courtesy of Ulta

Finishing Spray

Another way to get natural undone waves is to use a finishing spray, like this Matrix spray. Not only does it create a “teased” effect that transforms uniform waves into more texturized loose, separated waves, but it also helps add body and volume to thin hair. I like that it doesn’t leave my hair feeling sticky. After you’re done heat styling, let the hair cool completely and then spray onto dry hair in sections. A little bit goes a long way!

Buy It: Matrix Total Results Miss Mess Dry Finishing Spray ($18, Ulta)

oil mist for hair
Credit: Courtesy of Target

Oil Mist

This lightweight oil mist leaves your hair moisturized and shiny, and it adds amazing texture. Brager recommends spraying the mist from the mid-shaft to the ends of your hair, then smoothing through with a wide tooth comb. Finish by lightly scrunching your hair. You’ll be left with effortless, cool waves!

Buy It: Herbal Essences Bio:Renew Hemp Seed Oil & Aloe Hair Oil Mist ($6, Target)

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