The Secret to Sexy, Beachy Waves

8 Steps to Adding a Soft Curl to Your Hair

woman using curling iron

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How do you get soft, sexy, and absolutely beautiful beachy waves? The secret to this popular look lies in the technique, and it requires just a few minutes of your time, a curling iron, and your blow dryer. The haircut matters, too.

The Right Cut

You'll find that beachy waves work best on medium-length to long hair that has long layers cut into it. However, it's not necessary to have long hair. Long bobs and shoulder-length cuts work well, too.

If you do have long hair, you might ask your hairstylist to cut in long layers. Waves fall better on hair that's different lengths. And if you have thick hair, ask your stylist to remove bulk from your hairstyle. Once it's waved, you might find that your thick locks are too full and bouncy instead of tousled and sexy.

What You'll Need

There are a few tools and products that you'll need to get this look, though they're relatively simple. You'll want to have a hair dryer and a curling iron as well as a ponytail holder and some bobby pins available.

For the curling iron, you can use a wide-barrel curling iron of at least 1 1/2 inches. However, if you can, consider investing in a clampless curling iron such as the T3 Whirl Wand. These clampless curling irons will change your life and the Whirl has a tapered barrel which makes the curl near the roots fatter while the curl near the ends is tighter.

For products, a volumizing spray will help tremendously for semi-straight hair. If you have thick, coarse hair, using a straightening balm is a good idea. Finally, to finish it up, a little shine serum and hairspray will do the trick. If you're short on time, you can get similar results with mousse or salt spray.


Wash and Prep Your Hair

Begin by washing your hair, towel-dry it, then comb it out.

Prepping hair to hold the curl is very important. If your hair doesn't hold a curl well, don't skip this step. If you have straight-ish hair, turn your head upside down and spray the freshly washed roots with volumizing or texturizing spray. Massage it in. New York City stylist Garren insists that this rubbing motion creates body and texture.

If your hair is naturally coarse or curly, work a straightening balm through your hair to tone down the curls. You can also opt for a heat protection spray to keep your hair from burning.

Decide to Scrunch or to Blow Dry and Curl

You have a few options for beachy hair. You can scrunch your hair as it dries, which is an easy, low-maintenance way to get waves. Or you can go the more formal route and add waves with a curling iron.

The Scrunching Method

All of us have some natural wave in our hair and scrunching hair as it dries is the key to finding it. You can either let your hair air-dry or use a diffuser on your hairdryer.

Stylist Bronwen Melvin offered some great tips in Marie Claire to properly scrunch hair. Simply hold a section in your palm, then fold it accordion-style up towards your scalp, then squeeze.

When you release, you should have a perfect little wave in your hair.

The Blow-Dry and Curl Method

The other option sets the waves in using your blow-dryer and a curling iron. It's rather easy once you learn the steps.

  1. Blow dry your hair straight, starting at the roots to get extra volume. Hair must be completely dry for this look to work.
  2. Blow cold air at the roots to add volume and help lock in the style.
  3. Separate your hair into three sections, securing it with a ponytail holder. This simple step makes it easier to curl your way through each section.
  4. Spritz a section of hair with texturizing spray, then take a 1-inch portion of hair and wrap it around the barrel of the curling iron. 
    If you're using a regular curling iron, wrapping hair is different from the traditional curling method. You don't want to "clip" hair into the barrel. Instead, wrapping allows you to curl all the way to the root. When you're curling, make sure to leave the ends loose to avoid a crimp mark.
  1. Release the curl after about 10 to 15 seconds (hold longer if you want a tighter curl). You should end up with a corkscrew curl.
  2. Spritz the curl with holding spray, then roll it up and bobby pin it close to the scalp. If you want to save time, you can skip this step. Also, if you don't like how holding spray makes your hair crunchy, you can simply leave the wave alone until it cools.
  3. Alternate the direction of the curl as you work your way through each section to make the curls look more natural. The trick to this look is in the direction you wind hair around the barrel of the curling iron. Start by placing hair on top of the barrel and wrapping it around, then switch by putting the barrel on top of the hair before winding it around.
  4. Once the pinned curls have cooled, release them. Remove the nozzle from your dryer and gently loosen the waves with cool air. You can also separate curls with your fingers, just make sure not to brush them out.

Finish Up Your Style

To add shine, spritz a hair serum onto your waves. Stylist David Babaii says he finger-combs Biosilk Silk Therapy serum into actress Kate Hudson's hair. You can also forego hair serum and spritz with a saltwater spray instead. John Frieda Beach Blonde Ocean Waves Sea Spray or Bumble and Bumble Surf Spray are two highly recommended products

Finally, you can set the waves with hairspray or not, whatever you prefer. Just don't overdo the spray, you don't want your new waves to feel crunchy.