Wavy hairstyles—your complete guide to styling this classic textured look

Whether you've got a natural wavy hairstyle or cheat with heated tools, here's everything you need to know

Woman with brunette a wavy hairstyle
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Let's just call it now: wavy hairstyles are the most universally popular hair look going. When you think about it, almost every woman has worn a wavy style at some point—be that natural, tonged, or magically transformed into that salty sea-soaked holiday texture we can never quite replicate at home. 

"There’s a reason waves have stood the test of time, and that reason is versatility," says Unilever head stylist Daniel Lynes. "From beachy mermaid to old Hollywood glam, loose waves, and voluminous curls—there’s so much choice and so many ways to bring them to life." 

Naturally, your hair type and texture will influence the wavy hairstyle you go for and dictate what's achievable. But, much like the timeless bob hairstyle or perennially cool messy bun, the one thing that ties all the best wavy hairstyles together is a relaxed, undone feel. This also makes wavy styles perfect for occasions where you don't want to look fussy or overdone, glam waves make excellent mother of the bride hairstyles, for example. 

"Waves are always in fashion and so popular because they are undeniably chic," says  A-list hairstylist and Ghd ambassador Adam Reed. "That wavy, beachy hair looks effortless and is usually quite easy to create once you have the hang of it. Think back to Brigitte Bardot, a young Kate Moss, and Sienna Miller’s Boho trend – they were all about the soft kinks and bends, those effortless waves that aren’t too uniform or too rigid." 

Versatile? Check. Flattering? Check. Effortless? Check. Well, ok, you'll need to put in a bit of effort - this is hairstyling, after all. But, arm yourself with these styling tips, a great curling wand or the best hair straighteners for creating bends and your chilled-out style won't give the game away.

Wavy hairstyles—everything you need to know

Wavy hair tutorial

Wavy hair—how to style natural waves

Those blessed with naturally wavy hairstyles are the envy of many a straight-haired gal. But even those lucky enough to be born with the texture the rest of us spend hours trying to fake can benefit from a few expert styling tips. 

"The best thing you can do is experiment with your own hair," says Ava Holland, Artistic Stylist at Gielly Green. "Wash and let it dry on its own to find out how much wave you really have. Test to see if some conditioners make your hair curlier or not, as some conditioners can just weigh the hair down." 

As for styling, we know that even the best hair dryers can still cause damage, so why not take advantage of that natural texture, avoid heat all together and fight frizzy hair in one go? 

"A curl cream and some frizz-fighting serum is the perfect combination to run through a wet, towel-dried, naturally wavy hairstyle," explains Stevie Holland, Senior SALON64 Stylist."Twist sections with your fingers to enhance the waves and leave to set until nearly dry - It's a great trick for those with little time who want to polish existing waves."

"Alternatively, dry your hair until it's 60% dry and spilt in two following your parting straight down to the nape of your neck. Twist each side, then leave it in until it's 100% dry. Once the hair is completely dry, run fingers through, and you're good to go!"

Creating wavy hair from straight

If your hair is straight and struggles to hold a wavy hairstyle, using a heated tool like the best hair straightener is the surefire route to success, while a dedicated hair waver, such as our beauty ed's fave Babyliss Wave Secret Air is certainly the easiest.

"If you want a wavy hairstyle with movement and bubbly voluminousness, I would recommend the Ghd Curve Soft Curl Tong," says Adam. "For that cool girl wave, my top tip is to ensure waves are not uniform and do a kickback wave. Take a section of hair and direct the curls in one way, then take the next section and direct the curls in the opposite way, ensuring to continue to alternate to add body and movement. This means the waves 'kick back' off each other, which is the best way to get that natural tousled hair."

The size of the barrel of the tong dictates the tightness of the curl it creates, so for loose waves, bigger is generally better. "For a natural look, take larger sections when curling," recommends Paul Bryan, hairstylist and founder of A Stylist’s Secret. "Wrap less hair, so stay away from the roots, and alternate the direction of curl per section."

Once you're happy with your waves, finish with a mist of hairspray, ensuring you hold the can at arm's length so the power of the mist doesn't flatten your newly-created style. Let your hair cool completely, then brush through to tousle out the waves for an effortless look.

If you'd rather not use heat at all, try Dan Lynes' overnight wave hack. "If you’re looking to create beautiful waves with minimal effort and without heat tools, your best bet is the VO5 Overnight Curl Cream," says Dan. "This frizz-fighting and curl-enhancing cream work to revive your hair while you sleep - apply to damp hair before loosely braiding. The result? Defined, super-bouncy waves that are ready to be shown off."

Wavy hair versus curly hair—can you turn curls to waves?

Curly girls have beautiful natural texture aplenty, which means you can often get away without heat styling day to day. But if you fancy easing those curls out into looser waves, you'll need to enlist the help of a heated tool or two. 

"Curly or textured hair types can absolutely create waves too," says Paul, "but it must first be blow-dried straight. You can cheat by mainly smoothing the top layer to save time." 

You could also consider using flat irons to straighten the hair and put a wave back in. "This is where the Ghd Platinum+ hair straightener comes in as you can use this to press the natural wave into the hair," explains Adam. "It's all about the preparation. Get your hair a little smoother, to begin with, especially if the hair is really curly, and then use the plate of the styler to press down the surface of the hair. This ensures the wave you create looks effortless and has longevity, so it won’t just spring back up." 

When creating a wavy hairstyle, as with any heat styling, it's important to use protection. "I would recommend spritzing hair with Ghd Bodyguard as a prep step to ensure moisture is in the hair," says Adam. "This prevents the hair from quickly bouncing back into tighter sprung finish and ensures the natural curl pattern is never damaged or compromised." 

Wavy hairstyle inspiration

From A-list stylists and salons to hair influencers and famous faces on the red carpet, Instagram is awash with beautiful wavy hairstyles—these are some of our favorites.

Long wavy hair

Wavy short hair

Wavy natural hair

Wavy French braid

Glamorous waves

Air dried waves

Loose waves

Wavy bob

Deep side part waves

Twisted no-heat waves

Beachy bob waves

Soft wavy hairstyle

Accessorised waves

Deep beach waves

Modern crimped waves

Blunt bob wavy hairstyle

Waves in grey hair

Large bouncy waves

Wavy updo

Fiona McKim
Beauty Editor, womanandhome.com

 As woman&home's Beauty Channel Editor, Fiona Mckim has tried more products than she’s had hot dinners and nothing makes her happier than raving about brilliant finds on womanandhome.com or her instagram grid (@fionamckim if you like hair experiments and cute shih-tzus). Fiona joined woman&home as Assistant Beauty Editor in 2013 under industry legend Jo GB, who taught her everything she needed to know (learn about ingredients and employ extreme cynicism). She has since covered every corner of the industry, from interviewing dermatologists and celebrities to reporting backstage at Fashion Week and judging the w&h Beauty Awards.